The RM of North Norfolk (the MacGregor and Austin area) will soon have a new resource for history buffs, or for those interested in details of the various wars in which our citizens have fought. Remembering Our Veterans is a limited edition book to be published this fall. The brainchild of Beverley Anderson of MacGregor, it is a compilation of material she has collected, with the help of other members of an ad hoc group from the local area.
Anderson began the project on her own, gathering information over a 10-year period searching through cemetery records, on military headstones and local military cenotaphs, community honour rolls, local history books and newspaper items. Pictures and family history information were located in the collections of the North Norfolk-MacGregor Archives Inc. Other names and information came from Veterans Affairs Canada and Archives Canada.
In the last few months others joined in to assist her, realizing the value of what she had been working on. This fall she has spent much time working on lists of names, photographs and anecdotes to get the manuscript ready for publication. The resulting work covers: the Northwest (or Second Riel) Rebellion, the Second Boer War (1899-1902), First World War (1914-18), Second World War (1939-45), and the Korean War.
The book begins with the Northwest Rebellion when five local men are listed as being among the Canadian troops who fought there. Next is the Second Boer War, and Anderson’s records show that 15 men from the MacGregor/North Norfolk area were part of this war effort, with one casualty.
Most of Anderson’s lists and stories are from the two world wars where approximately 155 died in the First World War, and approximately 310 in the Second World War — a very large number from one small rural region. “It’s hard to realize the number of young men from this area who were killed and never returned here,” said an archives’ member. “It makes one wonder how different the local districts might have been, if all those young men had returned after the wars.”
The numbers of veterans listed who fought in the war but survived are also astonishing — over 300 in the First World War and almost 450 in the Second World War — all from one rural area.
To give the lists a more personal feeling, Anderson includes several letters written by soldiers to loved ones or friends at home. She also gives some local stories that really bring home the effect these wars had. Particularly moving is the story about the Stewart family of MacGregor. From this family, four sons volunteered during the First World War. Three died, and only one made it home. One of the letters was written by a son just 15 days before he was killed in action.
Local veterans who were honoured for bravery or actions during the wars are also part of the book, such as F.L. William (Bill) Roberts of MacGregor, shown receiving the Distinguished Flying Cross in 1945.
Anderson hopes the book will be completed and printed by Remembrance Day. She plans to print only about 15 copies, putting one in each of the local schools, the MacGregor United Church (where the local cenotaph is located), the Austin Agricultural Museum, the North Norfolk-MacGregor Library, the Seniors’ Centre in Austin, the Sidney Community Centre and the MacGregor Archives.
Remembering Our Veterans will be a fine tribute to those who sacrificed several years, and sometimes their lives, for the benefit of other Canadians. Anderson hopes that if any names have been missed, people will notify her, and they can be added to an extra page at the end of the book.