Keeping Memories AliveNovember 1, 2014
Two gleaming First World War medals. A photograph of a young soldier in uniform. A Canadian Expeditionary Force death certificate for Private Hubert Maurice Bolam.
These evocative artifacts make tangible the story of a young man from Kamloops, British Columbia who in 1915 lied about his age (he was sixteen) to enlist in the 172nd Battalion, also known as the Rocky Mountain Rangers. After training, Hubert Bolam sailed in October 1916 to England, where his actual age was discovered. He was transferred to a non-combatant Young Soldiers battalion until he turned 19, the minimum age for combat. A month later, in September 1918, he finally reached France and fought in the Battle of the Canal du Nord. Within days, Hubert was killed in action.
Hubert is just one of more than a thousand soldiers, nurses and other Canadian First World War participants whose medals are in the collection of the Canadian War Museum. By 2017, all of those medals, along with biographies of each recipient and any other War Museum artifacts linked to them, will be viewable online. The project’s main supporter is the Friends of the Canadian War Museum.
“Instead of keeping our First World War medals locked away in vaults, we want to share them, and the stories of their recipients, with all Canadians,” explains Tony Glen, Director of Collections at the Canadian War Museum.
Many Hands Involved
As well as providing funding, the Friends of the Canadian War Museum will research the lives of medal recipients across the country. Visitors to the project website will be able to search by medal recipient’s name or regiment, by the type of medal, and by city, town and geographic regions.
“We believe that the stories of the men and women who were awarded First World War medals will resonate with Canadians,” says Brigadier-General (Retired) Linda Colwell, a Friends volunteer. “This project is a great way to have them live on.”
If you’d like to make a donation to support this project, please contact the Development Branch at 1-800-256-6031 or make an online donation by selecting First World War Centenary at warmuseum.ca/donate.