20 November 2012

The Longest Battle

Roger Litwiller
Roger Litwiller held the audience spellbound with his stories of the Quinte region's involvement in what may arguably be called the longest single battle in the history of mankind.

The Battle of the Atlantic.

Within three hours of WWII being declared, the first casualty, the British passenger ship SS Athenia on a voyage to Canada, was sunk.  An estimated 3,674 Allied vessels would share her fate; the last ships being lost just hours before the end of the war. It is estimated that 72,200 Allied sailors died in the battle.

The battle extended right into the St. Lawrence River and by war's end, the Royal Canadian Navy was the third largest naval power in the world, with 100,000 men and women and 400 vessels.

Among the ships that served were three corvettes, one frigate and two minesweepers that had names drawn from this part of Ontario. They were HMCS Napanee, HMCS Belleville, HMCS Hallowell, HMCS Quinte, HMCS Quinte II and HMCS Trentonian.  Together these ships span almost twenty-five years of history in the Royal Canadian Navy. You can read about these ships in Roger Litwiller’s book Warships of the Bay of Quinte.

But it was the stories of the young men that held the audience. Years of painstaking research and interviews with survivors of the battles has given Roger a rich and often frightening understanding of life and the young men aboard the ships. 

In his new book White Ensign Flying, scheduled for publication in the summer of 2013, Litwiller tells the story of HMCS Trentonian, much of it through his personal interviews with thirty of the men who served aboard her. Marc Magee's painting of HMCS Trentonian (shown below) for White Ensign Flying will be displayed permanently in the Trenton Public Library after the release of Roger's book.
HMCS Trentonian on her way to Normandy
A more detailed article about the meeting will be published in the January edition of the Society's newsletter Outlook. Additional information on Roger's books and contact information can be found on his Facebook page and web site.

Story Bill Kennedy/Nick White, pictures Nick White.

Dr. Pearce and Dr. Collip

George Pearce is relentless. These were the admiring words of one of the speakers at the podium for today’s proclamation of November 20 as Dr. James Bertram Collip Day in Belleville.

Dr. George Pearce, a long time Society member, has devoted years of personal research, including a trip to Western Canada, to document the accomplishments of James Bertram Collip born in Thurlow Township (now part of Belleville), co-discoverer of insulin.

He has been persistent in championing the cause of this remarkable scientist and his contribution to the work of the team credited with the discovery of insulin.
Bruce Bedell, cried the news

Today marked the beginning of the public recognition in Belleville that Dr. Pearce has long sought for this important Canadian.

His Worship Mayor Neil Ellis
extends his congratulations
After years of painstaking research, things have moved quickly. In October, a delegation from the Society met with Heritage Belleville to plan a joint project to recognize Dr. Collip.

Impressed with the work that had been undertaken, Heritage Belleville asked Council to proclaim November 20th  Dr. Collip Day. The motion was made by Councilor Culhane and passed unanimously by Council on November 13th

Pat Culhane, George Pearce
Richard Hughes and Jeremy Davis
Plans were sketched out for a public event to announce the proclamation on the the 120th anniversary of of Dr. Collip's birth and emails and telephones started to hum.
Rosalie Spargo
Canadian Diabetes Association

The happy result was a podium event on the Parrott stage, overlooking the market where the young Belleville lad doubtless assisted his market-gardener parents with their vegetable stall. 

 After 120 years it was heartwarming to hear the accomplishments of Dr. Collip recognized publicly by so many people including His Worship Mayor Neil Ellis,  Councillor Pat Culhane, Heritage Belleville Chair Stanley Jones and Vice-Chair Jeremy Davis, Hastings County Historical Society President Richard Hughes, the Canadian Diabetes Association's Rosalie Spargo and Dr. Bruce Cronk.
Jeremy Davis
Heritage Belleville
And along with the words on the importance of the Canadian pioneers of insulin were words of thanks to Dr. Pearce whose work and persistence brought this together.

Next steps in the recognition of Dr. James Bertram Collip will involve a joint Society/ Heritage Belleville application to Ontario Heritage Trust for one of the familiar blue and gold plaques to be erected in Belleville.

Story Lindi Pierce/Nick White, pictures Nick White and Bill Kennedy.  An album with more pictures can be seen here.  A video of the event by Doug Knutson can be seen here


16 November 2012

From Tragedy Came a Christmas Tradition

When Don and Rita Foster’s son Billy and his friend Art “Sonny” Culloden were killed in a 1958 Christmas Eve Car accident, the Foster’s decided to focus on the joy of Christmas instead of their grief, and the Foster Family Christmas Light Display was launched.
During the last fifty some years, the display has become a tradition in our community enjoyed by young and old alike by several generations now.  It was unique in our community, because in those days, lawn ornaments, outside lights and decorations were not as common as they are today.  Each component was originally built by Don, some powered by washing machine motors to drive all of the moving parts.  

For twenty-two years, the front lawn at the Foster’s home on Emily Street was alive with all manner of moving and dancing ornaments that expanded each year as Don lovingly built more components in his backyard barn workshop.  As the Fosters aged and could no longer look after this, Margery and Bruce Nickle continued the tradition at their home on Marsh Drive for many years.  The Tom Gavey Alemite Park on Pine Street has been the recent home of the display, refurbished courtesy of the Belleville Professional Firefighters Association.

But the old display needed more tender loving care and a permanent home.  The City of Belleville, recognizing the historical importance of this light display in the tradition and culture of our community, initiated a project that culminated in “Christmas at the Pier” and was launched on Friday November 16, 2012 with a Lighting Up Ceremony attended by over five hundred awestruck onlookers.  Fifty-six of my family and close friends were part of that group.
With the City of Belleville financial support for the project, supplemented by generous donations by individuals and businesses in the community, the Foster Family display has been refurbished, and has a special place in the centre of the Jane Forrester Park at Myers Pier, surrounded by several new components which will continue to be expanded each year by the City of Belleville, and featuring a signboard outlining the history of the display. 

The display is dedicated to the memory of Billy Foster and my brother Art “Sonny” Culloden and evokes strong personal memories.

I remember very vividly that Christmas morning in 1958.  As the youngest of six children, I was only six years old and barely remember my brother.  When I awoke that morning, I thought it strange that many of our family and friends were already at our home, as they usually visited in the afternoon of Christmas Day.  Everyone was very sad and crying.  When I opened my Christmas present from Sonny, my mother broke into tears.  It was exactly as I had asked for on my Christmas list – a mauve crinoline.
Thank you everyone in the community that has helped turn this personal tragedy into a community celebration.

Story Annis Ross (Culloden), pictures Nick White.  A more extensive article on the story behind the new display will appear in January edition of the Society's newsletter Outlook.

11 November 2012

The Last Post

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;

They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Stanzas from For The Fallen written by Laurence Binyon in 1914, pictures Nick White.  Additional pictures can be seen in the album here.