Provincial Archives of New Brunswick

Soldiers of the Great War; The Fredericton Soldier Biography History Initiative

The manner in which societies make sense of histories shared in common with others is a complex phenomenon. While some historical narratives fall silent, the archival record often illustrates how the various roles of community leaders, vocal citizens, organizations, church officials, students, families, and politicians figure prominently in a community’s ability to make sense of traumatic historical events. How New Brunswick communities tried to make sense of the devastating impacts of the First World War on individual families, economies, and ways of life appears to be no different.

Very early on during the First World War, New Brunswickers began feeling the impact of losing loved ones. Later, as veterans were returning home, the desire to honour and to remember was commonplace. Within the capital city, Fredericton, by the fall of 1916 students and alumni from the University of New Brunswick had already begun raising money to build a “fitting memorial to U.N.B heroes”. A year earlier, February 1915, at St. Mark’s Church in Halifax, Nova Scotia, former Fredericton High School student and Royal Navy midshipmen Victor Hatheway was honoured on a memorial for those killed in action aboard the H.M.S Good Hope, the first official Canadian casualties of the war. By June 1917, plans were already being made at the juncture of King, Queen and Church Street to erect a memorial to those fallen, an idea formalized by July 1918 in meetings held by the local Great War Veteran’s Association. Throughout this period of time churches and public schools were involved in creating their own memorials.

Shortly after the signing of the Armistice on November 11, 1918, the Fredericton War Memorial Committee was formed and land was donated by the Rt. Rev. John H. Richardson, Bishop of Fredericton, on behalf of the Christ Church Cathedral for the memorial site. Dedicated on November 11, 1923, citizens gathered for the first time around the Fredericton War Memorial Cenotaph to pay tribute to “townsmen who had made the supreme sacrifice”. In later years, bronze plaques were added to honour those who fell during the Second World War and Korean War. In 2007, the province of New Brunswick became the first in Canada to have a provincially designated cenotaph when the site of the Fredericton War Memorial Cenotaph was named a provincial landmark. While our collective response to gather out of respect for those who put themselves in harm’s way has not diminished, as time passes and communities evolve the names etched in stone are in danger of slowly fading away from our collective memories.

The Fredericton Soldier Biography History Initiative

The Fredericton Soldier Biography History Initiative brings together middle school students from George Street Middle School with educators, historians, archivists, and community members to help build greater awareness of soldiers named on the Fredericton Cenotaph and their families. It is also the goal of the project to highlight the historic complexities of New Brunswick societies during the Great War period, including the experiences of women, First Nations, African Canadians, and immigrant populations.

Students have begun the process of researching and writing the biographies of the106 Great War names listed on the New Brunswick Provincial Cenotaph in an effort to build knowledge and greater historical consciousness regarding this period in New Brunswick history. Over time, the goal is to build a database of information highlighting who these individuals were and to give researchers an opportunity to access archival records pertaining to these individuals.

The biographies that appear on this website have been written with a historical lens, being mindful of the ethical considerations historians employ while using evidence and primary sources as guides in their narratives. While historical writing often necessitates interpretation, the greatest care for historical accuracy has been taken. It is our hope that through reading these stories we may support greater understanding of these individuals and how their communities were affected as a result of their deaths.

This education initiative is proudly supported by the Government of New Brunswick. A special thanks to the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick and Brent Wilson, University of New Brunswick, for their continued educational support of student work Participants in this initiative also support other community and national projects with similar focus.