Jump to content
Great War Forum

Remembered Today:

Sign in to follow this  
Canadawwi

Newspaper Casualty Pages in WWI

Recommended Posts

Canadawwi

As promised, I've typed up an interesting article I found about how a newspaper accomplished the enormous task of collecting photos of soldiers and publishing short accompanying articles. This article about the process was published in the Toronto Star on April 30th, 1917 after days of pages filled with casualty photos post Vimy Ridge. An incredible amount of work in pre-Access database days! The last paragraph is especially poignant.

I've attached a sample of a typical page. During major offensives there were at least 1-3 full pages daily similar to this page. During other times there were still at least up to a page full of obituaries and write ups for soldiers. If the soldier had a family and was in need, a family photo would be included, and these articles led to many fund raising efforts for the family. If a family had a number of sons in the war, the Star would do an article about the family's contribution. The Star also assisted many veterans who had difficulty getting decent pensions by writing up articles detailing their plight. This was already happening during the war years. In late May 1917 a competing paper accused the Star of hurting recruiting by publishing such accounts.

**********************************************

BRAVERY OF FIRESIDE RIVALS BATTLEFIELD

Heroism and Self-Sacrifice of Soldiers' Wives, Mothers, and Families has No Parallel.

FEW APPRECIATE IT.

Work of Newspaper Men Reveals Seldom-Seen Side of Toronto's Family Life.

____________________

During these post-Vimy days The Star has been publishing daily columns and columns of "casualties," half-column pictures and thumb-nail biographical sketches of gallant lads who have fought and fallen. Each and every one represents the price some home has paid for victory.

Many a photograph is sent into The Star office accompanied by a few details of a boy's simple life and gallant death with the request that these be printed. His name has not yet appeared in the casualty list, but themselves proud of his death, his people want the world to know that he was not afraid. Sacrifice has become common to all. The publication of casualty paragraphs is merely a making visible of the splendid, silent patriotism of a thousand homes.

Over 25,000 Paragraphs.

Since the war began The Star has published at least 25,000 such paragraphs. Every one of these for months has been clipped out and filed. Every half-column cut has been also kept until now there are at least 25,000 of these filed alphabetically in individual envelopes. In addition the office has probably 17,000 soldiers' photographs which were taken specially for it by photographers, from the 25th Battalion down to the 216th. These were taken by platoons and mounted on cardboard. Each photograph has a number, and each soldier on it another. Both are entered in an alphabetical index, so that it is always possible to tell in a moment whether a man's photograph is in the office or not.

When the war broke out The Star immediately began to keep a record of Toronto men enlisting by means of a card for each soldier. On this was typed his name, rank, battalion, address, trade or calling, age, etc. At first these were copied from the battalion attestation papers. Later they were secured from the Toronto Recruiting Depot.By this means it is possible to give information about men who have many friends here, but whose next of kin live in the Old Country. Even yet cards are taken out every day of men who answered the call nearly three years ago and about whom people have perhaps often wondered.

History of Each Soldier.

There are now at least 25,000 of these cards in The Star's file. Every day the number is increasing as the names of men are mentioned for whom a card was not originally made out. These cards are a history of each individual soldier. When a man's name appears in the casualty list, the date and nature of this appearance is typed on his card. If he wins a decoration that also is given. Every day a paragraph is clipped from the paper and pasted on the back of the card. By this means at any time it is possible to tell if a man's name has ever appeared, as well as to obtain full details about his service and history. In the future it will form a permanent record after the war which will prove invaluable.

When casualties reach Ottawa the relatives are notified as soon as possible. Then the lists are collected and telegraphed to the papers and over the country. At present half a dozen different lists arrive (daily?). As soon as one reaches The Star Office the Toronto names are picked out as well as those of men with Toronto units. Their cards are sought in the file and local addresses generally found for the latter. Photographs and cuts are looked up and got ready. A long list of the names is handed to the city editor, who divides them up by districts and assigns them to reporters.

When they return the results of their trips are checked up. The photographs are handed to the artist for retouching and then to the engraving department to have cuts made. After that they reach the composing room, where they rejoin the printed matter which in the meantime, has been edited, "headed", and "set up". Later the photograhs are carefully cleaned and mailed to their owners.

Ottawa Has 550 Clerks.

It can be seen from all this that the casualty information appearing in the paper only gets there as the result of system and hard work. The Militia Department in Ottawa has about 550 clerks to do work somewhat larger and with a few more angles to it than that which The Star does to keep the public informed of the lives and careers of those who are facing and meeting death for them on the battlefront. That its efforts are appreciated there is no doubt if one can judge by frequent expressions of those to whom a newspaper clipping will always be a treasured souvenir, and by those of others who can be assured from "their" soldier's card that nothing has happened to him, even if he has not been heard from for some time.

On the reporter's side, the human side, the houses he enters, the brave, sorrowing women he meets, the little children left fatherless, nothing has been told in this article. Many a sad story he hears, many a tragedy he stumbles across, but all these he keeps to himself. They are nobody's business.

post-6-1098569753.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Desmond7

Top class piece of info on the process - and it is a great thing all these were recorded.

The simple recording of wounds, trauma and death by the local press in WW1 deserves great credit.

Des

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
christine liava'a

and where are these photos and information now? Does the paper still hold them?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest bonza

G'day

Thanks for the effort in posting that.

Would there be any chance of a 'cameo' on the bloke whose pic is 1st on the 3rd column. Is it a "Mountie" style hat he wears.?

Pat

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Canadawwi

Christine -

I'm going to check into that. I've been in the paper's research library many times, but did not know about this until I found this article about two weeks ago. I have a feeling they are gone as the library is quite small and they've moved offices a few times, but there is always a chance.

Pat -

I can get a close up of that article for you next week (Wed.) when I will have access again. For what I'm trying to do at the moment, I'm only saving .jpgs of the images of men who died - and that already amounts to up to 40 pictures per day in April and May of 1917.

If it is the hat you are interested in - I just checked through my files and found another man in a similar hat. I'm attaching that picture from an October 24th, 1918 issue of the paper. That style hat is something I've wondered about. I bought a British hospital book from 1916 that depicted the Canadians in that cowboy style hat, but I always thought they wore the British style cap. So I thought that perhaps the author of the book was mixing up Canadians with Australians. But since I've been going through the newspapers I've found many of the men pictured in that style hat.

Casualty Info for Pte. W. Nightingale, PPCLI

Marika

post-6-1098582258.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest bonza

Marika

Yes, it was the hat that caught my attention.

No need for the extra work, but if you do happen across an 'explanation' of these in due course, I certainly would appreciate your 'findings'

Thanks

Pat

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Half-pint

Hello all:

Apparently, there is a web portal available, which provides search facilities for the Toronto Star's issues from 1894-2001; see: http://www.micromedia.ca/CIRC/Torstar.htm.

The trick is to find a public or university library or public archives room which has paid for, and will allow public access to, the search functions. My guess is that the larger of these kinds of libraries in Canada would have access to this portal ... certainly worth a telephone call to various & sundry reference desks.

Thank you to Marika for the splendid detective work ;-) and for posting this information.

Regards,

Alison Causton

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Half-pint

Hello again:

The Toronto Star provides a limited online search facility: see the introductory page at http://thestar.pagesofthepast.ca/. There is information on subsequent pages re: subscriptions ranging from 1hr, to 24 hrs, etc.

I hope this post doesn't cross the advertising line, as it was my intent only to give a lead for research.

Regards,

Alison Causton

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
marc leroux

Marika, thanks for making so much of the information available.

Alison, thanks for finding out about the subscription.

Now I can't wait until the bad weather sets in and I have a chance to peruse the papers!

marc

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Terry

Great stuff Marika; these little snippets of newspaper information make all the difference in the world to our study of 1914-1918.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Broznitsky

I think the hat in question is pre-war militia summer-time wear, that were worn by the enlistees as the CEF was formed in camps in Canada.

I've seen other photos, with the brim down all the way. Makes the wearers look like farm boys. Much less "cool" than with the brim up.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
N.S.Regt.

Marika

As you know the photos concering the 25th men are of a intrest to me if you find any.

Regards

N.S.Regt.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
N.S.Regt.

Marika

Thanks for your efforts and the photos you sent from McGill were great all of which I did not have. Keep up the good work.

Regards

N.S.Regt.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Half-pint

Hello, Marika and all:

I knew from the Canadian Virtual War Memorial that John Harold Williams (1896-1916) was killed on 3 June 1916. This morning, I subscribed to the Toronto Star archives database and found the following notice of his death (ref. pg 3, 26 June 1916):

“Pte. Williams Killed in Action.

Pte. John Harold Williams, only son of Prof. A. C. Williams, the familiar figure of the ‘Varsity gymnasium, is now officially known to have been killed in action on June 3. He was a battalion signaller and had been recommended for a commission. Pte. Williams comes of good military stock from far back on both sides of the family, and his father and all of his uncles are serving in the present war.

He enlisted with a well-known Toronto regiment of Highlanders and had been in France since February, 1915. The battalion was making a counter-attack and he was killed in the afternoon of June 3, when a shell dropped in his observation pit on the front line."

My guess is that John Harold died in the Battle of Mount Sorrel.

Thanks to Marika for making this newspaper's Great War reporting efforts known.

Regards,

Alison Causton

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
marc leroux

Alison, I took photos of most of the panels at the Menin Gate a week or so ago. It is somewhat hard to make out (there is little contrast in between the names and the stone) but John Harold is the second last in the 2nd row of the 15th Battalion on the panel.

marc

post-6-1098664391.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Half-pint

Marika: Thank you for that kind offer to keep an eye out for J.H. Williams in the other publication. I cannot say whether J.H., known as "Harold", went on to post-secondary education. Harold was our grandfather's first cousin. My interest in him, and his family, stems from family history research of his mother Agnes Louisa's Huggins background in Ireland and, before 1700, Scotland. As to the military background mentioned in the death notice for Harold, there was, indeed, a military background in the Huggins line, but that's another story ;-).

Marc: It is wonderful to see that photograph with Harold's name chiselled in. Thank you very much for posting it. Still ... and I know you'll understand this ... I intend to visit the Menin Gate myself and pay such respects as I can at this late date in history (but probably not 'til 2006). Our interest, much closer to home, is that our grandfather was seriously injured and taken prisoner not far from Ypres, so there is much to reflect on while there.

And so it is for all of us, yes?

Regards,

Alison Causton

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
marc leroux
Still ... and I know you'll understand this ...

Alison, yes, I inderstand. More so now that I've been there. But for those that can't make it, the photographs are what I can provide.

marc

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...