This year, 2017, marks Canada’s sesquicentennial – 150 years since Canada became a country; there will be many celebrations across the country on July 1st and throughout the year to mark this milestone! Many people have shaped Canada into the country that we know today, and one of those people is Wilfrid “Wop” May. Enjoy and Happy Canada Day!
Captain W.R. May – Edmonton, 1919 (Courtesy Denny May).
To Wop May who had grown up on the Canadian prairie, the English winter of 1917 must have seemed dreary. With the arrival of spring, he was on his way to the Western Front, and perhaps it had been before leaving England, or at a train station in France, he chanced upon a sign advertising that the Royal Flying Corps were looking for pilots. The fact that more young men were killed in air training accidents than died in combat seemed not to be a deterrent – the lure of adventure in the skies won out – he applied, was accepted and began the process of learning how to fly a plane. (more…)
Alberta’s provincial historic sites and museums are all open and in full swing with their programs. If you’re looking for something to do this summer, or want to make a pit stop on your roadtrip, check out some of Alberta’s provincial historic sites and museums.
If you’re in southern Alberta this summer, check out the Brooks Aqueduct or Leitch Collieries, two sites that are only open over the summer, from May 15 to Labour Day. And, the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre, open year round, is just down the road from Leitch Collieries, so it is a good chance to visit both!
- The Brooks Aqueduct was built by the Canadian Pacific Railway in the early 1900s and was the largest concrete structure of its kind in the world at the time (spanning a 3.2 km wide valley). The Aqueduct was an important part of an expansive irrigation network in the area and is an impressive site to see!
The Brooks Aqueduct
- The Leitch Collieries provincial historic site is located in the Crowsnest Pass and, at its time (1907-1915), was one of the largest and most ambitious coal mines in the pass. Ruins from some of the sandstone buildings that formed the surface operations are still standing. Take a walking tour and enjoy learning about the coal mining history of the area.
If you’re in central or northern Alberta, stay tuned for sites in your area!
On the evening of January 9, 1944, 500 soldiers arrived in the sleepy mountain town of Jasper, Alberta. Disembarking from the train, they marched through town accompanied by the skirl of their bagpipes and disappeared into the winter’s night. They were the Lovat Scouts, an elite British regimental unit sent to Canada to train for an Allied-led invasion of Nazi-occupied Norway. Far removed from the conflict in Europe, the mountains of Jasper National Park had been chosen as the location for this impressive undertaking.
Originally organized by the 16th Lord Lovat, the Lovat Scouts were a unique fighting force composed of Scottish Highlanders renowned for their excellent marksmanship and command of rugged terrain. The regiment served with great distinction in the South African Boer War and again in WWI where they won much acclaim at Gallipoli. In WWII, the Scouts were selected to be a key part of the Allied-led invasion of Norway. Recognized as having specialized skills adept to a mountain campaign, they were the only British unit to undergo formal training in high altitude warfare. Their training, which commenced in the mountains of Scotland and Wales, was completed under winter conditions in Jasper National Park.
Lovat Scouts skiing in the Tonquin Valley, Jasper National Park, Alberta, ca.1943. Image Courtesy of Jasper Yellowhead Museum and Archives (PA 25-15).
Asian Pacific American Heritage Month has been celebrated since 1978 in the United States, coinciding with the first arrival of Japanese immigrants in 1843 and the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869, in part through the contribution of Chinese labourers. In Canada, Asian Heritage Month has been celebrated since the 1990s and in 2002 the Government of Canada signed an official declaration designating May as Asian Heritage Month, a time to reflect on the legacy of Canadians of Asian heritage and to celebrate their contributions to the fabric of Canadian society.
In keeping with the spirit of Asian Heritage Month, RETROactive would like to share with its readers, the history of the Raymond Buddhist Church, designated a Provincial Historic Resource by the Province of Alberta in 1984. The information is taken from the Alberta Register of Historic Places and can be accessed in its entirety at:
The Raymond Buddhist Church is a two-storey building with a rectangular plan and a steeply-pitched gable roof completed (more…)
The story of a rusty gun found in central Alberta begins across the continent in 1863 when 100,000 New Model Army revolvers were being made at the Remington & Sons factory near the banks of the Mohawk River in New York State. The New Model Army was a popular sidearm because it was affordable and tough: most were destined for use in close combat by U.S. Army soldiers in the American Civil War. Between New York and Alberta, much of the revolver’s story is a mystery. (more…)
For this week’s blog post we welcome Meg Stanley, a historian with Parks Canada. Meg has done extensive research on war-related place names in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, particularly place names in the National Parks. We welcome her to RETROactive!
During the First World War, the Geographic Board of Canada assigned place names to various geographic features in the southern Rocky Mountains commemorating battles, military leaders, individual soldiers, and others with strong associations with the war. The Board’s inscription of the war onto the mountain landscape began in 1915 and continued through the war years and into the early 1920s.