Sunday, November 1, 2020

Surviving the Spanish Flu Pandemic 1918-1919


1st Depot Battalion, Coy 4, P.T. Quarantine Camp, July 1918; Hugh is on the left side of the front row with no hat on.

Hugh Clark was a farmer living at Storthoaks, Saskatchewan, when he was conscripted into the Canadian Expeditionary Force in 1918.


ugh McKenzie Clark, Regimental # 269054, was conscripted into the army at Regina, Saskatchewan on May 23, 1918, with the 1st Depot Battalion, Saskatchewan Regiment, Company 4. His recruitment papers say that he was 22 years old, 5 ft 9 inches tall with a red complexion, brown eyes, and light brown hair. 

The 1st Depot Battalion trained at the exhibition grounds in Regina until late July. They left Canada from Montreal headed for England on board the ship Cassandra on July 28, 1918. Their ship docked at Liverpool on August 5, 1918, and they were taken to Bramshott camp in southern England. Shortly before his 23rd birthday, Hugh was transferred to the 15th Canadian Reserve Battalion.

While training at Bramshott, soldiers from the 15th Reserve Battalion began getting sick near the end of September. The unit had a sick parade on September 28 and was placed in quarantine on October 1, 1918. My grandfather entered the hospital with influenza on October 6, 1918, but was discharged eight days later on October 14, 1918. His influenza didn’t develop into a high fever with Broncho-pneumonia as some of the soldiers in his unit did.

The medical war diaries for Assistant Director of Medical Services, No. 12 Canadian General Hospital at Bramshott, show that 176 people were admitted to the hospital on the 6th and that there were seven deaths on that day. The war diary shows that over the next couple of weeks many young soldiers training at the camp were sent to the hospital and some of them died.

On October 14th, the medical director noted: “the pathological conditions of the victims from influenza are most startling – one patient showed multiple abscess of the lung – bronchial pneumonia – sero – fibrinous pleurisy and acute myocarditis.”

Among the number of young men from the 15th Reserve who died during the flu pandemic was Roy William Clark, Regimental # 269053 who was conscripted into the 1st Depot Battalion on the same day as my grandfather. Roy was 23 years old, 5 ft 10 inches tall with a brown complexion, blue eyes, and medium hair. He was a farmer who lived at Spy Hill, an hour, and a half north of where Hugh lived at Storthoaks, Saskatchewan.

Roy first noticed symptoms of influenza on September 24 and was admitted to the 12th Canadian General Hospital on September 30, 1918. He developed a high fever with a rapid pulse and difficulty breathing throughout his stay in the hospital. On his last day, the doctor indicated that his face was turning blue due to the lack of oxygen in his blood. At 2 pm, Roy in his delirious state attempted to cut his own throat but caused only superficial wounds. He finally succumbed to the flu at 3 pm on October 15, the day after my grandfather was released. Both men were farmers, who were of similar height, age, and background. What decided the fate of these two young men?

Another soldier from the 15th Reserve Battalion who survived the flu at Bramshott was Peter Longphee, Regimental # 268555, Company 5. He was also conscripted in May 1918 at Regina a few days before my grandfather on May 18, 1918. Hugh and Peter lived in neighbouring communities, so I am not sure they were friends before they enlisted or whether they became friends later. Peter was 5ft, 9 ½ inches tall with a dark complexion, grey eyes, and brown hair. He would be admitted to the 12 General Hospital on October 5, 1918. Records show that he was released on October 10, and like my grandfather, he only had a mild case of influenza. Peter would be a witness at my grandparent’s marriage in April 1919 after they transferred to Ripon camp in Yorkshire in late January 1919 to await demobilization.

Checking more records, I learned that John Hannibal Badger, Regiment # 268680, Company 5, was another soldier from Saskatchewan who survived the pandemic at Bramshott in October 1918, only to die from influenza at the Ripon Military Hospital in North Yorkshire in May 1919. John married while overseas. Sadly, his wife Ellen Hathaway would become a widow after only three short months. He is buried in the Stockport Borough Cemetery in Cheshire, England where his wife lived.

The Spanish flu pandemic killed millions of people worldwide during 1918/19. During the war, 300 soldiers were buried at the local church at Bramshott (St. Mary). Of those who died, over 40 were influenza victims from the 15th Reserve Battalion; many of these young men were from Saskatchewan. There were also many soldiers from the 21st Reserve Battalion who died of influenza. I wonder how many young men who are pictured here survived the flu pandemic as my grandfather did and brought home a war bride.

Do you recognize any of the young men from the 15th Reserve Battalion in these photos? If so, please email me at . I have a full list of the young men who died during the flu pandemic at Bramshott camp.

(c) Annette Fulford, November 2020


Camp Exhibition is a Model Camp in all Respects. Regina Leader-Post, July 3, 1918, 8 & 9 (accessed March 10, 2019).

Hugh McKenzie Clark, Regimental # 269054. Personnel Records of the First World War, Library and Archives Canada, RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box 1745 – 30; (accessed November 16, 2000)

Peter Francis Longphee, Regimental # 268555, Personnel Records of the First World War, Library and Archives Canada, RG 150, RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box 5733A – 7; (accessed March 22, 2019)

Roy William Clark, Regimental # 269053, Personnel Records of the First World War, Library and Archives Canada, RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box 1761 – 34; (accessed October 10, 2018)

John Hannibal Badger, Regimental #268680, Personnel Records of the First World War, Library and Archives Canada, RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box 333 – 18; (accessed on October 15, 2018)

Grace Clark, photo album, photo of PT class quarantine camp for 1st Depot Battalion soldiers and 15th Reserve Battalion photo.

L.C. Giles, Liphook, Bramshott and the Canadians, (Liphook, Hants: Blackwell press for the Bramshott and Liphook Preservation Society, 1986)

War diaries - Assistant Director of Medical Services, Bramshott =1917/03/01-1918/12/31. File. RG9-III-D-3. Volume/box number: 5026. File number: 821.Copied container number: T-10912. Library and Archives Canada; (accessed February 4, 2015).

Saturday, November 16, 2019

100th Anniversary of First World War Brides' Arrival in Canada

Grace Gibson and Hugh Clark on their wedding day. Annette Fulford collection

This year marks the 100th Anniversary for the majority of war brides that came to Canada after the First World War. My grandmother travelled to Canada in September 1919 on the ship Melita.

Check out the recent story about my grandmother Grace Clark by Tamara Baluja of CBC News Vancouver: Canadian war bride's story shared by her granddaughter (Source: CBC News)

I've often wondered just how many families have letters and photographs in the family archives similar to the ones in my family. Thankfully, many have shared their family stories with me. I use these stories to tell the history of the war brides from this era.

(c) Annette Fulford, November 2019

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Remembering the First World War Brides

Grace and Hugh Clark in 1919. Annette Fulford collection

Do you have a First World War Bride in your family tree? Do you know how they met their Canadian soldier? Have you written their story for future generations to remember them by?

With each generation that passes away, information from previous generations gets lost or forgotten. That's why it's so important to write their history before there is no one left to remember them. Send their story to the museum or archive where they lived, or to the local newspaper, and pass it on to your family. Help preserve the history of these pioneering war brides. I'd love to see the day when First World War Brides are remembered alongside the war brides of the Second World War.

Check out my research on First World War Brides: Filling in history: The forgotten stories of WWI war brides by Melanie Nagy of CTV National News from January 31, 2015.

Faded Letters tell untold story  (Source: CTV National News)

(c) Annette Fulford, September 2019

Monday, July 1, 2019

Travelling to Canada to be Married After the First World War

Evening Times & Star, February 11, 1919


If you're having trouble finding a marriage for your Canadian soldier and his war bride in the UK, perhaps they may have returned to Canada before getting married. 

A number of women arrived in Canada after the First World War as the fiancĂ©e of a former Canadian soldier. You will find many young women travelling to Canada “to be married” in the passenger manifests. It might even list a name and address of their intended spouse. This manifest is from the Grampian in February 1919. 

Grampian Passenger List, February 1919.  Library and Archives Canada

But don't just check where the soldier was from, try the port their intended bride arrived at. Some soldiers also met their fiancee part way across Canada to be married. Try at any main stop on the train journey across our vast country.

Two young Red Cross nurses travelled to Canada to marry former soldiers shortly after arriving at the Port of St. John, New Brunswick. Many more arrived at Halifax, Nova Scotia and married at Pier 2 before continuing on their journey.

A number of soldiers also returned to the country where they met their wartime love and married at a later date. Check for marriages into the 1920s.

(c) Annette Fulford, July 2019

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Researching Returning Canadian Soldiers: Military Manifests After The First World War (1918-1920)

Toronto World, January 28, 1919


Military manifests are typed manifests of the military men on board. If you locate a ship with dependents on board the majority of these men listed in these manifests will have dependents on the ship. They are usually found at the end of a manifest for a passenger ship.

Here is a portion of a page from the military manifests. In most cases, these men arrived at Liverpool to board a ship from the Canadian Discharge Depot at Buxton, Derbyshire. Buxton was a discharge depot for married men with wives in the UK in late 1918, once the war was over.

Scandinavian Passenger List, July 1919, Library and Archives Canada

You can track these men in the service records by their regimental numbers at Library and Archives Canada in Personnel Records of the First World War. Please note: they may not return to Canada with the same unit they enlisted with especially if they were injured and sent to a hospital in England or if they chose to return to Canada with a bride after the war.

Each one of these men on the manifest indicates how many dependents they have on board. There are usually four sections to a page with the military men on board. These pages can be hard to read as some have not been filmed properly. Images can be blurry, or the sections overlap cutting off vital information such as regimental numbers or the surname of the soldier on the right-hand side. Sometimes the only way to learn what ship they were on when they returned to Canada is in their service record.

Military Manifest, Corsican, 1919, Library and Archives Canada

Finding them in the manifests takes a bit of trial and error; some men are listed by initials and a last name or as you can see they are listed using their full name. If you are looking for family members then you already know the name of their spouse. However, researchers may not have information about the spouse so they won’t know what name they are looking for unless they have read the service file of the soldier. In most cases, the service records might also include what ship they returned to Canada on.

(c) Annette Fulford, June 2019

Researching First World War Brides in Canadian Passenger Lists, 1918-1921

Toronto World, January 20, 1919

Thousands of war brides came to Canada during and after the First World War in an immigration scheme arranged by the Canadian government. By late January 1919, the Canadian government provided the soldiers’ dependents with free third-class passage to Canada along with free rail passes from their home in the UK to their final destination in Canada or the US. 

However, finding these young women in passenger lists can be complicated unless you know what to look for. I have tracked thousands of these young women leaving Britain between 1917 and 1921. Here are a few tips to look for if you are having trouble locating them.


Start by using the database Canadian Passenger Lists, 1865 to 1935 at This is the most comprehensive database of passenger lists available to Canada. If they travelled to Canada prior to the Armistice in November 1918, then there is not always identifying info that shows that they are a war bride. The only info that might indicate they are a war bride is the fact that they have never been to Canada before and they are headed to be with their husband.

However, some war brides like Florence Gould and Lily Palmer travelled to the Dominion while their soldier-husband was still overseas. I only had newspaper articles and oral history to go by. Florence Gould left England on the Justicia the day after the Halifax Explosion occurred in December 1917. She had to change plans overnight. The ship was rerouted to New York instead of landing at Halifax and she had to take a train from New York to Saskatchewan.

Maud Carson, Aquitania, April 1918, Library and Archives Canada

 When Maud Carson travelled to Canada in April 1918 the manifest shows that she was travelling “with husband Retd soldier”. Other women on the same page show they were “going to husband Retd Soldier.”

After November 1918, most war brides will be located in the manifests marked with Dependents somewhere on the page. Some pages may be marked Military Dependents, 3rd Class Dependents, Canadian Military Dependents or Steerage Dependents at the top of the page. The majority travelled by steerage but a number of officers’ families were able to travel in a better class. Those pages might be marked as Cabin Dependents in Saloon or Intermediate class.

Canadian Military Dependents, Library and Archives Canada

A war bride may be listed by her full name, by her initials and surname or the manifest might only have Mrs. with a surname. The key to verifying that the husband and wife are on the same ship is the destination they are travelling to.

Steerage Dependents, Library and Archives Canada

A large number of military dependent passengers may have the initials SD WH or a variation of those initials on their line. It stands for "soldier dependent with husband". This indicates that they are travelling on the same ship as their husband but you will have to locate him in the military lists which are usually at the end of the manifest pages. You will have to check the manifests of soldiers to learn if their husband was on board. The key will be to know their regimental number.

Remember, if you use different databases like the ones at Library and Archives Canada for the passenger manifests at Passenger Lists for the Port of Quebec City and Other Ports, 1865-1922 or Canadian Passenger Lists, 1881-1922 at FamilySearch, these databases might give you different results than those at Ancestry.

However, they don't include full records up to 1922. Only Halifax has original records indexed up to 1922 and Quebec goes to up to 1921. The rest only include records to 1912. A large majority of the war brides arrived at St. John, New Brunswick during the winter of 1918-1919. These records are not included in these databases.

Also, if you do know the date they travelled and name of the ship they travelled on you can view the original manifests at Passenger Lists, 1865-1922 at Library and Archives Canada. You can look at the manifests page by page to find passengers who are not indexed correctly. The only downside to using this database is advancing to the next page once you have clicked on an image. You may find it easier to advance the images at Family Search because their viewer is better.

(c) Annette Fulford, June 2019

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Canadian Pacific Railway ship RMS Melita

RMS Melita - Annette Fulford collection

The Canadian Pacific Railway ship RMS Melita was just one of the many ships that brought war brides to Canada after the First World War. It was purchased by Canadian Pacific Ocean Services in 1917 and she started her first run to a Canadian port in January 1918 at St. John, New Brunswick. The ship could carry 1750 passengers on board.

Manifest details for the Melita. Library and Archives Canada

My grandmother travelled on the Melita in September 1919 and she left the family a wonderful collection of memorabilia of her trip including a voluminous letter, a postcard print of the ship and a souvenir spoon. The latter two were purchased with the proceeds of a boxing match my grandfather won on board.

Melita, July 1919 Menu. LAC RG 76, Immigration Branch files

This is a menu from the July 1919 sailing. My grandmother wrote about meals she had on board while on her journey:

The sea is awfully rough and has been for some hours. — Quite a large number of people have been sick already, but I am pleased to say I feel o.k. I eat a hearty breakfast consisting of bacon & liver. Of course that does not say I shall not be sick but I am hoping not.

It's a good thing that there were other choices on the menu beside liver and bacon. I imagine that would be hard to stomach if you are experiencing sea sickness.

Well Mother, I must say I am always ready for my meals. We have breakfast, at 7 am, dinner 11:45, tea 4:30, so we are early birds. There are three sittings, usually aft half an hour after the one before.

They could also purchase items from the canteen if they got hungry between meals.

 Hello! Here I am again, it is just eleven o’clock and Hugh has just gone down to the canteen (or stores) to get me some apples. — There is beeftea, & boveril and tea etc., to be got there, which are nice warming tonics. It is not dinner time for another three quarters of an hour yet, and you bet I shall be ready for it.

I am so thankful my grandmother left such a wonderful keepsake of her journey to Canada. It has inspired me to learn more about her journey and the war brides from her era.

(c) Annette Fulford, June 2019


Clark, Grace (Gibson). Letter, written 17 September and 24 September 1919, while on board C.P.R. ship R.M.S. Melita to her parents Mr. and Mrs. F.O. Gibson in Sheffield, England; held since 1992 by the author.

Clark, Grace; Passenger list: RMS Melita, 25 September 1919, Quebec, Library and Archives Canada,  Microfilm T14702 (accessed 18 June 1999).

Library and Archives Canada, Immigration Branch, RG 76, Volume 615, file 908571, pt. 20.

The Ships List (accessed 20 May 2002)