Remembering Those Who Served

Conscription ad, 1942

In Britain, as an election approaches, the Conservatives say they want to bring back compulsory national service. The United Kingdom had conscription during both world wars. So did Canada, but its implementation was contentious both times.

As Canada was fighting the First World War, Manitoba farm boy, Percy Dickie, one of the DICKIES FROM GUNTON: CANADIAN BROTHERS IN TWO WORLD WARS, is conscripted. Percy is one of about 48,000 conscripted men sent overseas, according to the Canadian War Museum.

When Canada implements conscription, under the Military Service Act (1917), men must register and are subject to being called up for military service. As a male British subject resident in Canada born since Oct. 13, 1897 and unmarried on April 20, 1918, Percy must report by June 1, 1918.

Percy enlists with three friends from town, and together, they are affectionately known as The Gunton Boys. Within two months, he is sent overseas  as part of the 104th reinforcement draft of the Canadian Reserve Cavalry Regiment. Fortunately, the war is winding down, but then comes a second one.

Early in the Second World War, Canada’s National Resources Mobilization Act (1940) requires everyone age 16 and up to be added to a registry, so they could be called upon to support the war effort on the home front, and later, overseas.

On the Dominion of Canada National Registration form, they provide their name, address, age, date of birth, marital status, number of dependents, place and country of birth and of their parents, nationality, year of entry into Canada for immigrants, racial origin, languages, education, general health, occupation-employment status- farming or mechanical skills, and previous military service, according to Archives Canada.

Among the questions:  Were you brought up on a farm? Can you handle horses? Use farm machinery? Drive a tractor? Education- primary, primary and secondary, vocational training, college or university degree? If not a British subject, to what country do you owe allegiance? Is there any particular occupation in which you would like to be specifically trained?

Well before the national registration and even before war is officially declared, Percy’s younger brother, Earl and his friends are among the first to volunteer for service. Earl joins the Winnipeg Grenadiers and is sent to Hong Kong. In 1945, only a few thousand Canadian conscripts are sent to Europe to fight in the war, according to the Canadian War Museum.

We remember those who served.

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