In the frenzy of grief in the years following the 1914-1918 conflict, cities, towns and villages all across Canada threw up monuments to the more than 60,000 young men and women lost to the most brutal war in history. Fredericton, New Brunswick was not unique, dedicating a war memorial in 1923, on which 106 names are inscribed.
In 2015, with the centenary of the end of the First World War approaching, social studies teacher and curriculum consultant James Rowinski met with middle school teachers to organize a project: the Fredericton Soldier Biography History Initiative. For the next four years, middle school students embarked on a research project to rival any post-secondary students. Sourcing service records, battalion war diaries, and contemporary newspaper accounts, from Library and Archives Canada, the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick, and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) among other databases, and working closely with archivists and historians, the students dug into the histories of the 106 men mentioned on the memorial – plus four who were not. Their work was recognized by the Fredericton Heritage Trust as contributing significantly to Fredericton’s heritage. It led to the rededication in 2019 of one forgotten soldier’s grave site with the CWGC military service headstone he more than deserved. The result is the newly released book: In Perpetuity: The First World War Soldiers of the Fredericton War Memorial.
Dr. Sears, a university educator for more than 40 years, praises the students’ work as serious and disciplined, and the results as an important body of work, “scholarship well beyond our expectations”.
With a foreword by Dr. Alan Sears, Professor Emeritus, UNB, and an introduction by James Rowinski, the book is laid out year by year from 1914 to 1920, with a summary of what was happening at each stage of the war and the immediate post-war era. The men’s biographies are ordered chronologically by their date of death, from one who never made it overseas at all, to a Lieutenant struggling with what we now know is PTSD long after the guns fell silent in 1918. Rowinski cautions that each story is told from the point of view of young students (all were 13 or 14 years old) embarking on this kind of research for the first time. As such, he says, they “should not be read as definitive military histories”. Yet, Dr. Sears, a university educator for more than 40 years, praises the students’ work as serious and disciplined, and the results as an important body of work, “scholarship well beyond our expectations”.
The biographies are sad – these are all men who died far too young – yet the rich details bring them back to life, and tell the story of our province and our country in the early years of the 20th century. It also offers visitors to the First World War battlefields, cemeteries and monuments of France and Belgium a guide to the significance of those now quiet and peaceful places. One does not need to be a resident of Fredericton, or indeed of New Brunswick, to appreciate these biographies of men long gone but now more than mere names on a plaque.
About the Author
James Rowinski is a PhD Candidate in Instruction and Curriculum Studies in Education at the University of New Brunswick and a SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship recipient. He currently works for the Government of New Brunswick and lives in Fredericton.
- Publisher : Goose Lane Editions (Oct. 24 2023)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 306 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1773103164
- ISBN-13 : 978-1773103167
Heather McBriarty is an author, lecturer and Medical Radiation Technologist based in Saint John, NB. Her love of reading and books began early in life, as did her love of writing, but it was the discovery of old family correspondence that led to her first non-fiction book, Somewhere in Flanders: Letters from the Front, and a passion for the First World War. She has delivered lectures to the Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society, NB Genealogy Society, and Western Front Association (Central Ontario Branch), among others, on the war. Heather’s first novel of the “Great War”, Amid the Splintered Trees, was launched in November 2021.