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Remember This? North Bay's Great War

Twice a month, the Discovery North Bay Museum and its volunteers provide BayToday readers with a glimpse of the city’s past. Military researcher and museum volunteer Bill Alexander put together the story of Major/Lieutenant Edwin Charles Shepherd, who is one of several soldiers who are featured in this month’s exhibit at Discovery North Bay Museum.

Using military records, letters, photos, and stories from family members, museum staff and volunteers were able to piece together the stories of several local soldiers and nurses who served overseas.  These stories formed the basis of “North Bay’s Great War” which focused on local contributions to the Canadian war effort.

Over a hundred years have passed since the outbreak of the First World War.

This anniversary is an opportune time to reflect on and research local contributions to the Canadian war effort. 

Unlike most recruits to the Canadian Expeditionary Force, Major/Lieutenant Edwin Charles Shepherd had previous military experience in the Canadian militia.

In 1911, he had been commissioned as a Lieutenant (pronounced left-tenant in Canadian English) in the 23rd Northern Pioneers and was promoted to Major in the 159th (1st Algonquin) Battalion Canadian Expeditionary Force.

Major Shepherd embarked with the 159th and landed in the United Kingdom on November 11, 1916.

At this point in the war, battalions arriving from Canada were sent to reserve formations to be used as reinforcements for the front line. 

With a surplus of officers, Major Shepherd had the choice of waiting in the United Kingdom, with the potential of being returned to Canada, or reverting in rank and being taken on strength of a front line unit.

Feeling the patriotic fervor of the times, Major Shepherd reverted to the rank of Lieutenant, and was sent to the 4th Canadian Mounted Rifles Regiment (CMR) as a replacement officer in late April 1917, just after the attack on Vimy Ridge.  

Lt. Shepherd served with the 4th CMR through the summer and into the autumn of 1917. In October, the 4th CMR were sucked into the horror of the Battle of Passchendaele.

Perhaps the epitome of First World War battles, Passchendaele was a struggle through mud and water so deep men and teams of horses who fell off the duck boards or traveled trails were mired or drowned in festering pools of slime. 

On October 31, 1917 Lt. Shepherd was reported killed in action. Married with two sons, both Lt. Shepherd’s wife and mother were presented with the Memorial Cross, a commemorative medal marking his sacrifice.

In addition, the British War Medal and Victory Medal for service were sent to his wife.

Museum volunteers were able to track down Edwin Charles Shepherd’s granddaughter Barb Brunette, who had kept a photo of Shepherd in uniform along with a copy of his death notice in North Bay’s local paper the Despatch and Tribune from November 9, 1917.

[object Object]The obituary for Major/Lieutenant Edwin Charles Shepherd from the Despatch and Tribune from November 9, 1917.

To learn more about North Bay’s contribution to the First World War, visit Discovery North Bay Museum at 100 Ferguson Street until January 4, 2016 to see the “North Bay’s Great War” exhibit. Volunteer Pat Moulson will be available to give guided tours of the exhibit from 10 am until 12 p.m. on Saturday, December 5th.