We honour Remembrance Day with WW1 military vintage postcard 4th TMB June 28 1917

November 12, 2012 | Bill V.

Comments (8)

I find this a poignant and mysterious World War 1 RPPC real photo/picture postcard.  It's part of the Toronto Reference Library postcard collection.  It is dated on the back June 28, 1917 France.  It shows the 4th Trench Mortar Battery TMB which I believe to be a Canadian military unit.  It's hard to tell for sure, but I think the insignia on the caps/uniforms are maple leaves.

Unusually, but luckily, each person on the front of this postcard is carefully identified on the back including their rank and family name - alas no first names or initials.  This provides us with a lot of information but there is still some ambiguity. If you are interested in learning how to research Canada's military men and women there are some great online resources available.   There is a possibility the 4th TMB may be a British or a Anzac/Australian/New Zealand military unit as well.

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Remembrance Day on November 11 is our chance to honor and remember those who have fought, died and suffered during war for our country.   95 years after these men played a game of basketball (or rugger?) on the French battlefield they took a group photo - which one of them spent a considerable amount of time and dedication to identify.  We remember not only their courage but also their specific names by having this card and by putting it up on the internet. How many of them came back to Canada - what was the impact of their return ...or their not returning?

Lt Stubley , Lt Craig, Sgt Londsboro, L/Corp Neath, Sgt Cobb, Corp Archer, Lt Dick, Pte Morris, Lt Right, Pte Mathews, Pte Carlin, Corp Addison, Pte Rochford, Pte Unwin, Corp Eve. , Pt Davidson, Pte Ramsay, Corp Thomson, Pte Stephens and Pte Sears.

Personally I find it very moving to see the photograph of these men and know that they are dead now - that they suffered greatly during the Great War and that some of them or their comrades died during the War.  According to news reports Canada's last WW I veteran, John Babcock, died at the age of 109 in February 2010 - after lying about his age he enlisted at the age of 16.  The last combat veteran Claude Stanley Choules, died at the age of 110 in May 2011.  Photos like this postcard are now the only memories and records we have this era and the sacrifice of these soldiers.

One of the other Library blogs has done a beautiful posting on the famous and moving poem which describes the loss and sacrifice In Flanders Field and what Rembrance Day means to her.

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If this unit is Canadian then it was part of the Canadian Expeditionary Forces / CEF.  Based on the sign the front man with bandage proudly holds, I believe them to be 4th Trench Mortar Battery/TMB belonging to the 4th Canadian Infantry Brigade which was part of the 2nd Division.  The 4th Trench Battery joined the 2nd Divison in 1916.  They were involved in the Battle of Vimy Ridge in April 1917 and the 2nd Battle of Passchendaele in October/November 1917. Canadian soldiers played key roles in both battles.

The Canadian War Museum has some great online information about the CEF and you can also see a complete list of battles fought by the 2nd Division.   I found in doing research on WW1 military history it's often hard to be sure about something as simple as knowing exactly which 4th Trench Mortar Battery we're looking at. The information now online and scanned is pretty amazing though - you can see the War Diaries for each mortar unit - and if the 4th Trench Mortar Battery is part of the 2nd division you can see the actual war diary for them on the days in late June when this card was dated.

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Not surprisingly the standing officers in uniform are a bit older and not in sports gear. Lt Stubley, who is standing on the top right hand side, with a dapper mustache is likely James Thomas Stubley. If we use the Library and Archives Canada database of soldiers we can see there were two Stubleys serving in WW1 - the other one was a Sergeant.  Lt Stubley, if we have the correct one, was born in England but lived in Orillia Ontario with his wife, Elizabeth Eva. He was Anglican, a locomotive engineer and joined the forces in 1916.  Stubley is an unusual family name so we only get two hits.  If we searched Lt Dick we find 197 hits and several of them are Lieutenants.  When I search most of the other names I find a large number of hits so it's hard to narrow it down to this group.

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The players in rugger shirts really seem to have quite a bit of bravado.  The younger men look no different really than people you would see on the street now.

The man in the centre has either a head bandage and you wonder did he get it on the sports field or on the fighting field. 

If you can help us further identify the men in this photo or the exact military unit please send us a comment.

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If you like early photographs / images / postcards of Toronto and Canada visit the Digital Archive which includes rare historical pictures, maps, manuscripts, ephemera and digitized books from our Special Collections for research, study and discovery.

Toronto Public Library has some of its photo/ephemera collections online at Pinterest and Flickr as well as many of its past exhibits and displays in virtual exhibitions. Come visit us online or in person.

The photo below is part of the Toronto Public Library Digital Archive and shows Percy Waters' florist shop on Danforth Ave., s. side, between Hampton & Logan Aves circa 1918 decorated for the the end of WW1.


WATERS, PERCY, florist