Updated: Feb 5, 2021
The Transcona Museum has had a long history of actively participating in Remembrance Day. For many years the museum has put on Remembrance-themed exhibitions during Remembrance Week at Kildonan Place Shopping Centre. These exhibitions have examined Transcona's role during both World Wars, Korean War, and how Afghanistan has affected all Canadians. The museum also has a display case in the Transcona Legion where we showcase military and related artifacts year-round.
One may ask the question, Why do we do our exhibits? Why is Remembrance important to Transcona? In fact, I was asked this very question on the first day at our Remembrance Display this year. Our job at the museum is to be caretakers of Transcona's history and to preserve and promote the community spirit of Transcona. Transcona has had a long history of Remembrance going back to the First World War.
During the First World War, Transcona was quite new. The town was incorporated in 1912, two years before the start of the war in 1914. The population was around 1200 people, and during the war over 400 men enlisted. Out of those 400 men, 80 did not return.
We remember them and their stories. We have done extensive research throughout the years to find out more about these men. Who were they? When did they come to Transcona? What work did they do? Sadly, with some, we only know their name and we have no photographs to remember them by. With some, we do have their story.
Walter Barugh (age 32) was one of the first in a group of men from Transcona to volunteer for military service during the First World War. He was a private with the 90th Rifles, 8th Battalion. He was also the first man from Transcona to be Killed in Action on March 10th, 1915. Walter had worked as the Town of Transcona Health Inspector. He along with four other civic employees joined up together. The March 19th, 1915 Transcona Times article reported "a cloud of gloom was cast over the entire community. At the town hall and the Central School the flags were hung at half-mast as a token of the community's last tribute".
Not only did Transcona's men volunteer and enlist, but Transcona was active on the home front. During the First World War, from 1915-1918 the former Coach Paint shop of the Car Department in the Grand Truck Pacific Shops (located in Transcona) was turned into a munitions factory; the Transcona Shell Company. In this factory, they produced 18lb shells that were used by Allied Forces on the battlefields in Europe.
When it comes to the First World War, we do what we can to remember those veterans, as there are none alive today. There are no longer any firsthand experiences we can hear from an individual that was there. We can only learn about the war through books, diaries, maps, and previously recorded histories. The last Canadian WWI veteran died in 2010 and the last WWI veteran out of the tens of millions that served died in 2012. There are no veterans left to tell of their experiences during the First World War from 1914-1918.
Transcona's participation in the Second World War was extensive as well. Over 800 men and women volunteered to serve. Many of them were former students at Central School. Out of the men and women who served - some taking part in the Raid at Dieppe, D-Day & Juno beach, Hong Kong and the Battle of the Atlantic - 41 did not return home.
Flight Sergeant Roy Stanley Greengrass (age 19) was educated at Central School in Transcona, he played local hockey and worked as a Winnipeg Tribune newspaper carrier. He enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force on his 18th birthday (May 14, 1941) as a wireless gunner. He trained through the British Commonwealth Air Training Program in Winnipeg, Calgary, Penhold, and Lachine before being attached to the Ferry Command. He went overseas in August 1942. He was Killed in Action on March 10th, 1943 and is buried in Ripon Cemetery in Yorkshire, UK.
On the home front, once again Transcona stepped up. From 1940 to 1945 Defense Industries Limited set up a Cordite plant just East of the Town. At the height of operations, the Cordite Plant employed over 2460 men and women in the manufacture of the highly explosive material Cordite used in ammunition. The plant operated under intense conditions and tight security. Employees were not allowed to bring matches or lighters into the plant, metal buttons and zippers were also forbidden, as metal could set off sparks which could set off explosions. Tools were made of non-sparking metals.
In addition to the Cordite plant, there was the very active War Efforts Committee. The committee which included delegates from every organization in town raised money for every request the government asked for a mobile canteen, the Red Cross, the Lord Mayor of London Fund and Victory Loans. They also sponsored the H.M.C.S. Transcona. The committee sent purchased cigarettes, playing cards, magazines, clothing and phonograph records to the crew of their adopted ship as well as Transcona Boys overseas.
Unknown to many Canadians is that Canada's only armoured train was constructed at the Transcona Shops in 1942. Commissioned in secret by the Canadian Government after the attack at Pearl Harbour, construction at the Transcona Shops proved difficult as new techniques and tools were required to armour plate the rail cars and engine that made up the train. Construction of the train took less than four months. No. 1 Armoured Train entered service in June 1942. The Train was made up of "Unit 1 (Artillery Car) General Purpose Car CN 14174, Unit 2 (AA gun car) General Purpose Car CN 141200, Unit 3 (Infantry Car) Auto Boxcar CN 573083, Unit 4 CN steam locomotive 1426, Unit 5 (Service Car) Boxcar GTW 57084, Car 6 (Infantry Car) Auto Boxcar CN 573031, Car 7 (AA gun car) General purpose Car CN 141099, Car 8 (Artillery Car) General Purpose Car CN141602 " (Lucy, 2005, pg 22).
The train was used to patrol the CN Railway along the Skeena River from Prince Rupert to the Pacific coast, against possible Japanese seaborne raid. After only 14 months of service, the train was decommissioned and dismantled in 1944, without ever firing a shot.
These are just some of the stories we have, with minimal information to fit into the blog. More information can be found at the Transcona Museum and in our archives. We do what we can to remember them; their sacrifice, their stories, their history. We can't forget what they did for their community, their country, and for us.
Join us in Remembrance.
Alma Fayer Fonds, Transcona Museum Archives
Canadian War Museum Fonds, Transcona Museum Archives
Florence Green, Last World War I Veteran, Dies at 110. Fox, Margalit. The New York Times. Accessed October 30, 2017
George E. Olive Fonds, Transcona Museum Archives
George Leslie Greengrass Fonds, Transcona Museum Archives
Lucy, Roger V. The Armoured Train in Canadian Service, Service Publications, Ottawa, 2005
Thomas F. Copeland Fonds, Transcona Museum Archives
Transcona Times, March 19th, 1915
Transcona Historical Museum. "The Ultimate Sacrifice: Remembering the Fallen"(2011)
Transcona Museum. "Remember and Reflect: War Efforts of Transcona"(2016)
Transcona Museum Collections