Monday, June 28, 1915

Billets – Outtersteene

The Battalion War Diarist wrote nothing for this day:  [1]

THIS DAY IN RMR HISTORY: “After war was declared in August of 1914, Toronto soon became a military headquarters.  Soldiers were recruited and trained there. As English-Canada’s largest city, citizens were eager to help fight alongside the United Kingdom.”  [2]

“Those who couldn’t enlist offered other kinds of support. The City of Toronto donated police horses to the artillery and gave free life insurance to employees who joined the military. Service groups, often led by prominent members of the community, launched fundraising drives to pay for medical equipment for wounded soldiers and to care for soldiers’ families.”  [3]

“Tommy Church, Mayor from 1915 to 1921, never met a hand he wouldn’t shake.  His support for soldiers fighting in the First World War comforted many families. When any troops shipped out of Union Station, Church saw them off. ‘For many soldiers,’ historian Donald Jones noted, ‘the last thing they remembered about Toronto was the sight of their mayor running beside the train shouting goodbye and wishing them good luck.’ He was also there to welcome the soldiers back. He called families upon hearing of fatalities and asked if he could help. He successfully urged city council to insure every enlisted man from Toronto for $1,000 each. From these actions arose Church’s nickname, ‘The Soldiers’ Friend.’” [4]

Toronto newspapers reported on June 30th 1915 that  “Five additional cheques on account of soldiers insurance were received by the city treasurer yesterday, making the total paid over [to date] by the Metropolitan Life $82,000.” [5]   The names of the five soldiers on whose lives these cheques were paid out included two soldiers of the 14th Battalion, Private Alex. Shanks, and Private Bert Present.  In the next two days we will read a little about each of these two men.

By the end of the First World War the City of Toronto had given 65,000 men for service overseas. Casualties totalled over 25,000 of whom 5,000 had paid the supreme sacrifice. The city had paid death claims of $1,000 each on 3,580 soldiers’ lives.

This insurance program was not unique to Toronto.  Numerous cities and towns across Canada had similar programs to insure their citizens serving at the front, with the proceeds being paid to the families of those killed.

[1]   War Diary, 14th Canadian Battalion, The Royal Montreal Regiment, June 28, 1915.  Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa
[3]  “Cheers break out in Toronto as Britain declared war on Germany in 1914,” Stephanie MacLellan, Toronto Star, Toronto, Ontario, Monday, August 4, 2014.
[4]  “Meet a Toronto Mayor From Days Gone By,” Gail Dever, Genealogy a la Carte, Oct 14, 2014,
[5]  The Toronto World, Toronto, Ontario, Wednesday, June 30, 1915, pg. 3, col. 5.

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