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Looking Back: Archives reveal more about war hero,

Looking Back: Archives reveal more about war hero

Looking back article from May 2022.

A decade ago (Dec. 19th, 2012 edition),in a Looking Back article post Remembrance Day,  this Curator wrote about Pitt Meadows’ only WWI war dead, Roland Francis Croasdaile Thomson.  Thomson was a recent Irish immigrant to Canada who had settled in Pitt Meadows and was working as a farm laborer/rancher.  When Pitt Meadows incorporated in April, 1914 he sat on the first municipal council and then ran and was elected again in 1915.  Apart from that, we have known little about his life in Pitt Meadows, but it would seem he was well established in the community and leading a calm and comfortable life.

But, like many men at that time, he felt the need to enlist and serve his Queen and country, and, by looking at his attestation papers, we know that at Vernon, BC on September 29th, 1915, he signed the papers and was approved for service the following day.  After that we lose track of him until his date of death less than a year after his enlistment on September 26, 1916.  In the 14th Battalion of the Canadian Infantry, 41 year old Private Thomson was killed in action, and, with no marked grave, his name is listed on the Vimy Memorial in Pas de Calais, France.

Now, fast forward to the summer of 2020 when staff at the City of Pitt Meadows ventured into the vault at the old municipal hall (now the Heritage Hall) and unearthed a trove of archival information.  Buried amongst those materials were just a few tidbits that tell us a little more about RFC Thomson.  From a letter, written in pencil on rough paper stock, we know he was the secretary of the local War Relief fund.  From another similar letter we know that he was the councilor in charge of road work and reported to council on expenditures that related.

And, from a particularly poignant letter, we know that on September 6th, 1915, he wrote to council:  “Dear Sirs, Having volunteered for service overseas, I wish to apply to you for leave of absence as in all probability I will not be able to attend the regular meetings unless on leave.  Yours Truly, Roland Thomson”.  Clearly a man who was committed to his country and to an eventual return to his adopted community.

Finally, the last letter in the Thomson file, and dated April 8th (1917?) was from Gertrude Chute, Thomson’s sister and his next of kin listed on his attestation papers.  Her letter, a heartfelt thank you to Reeve and Council for their letter of condolences on her brother’s death.  We do not know what was written in the letter our council sent her but her sentiment that “I feel much touched by your appreciation of my brother…” is a testament to the impact he had on our small community. 

Leslie Norman, Curator