LETTER – Not all soldiers in World War I went overseas to fight in the trenches

Jack Drinkwater.

Not all soldiers in the first world war went overseas to fight in the trenches, some men were to young and others worked on a myriad of tasks to keep the army operational. Our father was too young to enlist in the regular army so at age 16 he joined the Canadian Militia and he was selected to be an Armed Railway Service Guard.

About 140,000 Chinese labourers were sent from China to Europe. They were transported across Canada by rail and they were used to bury the dead and other service work. Apparently, the whole story of indentured workers and how they were recruited is a very sad tale with lots of deceit and crime involved. How the military shipped loads of labourers from China to Belgium and France, silently and secretly in what still ranks as one of the greatest undercover military operations in Canadian history.

I believe Dad made several trips across Canada and he told me how the passenger cars were converted to bunk cars with cooking facilities etc. and how the soldiers stood guard when the trains slowed or stopped. It seemed the soldiers had some interaction with the labourers and I discovered that he could speak a limited amount of the language when he would have a short conversation with the owner of the Silver Grill Café in Kamloops.

On April 20, 1918 — nine days after he turned 18 — he joined the Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force but fortunately for us the war was just about over, and he never left Canada.

Our father served for many years in the reserve and in the second world war, he was Corp. Jack Drinkwater of the Rocky Mountain Rangers. He was also a member of the RMR Band and we will always be proud of his contribution to his country.  He will always be my hero.



About Mel Rothenburger (6184 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

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