First World War researcher tracks Sudbury soldiers' records

The First World War is long over, but for some families, research into their relatives who fought in that war is just beginning.

Sudbury soldiers played a special role as 'signallers' during the First World War, Dieter Buse learns

The National War Memorial in Ottawa commemorates the 60,000 Canadians killed in the First World War. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

The First World War is long over, but for some families, research into their relatives who fought in that war is just beginning.

That research is of great interest to Dieter Buse, a retired Laurentian University history professor, who is currently working on a project helping people research the records of their relatives.

He's also delving deeper into his own extended family’s experiences with the First World War.

The source of Buse’s information is the National Library and Archives of Canada database, where anyone can search for their relative by entering their first and last names.

“If you know that information, the database comes up with their attestation file,” said Buse.

“What’s interesting is that the file then shows not just their address, next of kin, date of birth, but also their family background and physical description.”

From there, people can use the soldier’s battalion and brigade number to follow where that person fought and track their service record. That record makes note of any honours or other less desirable details, like whether people were discharged, arrested, or went AWOL.

Dieter Buse outside the CBC Sudbury studios with some of his research notes. (Barry Mercer/CBC)

Sudbury’s role in the war to end all wars

For the two decades prior to the First World War, Sudbury was a young city just starting in the metal production industry, Buse said, and some of that material was used for the war efforts in Europe.

But Sudbury’s value in the war extended beyond that.

“As a railway city, we could offer a special contribution,” he said.

“Two of the people who I know came from Sudbury became signallers, using telegraphs and flares. We had a CPR station here, so people already knew how to use the machines.”

Buse said the Library and Archives of Canada has on file the diary of at least one northern Ontario man who trained signallers in both southern Ontario and England.

Buse eventually hopes to compile his research and eventually publish a book.


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