PEI

1919 project explores the return of soldiers to P.E.I.

Culture Summerside is looking for volunteers to help with a project to research how P.E.I. welcomed home its soldiers from the First World War.

'It was a huge demobilization'

A cartoon from the Summerside Pioneer newspaper of a soldier being welcomed home from the First World War in 1919. (Summerside Pioneer)

Culture Summerside is looking for volunteers to help with a project to research how P.E.I. welcomed home its soldiers from the First World War.

The volunteers will be asked to scan Island newspapers from the end of war to the end of 1919 for news of returning soldiers. Jean MacKay, the archivist at the MacNaught History Centre in Summerside, said it took many months to bring everyone home.

"It was a huge demobilization that had to take place. They had to find ships to bring the men back," said MacKay.

A column from the Island Farmer newspaper about the return of a large group of P.E.I. First World War soldiers from Europe in May of 1919. (Island Farmer)

There were more than 267,000 Canadians looking to return from overseas. They landed in Saint John, Halifax, and even on the American Eastern Seaboard because the port of Halifax was still recovering from the Halifax Explosion.

MacKay said there is no clear picture of how many Islanders were overseas at the end of the war, and part of the project will be to try to get an estimate of those numbers.

"A lot of communities had receptions for these men as they gradually came home. Perhaps by the end of the project we can make a guess," she said.

There are many newspapers to be reviewed. There were four weekly papers in Summerside, and two dailies in Charlottetown. MacKay would like to have at least a dozen volunteers, but more would be welcome.

"The more eyes the better, because someone can look at the paper and then another person can look at the same paper and find different things," said MacKay.

"We hope to have some good coverage with many eyes."

Culture Summerside hopes to wrap up the scanning of the newspapers by the end of February, and plans to release a commemorative booklet on the findings at an event on May 21.

More P.E.I. news

With files from Island Morning

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