Sudbury

The quest of two Laurentian University professors to uncover the lost history of Northern Ontario's soldiers

After years of researching the military histories of the country, two retired history professors from Laurentian University have set out to correct something they felt was a significant omission in the text books.

Dieter Buse and Graeme Mount ‘filling in the gaps’ of missing stories

Retired professors Dieter Buse (left) and Graeme Mount (right) are setting out to fill in some glaring omissions in Canadian military histories. (Jason Turnbull CBC)

Dieter Buse and Graeme Mount are on a simple mission.

After years of researching the main military histories of the country, the two retired history professors from Laurentian University have set out to correct something they felt was a significant omission in the text books.

"The shocking thing," Buse said, "was how few people from northeastern Ontario and their contributions and even their participation [in the wars] are noticed."

Moments like this — the unveiling of a cenotaph monument in Thessalon in 1923 — lie at the heart of Buse and Mount's upcoming book on military history. (Dieter Buse)

And in some cases, cities and towns in southern Ontario were taking credit for accomplishments by northerners.

Buse and Mount said they're trying to "fill in the gaps" by writing their own book, which has yet to be named, specifically detailing the history of efforts of people in northern Ontario.

The Canadian Forestry Corps in Scotland has a rich and significant history, though not well-known, Buse says.

Buse gives the example of a book that's well-known in academic circles.

"It's about the people in Brantford, Ontario. They are very proud of the 4th Battalion and what it did in the First World War, especially Ypres," Buse said.

"But if you look at the nominal roles, which are the military listing of who's in the battalions, one whole company came from northeastern Ontario. But it's not acknowledged at all."

Mount says histories, like those of the Northern Batallion of World War I, often get overlooked by authors in the southern parts of the province.

Buse also tells the story of the 228th Batallion.

"Did you know that the main hockey team in the First World War was a group of soldiers enlisted to recruit more people to the military? That group was called the 228th Northern Fusiliers."

"After a while it was called the 228th Toronto Fusiliers. But only one person was from Toronto. One was from Quebec. Most were from Sault Ste. Marie and North Bay."

The history of the All-Sault Flyers from World War II has been mostly overlooked by writers and historians outside of northern Ontario, Mount says.

Mount said the sheer number of people sent to war efforts should impress even the casual reader of Canadian history.

"The communities here sent their manpower in unprecedented numbers, and it wasn't just overseas," he said. "There was a POW in Kapuskasing during World War 1. People from this area fought in Korea, in peacekeeping missions, the Afghan war."

Mount said the lack of stories could have something to do with having a relatively young group of universities in the area. Nipissing, Algoma, and Laurentian were all established in the 1960s.

"Histories of Northern Ontario aren't well documented," he said.  "That's because the university here is younger here than in Montreal, Toronto or Kingston."

Listen to the interview with Dieter Buse and Graeme Mount here.

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