Windsor

Mysterious war scrapbooks linked to Essex Scottish Regiment

A pair of amateur historians are trying to solve a mystery linked to Windsor's military history after discovering four rare scrapbooks documenting parts of the Second World War.
A Windsor couple is trying to preserve part of the city's history through four Second Wold War scrapbooks. One of the books is the detailed diary of a long-lost soldier. 1:21

A pair of amateur historians are trying to solve a mystery linked to Windsor's military history after discovering four rare scrapbooks documenting parts of the Second World War. 

One of the scrapbooks is the diary of a long-forgotten soldier, Private George Lee, who was part of Canada's famed Essex Scottish Regiment. 

The British-born Detroit steel worker joined the regiment in 1939. That's about all that's known of Lee.

"It documents his time with the Essex Scottish, his time as a prisoner of war and his return to Canada. What happened to him afterwards? We do not know," explains Gunilla Dittman, as she flips through the pages of the scrapbook found at a garage sale. 

As it has happened with other veterans, the trail goes cold, with the recognition fading away at peacetime. 

But for Dittman, forgetting is not an option. 

"It doesn't matter if they were a cook on the ship, or they died on the front," she said. "Their story is important, their memory is important, it contributes to our community, it contributes to our heritage."

The diary of Pte. Lee was given to the Dittmans by a friend who found it at a garage sale, the three other scrapbooks were found in an antique shop. 

Store owner Maurice Ruelland said when he acquired the books he know he something special. 

"Rarities such as that, this is maybe the second time in five years," said Ruelland. "When you get things like that in, it's important that the families know that it's not just the Uncle John's stuff in a box."

This weekend, Pte. Lee's scrapbook will be on display at the Southern Ontario Military Muster in Essex.

It's a chance for people to take a look at his life, learn about the history of war, and maybe contribute some new pieces of information. 

"Here's a guy that went through the war, from this area, and nobody seems to know anything about him," said Geoff Bottoms, with the Southern Ontario Military Muster. 

The complete story of Lee's life may never be fully told, but having the book on display has already started to make an impact. 

"Just looking at it all was almost overwhelming with the amount of pictures that were in there, and the stories that came with it," said Victor Lamoure, with Essex and Kent Scottish Regiment. 
 
The Southern Ontario Military Muster takes place at the Essex Memorial Arena Grounds both Saturday and Sunday, starting at 9 a.m. 

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