Shrine and Show Day – Saturday 22 September 1917
Smoky but sunny and warm. Uncle Geoff picked apples and Mother stayed at home. I helped with chores. In the afternoon I dressed in my best and rowed over to the Agricultural Show and to see the shrine unveiled. The “Shrine” has the names of all the men who have enlisted from Salt Spring and the other Islands, in this Great War, on it. There are about 250 names on it. Colonel Marriott, Dr. Redd and Rev. Aiken and Rev. Dean made speeches and then Colonel Marriott unveiled the Shrine and crowds and crowds of people stood round and sang “God save the King” while the Kuper Island Band played. The Shrine stands at the Cross Roads between the Trading Co. and Mouats. Major Harvey was also up with Colonel M for the afternoon and heaps of strangers from the other Islands were over. The “Show” was a very good one for war time. I had tea with Mr & Mrs Carrie and Colonel and Mrs Layard. We never showed anything because we had’nt anything to show. On the grounds they had football etc. The Sunshine Guild provided lunch and afternoon tea.
It is simply beastly without Dad." from the Diary of Beryl Scott, 1916
Capitaine Paul Bion
Video - Historian and archaeologist Chris Arnett gives a talk about Capitaine Paul Bion, a Salt Spring Island poultry farmer who was recalled to France to serve in WW1 (thank you to Peter Prince).
Capitaine Paul Armand Louis Bion was born in 1874, in Montigny-Sur-Abbe, France. He joined the French Army at the age of 19. He rose rapidly through the ranks becoming a 1st class Private in February 1896, Corporal on September 1896, and Sergeant in September 1897. He studied Electrical Engineering and in 1906 he began working for the electrical department in Saigon, French Indo-China. In 1910 Paul Bion and his wife Maria purchased 160 acres on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia. Shortly after his arrival in October 1910 he was released from the French Reserve Army. He started a poultry farm called Dogwood Poultry. Chickens and eggs were sold in Vancouver, while fruit and vegetables were sold locally.
At the outbreak of war with Germany on the 4th of August 1914 he was recalled to duty.
In 1916 just prior to the Battle of the Somme he was transferred to HQ. 1st Army Corps and was placed in command of the 2nd Bureau. Under great difficulty, having just arrived, he organised the Department in a remarkable fashion. He provided accurate and intelligent information to the 1st Bureau and was cited for the award of Officer 1st Class on 15th December 1916. From this time until 2nd October 1917 he carried out his duties as Chef de 2ieme Bureau so well that his superiors wrote many accolades about his balance, enterprise, loyalty and devotion to duty. During the last battle of Flanders, his work resulted in his being awarded the Chevalier De Legion D' Honneur on the 29th December 1916. In addition to the Legion of Honour he also received a Criox De Guerre with Palme, an Etoile D'Argent and an Etoile De Vermeil.
He returned to his farm in Canada, where together with General Wilkinson, he was instrumental in the building of a War Memorial on Salt Spring. Capitaine Paul Bion died in 1938. (adapted from Chris Arnett's Bion presentation)
No. 2 Construction Battalion
They were skilled, loyal and resilient soldiers, and we as a country did not live up to what they expected from us. We owe it to them to celebrate their achievements and remember their sacrifices in service to Canada. They deserve our deepest respect and gratitude." The Hon. Harjit S. Sajjan , federal Minister of National Defence.
The Whims Family
Hiram Whims was one of Salt Spring Island's early Black settlers. Born in Tennessee in c1806, he probably bought his own freedom from slavery in Missouri before he moved his family to California. The family then emigrated north to the colony of Vancouver Island with a contingent of emancipated Black families, invited to settle and become British citizens by Governor James Douglas. Hiram Whims pre-empted land at the Fernwood area of North Salt Spring Island in c1859, and generations of Whims descendants grew up farming on the Island. Four of Hiram Whims' grandsons served in World War I, and three great-grandsons served in World War II.
Whims on the Honour Roll
William David Whims, b.1890, 2nd Depot Battalion, British Columbia Regiment, 2138848
George Harim Whims, b. 1894, No.1 Forestry Draft, 2203817
Robert Clark Whims, b. 1898, No.2 Construction Battalion, 931613
James Douglas Whims, b. 1900, No.2 Construction Battalion, 931614 †
James Douglas Whims
James Douglas Whims was the youngest of the 9 children of William Whims and Emily Sampson Whims. Although he was too young to sign up, he was 6'2" tall and weighed 192 lbs according to his records, and may have appeared old enough. He enlisted with his brother Robert Clark Whims in Victoria on October 24, 1916. They joined the No. 2 Construction Battalion, Canadian Engineers, together. Their Regimental Numbers are 931613 and 931614. The No. 2 Construction Battalion unit had just been created following a petition from Canadian men of African descent who had been excluded from joining the war. The platoon was comprised of Black soldiers tasked to build roads and clear mines as the Allies pushed deeper into the heart of Europe.
Arriving overseas in April 1917, the No. 2 Construction Battalion was stationed at Seaford, East Sussex in England for training. The unit spent weeks digging trenches for other troops in training, while constructing and repairing roads. James Whims contracted measles and was hospitalized between May 15 - 31, 1917. During his convalescence the No. 2 had left for France, and James Whims was attached (on "loan" it appears to say in his papers) to the 7th Reserve Battalion which remained at Seaford. In October 1917 he was transferred to the 17th Reserve Battalion at Bramshott, East Hampshire. James Whims was reunited with the No.2 Construction Battalion in France on March 4, 1918. He was then attached to the Canadian Forestry Corps from March 25 to April 2, 1918.
On April 4 he was admitted to No. 7 Canadian General Hospital at Etaples, France, diagnosed with pleurisy with effusion, and already "seriously ill". On the 17th his condition was listed as "dangerously ill". On April 19, 1918, James Whims died of "Pleurisy, due to exposure while on Military Duty". He is buried at Etaples Military Cemetery, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France, Plot XXXVII. C. 3.
The Next Generation - Great-Grandsons of Hiram Whims
Unveiling of Memorial – Monday April 17 1922
Fine but very cold & strong gusts of wind all day – I took the cream to Ganges. Went up to the doctor’s for some medicine. Lunch at Harbour House and then I helped some of the Hockey-ites decorate the Hall until 2:30 when about 160 people gathered by the Trad. Co. to see the unveiling of the memorial to the boys who fell in the war - Mr. Atkins, Mr. Bastion, Mr. Jackson M.P.P. a Methodist Parson all took part in the Proceeding, while Mrs. Frank Crofton as a nurse with her medals on did the actual unveiling - Afterwards the Norman Wilsons, Peter de Rouper, Mr. Jackson, Byng and I went to Tea at the Will Scotts’.
(the Cenotaph) was moved to Centennial Park and rededicated in November 1966, where it remains a token of respect and a gathering place on Remembrance Day." SSI Historical Society - Walking Tour of Ganges
Those Who Fell in the Great War - 1916-1918
All photos courtesy Salt Spring Island Archives unless specified otherwise.