There are many reasons to be proud to be from St. Thomas and Elgin, one of which is the tale of the 91st Battalion...
An infantry battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, the 91st was made up of over 900 men, most of whom were from St. Thomas and Elgin County. On June 25th, 1916, the call to duty came for these men. On this date, they marched to the Michigan Central Railway Station on Talbot to leave for France to fight in the Great War. The men of the 91st Battalion would go on to fight heroically and skillfully, but 173 of them would never return home. Now, 100 years later, we honour the sacrifice these men made by retracing their final weekend in St. Thomas.
STEP BACK IN TIME TO 1916
JUNE 24TH Beginning on Friday, June 24th, you are welcome to visit the Armoury, the encampment of the 91st Battalion. Here, beginning at 7:00 p.m., there will be re-enactors and a tented camp just like in 1916. As the sun sets, the re-enactors and serving members of the current 31 CER (The Elgins) will lower the flags for the day and prepare for the evening routine at 9:00 p.m. Then, once dark, the names and stories of all 901 members of the Battalion will be displayed on the outer wall of the Armoury – a sight you will not want to miss.
Parade and departure of the 91st Battalion. Image courtesy of Elgin County Archives.
JUNE 25TH On Saturday the 25th at 11:00 a.m., we will retrace the steps that the heroic members of Elgin’s Battalion took, marching to the CASO Station. You are welcome to watch the parade from Talbot Street, just as citizens did as they waved off their men in 1916. A memorial plaque will then be unveiled by descendants of the original Battalion at the CASO Station, after which the band will play off the troops as they board the train.
Then, at 1:30 p.m. join a picnic at Pinafore Park, featuring period music, vintage vehicles, patriotic speeches, and more.
The Armoury will again be open at night for members of the community to visit the camp, while registered families and friends of the Battalion can share stories in the “Soldiers’ Canteen.”
The 91st Battalion in May, 1916, beside the Wilson Ave Armouries. Image courtesy of Elgin County Archives.
JUNE 26TH Finally, on Sunday, June 26th, Trinity Anglican Church will host a memorial Church Parade and Remembrance Service at 10:00 a.m. The colours of the 91st have been displayed at the church since 1935 within a chapel dedicated to the Battalion, which will make this memorial all the more special.
This weekend is a celebration of our past as we remember a time of dedication and bravery. With pride, sorrow and remembrance, this event will allow us to appreciate the rich history of our region and what has been sacrificed to make Elgin County the wonderful place it is today.
Join us in celebrating this incredible chapter of our past, June 24th-26th, 2016.