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"In My Charge"

Front Cover Image

The Canadian Internment Camp Photographs
of Sergeant William Buck

Lubomyr Y. Luciuk & Borys Sydoruk

The Kashtan Press, 1997

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Sergeant William Buck Sergeant Wiilam Buck Castle Mountain Monument
Statue of Ukrainian Canadian internee entitled "Why?", installed at the Castle Mountain internment camp site, in Banff National Park, on 12 August 1995. Sculptor: John Boxtel.

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We do not really know much about William Dalton Buck. He was born on the Isle of Wight, in the county of Southampton, England on 12 December 1859. At the age of 18, on 27 January 1878, he married Augusta Emma Jesse, aged 21. Together they raised a large family of ten children. The man who became his father-in-law, William Henry Jesse, was a master tailor. Buck's father, also a William Henry, was a tailor too. In civilian life, young William worked as a plumber and builder enjoyed painting seascapes and developed quite a local reputation in the Southampton region on the music hall circuit as a comedian and singer. Around 1911-1912 he emigrated to Canada with his wife and most of their children. His eldest son, another William Dalton, paid for the family's tickets but himself remained in Southampton for the rest of his life. Sometime after the First World War broke out, on 4 August 1914, Buck became a Sergeant with the 103rd Regiment (Calgary Rifles). By then he was 57, far too old to go overseas but intent on serving His King and Country. By the time the "Great War For Civilization" ended, on 11 November 1918, Buck was 61. He died four years later and is buried in Southampton. His wife, reportedly a robust and resourceful woman, lived in Calgary until 1950 when she died, aged 93.

This is about all we have learned about the life of the man who enters this account as a soldier and as one of the very few witnesses who left behind an almost-unique photographic record of a Canadian concentration camp during the First World War. The camp was located in what was to become Banff National Park, the "jewel in the crown" of Canada's national-parks system. [1]

Canada's first national internment operations were authorized by Order in Council (PC 2721), dated 28 October 1914, which provided for the registration and. in certain cases, for the imprisonment of persons deemed to be of "enemy nationality." Major-General Sir William Dillon Otter was appointed Director of Internment Operations, which continued until June 1920. In total, 24 internment camps were established, housing 8,579 internees, mostly young men but also including 81 women and 156 children, the latter imprisoned at camps set up in Vernon, British Columbia and Spirit Lake, Quebec. Although 3,138 of the men were classed as genuine prisoners of war by General Otter, that is "captured in arms" or "belonging to enemy reserves," the majority of the internees in his charge were civilians, of whom 6,954 individuals were described as "Austro-Hungarians." Most of the latter were, in fact, Ukrainians from Galicia and Bukovyna, territories then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Among the internees were even some naturalized British subjects and Canadian-born children.

All prisoners faced indignities and losses. Their valuables and properties were confiscated. Some of that wealth was never returned. Categorized as "second class" prisoners, the Ukrainians, and other eastern Europeans caught up in these internment operations, were transported to Canada's frontier hinterlands, where they were forced to work on various heavy labour projects such as road building, clearing land, and drainage projects, often under very difficult conditions. Ironically, even though the British Foreign Office had, early in 1915, twice instructed Ottawa to accord "preferential treatment" to "Ruthenians" (Ukrainians), who were deemed to be "friendly aliens," their lot did not improve. [2]

And even if many of the so-called "Austrians" who had been interned were paroled during 1916 and 1917 to help cope with the war economy's acute labour shortage, they and their kind were subjected to additional discrimination by passage of The War Time Elections Act, on 15 September 1917. This legislation effectively disenfranchised most Ukrainians in Canada, a measure so patently unjust that it was decried as "a national humiliation" by a Canadian editorialist. He opined that the injustice being done to these "hitherto naturalized Canadians" would have to be atoned for "sooner or later". [3]

No evidence of any disloyalty on the part of the organized Ukrainian Canadian community was ever uncovered. That these measures had a desultory impact on Ukrainian Canadian society, from which it would take the connnunity many decades to recover, is only gradually being appreciated. Certainly outside observers were aware of the damage done. For example, operatives for the American Office of Strategic Services, reporting on Ukrainian activities in Canada during the Second World War, observed that "Ukrainian-Canadians are still under a handicap resulting from their experiences in the First World War." [4] Even earlier an RCMP report on the 8th national convention of the Ukrainian National Federation noted that many of the community's leaders remained "in fear of the barbed wire fence." [5]

Sergeant Buck's experiences were not limited to the internees at the Cave & Basin or the Castle Mountain camps. He also met prisoners from other parts of Canada. The first permanent internment camp, housing mostly German and Austrian POWs, along with a small number of civilian "enemy aliens," had been established at Fort Henry, near Kingston, Ontario, on 18 August 1914. [6] Some of the men Buck was charged with guarding, first in Alberta, and later at the Kapuskasing camp in north-central Ontario, started off as prisoners in Fort Henry. It was in Alberta, however, that Buck played his most particular and distinct role.

We do not know how and why William Dalton Buck came to serve as a Sergeant in the 103rd Calgary Rifles. He was assigned as an NCO to one of the largest concentration camps, established at the base of Castle Mountain in Alberta. Set up on 15 July 1915 it operated until 15 July 1917. During the winter months, when conditions in communal tents at the mountain site became too severe, the prisoners were moved to barracks clustered around the famous Cave & Basin hot springs, nearer to the town of Banff. Buck stayed with them throughout their ordeal. Eventually, when the remaining inmates - those who had not been paroled or escaped - were shipped by railcar to Kapuskasing, Buck and his wife went with them. [7]

We also do not know exactly why Sergeant Buck took, or kept, photographs of his "charges," or how he truly felt about them. His captions are, for the most part, neutral, and nearly always minimal. Many questions are left unanswered. Did he distinguish Ukrainians from those pejoratively referred to as "Huns" - actual German and Austrian POWs - or were his charges nothing more than faceless, numbered prisoners, with whom he had little to do, either out of choice or duty? Did he believe the internees were guilty of disloyalty to Canada and the British Empire? Did he make any friends among the internees or did he remain aloof, perhaps sharing to some degree in the widespread anti-immigrant, anti-foreigner sentiments current in his day? Was Buck a kind gaoler, at least a proper one, or was he a brutal overseer as we know other internment camp guards and officers were? How did his wife feel about the duties he had taken on? Did Mrs. Buck welcome the hardships of a soldier's wife, and how did she accept their subsequent move to Kapuskasing? How did other guards, their NCOS, and their officers regard their duties, which meant they were to be stationed miles from their families, homes, friends, and communities, guarding men of a different language, faith and culture in the Canadian bush? We will probably never have answers to most of these questions. This is because there are no known survivors of the Castle Mountain or Cave & Basin camps and very few documents or personal accounts to inform us about what life was really like either for the internees, or their guards, in what were Canada's first concentration camps. [8]

Nevertheless, one senses that Sergeant Buck was not a bad man. The photographs reproduced here, which are only a selection from the photo album he bequeathed to posterity, exhibit a certain empathy for his charges and an awareness of the hardships which they and their guards, faced together. Buck probably felt he was doing a job which must be done, a difficult task to be sure, but one which he as a mature man felt was part of his patriotic duty. What makes Sergeant Buck unique was that he recorded his labours on film, leaving this visual record of what it was like to be an inmate and a guard in the Castle Mountain, Cave & Basin and Kapuskasing internment camps. And he did so without ever knowing just how important his contribution would be to the efforts now being made to recapture for posterity this as yet relatively unknown episode in Canadian history.

Was Buck proud of what did? We will never know for sure. But he does not seem to have been ashamed. Perhaps that impression alone tells us more about the temper of those times than anything we might think today.

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The Photo Gallery

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[1] For another photo-album showing conditions in a Canadian concentration camp see Bohdan S. Kordan and P. Mehiycky, eds, In the Shadow of the Rockies: Diary of the Castle Mountain Internment Camp, 1915-1917 (Edmonton: Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, 1991). For internees' reminiscences see Phillip Yasnowskyj, "Internment," in Harry Piniuta, ed, Land of Pain, Land of Promise (Saskatoon: Western Producer Prairie Books, 1978) and N. Sakaliuk, "An Internee Remembers," in Lubomyr Luciuk, Ukrainians In The Making: Their Kingston Story (Kingston: The Limestone Press, 1980). Canada's first national internment operations have been well-described in several essays and studies. See, for example, Mark Minenko, "Without Just Cause," in Lubomyr Luciuk and Stella Hryniuk, eds, Canada's Ukrainians: Negotiating An Identity (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1991); Frances Swyripa and John Herd Thompson, eds, Loyalties in Conflict: Ukrainians in Canada During the Great War (Edmonton: Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, 1983); Peter Melnycky, "Badly Treated in Every Way: The internment of Ukrainians in Quebec During the First World War," in Alexander Biega and Myroslav Diakowsky, eds, The Ukrainian Experience in Quebec (Toronto: Basilian Press, 1994); V. J. Kaye, Ukrainian Canadians in Canada's Wars, (Toronto: Ukrainian Canadian Research Foundation, 1983); Donald H. Avery, Reluctant Host: Canada's Response to Immigrant Workers, 1896-1994 (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1995); Orest Martynowych, Ukrainians in Canada: The Formative Years, 1891-1924 (Edmonton: Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies Press, 1991) and Bill Walser, Park Prisoners: The Untold Story of Western Canada's National Parks, 1914-1946 (Saskatoon: Fifth House Ltd., 1995). While neither assigning guilt nor calling for redress for the injustices done to those needlessly imprisoned during Canada's first national internment operations, or subsequently, Professor Waiser's epilogue did underscore the little-appreciated fact that some of our most treasured national parks were, "for thousands of men," places of "confinement, isolation, and toil." As for his call that "some recognition-if only the plaquing of a site or structure-is long overdue" that task had already been accomplished by the time his book was released. A statue and plaque commemorating the Castle Mountain internees was unveiled on 12 August 1995, by the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association, and three trilingual panels describing the internment operations were placed at the Cave & Basin internment camp site on 1 June 1996, again on the initiative of UCCLA and its supporters.

[2] See Foreign Office 383/1, No. 6333, "Treatment of Austro-Hungarian friends in Canada," for a copy of a telegram from the Governor General of Canada to the Secretary of State for the Colonies (received at the Colonial Office, 10:33 pm on 13 January 1915), which notes that the Canadian government "is qwte disposed to discriminate between various classes of Austro-Hungarian subjects" but wished to be "furnished with [a] detailed statement of various classes of Hungarian subjects hostile to Austro-Hungarian rule." Minutes on the file cover note: "As far as I am aware the following nationalities would probably come under this heading: - Czechs, Croats, Italians (from Trieste and the Trentino), Poles, Romanians, Ruthenes, Slovaks, Slovenes." A telegraphed reply was sent from London to the Governor General of Canada on 1 February 1915, at 3:20 pm. See FO 383/1, No 13464. Both files can be found in the Public Records Office, Kew Gardens, London, England. At about the same time, the American Consul General in Montreal, William Harrison Bradley, reported to the Honorable Secretary of State, in Washington, ["Situation of Austro-Hungarians, Germans and Turks,"] that the Canadian Prime Minister, Sir Robert L. Borden, had expressed the wish that "these unfortunate people, who were brought here to do development work in this new country should not suffer from events transpiring in Europe over which they had no control." On 22 February 1916, John Porter, the American Consul General in Ottawa, informed Washington that the last Dominion Census, taken in June 1911, had identified 39,577 Germans, 121,430 Austro-Hungarians, 1,666 Bulgarians and 4,768 Turks and Syrians in Canada. Of those, 23,283 Germans, 60,949 Austro-Hungarians, 72 Bulgarians and 1,889 Turks and Syrians were naturalized British subjects. After June 1911, Porter noted, up until 31 January 1916, a further 16,714 Germans, 67,817 Austro-Hungarians, 12,914 Bulgarians and 1,511 Turks have immigrated into Canada. How many had left since the outbreak of the war was not known but he did report that 1,474 Germans, 4,909 Austro-Hungarians, 45 Bulgarians, 145 Turks and one "unclassified" person had been interned. Referring specifically to the situation in Banff, on 25 May 1916, Harold D. Clum, of the American Consulate in Calgary, reported to Washington, ["Visit to Internment Camp at Banff, Alberta,"] that there were 2 Germans and 427 "Austrian subjects" housed at a camp found near the base of Sulphur Mountain, "comprising Ukrainians, Italians, Poles, Hungarians, Russians, Serbs, Romanians, Croatians and Bulgarians," housed in four wooden bunk houses. They were to be moved soon to tents at the base of Castle Mountain. More prisoners were imported to Banff, or sent on to Spirit Lake in Quebec, in November of that year, when two of the camps in British Columbia, at Otter and Field, were closed, as duly reported by the American Consulate General in Vancouver, 16 November 1916. [US State Department Archives, Washington, D.C., USA].

[3] See the editorial commentary in The Daily British Whig, Kingston, Ontario, 8 September 1917. Cited on page 25 in Lubomyr Luciuk, A Time For Atonement: Canada's First National Internment Operations and the Ukrainian Canadians, 1914-1290 (Kingston: The Limestone Press, 1988). The full quotation reads, "It is very probable that if this proposal [War Time Elections Act, 1917] becomes law the `alleged' foreigners and hitherto `naturalized' Canadians will bear their reproach meekly, but they will have sown in their hearts the seeds of a bitterness that can never be extirpated. The man whose honor has been mistrusted, and who has been singled out for national humiliation, will remember it sooner or later it will have to be atoned for."

[4] See Document 39 in Bohdan S. Kordan and Lubomyr Y. Luciuk, eds, A Delicate and Difficult Question: Documents in the History of Ukrainians in Canada 1899-1962, [Kingston: The Limestone Press, 1986), page 125.

[5] See RCMP "Report re: 8th National Convention of Ukrainian National Federation of Canada and Affiliated Societies," August 25-31, 1941, NAC Manuscript Group 30, E350, File 14.

[6] Concerted efforts by the Ukrainian Canadian community to commemorate Canada's first national internment operations began with the unveiling and consecration on 4 August 1994 of a trilingual plaque at Fort Henry, near Kingston, Ontario. Since then plaques and/or statues have been installed at the Castle Mountain internment camp in Banff National Park (12 August 1995); in Kapuskasing, Ontario (14 October 1995 and 2 July 1996); at the Cave & Basin site in Banff National Park (1 June 1996) and in Jasper National Park (12 October 1996). Working with local community groups and supporters UCCLA plans to place plaques in Spirit Lake (La Ferme), Quebec; in Manitoba at the site of the Winnipeg receiving station and Brandon internment camp and in Nanaimo and Vernon, British Columbia. A description of the Fort Henry event is found in John B. Gregorovich, ed, Commemorating An Injustice: Fort Henry and Ukrainian Canadians as "enemy aliens" during the First World War (Kingston: Kashtan Press, 1994). For more on the Ukrainian Canadian commumty's campaign to secure acknowledgement and redress see Lubomyr Luciuk, ed, Righting An Injustice: The Debate Over Redress For Canada's First National Internment Operations (Toronto: Justinian Press, 1994) and Bohdan S. Kordan, "Righting Historical Wrongs: Internment, Acknowledgement and Redress," (Saskatoon: Saskatchewan Provincial Council, Ukrainian Canadian Congress, 1993). For a precise statement on Ukrainian Canadian claims see the Ukrainian Canadian Restitution Proposal, circulated by UCCLA to the media and every Canadian MP and Senator on 11 November 1994. Providing a visual interpretation of the internment operations is a documentary fihn entitled, Freedom Had A Price, by Montreal-film maker, Yurij Luhovy.

[7] Milton B. Kirk, of the American Consulate in Orillia, Ontario, reported to the Secretary of State, in Washington, on 27 March 1915 ["Report on the Kapuskasing Internment Camp,"] that 2 Germans, 318 Austro-Htmgarians, 117 Turks and 1 Russian who had been "out of work and in need of charity" worked 49 1/2 hours per week, not counting half an hour spent daily in Roll Calls, in "log-making, pulp-wood cutting, clearing land" at Kapuskasing, for which they were paid 25 cents a day for their labour, allowed to spend $3 per month for Canteen items. The estimated benefits of their tabour to the Dominion government was calculated as being $51,500. The American Consul in Kingston, Ontario, Felix Johnson, noted, on 2 September 1915 ["Prisoners of War interned in Canada,"] that the two biggest camps at the time were located at Kapuskasing, with 1,203 internees and at Sprit Lake, where 1,095 men, women and children were held. Gaylord Marsh, the Amencan Consul in Ottawa, reported to Washington that 1,135 Austro-Hungarians and 3 Turks, and no Germans, all of "the labouring classes" were imprisoned in Spirit Lake as of 6 October 1915, among them 67 women and 11 children; there had been 3 deaths, two of "young babies" and one adult, who died of typhoid contracted before being interned. Of the children who perished, one was Nellie Manko, the sister of one of the two last known survivors of these internment operations, Montreal-born Mary Manko Haskett, honourary co-chairperson of the UCCLA's National Redress Council. Her co-chair, Stefania Mielniczuk, was also born in Montreal. A recently uncovered document, entitled "Militia Book No. 60," further captioned "Spirit Lake Internmeent/Village inhabitant on the 1st of December 1915," provides some biographical information and notes on the provisions allocated to these unfortunates. Ignatz and Mary Mielniczuk, and their daughter Stephanie, aged two and a half, were assigned to House No. 19 while Andrew and Katharina Manko, and their three children, Annie, twelve and a half years old, Mary, 8 years old, and John, 4 years old, were in House No. 10. This family was released on 14 June 1916. We are grateful to John Perocchio for making a xerox copy of this document available, the original of which remains in his private collection.

[8] The term "concentration camp" was used by contemporaries. For an example see the letter from the American Ambassador in London, Walter Hines Page, to the Honourable Secretary of State, in Washington, 31 August 1915, which refers to "concentration camps in Canada." [US State Department Archives, Washington, D.C., USA]

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© 1997 Lubomyr Y Luciuk and Borys Sydoruk

Canadian Cataloguing in Publication Data

Main entry under title:

Includes bibliographical references.
Text in English, French and Ukrainian.
ISBN 1-896354-14-9

1. World War, 1914-1918 -- Concentration Camps -- Canada. 2. Concentration camp inmates -- Canada. 3. Ukrainian Canadians -- Evacuation and relocation, 1914-1920. 4. World War, 1914-1918 - Concentration camps -- Canada -- Pictorial works. 5. Concentration camp inmates -- Evacuation and relocation. 1914-1920 -- Pictorial works. I. Buck, William, 1859-1922. II. Luciuk, Lubomyr Y., 1953- III. Sydoruk, Borys

D627.C215 1997

Published by the Kashtan Press, 22 Gretna Green, Kingston, Ontario, K7M 3J2

Dr. Lubomyr Luciuk is an associate professor in the Department of Politics and Economics at the Royal Military College of Canada and formerly a Director of Research for the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

Mr. Borys Sydoruk, a pharmacist, is Director of Special Projects for UCCLA.

The opinions expressed in this booklet are those of the co-editors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Government of Canada or any of the granting agencies whose support helped make this publication possible.

Graphic Design, Gerald Locklin, Royal Military College of Canada

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Plaque 1 of 3 Plaque 2 of 3
Plaque 3 of 3 Trilingual plaques installed at the Cave & Basin internment camp site, in Banff National Park, on 1 June 1996.

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A copy of Sergeant William Bucks photograph album is now kept in the collection of the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, in Banff, Alberta. The photographs reproduced here have been made available through the good offices of that museum, with the kind permission of Sergeant Buck's great-granddaughter, Lady Ann Lucas of Chilworth, her son, Simon William Lucas, and the other members of her extended family. The album was originally the property of the late Winifred Maud Coffins (nee Buck) to whom it was inscribed as follows: "To Dear Winnie with Love from Grandad Xmas 1919." Only a selection of those photographs which illustrate internment camp life and conditions have been included here, with the original captions as recorded by Sergeant Buck left unedited. We do not know which photographs Buck took, if any. They may have all been purchased from one or more itinerant photographers who worked in the Rockies at this time.

This publication was made possible by a grant from the Ukrainian Canadian Foundation of Taras Shevehenko and with the assistance of the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association. The latter is a non-profit, educational group mandated by the Ukrainian Canadian community to negotiate with the Government of Canada to secure an acknowledgement that these internment operations were unjust and a restitution of the internees' confiscated wealth, some of which was never returned, Some of the UCCLA-sponsored publications listed in the notes below, and information about the Association's educational and commemorative activities, can be found can be found on the WWW at the InfoUkes Home Page, - see Internment of Ukrainians in Canada 1914-1920,

A grant from the Academic Research Program of the Royal Military College of Canada made it possible for relevant documents found in the National Archives of Canada, Ottawa, at the Public Records Office, London, England and in the US State Department Archives, Washington, D.C. to be examined.

Particular thanks to UCCLA's chairman, Mr. John B. Gregorovich, Mr. Alexis David, Mr. Shane Denovan, Dr. Bobdan Kordan, Ms. Bonnie Landego, Dr. Leonard Leshuk, Mr. Gerry Locklin, Dr. Paul Magocsi, Dr. Alexander Malycky, Mr. Ihor Novosilets, Ms. Katharine Wowk, and the Ukrainian Youth Association of Canada (CYM), Calgary Branch for their assistance at various stages in this project and to Dr. I. Koropenko for her translation from the English into Ukrainian. With good grace and humour Donna Sydoruk tolerated her husbands pre-occupation with ensuring that what happened to the internees is acknowledged as an injustice.

Calgary, Alberta
April, 1997

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since August 19th 1997