There and Back Again

PI-A2002-0042 recto, marked

A local photography studio captured this picture of Calgary firefighters before they went off to fight in the First World War. A handwritten note on the back of the photograph identifies them as Clarence Brooks, Clem Whitbread, Dave McCartney, Fred Carr, Morley Markle, Heck Frazer, Bill Cowan, and George Rosam. Calgary’s Fire Department carefully tracked the names and fates of these men, along with every other firefighter who enlisted to fight or called back to active duty, in this log book:

The logbook shows us that these firefighters enlisted on the same day – March 5, 1916 – which accounts for the group photo. It also indicates when they “Returned to Duty,” meaning the date they resumed their jobs as firefighters after the war.

Every firefighter in the above photograph made it back to Calgary’s Fire Department in 1919. When they enlisted, they did so knowing that they would be able to return to their jobs. Fire Chief James ‘Cappy’ Smart made this policy explicitly clear in a letter from the Chief’s office. Of the sixty-one firefighters listed in the logbook, four were noted to have died in action, and forty-three resumed their duties in Calgary after the war.

Letter from Chief James Smart, circa 1914-1918, Calgary. City of Calgary Archives.