the men and women who served, and continue to serve in times of war, conflict and peace.
Remembrance Day 2021: On Thursday, November 11th a wreath will be laid on behalf of BC Black History Awareness Society at the Saanich Municipal Hall Cenotaph, 770 Vernon Avenue. The Saanich Remembrance Day Ceremony will be from 10:45 am – 12:30 pm, however the ceremony will be a closed to the public but you can view livestream or visit the Cenotaph later in the day or on another date. Find out more
Many of the pioneers that migrated to the British colonies beginning in 1858 were young men and women and young families. It was their grandchildren and great-grandchildren who enlisted to fight for Canada in World War I and World War II.
The Whims Family – Salt Spring Island Veterans of World War I and World War II
Hiram Whims, born in Tennessee immigrated to Salt Spring c1859. Four of his grandsons/brothers served in World War I and two great-grandsons served in World War II.
- William David Whims, b.1890, 2nd Depot Battalion, British Columbia Regiment, 2138848.
- George Harim Whims, b. 1894, No.1 Forestry Draft, 2203817. His son, Billy Whim, pictured on the left, served in World War II.
- Robert Clark Whims, b. 1897, No.2 Construction Battalion, 931613. His son, Harry Whims, pictured on the right, served in World War II.
- James Douglas Whims, b. 1898, No.2 Construction Battalion, 931614 – may have been less than honest about his age in order to enlist; unfortunately he died of pleurisy while on duty in Etaples, France. He was just 18 years old.
Billy Whims (William George Whims) was born on Salt Spring Island in ), is the son of George Harim Whims. Billy was stationed in Petawawa, Ontario. While on leave, he met Bernice Jordan. They were married in 1943, Bill Whims did not return to the Coast.
Harry Whims (Harold Ormandas Whims), born on Salt Spring Island in 1926, is the son of Robert Clark Whims. Harry enlisted during WW2 but it is unknown if he travelled abroad. After the war, he worked as a Sleeping Car Porter with the Canadian Pacific Railway. It is thought that he may have been with the CPR before enlisting.
The Wood Family – Father and Son in World War II, Salt Spring Island
Robert Wood Sr. was born on Salt Spring Island in 1893. He was married, had a family and was managing a farm for the Mouat’s Trading Co. on Tripp Road for many years. When WW2 started, Robert was too old to enlist, so he wore the uniform of the Gulf Island Rangers/Pacific Coast Militia Rangers, formed to guard the Pacific coast.
Jim Wood (James Robert Wood), born on Salt Spring Island in 1921, son of Robert Wood Sr., became ill with tuberculosis while training in Victoria and ended up being hospitalized in Esquimalt. Jim returned to the island and continued to help his father at the farm; later he and his brother Bob Jr. formed Wood Brothers Trucking.
- Roderick S. Alexander, a veteran of World War I and the only Black member of the 114th Veteran Guard during World War II.
- Earl Barnswell, Army.
- Pte. Robert Burt Gilbert, 103rd Battalion, Vancouver Island Timber Wolves; Fought at Vimy Ridge. Read more
- Abe Mortimer was the first Black to join the army in Vancouver (1940).
- Leo Smith, killed in action in 1918.
- Charles Winchester, World War I, Army.
O Canada, We stand on guard for thee…
Leo Bertley “Canada and Its People of African Descent”: Pierrefinds, P.Q.: Bilongo Publishers, 1977. In this book there is a reprint of the Ottawa Superintendent of Immigration’s October 28, 1916 memorandum to Malcolm R.J. Reid’s request from Vancouver to admit Black recruits for a construction battalion. The Superintendent replies that “… there is no great difficulty in securing recruits for forestry and construction battalions, and I think it would be unwise to allow a lot of coloured men to get a foothold in Canada, even under the guise of enlistment in such a battalion”.
Blacks have served for Canada dating back to the American Revolution (1775–83). In 1916 The No. 2 Construction Battalion, a segregated non-combatant unit, the first and only all-Black battalion in Canadian military was authorized in July 1916 during the First World War. Whims grandsons/brothers Robert Clark and James Douglas served in the No.2 Construction Battalion.
No. 2 Construction Battalion and the History of Black Canadians in the Military
Credits and Reference Material
– Images (Accession number): Billy Whims (2004032038), Harry Whims (2004032035), Robert Wood Sr.(2004032034), and Jim Wood (2004032033) courtesy of the Salt Spring Island Archives.
– Thank you to the collaborative managers/researchers, Ceridwen Ross Collins and Chris Marshall, Salt Spring Island Archives for their tireless effort in researching and sharing their materials.
– The Salt Spring Island Archives thanks Darleene Horricks, great-great-granddaughter of Hiram Whims; for additional information regarding her family members in uniform, and for her generous donation of these archival images. Salt Spring Island Archives: Gwynne-Wood Collection
– Leo Bertley, “Canada and its People of African Descent”, Pierrefonds, Que., Bilongo Publishers, 1977 pg. 71.
– Crawford Kilian, “Go Do Some Great Thing: The Black Pioneers of British Columbia” Commodore Books, 2008, pg. 141.
– Feature Image: Red poppies in the evening sun, Bart Ros
– Maple Leaf, Photograph by Ravi Patel
– BC Black History Awareness Society. In 1978 the Society undertook a project to catalogue books, publications, manuscripts, newspaper articles and archival materials about these pioneers including their military service. A Catalogue of Information Sources: The Military and Police