Before the First World War Gananoque was the home of a militia field artillery battery. Canada entered the war on 3 August 1914. Three weeks later 130 men marched out of town led by Russel Britton, owner of a large local business and the artillery battery commander. He was killed in action 3 May 1917.
In 1914 Gananoque had a population of about 3,500 people. About 550 men and women enlisted during the war, which claimed the lives of 58 men. Virtually all were volunteers, as Canada did not introduce conscription until near the end of the war. Among the dead were a soldier age 15, one age 50, a father of 12, and four sets of brothers. Private Harry Brown posthumously was awarded the Victoria Cross for his valor at Hill 70 in August 1917. A cairn in the Gananoque Town Park describes the action, which earned him the highest bravery award in the British Commonwealth. Veterans returning to Canada after the end of the First World War established various veterans associations, which in 1926 joined to establish the Royal Canadian Legion. Branch 92 was established in 1927.
About 550 men and women enlisted during the Second World War of whom 25 men lost their lives. All were volunteers, as conscription was not introduced until the end of the war.
The Gananoque Legion has one of the best military medal collections in Eastern Ontario. It includes Military Crosses for bravery awarded Doctor William Hale, medals awarded 15 year old William Dailey, ‘Widow’s Pennies’ which are large bronze plaques bearing the name of the deceased soldier, and Memorial Crosses awarded mothers and wives of deceased soldiers.
Our American visitors may be interested in seeing a medal issued to a local man. In 1888 he received the Khandahar medal for service with the British army in Afghanistan. During the past few Canadians have been serving at Khandahar airfield and 80 Canadian service personnel have died in Afghanistan. Among them was Corporal Randy Payne of Gananoque.
The medal display also includes a Fenian Raid medal, which marks the last time there was a conflict along our common border. The medal was issued to soldiers who repulsed attacks from northern New York State by Irish-Americans seeking to create conflict between the U.S. and Britain. One of the Fenian attacks was made against Gananoque in 1866.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
The original Victoria Cross which was awarded to Private Harry Brown was on display at the Gananoque Legion 15-18 August 2007
to mark the 90th anniversary of his act of courage.
A replica is now on display at the Branch.
COL. R.H. BRITTON
Major Russel Britton was the commanding officer of the 8th Field Battery based in Gananoque when the First World War began on 4 August 1914. It immediately was designated as the 3rd Battery, and 130 men marched out of town on 28 August. Britton arrived in France in mid February 1915. He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and awarded the Distinguished Service Order during the Battle of the Somme in late 1916. He was killed in action 2 May 1917, age 32, just after the capture of Vimy Ridge. Britton left behind a wife and three daughters.
Britton's wife asked that his horse be returned to her. Unfortunately, it was drowned when the ship it was travelling on was sunk by a German submarine
was written by
Geraldine Chase and Bill Beswetherick.
This book can be purchased through the Branch 92 Secretary, Bill Beswetherick, Gananoque, ON
An up-dated copy of Gananoque Remembers is now available through branch 92. Only 200 copies will be sold, put your order in as soon as possible, first come, first served..