When Colin Broughton went to fight the Kaiser’s forces in the trenches of France, his letters home were published in the local newspaper.
With friends and neighbours following Broughton’s letters in the Red Deer News, the whole community’s hopefulness about the First World War was badly shaken when the 25-year-old was killed in the Battle of the Somme, said the museum’s curatorial assistant, Miranda Riley.
Broughton was among 50 young men from the region who fell in that notorious offensive that lasted from July 1 to Nov. 19 1916. In the end, allied forces gained 10 kilometres of ground at the expense of a million soldiers getting killed or injured in the bloodiest battle in recorded history.
Riley said losses from The Somme were a massive blow for Red Deer, since a total of 850 soldiers from the area had enlisted to fight in the entire 1914-1918 Great War. But lessons learned from that battle changed some of the tactical ways war was fought, and there were less losses at Vimy Ridge.
Several of Broughton’s messages to his parents can be read in this year’s Remembrance Day display at the museum, which commemorates events from 100 years ago.
The exhibit I Remain Your Loving Son, contains copies of his published letters. While the originals are presumed lost, their texts were obtained from archived editions of the Red Deer News, said Riley.
“They’re interesting snapshots of what was going on there, what he was seeing and feeling,” she added — although Broughton might have spared his parents the worst of his experiences, since the letters are generally optimistic in tone.
Artifacts from another local soldier — Arthur Bowers — are also displayed, including the compass his parents gave him and the Silver Cross medal received by his mother after Bowers’ death in battle at age 22. Museum guests can see a photo of Sgt. Walter MacKenzie, a local soldier who made it home from the Great War.
Museum workers will be bringing out other old photos from their collection at an open house from 2-4 p.m. on Nov. 27, and are hoping members of the public will help identify some unnamed people in them. Refreshments will be served.
Other special Remembrance Day events are crafts and activities from 1-4 p.m. on Nov. 11, and a history of the Red Deer Legion talk by Bev Haines from 2-4 p.m. on Nov. 20. Everyone is welcome.