Manitoban shares a personal perspective on First World War history

Kendra Minary holds picture of great-great-uncle Cecil Minary (Source: Kendra Minary)

A social media feed filled with First World War history is a project close to the heart of Souris resident Kendra Minary.

“Well, here I am still alive and feeling fine,” reads a letter dated October 30, 1917, by Cecil Edmund Minary, Kendra’s great-great-uncle.

The letter is one of 70 sent by Cecil to family while serving in the Canadian military in the early 1900s.

Kendra began posting the letters as a way to share them with family who live in other provinces. Interest grew, not just from family but also from friends, so Kendra kept posting.

The endeavour has gained a social media following but the end result, according to Kendra, is much more important.

“The letters are an important piece of, not only my family’s history, but Canadian military history as well,” said Kendra. “It’s so important that we never forget the sacrifices that so many men and women gave for our country."

Cecil Edmund Minary was born on July 6, 1885. At 20-years-old he enlisted with the 144th Battalion, known as the ‘Little Black Devils’. Early training didn’t go well, as Cecil nearly died from pneumonia before going overseas.

Kendra said Cecil left Halifax in 1916 aboard the SS Olympic, arriving in London, England, on September 25, after a week of ocean-crossing.

He was picked to join the 52nd Battalion, where he led a Lewis machine gun crew. Cecil saw his first duty in April of 1917 in France, and was killed in action in August of the following year. He and his crew were hit by an artillery shell near Bois Du Vert, with six of the seven-man crew perishing that day.

“It’s neat to be able to read his exact experiences, in his own handwriting. Being able to put a face to the war,” said Kendra.

“A shell fell in the post and hit Mulligan above the right eye and in the right shoulder, he walked out to the dressing station himself though, so he got out fine and dandy,” reads a letter dated November 3, 1918.

“You can read history books, and you can watch war movies, but having a more personal connection like this to the war makes it just a little more special,” Kendra said.

The letters came to Kendra about a year ago from a cousin. There are two sets, one written to Cecil’s family in Nesbitt, the others written to Cecil’s cousin, Edna Blythe, in Toronto. The originals have been scanned and copied and now reside in the Wawanesa Museum.

Letter topics vary but what stood out to Kendra was how happy the letters were, despite the circumstances. Weather, family and mentions of friends were often written about, the hardships of war were not.

“He still always seemed to be so positive and made light of each situation he experienced. Which makes the letters hard to read knowing he was killed only a few months before the war ended,” said Kendra.

The letters have answered family questions she may have not asked, like the military service of her great-grandpa, William Bruce Minary.

It has also inspired her to trace her family tree back to the 1700s.

“I would just to say to anyone who hasn’t already done so, dig into your family history. Talk to your ancestors. Go through family photos. Get a DNA test. Do a family tree. It’s so amazing the things you can discover.”