Commemorate WWI with YHMA on August 4th


News of the outbreak of war in 1914 arrived dramatically in the Yukon's capital; a special event is being organized to profile what happened 100 years to the day. The public is invited to the Palace Grand Theatre in Dawson at 7 p.m. on Monday August 4, the 100th anniversary of the start of WW1. Event coordinator Max Fraser said partners in the occasion are the Yukon Historical and Museums Association, the Dawson Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion and Parks Canada, Klondike National Historic Sites. The public is welcome; admission is free.

The evening program includes a ceremony to mark the start of the war, followed by the story of how the news of war arrived in Dawson. Parks Canada staff will perform a skit based on the memoir of Martha Black, wife of Commissioner George Black, as told in her memoir My Seventy Years. She wrote that a telegram was delivered to her husband while they were hosting an evening theatre event. The audience, which considered Dawson a proud outpost of the British Empire, was overcome with patriotic fervor and burst into song.

What else happened that night in the Yukon's capital -- and in the four subsequent years of war -- will be the focus of a talk by the featured speaker of the evening, Michael Gates. The Yukon author, historian and former curator of Collections for Klondike National Historic Sites in Dawson City will give an overview of what life was like in Dawson in those post-Gold Rush days, how the news of war was received and what was the Yukon's involvement in the war.

Fraser said the event on August 4 is a community-led effort to focus on a lesser-known chapter in Yukon's history. "Much more is known about the Yukon and World War Two than World War One," says Fraser. "With four years of WW1 anniversaries upon us (2014-2018), a number of community organizations are coming together with the goal of bringing new light to this important time in our history. One example is the actions of the Yukon's leading citizen at the time, Klondike Joe Boyle; he financed a machine gun regiment that was mobilized immediately. It left Dawson by boat October 1914 and went on to fight with distinction in the battlefields of Europe."Many who enlisted from the Yukon did not survive the war, said Fraser. "We must remember those who served and fell, as well as the many civilian casualties. Worldwide, more than 17 million people died in WW1, a colossal tragedy."

Image credit: Joe Boyle's Machine Gun Regiment. Yukon Archives, 84/78 #112 from the Oxford Historical Society Collection.

• Max Fraser, cell 867-335-1959 (NB unavailable July 16-21 due to river trip)
• Nancy Oakley, Executive Director, Yukon Historical & Museums Association - 867-667-4704
• Diane Baumgartner, President, Dawson Branch, Royal Canadian Legion - 867-993-2423 (home)
• Rose Hebert, Parks Canada, 867-993-7237