Based on a 2009 exhibit of wartime correspondence held by the Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections, "Letters Home" highlights some correspondence exchanged by soldiers with their parents, siblings and friends during the First and Second World Wars.
This online exhibit would not have been possible without the generosity of family members who, over the years have donated their family records for the benefit of students and scholars of York University. In particular, archival staff would like to thank Dorothy Stepler, John Lennox, the late Bettie Lennox Locke, and Nick Aplin. A special thanks must be made to Vicki Ryckman. She found the letters of Charles Shore in an old barn in Prince Edward County where she grew up and donated the letters to the archives in 2008.
Dorothy Hamilton Stepler was a native of Strathroy, Ontario, was the daughter of William and Wynne (Gordon) Stepler and sister to Gordon William Stepler. A graduate of the University of Western Ontario in 1931, Stepler worked for the Federal Department of Health and Welfare. Stepler edited and published two articles based on the letters her brother Gordon sent home from the Front while serving in World War I.
Dorothy Stepler donated her brother's correspondence and military records to the archives in 1998. They are available at the Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections, fonds 0170.
Thomas W. and Katherine Shore lived on a farm they owned in Sebringville, Ontario during WWI. They had at least one son, Charles William Shore (b.1898) and one daughter, Jennie B. Shore. Misrepresenting his age, Charles enlisted in the military in 1916, and was sent overseas to England where he served as a mess orderly in the early stages of the war.
Vicki Ryckman found approximately fifty letters belonging to the Shore family in an old barn in Prince Edward County when she was growing up.
She donated the letters in 2008 to the Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections, where they can be accessed as fonds 0543.
The Lennox family had traditional roots in Simcoe County but Wilfred Lennox and his wife Fannie Watt met and married in Toronto in 1916. Wilfred, a graduate of the Ontario Agricultural College, worked in the Federal Department of Agriculture in the Plant Products Division. The couple had three children, William (Bill), John and Elizabeth (Bettie). During World War II, Wilfred Lennox was seconded to the Wartime Prices and Trade Board in Ottawa while his sons Bill and John joined the Royal Canadian Air Force.
The archives holds correspondence between John Watt Lennox, his friend and fellow pilot Richard Palmer, and his parents and his little sister Bettie. Dr. John Lennox, professor of English at York University, along with his aunt Elizabeth Lennox Locke, donated the WWII correspondence of the Lennox family to the archives in 2009. The letters can be accessed at the Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections, fonds 0549.
Edwin Miller (Ted) Aplin (1909-1973) was born in Devon, England. He immigrated to Canada in 1930 where he met his future wife Elinor Grave Leef. They had four children: Nick, Frank, Dave and Jacqueline.
Aplin was active in the years before WWII in the League for Social Reconstruction, the Canadian Civil Liberties Union and the Committee to Aid Spanish Democracy, and was a member of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation. He enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force and was stationed in Toronto, Camp Borden, Trenton and Belleville. In December 1944, he left Canada for England and, after the Nazi surrender, was stationed at Celle, Germany as part of Royal Air Force 84 Group Disarmament HQ Unit.
Being stationed near the Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp, Aplin became interested in the welfare of the camp victims, many of whom were interned at Bergen-Belsen long after its liberation. To aid the survivors, he organized a system using the Armed Forces Postal System to put internees in contact with their families and friends, and collected goods from Canadian families for distribution at the camp. His work at Bergen-Belsen led many survivors to refer to him as "The Angel of Belsen". The archives holds letters written by Ted Aplin to his wife Elinor during WWII. The archives also contains personal documents and material accumulated by Aplin’s sons for a commemoration ceremony celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1995.
The records of Ted Aplin are located at the Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections, fonds 0151.
Anna St.Onge, Archivist, Digital Projects & Outreach