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    • Harold Thomas -my granduncle- joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) on 1916. Born in Charters Towers, Queensland, to first generation Australians whose origins were in Cornwall and Cumbria. Harold Thomas originated in Cornwall [his father's side] and Cumbria [his mother's]. When things in Australia were not going too well, William Lane organised a colony of New Australians in Paraguay, which after a devastating war with its neighbours, was in dire need of immigrants. The colony wasn't a success and many moved south to Argentina; they tried getting assistance from the Australian government to return to Australia but none was forthcoming. This must have been difficult for the parents but maybe more for the children having lived in so many countries, with different cultures. That Harold decided to join the allied effort and be part of such a significant battle, specially for the Canadians is, for me, a sign of the strong links they managed to keep with their origins. He joined the CEF at Emerson, Manitoba, on 30th June 1916, as a private with the regimental number 261582. He served with the 97th battalion, the 212th, and the Royal Canadian Regiment. Harold fought in the battle of Vimy which Canadians hold as their 'coming of age', vanquishing the Germans where others had failed. Harold was wounded twice during his service with the Canadians and received the British War Medal. At the time of demobbing from the RCR, he received the amount of $350.00, receiving the War Service Badge Class “A” #77252 RSB on 15th March 1919 at Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. He returned safe to his mother, Margaret in Bahia Blanca, Argentina. Later found a job in Antigua, the 281 km2 Caribbean island where he settled comfortably. At enlisting time he gave his address as Ambridge, Pennsylvania, USA. Actually he arrived in the States from Argentina. His parents were members of a utopian scheme dreamed in the 1890s by William Lane and Mary Gillmore to found an autonomous communistic society in the rain forest of Paraguay. Of course it soon failed and many left Paraguay for wealthier Argentina in the south where British companies were getting increasingly involved in farming, growing and processing food as well as building the infrastructure for these activities. One of William Lane's son was killed in Gallipoli, he had joined the ANZAC. Why then did Harold not join the Australian forces too? And, why did he wait until 1916 to join? He was 26 years old so, probably not under the influence of adolescent heroic dreaming. Argentina was growing economically and that demanded and attracted much immigration, mainly from Europe, significantly from those rebels, socialist and anarchists like Errico Malattesta, who were making labour relations difficult in Argentina too, with two general strikes in 1902 and 1909 and many fatalities in the fairly often street fights with police. On the one hand, therefore, there was enough work but also conditions cannot have been very good. The Thomases -among others- had requested the Australian government for assistance to return to Australia but were refused. This may have contributed to his not joining the ANZAC. Harold Thomas was one of my mother's uncles. His youngest sister married another Australian, but of Irish origins. My mother married another Irishman. There are many things I am yet unable to fathom in Harold Thomas's character but withouth doubt he was brave and, having after the war, raised a family in one of the beautiful Caribbean islands, lucky too.




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  • Temporal:

    • 2013-11-24 17:27:40 UTC


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    • User contributed content
  • Identifier:

    • 97752
    • 10141
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  • First published in Europeana:

    • 2014-01-10
  • Last updated in Europeana:

    • 2016-07-27


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