MY FATHER’S EXPERIENCE IN THE ARMY – 1917

MY FATHER’S EXPERIENCE IN THE ARMY – 1917

When the miners went on strike, Dad and his friend Rocco decided to hop a box car to another town to look for work until the strike was over. Here’s his account of what happened when he got home after the strike ended. This was about 1917.

"After I got home I realized Salvatore was missing. I said "Where is Salvatore?" Mother said that he wanted a change and that he is now in Edmonton, Alberta. So at home now were Papa, Momma, Luvera.4 Antonietta, Consolato and me. This was in mid 1917. There were rumors of war and the occupation of Poland. So the demand for coal was great. We all worked extra hours and were glad to do it. We were not hungry, but we wanted more cash.

My brother Consolato, was 18 months older then I was & he was over 20 years old. I  was 19. About this time we received in the mail an impressive large envelope with the emblem of the House of Savoia. It said on the outside: "Vittorio Emanuale needs you" The inside letter said that we were both of army age and should immediately report to the Italian counsel and Fernie, British Columbia. It said if we passed a medical examination they would give us a train and boat ticket free of charge plus $20 spending money to report to the military headquarters in Reggio Calabria, Italy.

Papa was as proud as a peacock saying how wonderful to have two sons in the Italian Army. Papa was born in 1860 and in 1889 he was drafted and served four years in the Italian Army. He was always proud that he was a soldier First Class and had a medal for sharpshooting even though he could not read or write. My mother was objecting that she wanted us to stay right where we were. My brother Consolato said: "But Mama, my country needs me and I want to go." So he turned to me and said: "Are you coming?" I said: "No I am not." He demanded: "Why not, don’t you have any Italian patriotism?" I said: " I’m going to join the Canadian Army." "Why?" he said. I told him: " For one thing the Italian Army pays only $.20 a day has a lousy uniform and boots. The Canadian Army pays one dollar day with good food, nice uniforms and excellent shoes." Consolato was so angry he was going to hit me. Papa stopped him and he said "You got your choice and he has the right to have his." So he went, passed the examination and in 30 days he was off to Italy. I soon received a Canadian government card saying that I was to report for military duties at Calgary Alberta. I did and many others at different ages made up the company of about 100 of us. They would get us up at 6 AM for one hour of exercise, a hearty breakfast and then practicing with a wooden pole for a gun. We were not given guns until much later. We also had lectures and studying of England and France where we would be eventually heading. After 10 days of this we were all standing in two rows at ease when the sergeant said in a commanding voice: "Attention." The captain came forward and said:

"Some of you are coal miners. In order to keep our trains, factories and ammunition plants operating we need coal. You who are miners or working for coal mine take a step forward to the front." Nine of us stepped forward and the captain said: "You are in the Army, but are excused so that you can produce coal. The management will give us a monthly report about your continuous work habits. If there is a report twice in succession that you are missing work you will be recalled, given a gun and uniform and shipped with no training to the front. So if you want to stay in the army step back, otherwise you could leave for your hometown and we will give you a train ticket."

I did not want to go to war so I went back home and back to my old job. I was not criticized by anyone as they all knew the demand for coal. Consolato was seriously wounded at the Austrian front, spent many months in a hospital at Bari Italy. Later he married his nurse, raised a large family, but died from the wounds when he was 27 years old.

0 thoughts on “MY FATHER’S EXPERIENCE IN THE ARMY – 1917

  1. I absolutely love that story. Thanks for sharing. You are right…….I think we are all tired of politics at this point. This puts a smile on my face. There is a saying that goes something like this “I want to live my life so fully that when I die I want to slide through the pearly gates shouting “What a ride”. I believe that this man may have done that. Hope you and Lita are well.

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