Today is Remembrance day, Nov 11, so this is a good time to talk of the Great War. Normally we remember the people who died defending our country, but this post is about someone who survived. Here is a piece from “The Civilian”, 1919.

Sergeant Charlie Olmsted was one of Canada’s most respected soldiers in the Great War. He was involved in a major advance through the front lines, and when the advance was successful the brigades found themselves far from support, and had to fight their way back to regain contact.


Probably the most-decorated Civil Service soldier of non-commissioned rank is Charlie Olmsted, late sergeant in “C” Squadron of the Royal Canadian Dragoons.

When the war broke out Charlie was following the peaceful career of a clerk in the Land Patents Branch, Department of the Interior, yet he was by no means without military experience. He had been a militiaman ever since he was big enough, serving in the Governor-General’s Foot Guards, the 43rd Regiment and the Princess Louise Dragoon Guards; while during the South African war he belonged to the 3rd Special Service Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment at Halifax, being deemed too young for
overseas service.

He was one of those militia cavalrymen who were disappointed that no Volunteer cavalry corps were intended to be included in the First Contingent of Canadians for service in France. As the next best thing, he enlisted, on August 7th, 1914, with the 1st Battery, 1st Brigade, Canadian Field Artillery, but jumped at the chance of a transfer to the Royal Canadian Dragoons when that regular corps was raised to war strength.

The R. C. D. went to France, from England, as infantry, on May 3, 1915, fought as infantry at Festubert and was on the line between Dickiebush and Armentiéres until January, 1916; when they got their horses back and were re-trained as cavalry.

All the next Summer they waited back of the line. on the Somme, but it was not until February, 1917, that the long-hoped-for chance of a cavalry fight came and they rode over “Fritz,” somewhere South of Peronne.

Then followed more waiting and watching, until the Cambrai drive of December sent them far across the lines, only to be caught without support when “Fritz” counter-attacked and to have to fight their way back over the hard-won ground.

It was for brilliant work during the Cambrai operations that Sergt. Olmsted was awarded his first decoration, the coveted Distinguished Conduct Medal. The Order of the award says:

For distinguished gallantry and devotion to duty, both as troop leader and S.S.M., especially during two months’ hard fighting.

The R. C. D. opened its 1918 programme on the St. Quentin front, and there, in a trench raid in February, Sergt. Olmsted won his second decoration, the Military Medal. This was presented to him on the field by Major—General Cavanagh, the Cavalry Corps Commander.

About the same time he was awarded a third recognition of his consistently gallant and efficient service, the Croix de Guerre of Belgium.

As a Canadian “original” and a married man, Sergt. Olmsted came in for special home leave in the spring of 1918, and this proved to be his permanent return to Canada. Though he had never been wounded, an injury sustained at the front caused him to be retained on this side of the Atlantic, and he was on duty in Ottawa when the armistice paved the way for his discharge.

Besides the ribbons of the D.C.M., the M.M. and the Croix de Guerre, his tunic displayed the rainbow decoration of the men of 1914 and his long military experience now entitles him to the green ribbon of the Colonial Auxiliary Forces Long Service Medal, making an array not exceeded by that of many volunteers of “other ranks.”

(picture caption)
SERGT. CHARLIE OLMSTED, D.C.M, M.M., Croix de Guerre

This item is a random choice from the Archives Canada collections. Actually, not very random: this is a piece that could be OCR’d well, so when I searched the OCR results this page came up along with 4000 other results (out of 25 million). Here is a zoom showing the print quality.


Louis Riel

Louis Riel: heinous rebel or martyred leader in the quest for Canadian independence?

At the time, the Hudsons Bay company, with monopoly rights granted by England, and roots in the North West Company, controlled much of Canada (“Ruperts Land”) and was almost a law unto itself. Riel led the Métis people who lived in the huge area controlled by the company, and whose rights were ignored by the company.

Riel is portrayed as a rebel in most published material, but the times are changing and more people are inclined to see him in a good light. For interest, look in Canadiana’s heritage collection. He is mentioned in hundreds of pages in this vast collection, and here are just a few:

You can browse in the vicinity of these pages.

Certified!, where I worked, has been certified to be a Trusted Digital Repository (TDR) by Center for Research Libraries (CRL).

What? A TDR has computer storage systems used to archive historical information. In Canadiana’s case, this includes things like the correspondence of Prime Ministers, historical journals, and many other things.  The name TDR applies to the whole organization, including the people, the systems, and stakeholders.

Who? CRL is the authority on this sort of thing.

When? The verification process took several months, concluding in July 2015.

How? CRL staff visited Canadiana’s facilities several times. They interviewed key staff, reviewed policy and procedures, and verified that their standards were met. They  compared Canadiana to the other TDR’s (fewer than 10 so far) and scored us highly in their report. There was a fee paid to CRL, so there is some conflict of interest.

Why? Why is this important? Because Canadiana’s stakeholders will have great confidence that we are meeting our goals, and Canadiana will likely get more interest from universities and government departments which want their archival materials preserved.

Personal Archiving

Personal Archiving – Preserving Our Digital Heritage, edited by Donald T. Hawkins ; foreword by Brewster Kahle, – 2013

Do you have a personal archive?

You probably have digital photos, videos, emails, and perhaps written articles or more. You probably have a profile on Facebook, Google+, Linkedin, Flickr, Picasa, Familytreemaker, and / or other social sites in the ‘cloud’.

Years ago, your records would have been on paper, and barring a fire or mishandling they were safe to last for centuries (!).

Now, in the modern world, what happens when your smart-phone / tablet / PC stops working and you do not have backups? What happens when the DVD you recorded your video o can no longer be read because new technology made DVD readers obsolete? What happens when the social web site becomes inaccessible because the deceased never told family the password? Or the cloud company’s servers fail, get hacked, or can not be accessed for political reasons (suppose you live in Ch1n@) ?

This book discusses these sorts of problems. The book is intended for a general audience. It is not intended for programmers, but a programmer will be inspired to do something: help with Open Source projects, or start something new. There is lots of scope for improvement.

I hesitate to mention to, which seems to be still-born. Otherwise, the Library of congress has advice at See also

Canadiana video

Canadiana has a new promotional video.

“ is a coalition of members dedicated to providing broad access to Canada’s documentary heritage. Through our membership alliance, Canadian libraries share tools and capacity, partner on open-source projects, and spearhead digital preservation in Canada.”

Sir John Franklin

The recent discovery of Franklin’s shipwreck reminds us of the challenges of his explorations. If you are in Ottawa, visit the Library and Archives building on Wellington Street to see some artifacts, currently on display in the main lobby.

Before Franklin took his ships to the northern archipelago he had done two overland expeditions. He wrote some books that you can read at At the time, he knew about the mainland geography in detail, but knew very little about the north.

See the original books under glass on display in the main lobby. Or see the pages at Some viewing is free, after which a subscription is required.

Here is a fragment of a map

Tenyson wrote the inscription for the cenotaph in Westminster Abbey:

Not here! the white north has thy bones; and thou,
   Heroic sailor-soul,
Art passing on thine happier voyage now
   Toward no earthly pole.

Warre the artist and scout

In the years after the 1812-1814 war, the British army sent H.J. Warre to visit Oregon. In his travels, he sketched the countryside and the people.

Some of his work, in manuscript form, is hereSir Henry Warre. See, perhaps, pages 190, 222, and 422. Biographical information is on page 18.

The images above are courtesy of, which curates a huge online archive related to Canadian history.

Registering a vessel in 1848

If you are a shipbuilder in Canada then you probably find it a bother to register a newly built vessel. Maybe it was simpler in 1848. History buffs will be interested in the form they needed to submit:Registering a vessel in 1848

They had impressive forms back then:




The form was filled out in cursive, by someone who was skilled with a pen :


I don’t think the owner, John MacPherson of Kingston Esquire, filled this out himself.  More likely there was a clerk in a law office doing this.

MacPherson was likely the elder brother of  Sir David Lewis MacPherson, senator, whose biography is at bio. David is named as a co-owner, as is their business partner Samuel Crane bio.

The images above are courtesy of, which curates a huge online archive related to Canadian history.