100 Years Ago: National Service Inventory Proves Useful, Letter from Jamaican Soldier

The Intelligencer February 12, 1917 (page 1)

“Skilled Men Are Requisitioned to Deal with the Coal Difficulties. The practical value of the man power inventory recently completed by the National Service Board is now being demonstrated. A preemptory call to national service has already been made.

The coal situation and other transportation difficulties have been traced largely to scarcity of locomotive engineers, roundhouse mechanics and other skilled labor. The names of many such men are available through the National Service cards which they have filled out. …

A special staff was immediately put to work at the National Service statistical branch locating the men needed, from among those who are skilled in the trades required and who are not occupied in other lines, but have expressed a willingness to go back to their old occupations during the war, if needed in the service of the country. Within twenty-four hours of the receipt of the call, the names of hundreds of men, capable of solving the situation, were in the hands of the Railway Commission.”

The Intelligencer February 12, 1917 (page 5)

“From Sergt. J. E. R. Stevens. Miss Nellie Bartlett, Foxboro, Ont. My dear Miss Bartlett,—I was the fortunate soldier to receive the pair of socks, which you so very kindly knitted. They are indeed very nice, and very valuable to us, just now, that the winter is on.

Living in Canada you are used to very cold weather in winter, but I certainly don’t think you would enjoy a real frosty day here. It can be ‘some’ cold. Well, I spent some time at one of your Canadian hospitals out here a few weeks ago. I saw one or two nurses from Ontario, and some from other parts of your great country. I received very kind treatment, and hope to renew pleasant associations after the war. I have many friends in different parts of Canada, Montreal, Quebec, British Columbia, etc., and it has always been my wish to come out there. In fact, if the war had not been on, I should be in your country now.

I am from Jamaica, in the British West Indies. Perhaps you have come across some Jamaicans in Canada. Quite a few come over to work, and to study at Queen’s and McGill.

I have seen many of your countrymen in France, and they have struck me as a lot of fine men, and excellent soldiers. They have done real good work in this war. Have you got any brothers in the Army? If so, and you tell me his regiment, I may come across him over here some day.

I hope you will reply to this letter, as a letter means a lot to a chap here. I remain, Yours sincerely, J. E. R. Stevens, No. 4189, Sgt. J. E. R. Stevens, C. Coy, 4th (S) Batt. B. W. I., B. E. F., France.”