Joey Coleman: @WeAreTheDead tweets its first of Hamilton's war dead

@WeAreTheDead tweets its first of Hamilton's war dead

A Twitter memorial to Canada’s war dead @WeAreTheDead tweeted its first fallen soldier from a Hamilton-based regiment.
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@WeAreTheDead is the creation of Glen McGregor of The Ottawa Citizen who requested the names of all Canada’s military and war fallen using Access to Information. The full story of how @WeAreTheDead was created is available here.

Who be the first soldier tweeted from a Hamilton Regiment

I’ve watched the account with interest awaiting the first soldier from a Hamilton regiment to appear. (Airmen and sailors are assigned to units that are not specific to a region which the men were drawn from.)

Would it be a member of the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry or the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada?

When would the soldier have died? The Boer War, First World War, 1942, 1944, 1945, or during the occupation of Germany?

The most probable would be one of the 197 Rileys who lost their lives on the beaches of Dieppe in 1942 – the bloodiest day of the Second World War for Canada and the bloodiest day in Hamilton’s history.

Lt. Ian Hamilton Vaughan Wright of the RHLI

And so it was. Lt. Ian Hamilton Vaughan Wright of the RHLI who died on the beaches of Dieppe.

Lt. Wright was a graduate of Hamilton’s Hillfield Strathallan College where he’s name is listed among the school’s fallen. Lt. Wright’s fate was highlighted in reports back from England after the invasion.

The story of Lt. Wright and his family back home is similar to that of many other soldiers and their families in Hamilton following the Dieppe Raid.

Conflicting reports, families losing more than one son – the impact of Dieppe on 1942 Hamilton

The first reports were of a glorious raid against the Nazis. In the days, weeks, and months that followed; the city struggled to cope with the depth of the disaster and to determine who was dead, who was missing, and who was captured by the Germans to spend the rest of the war as a prisoner of war.

The Wright family had numerous sons serving overseas. Two of the Wright boys – Ian and his brother Gerald – participated in the raid as part of the RHLI landing parties. At one point, it appeared that both Ian and Gerald died at Dieppe – a fate that was not unknown in Hamilton with families losing numerous sons that day.

The initial reports were of Ian’s death and Gerald as missing presumed dead. (PDF of newspaper article from 1942) This was the first wire to Hamilton.

The second wire reported Ian as missing, raising the hopes of the family that he was not in fact dead.

The third wire confirmed Ian’s death. (PDF of newspaper article about Ian’s status from 1942)

It was soon learned that Gerald was captured by the Germans. (The Red Cross tracked prisoners on both sides of the European theatre)

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Edward Newman, RHLI veteran and Museum Curator

Last week, Edward Newman of the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry regiment passed away at 91.

Ed, as I knew him, was a great curator of the regiment’s Dieppe history and knew the story of all the men that landed that day. I wish I still had the opportunity to ask him the story of Lt. Ian Wright.

I’ll make a pilgrimage to the RHLI Museum in the near future and learn more about Lt. Wright.

I strongly encourage you to take an opportunity to visit the Museum and to learn from it’s amazing collection of artifacts and materials from the storied history of my former regiment. Admission is free and the Museum is conveniently located on James Street North in Hamilton.