Military History at the Glenbow
Troop commander Eric Harvie leads the Calgary Mounted Constabulary in Calgary Exhibition and Stampede parade.
Glenbow Library and Archives, UCalgary: NA-3316-78.
Given Eric L. Harvie’s life-long involvement with the army, it’s only natural that military history at the Glenbow Library and Archives is a substantial area of focus.
Harvie, who founded the Glenbow Library and Archives in 1954, began his connection with the Canadian army during the First World War. At the age of 23, Harvie joined the 103rd Regiment (a militia unit known as the Calgary Rifles) as a second lieutenant in 1915.
He was a captain by the end of the war. In the 1940s, during the Second World War, Harvie served as the Calgary Mounted Constabulary commanding officer. Harvie also served as the Calgary Highlanders’ honorary colonel.
The First World War
Three months after joining the Calgary Rifles, Harvie transferred to the 56th Battalion, a Calgary-based infantry battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force.
The 56th Battalion sailed for England on Mar. 20, 1916. Once in France, Harvie, now a full lieutenant, joined the 49th Battalion, also known as the Edmonton Regiment, in northern France in mid-June.
Harvie’s first experience in battle occurred in the Ypres Salient, near the Belgium walled city of Ypres (Ieper) on June 27. An hour-long bombardment killed eleven soldiers, wounded twenty-three and left another eight suffering from shell shock (post-traumatic stress disorder). Harvie came through the bombardment unscathed.
The Edmonton Regiment remained in the Ypres Salient until the end of August when it moved to Albert, France. Once there, the Regiment spent its time holding the lines and training. They were preparing to attack a German strongpoint known as Regina Trench.
On Oct. 8, 1916, Harvie and 262 other members of the Edmonton Regiment rose from the trenches and raced across the blasted ground to attack Regina Trench.
The attack on Regina Trench
The Edmonton Regiment “was met with fierce Machine Gun and Rifle fire from front and flanks, and was very severely handled by the enemy. Elements of the Edmonton Regiment reached Regina Trench and were seen no more,” according to the regimental war diary.
The rest of the Edmonton Regiment held captured trenches and shell holes in front of the German line until another Canadian battalion relieved it that evening. The Edmonton Regiment sustained 221 casualties during the attack.
Harvie was one of those wounded in the attack. A German machine-gun section shot Harvie three times: in his left elbow, left knee and groin. His wounds, which went septic, were first treated at the 4th London General Hospital in London, England.
By January 1917, a medical board decided that as the wound in his hip had not fully healed, he would benefit from further treatment in Canada. Harvie sailed from Liverpool on Jan. 19.
A long legacy of service
Once Harvie had recuperated by April, he was seconded to the Royal Flying Corps. Harvie travelled to Texas where he oversaw a the development of a machine gun synchronized with an airplane’s propellers.
Harvie received a promotion to captain during this time and served as adjutant at three different army camps. He was demobilized in January 1919.
When the Second World War began, Harvie became a troop commander for Calgary Mounted Constabulary, a para-military unit committed to home defence. He later became the CMC’s commanding officer.
Following the war, Harvie served as the honorary lieutenant-colonel and then the honorary colonel of the Calgary Highlanders from 1948 to 1962. (The Calgary Highlanders perpetuated the 56th Battalion.)
Military history at the Glenbow Library and Archives
Today, the Glenbow Library and Archives houses thousands of items that document Canada’s military history from the North-West Rebellion to the Korean War.
The library and archives holds some 15,000 books, thousands of photographs and 380 fonds and collections about Canadian military history. These collections include:
- the Yukon Field Force;
- Wilfred Reid “Wop” May (First World War pilot and ace);
- Victor Wheeler (First World War veteran and author of The 50th Battalion in No Man’s Land);
- Tim Travers’ First World War Oral History Project collection (24 audio interviews with First World War veterans, 1978);
- the Royal Canadian Legion Oral History Project collection (204 audio interviews with veterans, 1980s);
- and George Alfred Pattison (First World War veteran and Victoria Cross recipient).
Military History at UCalgary and The Military Museums
Along with the Glenbow Library and Archives, UCalgary and The Military Museums (TMM) have their own extensive collections of military history. These include the 50,000 books and documents in the Chicksands Collection of Military History the British Ministry of defence donated to TMM in 2011. Chicksands is one of the largest collections of military-related texts in a Canadian academic library.
TMM itself has over 20,000 books and periodicals in its archives and library, which UCalgary manages through a partnership established in 2000.
A portion of UCalgary’s holdings (including TMM) can be found online in the Military History digital collection. Along with 120 digitized books from the Chicksands Collection, the digital collection includes Canadian Military History, Indigenous-Canadian Military History and World War I Propaganda.
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And please note that the Glenbow Western Research Centre is still closed. In the meantime, however, some research services are still available.