This year marks the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War. It was billed as the “war to end all wars”. Sadly, that has not been the case, but for many Canadians
The Great War is now a defining moment in our history.
Yet despite the euphoria and sense of optimism during demobilization, events taking place in Europe, just over a decade later, saw the resumption of the armaments race. In turn, by the late 1930s war erupted across the continent before spreading around the world.
And just as in World War One, thousands of Canadians answered the battle cry to join the fighting taking place far from their homes.
Many, like John ‘Jack’ Starr, were so desperate to take part in the conflict they lied about their age. They were part of a generation that had a quiet determination to serve and rarely sought publicity or plaudits. After victory, most returned home and went back to their pre-war lives and duties. Significantly, this was a generation that rarely talked about their war-time experiences, even to family members.
Back in civvies, Jack lived a life that was typical of many Canadians, diligent and understated. The reason we know anything about Jack, is due to his grandson entering the inaugural “Show a Little Heart” video competition.
We, at Heart to Home Meals, organized the competion to get young people to highlight how a senior had an impact on their life. We hoped those about to start adulthood would find the time to create a video that would capture a personal, but relatable story. The entries offered many insights that are sometimes overlooked by older people when they consider this age group.
In the video made by Noah Morgan, he interviews his mother and grandmother (Jack’s wife) but it is a recently discovered cache of letters – written by Jack to his mother while deployed in Italy, that provides unique insights for the filmmaker.
This correspondence offers Noah the opportunity to understand his grandfather and how that influenced Jack’s family even today.
Noah began the project aged 20, the same age as his grandfather when he joined the army, despite the enlistment age being 21. By any measure, this is a life-changing event; by enlisting Jack was deciding to leave his home in Aylmer, a small town in southwest Ontario, for the first time in his life with no guarantees he would return.
Yet this type of action was repeated thousands of times by young men across Canada who believed the call to fight evil was far more important than the dangers they were likely to face. Most were able to return home but more than 44,000 Canadians made the ultimate sacrifice and many more were injured. The price paid by Canada in both World Wars was considerable.
Noah’s documentary chronicles Jack’s seamless return to civilian life where he courted, married and then fathered 9 children. The next generation, including Noah, grew to 17, all share the same values as those championed by Jack. Many would say those principles are typically Canadian: hard working, determined and devoted to family.
And the importance of family comes through every frame of Noah’s documentary. Coming together for special occasions, like Boxing Day, are extremely important and is central to Jack’s legacy.
Noah’s unique story about his grandfather has so much poignancy because there are so many aspects that will resonate with Canadians because it’s so typically Canadian.
You can see in the video how the grandson takes so much pride in the lessons passed down to him from Pte. John Robert Starr. A man who lived up to the motto of his hometown Aylmer: Proud Heritage, Bright Future.
To watch the video honouring Noah’s grandfather, click here.