By Fred Bruinsma
Co-Captain Owen Delve introduced Jim Rutledge to COPA 45 members and friends. He told of Rutledge’s commitment to military history and local celebrations honouring our veterans. It was appropriate to have him here on Remembrance Day, November 11, the annual celebration to remember our war dead and veterans.
Rutledge explained to the group how he came to write this book, Men of Huron. He started in 2005 and published it in July 2009. His motive for writing this book happened after the Goderich Lancaster flew out of Sky Harbour from the 60th anniversary celebrations of VJ Day. At the same time, the ruling Liberal party was unwilling to pay $1,000 per veteran to attend the Juno Beach reunion overseas. He felt this was not fitting considering what the veterans had sacrificed for our country and world.
He then went to London to the libraries and museum there to find a book on the soldiers who had fought from our local area. There was none so he decided to write one. Needing a sponsor and money, Rutledge first approached the Bayfield Historical Society who backed him. He also made a proposal to the Trillium Foundation twice to secure more funding for his book. His book would remember the ones who did not return.
The RCAF had photos of most of their men but the navy and army did not. He made contact with Steven Douglas from Kitchener who had spent nine years photographing and documenting addresses of these men. In his book he has all their regiments and cemeteries from the Ottawa archives. He has their stories as told by family members, from letters and records.
In his research he discovered that when a soldier was killed in action, the family was notified of his death and injuries; but, when one was injured the family was given very little information. He feels that he knows more about some of our fallen men that their families do.
Once the manuscript of Men of Huron was written, publishing it could be difficult. Years ago your only choice was huge publishing companies like MacMillan or Gage. Today, you have the option of self-publishing.
He found a company in Winnipeg that was willing to print 300 copies for him with sequential printings being any number. Using the company’s artist he asked that the cover include grass, sky, crosses, the red ensign and poppies. The cover came back with the present Canadian flag. A huge mistake!
The flag was changed but the poppy symbol caused a controversy that was eventually resolved. As with any published book, two copies are sent to The War Museum in Ottawa. One is for the national library and the other as a loaner when requested by any library across Canada.
Another copy was sent to Veterans Affairs in Ottawa to be stored in their collection. Catherine Jenkins from the Veterans Affairs had sent Rutledge a letter stating that all the information and stories were on the veterans’ website. What a great validation to his research and writing! Today, his books are in local stores, museums, and municipal offices. Great news! He is ready for a second printing.
Shortly after publication he received a phone call from England. A lady requested his book. She also told him about her father who trained at the Port Albert air school. He lived at 10 Britannia Street with the Rivers family. Rutledge followed up on this phone call but met with no successful results.
These past weeks he has been featured on the local Brian Allan Talk Show and the Beach radio stations about his family military history, his book, and his current research.
So now what is Jim Rutledge doing? He is working at the Huron County Museum on North Street in Goderich researching the First World War. Presently he has 100 pages written.
He told us about his father, Lorne, being sent overseas and his best friend, Simmons. From the research with the Dominion Institute, Rutledge discovered that he was a member of a church bordering Jenkins Square in Hamilton. From contacts there, he traced Simmons to Texas where he made a phone call and talked to the family of his dad’s friend.
Next year is the 65th anniversary of the end of World War II. Celebrations are being planned at North Street United Church for next May. There will be army vehicles, a Royal naval vessel and hopefully our Goderich Lancaster that is based at the Warplane Heritage Museum on the Hamilton Airport.