Wartime

Above: Regina Leader-Post, September 1, 1939. Local History Room newspapers collection, Saskatoon Public Library.

by Taylor Bendig

Connaught may have been a long way from the battlefields of Europe, but Canada’s wars still had an impact on the school, and its students and teachers made their own sacrifices for the cause.

Sometimes supporting the war effort took unusual forms. In March 1916, with the First Word War raging, the public school board turned Benson School – a school designed to hold 420 students – over to the militia for their use.

Benson’s entire student body from Grade 1 to 8 was sent to Connaught, leaving staff and students to cope with a surge of newcomers.

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“One morning she was weeping.”

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At other times, faraway conflicts had the most personal of effects for those at Connaught. Richard Rempel, a Grade 3 student there in 1943, later wrote up his memories of the day the war hit home for his “ fine, young teacher, Barbara McIntyre.”

“One morning, she was weeping as we sat in class. Like many youngsters, we had no understanding of how to deal with this disturbing, unprecedented-for-us crisis. One fellow, Jack Crawford, began to giggle — such was our childishness. Just then, the principal, Mr. McDiarmid, entered and carefully escorted her from the room. He then returned to inform us in solemn and dignified fashion that earlier in the morning Miss McIntyre had received the news that her fiance was ‘Missing in Action.’ I think she went away after that tragic news for I do not recall seeing her again.”

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Military spirit expected

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Though actual fighting was left to adults, schoolchildren were still expected to show military spirit and discipline. Cadet drill for boys, overseen by the Department of National Defence, had a long history in Regina’s public schools, and the outbreak of the Second World War brought it new prominence.

In 1943, like all Regina public schools, the students of Connaught formed a boys’ and a girls’ cadet corps, which appointed its own officers to lead the training.

The Connaught History Project is funded and supported by the Community Research Unit, Faculty of Arts, University of Regina.
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