By Jenn Watt
Little was known about First World War veteran Angus Charles MacInnes before his grandson, Haliburton resident Wade MacInnes, began doing research online.
Angus died in 1934, the same year that Wade’s father Angus George MacInnes (better known locally as “Gus”) was born. And although his grandmother did talk about his grandfather, many details were left undiscovered.
Wade decided to do some research on Ancestry.ca and found out that Angus Charles MacInnes, who was born in Scotland and immigrated to Canada with his parents in 1904 on a Swedish freightliner, had six brothers and sisters and was able to find out more about him.
For example, he found that his grandfather had looked much like him – about the same height, weight, with the same colour eyes and hair. He worked in Toronto as a pattern maker, which is where he met Wade’s grandmother, and when the country called for volunteers for the First World War, he enlisted with the 74th Battalion, CEF.
“In his logbook … he mentioned jumping in trenches in France that were laden with mustard gas,” Wade said. “They had gas masks, but by the time they had got them on, after jumping into this trench, they had inhaled.”
Angus Charles MacInnes died in 1934 at age 51 and Wade said he wasn’t able to find a cause of death and wasn’t sure what health effects his grandfather suffered from his exposure to mustard gas.
(Mustard gas used in the First World War caused chemical burns on skin and although the mortality rate was low, it is believed that those who inhaled the gas had a higher risk of developing cancer later in life, military historian James Patton wrote in a piece for the University of Kansas Medical Centre.)
MacInnes said it is important that future generations take the time to learn about the bravery of the men and women who served their country.
“We can’t let this fade away. So many kids nowadays don’t know the history. These people went over there – volunteered, in Canada. They weren’t conscripted, they volunteered. And a lot of them lost their life fighting for our freedom. And it’d be a shame to let that slip away,” he said.
Angus Charles MacInnes’s son Gus went on to have six children, 14 grandchildren and soon-to-be 16 great-grandchildren.
“The name of the clan MacInnes of Morvern/Mull in Scotland was brought to Ontario, Canada with a leap of faith to find a new world and better life for him and his parents,” Wade said. “Thank God for that.”