CANADIAN Wilfred Slater has written to share some interesting memories about his grandfather who served in the army during the First World War.
Writing from Toronto Wilfred tells us: “My grandfather, Charles Edward Slater, was 35 when war was declared. He arrived at his Halefield Street home in St Helens after a day's labour at the Pilkington Glass Works to announce to the family he had enlisted in the army.
“Considering his age, marital status with four children aged two to 10, he would have been exempt from being recruited.”
Research by Wilfred has discovered his grandfather was noted in the 1918-19 Absent Voters Electoral Roll as Charles Edward Slater, 241036 L/Sgt. 1/5th South Lancs Regiment – normal residence 29 Halefield Street.
Wilfred recalls his grandfather rarely dwelled on his time in the trenches.
“But at Christmas family gatherings he would offer a collection of war related tunes while playing a concertina and a harmonica,” he remembered.
The family migrated to Canada in 1920 to a Pilkingtons plant that had opened six years earlier near Niagara Falls and many transferred to the Canadian operation which boasted company-built housing and amenities in what became known as Windle Village.
But Wilfred explained how Pilkingtons’ manufacturing venture there did not fare well.
“The quality of the glass was inferior to what was being produced at home and a shutdown occurred in 1925. Some personnel and families opted to return to Great Britain, while others remained to find employment in paper mills which dominated the region,” he said.
“When a Canadian Legion was established, grandfather enjoyed the comradeship of fellow vets. When an auxiliary was formed, grandmother and a daughter became actively involved, both being elected president.
“He died in 1959, a month shy of his 80th birthday. My grandmother Jane lived 98 years, departing in 1977.
“In her final years, grandmother spoke a bit unfavourably about the war years, which must have been a burden for her, but admitted that grandfather looked smart in his military great coat.”
Wilfred last visited St Helens in 2007 when he noticed the section of Halefield where the family lived had not been redeveloped like much of the surrounding area.
“During a visit 30 years earlier I became aware that the ancestral neighbourhood was destined for a long overdue renewal. To see the area occupied by the family was in a state of neglect seven years ago was disappointing,” he said.