On October 10, 1975, a full 61 years since the beginning of the Great War, a group of men ranging in age from 84 to 81 years old met in London, Ontario. These eight men, all of the veterans and members of the 18th Battalion were meeting the last time as members of the 18th Battalion Association. This association sprung up in 1919 in response to the end of the war and was purported to be, by the members of it, the oldest veteran’s association in Canada.
Above: Sample of an 18th Battalion Association card from the Niagara Disctrict Branch and a news article from Montreal Gazette, June 11, 1934.
The association met dilegently, every year, with a yearly reunion that moved from city to city, and in 1975 a decision appears to be made to dissolve the London Chapter of the Association. It must have been quite a decision. Most of the men, like H.R. Aikenhead, were “originals” of the 18th, joining in October/November 1914. They had fought in the same Battalion and some had fought together. They had shared post-war experiences and now they were, by any definition, old men as all of them were in their 80s when this photograph was taken.
It may have been a bittersweet and melancholy meeting. Perhaps the smiles on the men were put on bravely. Perhaps the wisdom of age and the comfort of good and loyal comrades helped the smiles to be sincere and heartfelt – men satisfied with a life well and fully lived and deeply appreciative of being alive and able to hold reunions, unlike many of their comrades.
This may well have been the last meeting of the London Chapter, if not all the chapters of the 18th Battalion Association. This photograph helps hold that memory for others to appreciate as the future unfolds.
Their memory will live on.
With very special thanks to Dan Moat for contributing the photograph.