The commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the closing of Amherst’s First World War One internment camp has been chronicled for future generations.
ARC Social Media and Patrick Manifold have produced a 12-minute video that gives a brief description of the camp as well as the ceremonies, featuring the German Luftwaffe band, at the Col. James Layton Ralston Armoury in Amherst on July 2.
“The video reflects the history of the prisoner of war camp in Amherst during World War One and it also reflects some of the issues the German prisoners dealt with and the commemoration events on July 2,” Cumberland-Colchester MP Bill Casey said Tuesday. “It’s a great mix of the three subjects and it’s tied nicely together.”
Marjorie MacLean, who co-ordinated the commemoration event, hopes the video will be the legacy for the committee that put the event together that attracted several hundred people to the historic armoury building and showcases a piece of Amherst and Nova Scotia history that’s been forgotten since the camp, that housed 853 internees at its peak, closed in September 1919.
“It will be going to the federal and provincial departments that funded us, including National Defence and the provincial Communities, Culture and Heritage Department, Veterans Affairs as well as to the German and Ukrainian embassies, to the local museums in Amherst and to schools in this area,” MacLean said. “As we were preparing for the July event the committee felt we should have something that continues to commemorate it and the idea for the video continued to grow from there.”
There are also a limited number of videos available at Amherst town hall and in Casey’s office in the Community Credit Union Business Innovation Centre.
Once the decision was made to create the video, she met with Holly Casey of ARC Social Media to talk about what the video should include and how it should be put together. After looking at several versions, she’s pleased with the finished product.
Amherst David Kogon said he is very impressed with the professionalism of the video in the presentation, production and narration.
“It tells the story and that’s the intention,” Kogon said. “I thought it was very clear, concise and in that 12 minutes they were able to tell the story of the good things that come from history as well as some of the negatives. It should help us avoid repeating previous mistakes.”
The mayor said the town was pleased to be part of the July 2 event.
“This was an important piece of Amherst history that was virtually unknown to most of the people of the town,” Kogon said.
Casey said he was “blown away” by the video because it reminded him of the event that was so successful because of MacLean’s work and the support the MP’s vision of a commemoration ceremony received from the German government.
“They came into this with full support,” Casey said. “So many organizations played a role in that success, but most importantly, it’s so vital that we capture our local history. We haven’t done a good job of that. This will leave a permanent mark that Amherst had one of the largest camps in Canada and we should remember that. It almost slipped away, but the 100th anniversary allowed us to bring it back to the forefront and remember.”
While the commemoration, that included the band’s performance at the armoury and a memorial ceremony at the Amherst cemetery where 14 German POWs that died at the camp were buried until being disinterred and moved to Kitchener-Waterloo, Ont. in 1970, is now in the past, Casey said chronicling the camp’s history will continue.”
“We have learned there are some 5,000 pages of information in our archives in Ottawa and the Germans have all kinds of information in their archives,” Casey said. “The German archives includes newsletters that the German prisoners wrote and they have six editions. I’ve seen one of them from November 1916 that talks about how the prisoners put on a display of things they’d made for the citizens of Amherst and the centerpiece of that display was the same ship that was restored for the commemoration ceremony and it even says who it was made by. We’re going to contact that family if we can to let them know we treasure this ship.”
Casey also hopes to find out who made the cello that was played by an air cadet during the commemoration ceremony.
“This is not the end of the story, it’s going to continue,” he said.