RIDGE. What it is about?  It’s about a bulb out in the lower “D”.  You never notice this stuff unless you look closely and that is if you have the chance.Classic dark grey afternoon. It’s tough when you’re so talented yourself and our beautiful town presents such opportunities. You’re never going to wonder about any of this again. You sure as hell know where you are when you’ve ID’ed this area. Now get going.

Someday Arbutus Mall further south will be open for business again and, in a strange way, that’s all I cared about this Sunday afternoon.  There’s a gigantic hole dug up there and a bit of a mystery what’s filling it in.  Money maybe.


Images samoyeddogs staff and CS Nicol




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Pvt. Joseph Buxley Stretch

Joseph Buxley Stretch.  Born Long Creek, Prince Edward Island January 5, 1892.  Trade: Carpenter.  26 years old.  Married.   No children.  Height 5 foot 10.  Weight 163 lbs. Complexion medium.  Eyes blue.  Hair brown.  Present postal address Collins P.O. Saskatchewan.  Called up January 3, 1918.  First Depot Battalion, Saskatchewan Regiment, Regina.  Regimental service number:  1263521.  Terms of service:  Duration of war.

Joe had a short war, and that was good.  He didn’t know how long it would be, he just knew he’d been called up and had to go.  The Military Service act of 1917 had been instituted because rather a lot of Canadian boys were being annihilated in the great war and the army needed more men.  It was simple arithmetic.

So they were even scooping up ancient 26 year old married guys with useless skills like carpentry in Saskatchewan, by law.  You need to stop wasting your time, Joe, building things and join us and maybe get yourself killed in the war.

Joseph Buxley Stretch was in the 3rd draft.  The war had entered a new phase and it was looking like a lot more killing although you just never knew.  Maybe it’d all be over by Christmas.

The Saskatchewan volunteers up to the draft had demonstrated a peculiar knack for getting slaughtered over there in Belgium and France in the previous three years.  70%, 80%,  90% casualties in their units was common, and too close for comfort.  These boys just didn’t know how to quit.  The term “Suicide Battalion” had been coined.

Joseph Buxley Stretch proceeded overseas with the 5th Division Canadian Expeditionary Force  He sailed on the S.S. Missanbie on March 4th, 1918.  His timing was great.  The Missanbie was sunk by German submarine U87 off Ireland on September 9, 1918 with the loss of 45 lives.

Assigned to the 15th Reserve Battalion March 7, 1918.  Recorded as being with the 5th Battalion in France on August, 20, 1918 and transferred to the 16th Battalion Infantry September 8, 1918.

On October 5, 1918 Joseph Buxley Stretch was reported missing after action.  On October 28, 1918 he was reported as being a prisoner of war.  The war was less than two weeks from being over but it was still full-on war.

On December 10, 1918 Joseph Buxley Stretch was reported released and was at Nº 1 Rest Camp, Dover, England.

Embarked for Canada from Liverpool on the Cunard Line RMS Carmania on February 1, 1919.  Pvt. Joesph Buxley Stretch travelled in style.

Homeward Bound

Disccharged on demobilization March 4, 1919, Regina Saskatchewan.

Entitled to wear one blue “Service Chevron” for overseas service up to 12 months.  Last pay certificate from the Canadian army $186.20.

Joseph Buxley Stretch and Mrs Ina Neoma Stretch had 9 children, all of whom survived to adulthood and beyond.  They left Collins and raised their family in Beechy, Saskatchewan and in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.  Today you can’t find Collins, Saskatchewan on any map of the province.  According to a source who would know, “A lot of towns disappeared.”

Image of Joseph Buxley Stretch to be inserted top of column, left.  Data from official documents.  Have a great wknd..


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William “Billie” Nicol



DATE OF BIRTH:  17/08/1892

William “Billie” Nicol enlisted for the Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force on February 22. 1915 in Toronto, Ontario.  His “Attestation Paper” was witnessed by G. Fowler and certified by the Lieutenant Colonel commanding.

William “Billie” Nicol was 5 feet 9 inches tall with a complexion described as “Fresh”.  His eyes were listed as “Blue” and his hair “Fair”.  His distinctive marks included a mole low on his back and 3 vaccination marks on his left arm.

As William “Billie” Nicol could see at the required distance with either eye, and because his heart and lungs were healthy and he had the free use of his joints and limbs, and because he asserted that he was not subject to fits of any description he was considered “Fit” for the Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force by the medical officer attending.

William “Billie” Nicol had been born in London, England and had emigrated to Canada on his own at the age of 14. He’d worked on farms north of Toronto and around Davidson, Saskatchewan and at the McLaughlin Carriage company plant in Oshawa, Ontario.  When he received a small inheritance from England he enrolled at Elliot Business College in Toronto to study accounting and graduated from the program.

In May 1915 William “Billie” Nicol was back in England as a soldier in the Canadian Army. He’d made sergeant.  He landed at Plymouth and boarded a train to Dibgate Military Camp near Folkestone where his unit was put up in tents.

A Legend Is Born

Due to the vagaries of war-time military requirements William “Billie” Nicol found himself on a boat sailing back to Canada just as his unit was due to sail for France.

He’d been ordered to escort, with other NCOs (non-commissioned officers), a group of soldiers deemed mentally unfit for duty who were being returned home for further treatment.  Upon fulfilling this duty William “Billie” Nicol went on three month’s leave. He finally sailed back to England and was posted to Witley with the rank of Staff Quartermaster-Sergeant.

Sergeants On A Spree

As Staff Quartermaster-Sergeant William “Billie” Nicol was in charge of the disposition of rations for all troops and horses at Witley and passed most of the war in this duty.  It wasn’t until 1918 that he found himself in France where he continued his quartermaster duties and was involved in the final push, as it was called, at the Somme.

Aside from the occasional bombing run by German planes the greatest danger William “Billie” Nicol faced during the war to end all wars was the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918.

He contracted the virus at St. Omer and became seriously ill.  In a short autobiographical sketch written in March, 1972 he put his survival down to the ministrations of a German prisoner of war who spoke very good English and who managed to nurse both Nicol and a fellow NCO, both of whom had been quarantined in a tent and left to fend for themselves, back to health.

William “Billie” Nicol was repatriated to Canada with his bride and received his discharge from the army in Toronto in December, 1918.  Within a short period of time he moved with his wife and young child to the west coast of Canada.

William “Billie” Nicol.  Soldier, actor, writer, bookkeeper, survivor.  Past president Royal Canadian Legion Branch #142.  Died December 2, 1975 White Rock, BC.


That is all.





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