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This photo helped solve a Collingwood Museum mystery

While sifting through photos for this week's Remember This, museum staff noticed something unique about this photo.

This week’s featured postcard is the last in a series of six original photographs taken on the occasion of the departure of “A” Company of the 157th Battalion for Base Borden on July 2, 1916.

In 1916, the Federal Building (or post office) was just over a year old which may explain why this location was chosen as the backdrop for what is believed to be the only posed photograph of the local recruits.

The uniformed soldiers are posed in approximately four rows that stretch from the two-storey brick building on the left, home to the Enterprise Messenger, and along the marble expanse of the Federal Building at 44 Hurontario Street.

Upon close inspection, the gaze of the soldiers appears to be focused on an unknown location or person on the opposite side of Hurontario Street. This piqued the interest of a museum staff member who went off in search of the seemingly missing photograph. After only a minute of searching in the oversized photograph collection, the official version of today’s photograph was located and has been attached as a second photograph. Until now, staff knew very little about this photograph.

The name of Private Thomas E. Foley is recorded in pencil on the back of the second photograph. A quick search through the online records at Library and Archives Canada reveals a 129-page personnel file that details every aspect of Foley’s overseas service.

Prior to enlisting with the 157th Battalion on Jan. 8, 1916, Foley was a steam fitter in a blacksmith shop, quite possibly at the Collingwood Shipyards; however, this detail is not provided.  He was twenty-one years of age at enlistment and was married to Ethel Alice Foley of Feversham. His parents were Thomas and Catherine Foley of Collingwood.

Upon his arrival in England aboard the S.S. Cameronia with the 157th Battalion on Oct. 28, 1916, Foley was transferred to the 125th Battalion. His personnel records state that he became quite ill and stayed in England for the entirety of his service. Foley was officially discharged nearly two years later on April 22, 1918. Upon his return to Canada, he entered the Gravenhurst Sanatorium as he was suffering from tuberculosis.

Personnel records for Canadian soldiers from the First World War may be found online here

Remember This is a weekly series of historic photographs submitted by the Collingwood Museum to These photographs were originally collected and documented by the Huron Institute in an historical catalogue entitled Huron Institute Paper and Records: Volume III. Much of Collingwood’s early history has been preserved due to the dedication and foresight of the early museum’s founders, namely its secretary-curator David Williams, upon its establishment in 1904.