Victoria commercial photographer Ernest Crocker, who was known as Trio, took thousands of photographs during the First World War.
Don Bourdon, curator of images and paintings for the Royal B.C. Museum, explains the significance of Trio’s work.
“He made thousands of photographs of troops departing Victoria on the steamships, headed for Vancouver, and then on the train east to places like Valcartier, Quebec for training, and then over to the western front.
“He made his living doing this all through the First World War and through the Second World War, and we have his collection here.”
The collection is a mix of both posed and candid photographs of the troops.
“There’s such great detail in these photographs,” says Bourdon.
“It’s as if they’re off on some big adventure. Especially in the early years of the war, people thought it would be over in no time, but it happened week after week after week in Victoria, and cities and towns all over Canada.”
Trio’s photos were hugely popular with local families.
“They were printed pretty much overnight,” says Bourdon, “and they were available at the cigar stand at the Empress Hotel.”
“In some instances, these may be the last photos taken of some of these men who didn’t return.”
In the fall of 1918, the allies were making huge gains.
“All of the photographers were poised in the fall of 1918 to try and capture public reaction when an armistice was signed, because it was inevitable that this was going to happen.”
And as rumours that the war was over spread, Trio, along with photographers around the world, captured the moments of celebration on film.
Except, the photographs were taken on November 7.
“I wouldn’t call it ‘fake news’ but a bit of false news, or premature news” Bourdon explains.
The rumour that the war was over reached Victoria on the morning of November 7th.
“Every ship in the Inner Harbour toots it horn,” says Bourdon.
“Every factory had steam whistles blowing. People pour out of their offices, and all of a sudden there is this huge gathering of people, primarily in the vicinity of Fort and Government streets.”
“And then” Bourdon continues, “a parade breaks out, and it basically goes all day. Then the next day, of course, on the 8th, it’s acknowledged that this was false news, and then people have to wait.”
While they waited for news of peace, the fighting continued.
Another 280 Canadian soldiers died before cease-fire was declared at 11 am, November 11th, 1918.