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We have more than 300 emails for camp alumni, but over the last couple of years some of you have moved or changed your email accounts.

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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Bill Alldritt and camp in 1914

Bill Alldritt doesn't strike you as a man who liked to sit still.

William Alldritt in 1910
Alldritt in 1932

He was the director, or manager as it was known then, of Camp Stephens just before the outbreak of the First World War in 1914.

For Alldritt, camp was as big of deal then as it is now.

His story is shared by his grandson Robert. (The Manitoba Historical Society has a brief biography of Bill Alldritt on its website: Memorable Manitobans: William Alexander "Bill" Alldritt (1881-1933)).

"While not a Camp Stephens alumnus myself, it appears that my grandfather William A. Alldritt was camp manager 100 years ago," Robert said in a recent email.

"While doing some research on his World War I involvement, I have come across some cards and some photographs of teams he coached at the Winnipeg Y. I'm not sure if any of the teams were based out of the camp.  

"We have a couple letters from him from the camp dated August 1914, talking about the outbreak of the war," Robert added. "Apparently he was a regular around the Winnipeg Y and was most notably manager of the Winnipeg Toilers basketball team which won national championships in 1926, 1927 and 1932."

The Toilers, which played out of the downtown Y, were at that time almost as famous to Winnipeggers as the NHL Winnipeg Jets are today.

In 1933, the year Alldritt died, the team was flying back to the city after playing in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The plane crashed on the way home, killing two players and injuring others. Hugh Pennwarden, son of one of the survivors tells his father's story in this video directed by Kevin Nikkel:

Robert Alldritt also sent several photos and documents of his grandfather's time at camp. (To view and read, click to insease size).

"It might be neat to use some of these for the 125th anniversary of the camp," he said.

"I have also included the full application form (posted below; it was a double-sided, fold-out) and a camp postcard from Alldritt to his sister Ethel in August 1914, saying 'war news has us all excited.'

"It's interesting it is addressed to her care of the Winnipeg YWCA.  I also have a brief letter that he wrote to Ethel from Camp Stephens about the same time. It's rather mundane as he suggests what she should do with the family house, implying that he will soon be heading overseas I believe.

"I have also attached a couple more photographs - swimmers on the dock (untitled, but perhaps at Camp Stephens) and some rather smug looking Y athletes. I wonder if the 'K' emblem (on jerseys and ball) might mean Kenora?  I have also attached a team photograph noted on the back as 'International and National Hexathlon Champions March 1928'. This was probably taken at the Winnipeg Y.  

William Alldritt is in the centre wearing sweater.

William Alldritt is in the second row, second from the right.

"In the end, the Y did not send him to the war. He enlisted himself in late September 1914 and was mobilized at Valcartier Quebec," Robert said. "There are some notes that he turned down an officer's commission (he was 33 and a veteran of the South African-2nd Boer War) in order to fight alongside the men he had coached at the Y."

Alldritt was later among the scores of Canadian soldiers injured in German gas attacks in the Second Battle of Ypres in 1915.

Alfred "Davey" David, the former camp cook, also saw action in WWI at Ypres, and was also gassed and captured. His story is HERE.

Robert said he was at first reported killed in action, but later confirmed to have been captured by the Germans.  He remained a prisoner from April 25, 1915 until the end of the war in 1918.

"In his own words, he was 'persistently unlucky' in his escape attempts," Robert said.

Robert also sent the full application for Camp Stephens when his grandfather was manager before the war, and a photo of the camp boat Neaniskos, a 69-foot, gasoline-powered, 45-horse-power launch.

 What's unkown is whether he returned to camp after the war's end.

Photographer was Carl Linde, known for his early images depicting Lake of the Woods

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