Curatorial Report #107: Charlie’s War: The Life and Death of a South African Labourer in the Canadian Expeditionary Force, 1917-1918

Dr. Kirrily Freeman


Examining the life, wartime experiences and death of Private Charlie Some of Nova Scotia’s No. 2 Construction Battalion, Charlie’s War contributes to a more nuanced and inclusive picture of Canadian soldiers’ experiences of the First World War. Private Some’s name is listed with thousands of other war dead in Canada’s Book of Remembrance and in the Canadian Virtual War Memorial, yet his story is different from the ones we tend to hear. He died a violent death in France, but it was outside of battle and likely at the hands of an ally or comrade. Though he fought with the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF), Charlie Some was not Canadian. Though he joined the No. 2 Construction Battalion and lived in Africville, Nova Scotia, he was a newcomer to that historic community. When he was hospitalized, it was as a result of civilian encounters. Examining Private Some’s life experiences challenge us to reconsider what we know and understand about the First World War, and concepts of race, identity and empire.


Charlie Some; African Nova Scotian; Africville; No. 2 Construction Battalion; Canadian Expeditionary Force; CEF; First World War; World War One; WW1; Migration; Labour; Race; Identity; Empire; British Empire; South Africa; France; Canada; African Canadian

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