Part Three: Vancouver’s Millachip Family and their Great War Loss

I wrote about the house at 2825 Clark Drive and the family, Edith, Arthur and Willie Millachip who proudly stand in front of that house in 1913. I had purchased the card with this remarkable family scene  in Prince Edward Island. After finding that the house was still standing (although now devoid of its handsome shingle style wood exterior ) readers helped me piece together their Vancouver story and find the Arlington Virginia branch of the Millachip family.

Sadly the Millachip name has died out with the demise of Arthur’s son Willie who died of tuberculosis at Tranquille B.C. at the age of 39, and with the death of Arthur’s brother John in World War One. Called “The Great War”, this conflict wiped out four members of this extended family~John Millachip and his brothers in law, George, Edmund and James Spencer.

We stand in the 21st century with not a lot of first hand stories of what happened in the First and Second World Wars. Those conflicts resulted in over 103,000 Canadian soldiers being killed with  wounded soldiers numbering over 227,000. That’s the equivalent of the entire population of the city of Kingston Ontario being wiped out, and a population the size of Abbotsford B.C. being wounded. It was a devastating loss to the economy and to the social fabric of the country.

Richard Zeutenhorst in Arlington Virginia sent me the story of Arthur’s brother John Millachip. John  had settled in  Canada along with  his brother Arthur. John was born in Britain in 1883 and immigrated to Canada  in 1911. He had married Sylvia Frederick Webb in Winnipeg in 1911. John joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force for the Great War and was in France in 1915. In 1916 He was reported missing at the Battle of the Somme and his body was never found. His widow Sylvia was an active volunteer in Vancouver and remarried in 1924.

But it was not just Arthur’s brother that died in the First World War. Arthur’s younger  sister Grace Emily Millachip had married Lieutenant George Spencer during the war, in 1915. George survived being torpedoed on a ship in February 1918 only to be fatally wounded on His Majesty’s Ship Iris in the raid on Zeebrugge. He died that day. A month later, his widow Grace had a daughter named Iris, after the ship’s name.

George Spencer’s brother Edmund served with the Royal Field Artillery and was captured and held as a German Prisoner of War  at the Giessen camp in Germany. He was released from military service in 1922 and died in 1936.

George’s youngest brother James was just 20 years old when he volunteered for World War One with the Lancashire Fusiliers. He was part of the landing and campaign at Gallipoli in Turkey, where over 500,000 soldiers were wounded and 110,000 soldiers died. James was wounded, recovered and was sent to France in 1918 where he was reported missing in April.  He was taken wounded into a German Prisoner of War camp in Limburge an der Lahn, Hesse, Germany and died of his wounds 90 days later.

There is a remarkable film of Iris, who was born in Britain  during the First World War and served as a fireman during the Second World War at this link below. It describes in her own voice her life after the death of her father, how she met her husband during the Second World War, and how she settled in Ville Platte Louisiana to raise her own family. Iris passed away in 2009. You can watch the video by clicking this link.

At this time of year  when we remember the losses and families that  were and are torn apart by conflict and war, this story of resilience and forging ahead resonates clearly. Our job is to honour the way forward.

Published by Sandy James Planner

Vancouverite! City planner, writer, former master gardener, perpetual public space champion. I'm interested in pace, space and place. Micromobility and accessibility, best environments for free range kids. She/her. Dogs. I really walk a lot. Editor~ Viewpoint Vancouver Urbanism/Insight/Evolution Managing Director of Walk Metro Vancouver, www.walkmetrovan. Twitter: @sandyjamesplan My current writing:

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