From the Archives

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Written by Kevin MacLean, Galt Museum & Archives, Collections Technician

Do you know what this object is and what it was used for?

Is it a:

  1. Doc licence

  2. WWI ID Tag

  3. Keychain

If you guessed WWI ID Tag you’re correct!

Canadian Military Identification Tag, 1917

This identification (I.D.) tag was worn by Coutts resident, Earl E. Betts.

On March 27, 1916, Earl joined the 113th Lethbridge Highlanders—a Canadian Expeditionary Force battalion. Less than a week later, his older brother Clarence joined the Highlanders too. Shortly after its arrival in England, the brothers’ battalion was broken up, and the siblings were re-assigned to the 16th “Canadian Scottish,” an existing, frontline infantry battalion.

The Betts brothers arrived in France in November 1916. Less than five months later, Earl was killed in action at Vimy Ridge on 9 April 1917. His ID tag bears the scars of the trauma that was inflicted upon him that day. According to family, Clarence was with Earl at the time that he was killed. Sadly, the once-known location of Earl’s remains—and 43 others—were lost in the years following the war.

The story of the 44 lost members of the 16th Canadian Scottish Battalion is now the research focus of Canadian historian, Norm Christie. His efforts to locate them is featured as part of the History channel’s documentary, “Searching for Vimy’s Lost Soldiers.

Clarence survived the war, returning home with Earl’s dog tag. In recognition of the sacrifice made by Earl and his family, the Government of Canada issued Earl’s mother Julia the Memorial Cross (commonly known as the Mothers’ Cross) as well as a Memorial Plaque, more commonly known as a “Dead Man’s Penny.”

Collection of the Galt Museum & Archives, P20110006004

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