On Betty Main’s kitchen table in Sussex, N.B. she and her daughter, Deborah Powell, reveal never before seen photos taken behind the lines at Vimy Ridge.
The revealing photos, recently donated to the war museum in Sussex, were taken by Debora’s great grandfather, Charles Main.
“He was 51 years old when he joined and he had taken his son with him and they both worked in the medical core,” said Powell of her late great-grandfather.
Main was born in 1865 in St. Andrews, N.B. He not only served as a doctor treating the wounded with his son Wilmot by his side, but was also an amateur photographer and managed to capture rarely seen images from Vimy.
“Some of the pictures were of bullet holes in people’s head with helmets,” Powell said. “They were people who you know gave themselves to help.”
The pictures reveal another battle was going on behind the front lines to save the wounded.
Main was seldom in front of the lens himself and instead photographed the humanity of war. He showed the care that was taken by dedicated medical staff to treat the wounded.
Betty Main said the two men were the father and grandfather of her late husband and while they may not have charged into battle they were very much heroes in their own right.
“No matter what you do in your life, recognition is something you know when people remember what you did,” she said.
Powell said the photos also reveal a greater truth about Canada’s hard fought battle. Soldiers dressed up in clown costumes and took part in plays, revealing there were bright days and even fun times held behind enemy lines.
“A day put away from the stress. It would have to be a release because you can’t sit and fight all the time. You do have to get away from that part of it,” Powell said.
Powell said her great-grandfather likely never thought about how significant the war would become for Canada when he took his pictures, or how they might be used a century later to celebrate Canada’s most honoured battle. But finding out where the picture came from made her appreciate the significance of the battle even more.
“It made us aware and it took 100 years for us to be able to see that I think,” said Powell.