Waller Family

Harry, Arthur, Robert, and Susan Butcher Waller.

The Great War proved disastrous to the Waller family of Calgary.

By war’s end, two of its family members were dead and another disgraced, forced to move to the United States.

Susan Butcher Waller believed she was providing her children with a better life when she emigrated from England to Canada in 1911. She brought eight of her children while her husband, Robert, and oldest son, Joe, remained in Lancashire. In 1914, Joe enlisted in the British Army. One year later, three more sons—Robert, Arthur and Harry—joined the Canadian Army. Another son, Charles, chose to stay in Calgary to look after his family.

When news spread of Charles’ decision, he was accused of shirking his duty and presented with a white feather, the symbol of cowardice. Publicly shamed, Charles moved to Philadelphia.

Meanwhile, Robert Jr., Harry and Arthur were on their way to the front lines. Harry, twenty-one, and Arthur, twenty, were especially close; they enlisted together, and both served as signalers in the 50th Battalion. Sadly, both men were killed before they reached their twenty-third birthdays. Harry died in April 1917 and Arthur died in April 1918. Arthur received a posthumous Military Medal for bravery.

On both occasions, upon receiving a telegram informing her of her son’s death, Susan Waller said nothing. Slumping in her rocking chair, she rocked silently all day, the telegram gripped tightly in her hands.

Joe Waller returned to England after the war to his wife and their four children. Robert Jr., also survived the war but returned to Calgary a devastated man. Looking around at what was left of his family, he whispered, “Now what do I do?” The war affected him for the rest of his life. As for Susan Waller, she moved in with either Robert Jr., or her daughter, Jane. Her husband Robert died in 1916 of illness and she died in 1945.

Do you have an ancestor who served in the Great War? Submit their story and it could be included on this Great War Album website.