Survivors’ tales

Noakes family

Winifred Hill and Arthur Onwhyn Noakes had five young children in their home on St Andrews Street in James Bay in 1918. Arthur was a land surveyor. The entire family came down with influenza, except for their middle child Winifred, who was five years old.All survived but were so sick,” writes Ken Brown, son of Winifred (the younger), from Toronto, “a neighbour had to come in to stoke the furnace and prepare food.” The neighbour was a nurse, and she “must also have attended the needs of the toddlers.” Winifred and Arthur went on to have three more children, and seven offspring attended their Fiftieth Wedding Anniversary in 1959. The identity of their rescuing angel has never come to light.

Archie Wills

Courtesy Victoria Times-Colonist

Henry Archibald (Archie) Wills (1892-1988) was a reporter on the Victoria Daily Times who enlisted with the Canadian Expeditionary Force. Assigned to the 62nd Battery, 15th Overseas Brigade, Canadian Field Artillery, Wills kept diaries and years later wrote a memoir about his remarkable tour of duty in Europe.

Following the Armistice, Wills and his company contributed to the push into Germany. En route through Belgium, Wills came down with Spanish Flu. Although he didn’t write much about the experience, the caption with the photo at Left, below, gives the sense of it:

After Armistice and our capture of Mons, I billeted my horses and men in a farm in Thulin, Belgium. I was stricken with ‘flu and I was given first-class treatment by these girls, Desiree and Josephine, after the farmer put me to bed in his home. I think they had a lot to do with my survival.

Wills went on to be managing editor of the Times from 1936 to 1951.

University of Victoria Digital Collections. Archie Wills fonds.