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Wilton in World War I

  • Stanley W. Peters, whose family moved to Wilton from Canada, returned to Canada at the outbreak of World War I to enlist in a Canadian regiment and was killed at Vimy Ridge in France in May of 1917.  —Courtesy photo

  • Many of Wilton’s World War I veterans are in this photo, taken sometime in the spring of 1920, two years after the Armistice which ended the war.  Courtesy photo

  • Rachel Ring of Wilton, who worked as a reconstruction aide/physical therapist at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington D.C. During World War I. —Courtesy photo

  • This Wilton High School class of 1918 shows how few young men were left in town.  Courtesy photo

  • Tucker Ring, a Navy World War I veteran from Wilton.  —Courtesy photo



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Saturday, November 10, 2018 1:30PM

Stanley W. Peters immigrated to New Hampshire as a very young child – young enough that it’s unlikely he remembered much of his early days in Canada. But when World War I broke out, he returned to his home country to enlist, long before the United States joined the war.

Peters was a member of the Wilton High School graduating class of 1913. He and another Milford resident with Wilton ties who was a Canadian native, Walter Larry, returned to Canada to enlist after the war began, only a short time after graduating. Neither would survive the war.

Peters is one of several Wilton residents who is profiled in a 2019 calendar, compiled by the Wilton Heritage Commission to commemorate the centennial of the end of World War I. 

“This is our collective memory,” said Heritage Commission member Michael Dell’Orto. “This is what we share as a nation. We need to remind people about the events in our history.”

Peters, Dell’Orto said, must have felt a strong pull to become involved, enlisting in a Canadian artillery regiment in the early days of the war.

Peters was born on Nov. 3, 1897, in Nova Scotia, and moved to the United States with his mother, Georgina Potter and his father, William Wallace Peters, around 1902. 

According to a notice in the Wilton Journal in 1917, Peters was with the British army in France when he was reported among the missing. The Second Battle of Arras was a British offensive on the Western Front, where British troops attacked German forces near the town of Arras from April to May in 1917. The Canadian army was tasked with re-capturing Vimy Ridge, where Peters is buried today.

He was with a squad working his gun, and nearly everyone his squad was killed. Peters was assumed to be killed in action. He was only 20.

Peters has a stone memorial in the South Yard Cemetery in Wilton. 

 

The Ring twins

Twins Rachel and Tucker Ring also contributed to the war effort – Tucker in the Navy and Rachel as a reconstruction aid and physical therapist at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington D.C.

The Ring family had been in Wilton for several generations when war broke out. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Ring family sold a “patent medicine” hair restoration formula, and later sold witch hazel ointment as a cure-all. 

Tucker enlisted in the Navy in early 1917. He served aboard the USS Olympia, a ship of storied history that had served as a flagship in the Spanish-American War.

Tucker and the Olympia patrolled the American coast and escorted transport ships in 1917. In June of 1918, the ship arrived in Murmansk, Russia, to deploy a peacekeeping force.

After the Armistice, the Olympia policed the Dalmatian coast in the Adriatic Sea. 

Rachel worked as a nurse at Walter Reed Hospital, mostly working with returning injured soldiers, including men with amputations of arms or legs, to keep their joints in good working condition. 

Rachel is one of two women who are noted on Wilton’s war memorial. 

 

The end of an era

The Rings and Peters weren’t the only residents of Wilton to march off to war. A photograph taken in 1920 of World War I veterans shows nearly 45 men recently returned. The graduation photo of Wilton High School in 1918 shows a class with only two boys – the rest having gone to war. A photograph of the Wilton championship basketball team taken in June of 1917 shows six players – all but one of whom were off to France within a few months of the photo being taken.

“Certainly the World Wars are the last time in American history we see this kind of attitude on this scale,” Dell’Orto said. “An attitude of recognizing something is important and a want to be involved.”

Part of that attitude, Dell’Orto said, was the patriotic fervor that went along with the wars. Men, women and children were all encouraged to do their parts. The Heritage Commission wanted to put together the calendar, Dell’Orto explained, in part, because it’s important to look back at the town’s personal history during that time, and see how Wilton reflected that era.

“These are our people,” Dell’Orto said. “They did these things.”

The calendar is for sale for $10 at the Wilton library. Proceeds benefit the Wilton Heritage Commission. 

 

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.