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A Letter Home from the Front

Arthur Latcham


Arthur Latcham (1895-1979) left a lasting mark on Whitchurch-Stouffville. The Stouffville Sun-Tribune summed up his legacy with the following: “Arthur Latcham bought land and built golf courses. He also did a lot to build communities, especially Stouffville. From many amenities in Memorial Park to the land for Markham-Stouffville Hospital, his giving shaped the Town (29 Nov 2007).”

Latcham was born in the hamlet of Glasgow in Uxbridge Township, just east of Stouffville. He had grey eyes, a build of 5’ 9.5”, and had light brown hair. He left Glasgow while young to homestead farm land in Saskatchewan. At the age of 20, on June 1, 1915, Latcham joined the Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force to join the fight during World War I. His next of kin, as listed on the original attestation papers, was his father John Latcham, living at a Stouffville address.

While in training for the mounted patrol he fell from his horse, dislocating his right shoulder. It was an injury that would haunt his military career, at the least. Latcham is listed as having the accident in Carberry, Manitoba, which must have been in relation to Camp Hughes, a First World War military training camp. The camp is one of the most intact simulated battlefield terrains in Canada and is now a National Historic Site.

After spending a month in a Winnipeg hospital and serving light duty for the winter, Latcham was shipped overseas to England, arriving May 7, 1916, and then moved to the front in France by August. A little more than two years later, Latcham sustained an injury to his left hand. At this point, it appears that the previous shoulder injury had become too much to bare – he was sent back to Canada as an “invalid”.

Latcham was discharged from military service in January 1919. He took up residence in Toronto and became a successful real estate investor and builder. After being injured on a job site, Latcham transitioned to building golf courses instead of houses, including Meadowbrook Golf Club and Rolling Hills Golf Club.

With amassing wealth came a philanthropic side – Latcham was a community builder. His mark on the community included the building of Latcham Hall, Lemonville Community Centre, and the public pool, amongst many other things, in addition to support for community clubs and junior sports teams.

Latcham’s wife, Elaine Raso – 29 years his junior – died in a tragic car accident on Aurora Road a few years before he himself passed in 1979. He is buried in Glasgow North Cemetery, with his wife, siblings, parents and grandparents, dating as far back as the 19th Century.

Latcham wrote the following letter to friends, Mr. and Mrs. D. Morris, after his first few months in France (21 September 1916, Stouffville Tribune)

Dear Friends,

I thought I would write you a few lines now that I have a little time. I left England quite a while ago, and have been on active service ever since. It’s some place over here. I don’t like this as well as France. We have moved to another base and I like it much better. It’s not as far as you are from Stouffville to go to the trenches so we don’t have far to go up at night, but they seem to know when we are coming for there are always lots of bullets whizzing around. One just missed my head the night before last but a miss is as good as a mile. Ah! We wear steel helmets and I don’t leave much room in the top of it when they start buzzing. We have to carry gas masks all the time. Yesterday it was a steady roar of guns all day but none of the shells came here. It’s fun to see the Germans firing at our aeroplanes. I think they fired 1000 shells at ours yesterday but they didn’t get any of them. Our aeroplanes are flying over the German trenches nearly all the time but I never see any of theirs. We can easily see their shell bursts from here and see how close they come. I saw nine aeroplanes and two balloons at once, yesterday but none of them came down and offered me a ride. We get lots of rain here but are used to that now. They grow some great crops over here, about the best I have ever seen. I suppose you will be at your harvest now. It is nearly all over in this country.

I would write you a lot more but our letters are censored and we have to be careful what we say. We are where some of the biggest battles have been fought, in fact I sleep only a few yards from an old German trench now. Some of the places are riddled to pieces. We are only a few miles from __[redacted]. I guess you have heard about that.

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