Courtship continued in correspondence

from our December 2012 issue

By Berniece (Elliott) Lambert – Sidney, B.C.

My father, Arthur Elliott, became principal of the high school at Durban, Man., in 1915. Among the Grade 11 students was Viola Holden who was often late entering class.

When she walked into the room, Arthur saw a tall, slim, beautiful girl with rosy cheeks and black hair. It was love at first sight. For her part, Viola saw a tall, slim, handsome young man of Irish descent.

As time progressed, Mr. Elliott found time to give extra help to Viola to make up for missed time. She hoped to graduate and become a teacher.

Ed and Clara Holden, Viola’s parents, were somewhat surprised when she wanted to invite the teacher for a meal with the family, but they obliged with an invitation.

It wasn’t long before Arthur joined the army during WWI. He was anxious to join his brother, Burton, who was already in the military.

Viola had a job in the bank. When she heard he was catching the train to leave for service she ran out into the wintry weather to see him leave.

The quiet little romance between Arthur and Viola was not known to anyone except Viola’s dad. Arthur went to Ontario to his brother’s army unit and commenced officer training. Both brothers became lieutenants.

The romance between Viola and Arthur now became one of correspondence. They wrote letters until Arthur and Burton were deployed to London, England. Soon the brothers were in active service in France. Letters were written by candlelight in cold, wet, muddy trenches.

Arthur and Burton were on Vimy Ridge at Passchendaele, fighting in terrible conditions. The enemy were ruthless and gunfire was vicious. Finally heavy fighting resulted in both Arthur and Burton being severely wounded.

They were sent back to hospitals in London. Arthur, being the eldest, was very concerned for his brother and requested they be moved to the same hospital. It was too late. Burton succumbed to his wounds and died. He was buried in the Canadian War Cemetery in London.

Arthur recovered sufficiently to return to Canada. He continued to recuperate and once again signed up for service in Vladivostok, Russia, in the Expeditionary Force.

The letters continued between Viola and Arthur – who returned to Canada and resumed his teaching career.
Viola was teaching and Arthur was principal at a different prairie school. A staff vacancy occurred so Arthur hastily urged Viola to apply for the job. She was accepted, and a short time later they became engaged.

Six years after their eyes met and love bloomed, they tied the knot in 1921. War could not intervene in their love story.