October 20th, 2020

A war prisoner’s story


By Submitted Article on March 24, 2020.

By Benjamin Weistra

Lethbridge’s internment camp was one of 24 in Canada during the First World War. Of the four located in Alberta, Lethbridge remained open the longest at 769 days.

It closed on Nov. 7, 1916 due to an increased number of escapes relating to its close proximity to the neutral American border, and as part of a broader move to consolidate the number of camps.

William Perchaluk was one of 8,579 individuals interned in Canada as “enemy aliens” during the First World War. He was born in about 1890 in Dereniowka, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and likely immigrated to Canada between 1911 and 1914.

On May 26, 1915, the Lethbridge Daily Herald reported that William had turned himself in to local police, asking to be interned in the local camp in order to receive soft work. He was among the first 191 prisoners transferred to the Castle Mountain Internment Camp, where he remained until June 26, 1916. During that time William was assigned contract work with the Canmore Coal Company – despite having a breathing ailment that made working in coal mines difficult.

While on leave in Calgary, William enlisted with the military in order to escape the coal mines. Two days before William was to leave for France, a former guard at the Castle Mountain Internment Camp recognized and arrested him for being an escaped prisoner.

In full military uniform, and faced with a return to the internment camp or mines, William died by suicide in his jail cell on Dec. 5, 1916. He was buried in Calgary.

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