Tag Archives: WWI

World War I Reunion 1987

63rd-battery-1987-veterans reunion LFP.
click/tap to enlarge

Battery mates knock back last one

Treasured jug becomes casualty of final reunion

By Pat Currie, London Free Press

With reverence, Bill Davis cracked the seal on a carefully preserved bottle of 51-year-old whisky Thursday [Sept. 25, 1987] and tipped out shots for himself and three old buddies.

“This is it. There won’t be any more,” said Davis as he clinked glasses with Walter Allsop, Walter Day and George Parker.

Davis wasn’t talking about the bottle of whisky in this bittersweet moment at the Grosvenor Club on a bright September afternoon.

It was the 67th and final reunion of the 63rd Battery.

Davis, 88, Walter Allsop, 91, and Walter Day, 89, all of London, and George Parker, 89, of Sarnia tipped their glasses and drank a final toast to Bill Riseborough, 90, of Goderich, who couldn’t attend, and to all their dead comrades of long ago as trumpeter Earl Todd sounded the Last Post.

1921 was 1st reunion of 63rd Battery

“There will be no more reunions, at least not as a unit,” said Davis, who could recall Toronto in 1921 when 600 attended the first reunion of the London-based depot battery that supplied trained gunners and drivers to the Canadian artillery on the voracious western front.

“It’s gradually slipped,” Davis said of the number attending the annual reunion down the long years. In 1978, at Blenheim, only eight of the old-timers were on hand.

The carefully hoarded bottle of Seagram’s Crown Royal was set aside at a battery reunion at the old Hotel London in 1936.

“The stipulation was that it wouldn’t be opened until the reunion of the last four or five members,” Davis said. “This is it.”

The four who gathered Wednesday with a handful of friends and relatives are all old men. All, except Parker, spent time on the western front in 1917-18.

All are deaf to some degree, perhaps as a result of the crash of howitzers across the mud of Flanders.

The Western Front

“I was there – everything from Passchendaele to the armistice in 1918. I was in Mons the day after the war ended,” said Day. I never expected I’d be sitting down at a reunion in 1987. But then, I never thought that even last year.”

Allsop said he “started at Vimy and went right through.”

How was it?

“Oh, good and bad.”

The manpower shortage was so bad in late 1917 that Davis and his draft were shipped out of Halifax on Dec. 1 after only one week of what was supposed to be a two-week quarantine. Five days later, an ammunition ship exploded in the harbour, killing 1,630 people.

“We were supposed to still be there,” Davis said.

Parker admits he got only as far as England but there, he says, “I learned to roller skate.”

His combat was limited to a trip to Dublin “where we all ended up in jail.”

Bob Symington, a nephew of Davis and a Sarnia justice of the peace, drove Parker to London for the reunion.

When the glasses were recharged with what Davis called “sipping’ whisky,” Symington proposed the toast: “We’ll all meet again in 20 years.”

Replied Parker: “Not unless some of you young fellows change your ways.”

1936 Seagrams Crown Royal

Davis said the group had planned one toast, then would decide on the fate of the remainder of the bottle of 1936 whisky. But it soon became apparent the bottle was about to become a certified casualty of the day.

Davis said the bottle – “they don’t make them like this any more” – had been sought avidly by a distillery representative.

“I’m going to give to the RCR (Royal Canadian Regiment) Museum …

… was opening that bottle, all I could think of was all the fellows who have passed on.

“I feel it in my bones, I know I’m going to be the last guy.”

Mom clipped this article out of the London Free Press in September 1987. However, she missed part of the conclusion on the other side of the page. That’s why there’s a bit missing at the end of my transcript.

So I don’t know who felt it in his bones that he’d be the last guy alive. But from what I found out about these men, maybe it was Bill Davis. Here’s what I learned googling them:

William Carlton Davis, Driver, Reg. No. 334049

wm-c-davis-exeter-ont-findagraveBill Davis was born June 29, 1899 in Exeter in Huron County, Ontario, son of Ellen and Arthur Silas Davis. His attestation papers give printer as his occupation. He married Ruth H. Hills. He died in 1996, aged 96 or 97. The troopship he sailed on from Halifax, just before the explosion, was the White Star Line’s SS Megantic. She went out of service in July 1931.

Walter George Day, Gunner, Reg. No. 334125

Walter Day’s attestation papers say he was born in 1895. This article says he’s 89, making his birth year 1898. Perhaps he made himself older when he enlisted. His papers list his occupation as farmer. He died in 1990. An online genealogy of his wife’s family says, “On January 15, 1917 Walter enlisted with the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force with the 63rd Artillery Battery… While in Europe he was involved with the battle at Vimy Ridge.”

George William Parker, Sgt. Reg. No. 3132758

George Parker was born in 1897 in Watford, Lambton County. His occupation is farmer on his enlistment papers. He died in 1990. The Lambton County Museum website says, “William and Sarah [Parker]’s son George served in the 63rd Battery in World War I where they used horses to pull big guns into position. When he returned from the war, he began working at Mueller’s Brass Foundry in Sarnia. Despite having only a Grade 8 education, he became President of the company. He also had a farm at Lot 28, Con. 1 SER.”

George Walter Allsop, Gunner, Reg. No. 333829

Walter Allsop was born in 1896 in Toronto. His parents Charles and Matilda lived on Askin Avenue in London when he enlisted in 1915. His occupation was given as printer. I found reference to a marriage that might be his. If so, he married Madeline Mabel McCullough, on September 23, 1922 in Middlesex County, Ontario.

William James Riseborough, Driver, Reg. No. 334338

William-James-Riseborough-gatheringourheroes.caBill Riseborough was born in 1899 in Blenheim, Chatham-Kent in Ontario. His parents were Elizabeth and George William Riseborough. He was a student at the time he enlisted.

That is all I could find out about these five men. Their attestation papers are at Library and Archives Canada. And the Seagrams bottle? The RCR Museum at Wolseley Barracks in London doesn’t yet have a full listing online of their artifacts. I took a virtual tour of their WWI display (in Gallery) but did not see it.

63rd Battery, CFA CEF

recruiting poster 63rd-Battery-London-Ont-iwm.org_.uk_collectionsThe 63rd Battery was based in London and Petawawa, Ontario. It was part of the Canadian Field Artillery of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. Organized in March 1916, absorbed by No. 1 Artillery Depot in Oct. 1918, it disbanded on 1 Nov. 1920.

I am so glad my mother kept this article. It was a joy to read and to get to know these men a bit. Also humbling. Especially Mr. Allsop’s assessment of going “right through” from Vimy Ridge to the end as “oh, good and bad.” To their descendants, you have good reason to be proud. Thank you, Drivers Davis and Riseborough, Gunners Day and Allsop, and Sgt. Parker.

poppy photo d stewartLest We Forget

100 years ago today, the guns fell silent at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.  After four years and three months of war. 1,564 days. Nearly 60,000 of about 620,000 in the Canadian Expeditionary Force died in battle.

Halifax Explosion

Halifax Harbour, December 6 1917, two ships collide. An explosion, followed by a tsunami and a fire that burns much of the city. The next day, a major snowstorm.

Halifax Explosion blast cloud LAC wikicommonsA rare photograph of the actual explosion. The photographer is unknown. But other photos of the explosion turned up a few years ago. Royal Navy Lt. Victor Magnus was in Halifax. His daughter, Ann Foreman of Cornwall, UK, found his photographs of the explosion long after his death. You can see them and read the full interview in the Daily Mail. This is part of what she said in November 2014:

My father was a great photographer. He always had a camera around his neck… It was just a coincidence that he was at the Halifax disaster. The actual explosion was a massive amount of smoke. He was very lucky to survive, especially as it destroyed the town. He took some photos on the shore and it looked like the London Blitz.

W. G. MacLaughlan, Halifax Photographer

Looking-North-toward-Pier-8-from-Hillis-Foundry-after-Explosion-Halifax-1917-W-G-MacLaughlan wikicommons
Looking North toward Pier 8 from Hillis Foundry after Explosion Halifax, W G MacLaughlan

Many of the images of the destroyed city came from the cameras – still and film – of W. G. MacLaughlan. His daughter, Rose Edna, recalled the day of the explosion.

Just before war was declared in 1914, Dad opened a studio – he was a photographer- on the corner of Buckingham & Barrington, over the Royal Bank and [sister] Bea and I worked in the reception room awhile before she went to Normal College and I to Business College.

I was there on the morning of the explosion- a Belgian Relief Ship and another loaded with explosives collided in the harbour. The North end of the city was partly destroyed and a great many people killed. No one at the College was seriously hurt, although a number of the windows were shattered. The College was about three miles from the Harbour…

I knew Bea had gone to Dad’s studio uptown, so I went down and met her on Barrington St. coming for me. We went back to the Studio but Dad hadn’t come in. Mr. [George] Nason, who worked there had been in the developing room and had his head done up as he was cut when the skylight broke up, but not badly. We were living out at Armdale then, about five miles from Barrington St. and we had to walk home, as everything had closed in the city. The traffic was terrible – cars and trucks taking people, who had been hurt, to the hospitals. When we got home we found mama and sister Marguerite ok and Dad had been a few miles from the house on his way to work. He went back home to see if they were ok and then left for the city. Nearly all the windows in our home were shattered, but that was all the damage.

Benjamin Smith, Hillview, Trinity Bay, Royal Navy

A Newfoundlander, Ben Smith, was in Halifax on that day. His story was told in a 1977 Offbeat History column. Here’s part of it.

The account doesn’t say where Ben Smith joined the Niobe. Most likely he had to go to Halifax. In any case he was in the Niobe at the time of the cataclysmic explosion, December 6, 1917, when the city was half destroyed. Ben Smith was below decks when the blast occurred and perhaps he owed his life to that fact. As he hurried on deck in the confusion and terror he lost his cap, and when he reached the deck the first thing he saw was the bodies of two of his shipmates who had been killed. He thought to himself: “Well, they won’t need their caps any more.” So he picked up one of the dead men’s caps and put it on his head and wore it until the end of the war.

He saw a lot of grim sights on that terrible day in Halifax after the Niobe’s crew was allowed ashore but ordered to stay out of the explosion area. As the men were walking down the streets they heard a woman screaming from a window. They asked her if there was anything they could do. She beckoned to them to come up and three of the sailors went into the house and the woman asked them to take out her invalid mother, aged 80 years, and bring her downstairs so she could be taken into the country for safety. It was lucky they went in for there were so many dead and dying and injured people about that no one would likely have bothered to rescue the old lady.

Men who tried to save Halifax Harbour

From the Shelburne Gazette, Feb. 6, 1918 (complete article at Shelburne Co. Coast Guard). Nineteen of 24 crew members of the tugboat Stella Maris, including the Captain, died in the explosion.

Capt. Brannen’s Great Work

One of the outstanding characters who lost his life in the great Halifax disaster was Captain Horatio H. Brannen, commander of the S.S. Stella Maris, who was making an heroic effort to reach the burning Mont Blanc and tow her to a place of greater safety before the catastrophe came.

Captain Brannen was born at Woods Harbor, Shelburne County, forty-five years ago, and so was just coming into manhood’s fullest prime when his life was so tragically cut off…

Captain Brannen had never been discharged from the naval service and, on the morning of the great disaster, he was taking the S.S. Stella Maris into Bedford Basin when he was sent to the aid of the burning ship. Aided by British blue-jackets he was trying to reach the Mont Blanc with a line in the hope of towing her to a place of greater safety when the explosion came.

Passchendaele

The Battle of Passchendaele ended 100 years ago today. It is also called the Third Battle of Ypres and the “Muddy-est, Bloody-est of the whole war”. The latter is what Alberta infantryman Arthur Turner called it in his diary.Frank-Hurley-Australian-4th-Div-duckboard-29-Oct-1917-Chateau-Wood

Passchendaele is a small village in Belgium near Ypres close to the border with France. British troops came to the aid of the French there in July 1917. Australian and New Zealand divisions were brought in early in September, then the Canadian Corps in October.

The Canadians weren’t supposed to be involved. They’d just come off the terrible Battle of Vimy Ridge in July. They were assigned to diversionary attacks on the Germans occupying nearby Lens, France. But the British Commander, General Douglas Haig, ordered them in over the protests of the Canadian Commander General Arthur Currie. Too much of a mess, too uncertain of a strategic gain, and the likelihood of too many casualties.

Be that as it may, General Haig was Commander in Chief and so his plan went ahead. And that meant reinforcements. The British and ANZAC troops were exhausted and their numbers drastically depleted. They pulled out and four divisions of the Canadian Corps moved in.pilckem-ridge-31-jul-1917-imperia-war-museum wikicommons

General Currie decided the first thing to do was clean up the place. The Canadians had fought two years earlier at the 2nd Battle of Ypres, and Currie and the men could see the bodies still there. Bodies of men, mules and horses had been churned up from their shallow graves by the renewed fighting. So they reburied the dead, built roads and board walks, brought in supplies.

Battle of Mud

Passchendaele Battle-of-Pilckem-Ridge-brushwood-track-St-Eloi-11-Aug-1917-John-Warwick-Brooke-imperial-war-mus_Q5944The 2nd Battle of Ypres was marked by gas warfare, the 3rd Battle by mud. Complete desolation of the land from the years of battle and heavy rains caused the drainage system to collapse. “The mud is a worse enemy than the German” said NZ divisional commander Sir Andrew Russell.

Two months of horrific fighting and losses by both sides, but the Canadian troops prevailed. The Germans were pushed back and the battle ended November 10th.Second Battle of Passchendaele Cdns-survey-German-Bunker_public-domain-in-Bostyn-and-Van-Der-Fraeden

Then in December, General Haig pulled out the Allied troops guarding this patch of land won at such expense. The Germans moved in again. After two more battles of Ypres, the Allied Forces won it back by the end of the war a year later.

British soldier and poet Siegfried Sassoon was not at Passchendaele. He was in hospital, but could well imagine what it was like. He could imagine too the process of ‘king and country’ that took so many young men to fields of slaughter like it. In October 1918 he wrote Memorial Tablet.Cambridge U Library The Siegfried Sassoon Literary Estate via First World War Poetry Digital Archive http://ww1lit.nsms.ox.ac.uk/ww1lit/collections/item/9660

Colombe Brothers

frederick-colombus colombe -heritage.nf.ca
Frederick Colombe No. 912 1st Bn. Nfld Regiment

The Colombe brothers of Shallop Cove, Fred and Frank, died exactly two years apart. On October 9, 1915, Fred died of wounds received at Gallipoli. On October 9, 1917, Frank was killed in action “in France or Belgium”.

They were among the elder of Frank Sr. and Susan (Benoit) Colombe’s large family. Fred’s attestation papers say he was 21 when he enlisted in January 1915.  In March 1916, five months after Fred’s death, Frank enlisted. His attestation papers say he was 20. According to their mother, Fred was 20 when he died and Frank was 19.

On June 9, 1921, Francis Colombe Sr. died. Soon after, Mrs. Colombe sought financial help from the Royal Newfoundland Regiment. Her application for Separation Allowance is in the RNR archives.

Application for Separation Allowance

Here it is. Below each page, I’ve typed out some of the questions and answers. The ones that tell an astounding, and profoundly sad, story. It’s her words but not her handwriting. On the final page, look closely at the signature. You’ll see an X and “her mark”. That makes her words even more haunting somehow.

Click each image to enlarge it or go to The Rooms’ RNR Database to see PDFs of the entire files. (They are in list as Columbus.) This application is in Fred’s file.

rnr separation allowance application pg 1To The Paymaster,

Separation Allowance Branch, St. John’s, Nfld.

(1) Name of soldier, Rank, Reg’t or Unit, Reg’t No.
Fred Colomb, Pte,, 1st R Nfld, 912
Frank Colomb, Pte., 1st R Nfld, 2296

(2) Age of soldier. Married or single
20, 19 – single

(5) If your husband is not supporting you give the reason.
Dead

(9) Names of your other children. Address, Age, Occupation, Married or single
David Colomb (E Forester)[?], Shallop Cove, 23, Invalid, Single
Joseph “, Shallop Cove, 30, Invalid, Married
Louis “, Citadel Hill, Halifax, 19, Soldier, Single
Peter “, Shallop Cove, 25, Fisherman, Married
Mrs. Jos. White [Mary], Shallop Cove, 26, Housekeeper, Married
Mrs. Levi Young [Nancy], Shallop Cove, 22, ” ”
Delia Colomb, [?] St., Sydney, 16, Servant, Single
Mercy “, Shallop Cove, 14, Schoolgirl, Single
Statia “, Shallop Cove, 12, ” ”
Genevieve “, Shallop Cove, 10, ” ”
Cecelia “, Shallop Cove, 9 ” ”
Bell “, Shallop Cove, 7 ” ”

(10) State amount earned by (a) yourself (b) your husband.
Hard for me to say how much I earn as I [illegible]rnr separation allowance application pg 2

(12) State value of real property belonging to you and your husband.
About $300.00

(13) State value of personal property belonging to you and your husband.
About $30.00

(15) Actual amount contributed by soldier during the year prior to enlistment.
Whatever they earned they gave to me and my husband. They were young & worked with their father. They did not give any stated sum.

(18) State your son’s trade or occupation prior to enlistment.
They helped their father fishing and farming on a small scale.

(21) State amount of monthly support from son since enlistment.
Fred gave $12.00 per month. Frank gave 50¢ per day = $15 per month. Frank while in R. Navy (1 year) gave $9.00 per month.

(23) State from what date did you receive allotment?
Fred – June 1915. Frank – as RNR Jany. 1915, soldier – June? 1916

(26) If not receiving support from other children, state cause.
Some married, some not able to work, the rest too young. Louis has to support himself.

(27) With whom are you residing at present?
The single children are staying with me.rnr separation allowance application pg 3

(28) Have you made a previous claim for Separation Allowance. If not, why?
No. My husband said while he was able to work that he would not make a claim, nor allow me to make one.

(29) Are you already in receipt of any payment from any Patriotic Fund?
No

(30) Are you already in receipt of Separation Allowance from any source?
No

(31) Was the soldier at the time of his enlistment an employee of the Nfld. Government?
No

(33) Is he in receipt of a salary as such while serving in the Royal Newfoundland Regiment?
Both dead

Response to Mrs. Colombe

rnr major paymaster reply oct 1921Dear Madam:- With reference to your application for Separation Allowance… that same cannot be granted to you… during the period of service of your son, Fred, your husband was not incapacitated, and consequently you were not at that time, totally dependent on your said son. Yours truly… 

***********************

I googled the names that Natty White mentioned of Shallop Cove men who died in WWI. These files drew me right into their story.

Wartime Foresters

“The King’s Government call for lumber men and all skilled workmen not eligible for the Regiment or the Royal Naval Reserve for service in the forests of the United Kingdom.”forestry corps evening tele-7-apr-1917-heritage-nf

In World Wars I and II, Britain needed foresters. Lots of timber available, especially in Scotland, and both military and civilian need for lumber. But not enough people left in the UK with the necessary skills and strength to cut and mill it. That’s where Newfoundland, Canada and other British dominions came in: to provide the skilled labour.nfld-forestry-corps-scotland-wwi-heritage-nf

The Newfoundland Forestry Corps sent about 500 men overseas in 1917 to cut and mill wood. From 1939 to the end of WWII, the Newfoundland Overseas Forestry Unit sent about 3,680 men. They worked in Scotland, England and France.

nofu-badge-wwiiAccording to Neary and Baker (2010:9), “the largest single group of Newfoundlanders to go overseas during the Second World War did not go in uniform, but as members of the Newfoundland Forestry Unit.” In both wars, the forestry units were civilian.

The same rules for recruitment applied in the Canadian Forestry Corps (CFC) but it was part of the Canadian Armed Forces. The CFC was created in 1916 and disbanded in 1920. It resumed service in 1939 to 1945.

Forestry Soldiers and Civilians

The difference in civilian or military categorization didn’t matter at the time, but it did afterwards. In Newfoundland, men of the forestry units were not eligible for veterans’ benefits. The same was true for veterans of the Merchant Marine, a civilian unit responsible for keeping shipping channels safe for military and commercial vessels. Finally in 1962, the forestry units and Merchant Marine were recognized under the Civilian War Allowance Act. In 2000, their veterans received the same benefits as those of military branches.nofu-log-loading-duthil-1944-ngb-chebucto

In both wars, many men left the forestry corps to sign up for combat units. Either they reached legal enlistment age or got the required education level. As war dragged on, and more and more fighting men were needed, the physical requirements changed. Those men rejected earlier due to maybe not meeting the height or eyesight standards became eligible.alfred-j-munnings-draft-horses-lumber-mill-in-the-forest-of-dreux-leicestergalleries-com

Lumbering was still needed, however, so men continued to be recruited to replace those who had left. And there were injuries and deaths. It may not have been combat, but woodswork is dangerous. While working, 335 NOFU men were injured severely enough to be sent back home and 34 were killed. That’s one tenth. In WWI, 14 names are on the honour roll for the NFC.

2010 Peter Neary and Melvin Baker (eds.), Introduction, History of the Participation by Newfoundland in World War II, Allan M. Fraser (pdf)

The story of NOFU is in They Also Served by Tom Curran, St. John’s: Jesperson 1987. See Newfoundland’s Grand Banks for names, records and photographs from WWI and II.

Newfoundland Regiment at Beaumont Hamel

Below is a list of the Newfoundland Regiment soldiers killed at Beaumont Hamel on July 1, 1916. There are many more; those killed in the lead-up to the battle, those who died of their wounds, casualties in other regiments that also went over the top. A list that included all those would be massive. Far shorter would be the list of those who survived.

"In defence unyielding, in attack unflinching, steady unto death" caribou monument image p 130 Book of Remembrance
Nfld Book of Remembrance pg 130

801 men of the Newfoundland Regiment went into the battle. Figures vary, but about 255 were killed in action, 386 were wounded and 91 were missing. Only 68 were able to answer roll call the next day. About an 80% casualty rate.

The Allied assault on Beaumont Hamel was supposed to start June 29th. Weather and other factors delayed it to July 1st. An artillery barrage at 6:25 AM, and infantry assaults starting an hour later. The Newfoundland Regiment was the third wave, starting at 9:15. It was all over in half an hour.

It was the start of the Battle of the Somme: The Big Push, The July Drive, “the heaviest single-day combat losses in the history of the British Army” (Legion Magazine Sept 2011). The Battle of the Somme lasted four and a half months, advanced the Allies’ front line 10 kms. There were over 620,000 Allied casualties and 465,000 German.

When I looked for the names of those killed that day, I couldn’t find a list. So I began piecing one together from online sources listing all World War I casualties. The Newfoundland Book of Remembrance, RNR WWI Nominal Roll and WWI graves listings.

I did find specific Beaumont Hamel lists eventually  – of the dead, wounded and survivors. Once I started googling individual names, I found more lists and profiles of soldiers. So I didn’t need to make my own. But I had noticed things that gave me pause, made these young men, their families and neighbours real to me. Addresses on the same forget-me-nots Newfoundland Regiment soldiers killed street, next of kin names turning up more than once. I checked my genealogy database and online ones. And I added the scraps of information to my list.

Here’s what I have. And forget-me-nots that a Facebook friend happened to post just after I’d been reminded that it is the flower of remembrance for the Royal Newfoundland Regiment. It is the lapel flower worn to remember Beaumont Hamel since the first anniversary 99 years ago.

Killed In Action at Beaumont Hamel

ptes-stanley-and-george-abbot-PANL-heritage.nf.ca_first-world-war_articles_beaumont-hamelPte. ABBOTT, George 1242 RNR, d July 1st 1916, age 22
Next of kin: Henry and Emily Abbott. Address: Battery Road, St. John’s

Pte. ABBOTT, Stanley 283 RNR, d July 1st 1916, age 21
Next of kin: Henry and Emily Abbott Address: Battery Road, St. John’s

George and Stanley were brothers. A neighbour or maybe cousin, Pte. Fred Abbott #3483, was killed in action Aug. 16, 1917 near Steenbeek. He too lived on Battery Road, son of Walter and Jane Abbott.

Pte. ANDERSON, Israel 1069 RNR, d July 1st 1916, age 20
Son of Joseph and Jessie [MacNeil] Anderson, Mouse Island. Buried Y Ravine Cemetery, Somme

Pte. ANDREWS, Joseph 1119 RNR, d July 1st 1916, age 27
Next of kin: Mrs. Catherine Andrews. Address: St. John’s

Pte. ANTLE, Gilbert 1899 RNR, d July 1st 1916, age 21
Next of kin: Thomas and Mary Antle. Address: Botwood, Twillingate

Pte. ATWILL, James 1914 RNR, d July 1st 1916, age 26
Son of Samuel and Charlotte Atwill. Resting place: Ancre (Sp. Mem. 37)

Cpt. AYRE, Bernard Pitts, Norfolk Regiment, British Expeditionary Force, d July 1st 1916

When the war began, Bernard was attending Cambridge University in England. He decided to join up there. Son of Robert Chesley Ayre and Lydia Gertrude Pitts of St. John’s. They had only one other child, Eric. See below for his name. (Brothers in Arms)

L/Cpl. AYRE, Edward Alphonsus 1009 RNR, d July 1st 1916, age 19
Son of Edward and Selina Ayre of Isle Aux Morte. Buried Y Ravine

Known as Ted. Family name also spelled Hare. Edward Sr. was son of Samuel Hare and Juia Gillam. His mother was born Selina Wells. The family moved to Sydney, Cape Breton soon after the war.

Edward-A-Ayre-sightsnbytes-2916-1-15
Text of card at left, click to enlarge

RMS Megantic postcard to Maud McNiven, girlfriend and sister of fellow soldier Will McNiven: “Dearest, Just a few cards of the ship we are leaving by. We left Aldershot nine o’clock last night. I am going to try and get someone from the shore to post these for me, we are not allowed ashore. I did not get a letter from you before leaving. Believe me to be yours. xxxxxx Faithfully, Ted”

Cpt. AYRE, Eric S. RNR, d July 1st 1916, age 27

Brother of Capt. Bernard P. Ayre, above. They were grandsons of Charles Robert Ayre, founder of Ayre & Sons Ltd.

2nd Lt. AYRE, Gerald W. RNR, d July 1st 1916, age 25
Next of kin: Frederick William and Mary Julia [Pitts] Ayre. Address: St. John’s. Resting place: Memorial Park

1st cousin of Wilfred and brothers Bernard and Eric. His brother Charles was also in the war and survived.

2nd Lt. AYRE, Wilfrid D. 164 RNR, d July 1st 1916, age 21
Son of Charles P. and Diana [Stevenson] Ayre, St. John’s. Resting place: Knightsbridge

1st cousin of Gerald, Eric and Bernard. HIs brother Ronald was also in the war and survived.

L/Cpl. BARBOUR, Horatio 1419 RNR, d July 1st 1916, age 26
Son of William and Amy H. Barbour of Port Rexton. Resting place: Beaumont Hamel 1

Pte. BARNES, Maxwell 1576 RNR, d July 1st 1916, age 22
Next of kin: Mrs. Sarah Ann Barnes. Resting place: Memorial Park

Pte. BARRETT, Leonard Josiah 372 RNR, d July 1st 1916, age 21
Next of kin: Mrs. Maud Barrett. Resting place: Memorial Park

Pte. BARTLETT, Joseph Patrick 629 RNR, d July 1st 1916, age 22
Next of kin: John Bartlett. Address: Maryvale, Brigus

Pte. BARTON, John 1485 RNR, d July 1st 1916, age 29
Next of kin: William and Annie Barton. Address: The Goulds, Bay Bulls Road, St. John’s West

Pte. BENNETT, William 1229 RNR, d July 1st 1916, age 31
Next of kin: William and Agnes Bennett. Address: St. John’s

Pte. BISHOP, Wilson 1597 RNR, d July 1st 1916, age 22
Son of John and Annie [Feaver] Bishop of 10 Second Avenue, Grand Falls. Resting place: Ancre

Full name Henry Wilson Bishop. His father’s parents were Edward Bishop and Elizabeth Piercey. His mother’s parents were Enos Feaver and Catherine Foote.

Pte. BOONE, Stewart Malcolm 1219 RNR, d July 1st 1916, age 20
Son of William Thomas and Sarah Jane Boone of South River, Clark’s Beach. Resting place: Ancre.

Pte. BOWMAN, Charles 938 RNR, d July 1st 1916, age 26
Next of kin: Frigaz Bowman, St. John’s. Resting place: Memorial Park

ww1-j-breen-67-1
Pte. John Breen

Pte. BREEN, John Joseph 67 RNR, d July 1st 1916, age 22
Son of Mrs. Catherine Breen, Alexander St., St. John’s and the late Jacob Breen. Resting place: Memorial Park

No marked grave. Attestation papers give his address as 18 Nunnery Hill, St. John’s. (One of The Original 500)

Pte. BRENT, David 1794 RNR, d July 1st 1916, age 23
Next of kin: Mr. and Mrs. John Brent. Address Botwood, Twillingate. Resting place: Memorial Park

Sgt. BROWN, Bertram 1382 RNR, d July 1st 1916, age 21
Next of kin: Amos and Selina Brown. Address: Grand Falls

Pte. BROWN, Edward John 545 RNR, d July 1st 1916, age 28
Next of kin: Eli and Annie Brown. Address: Harbour Grace

Pte. BURGE, Allen 624 RNR, d July 1st 1916, age 20
Next of kin: George and Mary Jane Burge. Address: Bonavista

Pte. BURKE, Garrett 1023 RNR, d July 1st 1916, age 25
Son of Silvester and Mary Ellen Burke of Tor’s Cove, Ferryland. Resting place: Knightsbridge

Pte. BURKE, Leo Michael 1170 RNR, d July 1st 1916, age 18
Son of Martin and Annie Burke of St. John’s West. Resting place: Ancre

Sgt. BURRY, Sidney George 1044 RNR, d July 1st 1916, age 31
Next of kin: Job and Matilda Burry. Address: Greenspond, Bonavista. Resting place: Memorial Park

Pte. BUTLER, Edward William 1567 RNR, d July 1st 1916, age 25
Son of John and Phoebe Butler of Fogo. Buried: Y Ravine.

Pte. BUTLER, Harry 1897 RNR, d July 1st 1916, age 20
Son of Henry Stephen and Laura May Butler of “Hillcrest” LeMarchant Road, St. John’s. Buried: Y Ravine

Pte. BUTLER, Ignatius Joseph 1442 RNR, d July 1st 1916
Next of kin: Mary C. Butler. Address: St. George’s. Buried: Memorial Park
“In June 1918 Iganatius’ mother filled in a form to request continuation of an allotment made her to following Iganatius’ death in 1916. Her husband had drowned at sea in 1900 leaving her to raise her family alone. For some time she was able to run a successful boarding house but by 1918 her health was failing. Two daughters still lived with her and one Bridie was an invalid. By the time the pension was awarded Mrs Butler had died and the pension went to Bridie.” (Lives of the First World War)

Newfoundland’s Gallipoli

ptes-stanley-and-george-abbot-PANL-heritage.nf.ca_first-world-war_articles_beaumont-hamel“Ptes Stanley and George Abbott of the Newfoundland Regiment were my grandmother’s brothers. I remember that picture of them at her house. My Dad’s sister has it now. They made it through Gallipoli only to be struck down at Beaumont-Hamel.” (Mike Barrett, comment)

George and Stanley were sons of Henry and Emily Abbott of Battery Road in St. John’s. When they were killed July 1st, 1916, George was 22 and Stanley 21.

At Gallipoli, about 40 Newfoundland men died. The 1st Newfoundland Regiment landed September 20, 1915. The battle had been going on since April 25th. It lasted until January 9, 1916.

Caribou-Hill-Gallipoli-rcinet.caThe other Allied forces there were from the UK, France, Australia and New Zealand. The ANZAC troops, from Australia and New Zealand, proportionately lost the most men. Gallipoli was their Beaumont-Hamel, the battle that will always stay in their memory, that defined them as nations.

..Johnny Turk he was waiting, he primed himself well…
And in five minutes flat he’d blown us all to hell…

(Eric Bogle, And the Band Played Waltzing Matildahere it is, beautifully presented)

ANZAC Day

April 25th is Anzac Day, a day of remembrance each year in New Zealand and Australia. And in Newfoundland. “The Newfoundland Regiment commemorates Anzac Day, a unique tradition in the modern-day Canadian Forces. Every 25 April the regiment marches through St John’s to the National War Memorial…” (NZ History).

Beaumont-Hamel has such a strong presence in Newfoundland and Labrador’s memory that it’s easy to overlook battles like Gallipoli. A commemorative newspaper tells the story of Newfoundland’s Gallipoli. The text is below (the whole paper is online – worth reading).

gallipoli canada-remembers-times“When Britain declared war in August 1914, Newfoundland, which was a colony of Britain at the time and not yet a part of Canada, responded quickly and began recruiting men for overseas service.

The fighting in the First World War occurred in more places than just Western Europe. On September 20, 1915, the 1st Newfoundland Regiment landed on Turkey’s Gallipoli peninsula, joining British, French, Australian and New Zealand troops already there. Gallipoli would be the Newfoundlanders’ first experience of the horrors of trench warfare—artillery fire, snipers, punishing heat and cold, and disease caused by living in such harsh conditions.

In November they earned their first battle honour when they captured “Caribou Hill”—named after the animal that represented their regiment. These soldiers later successfully covered the withdrawal of Allied troops from the region, being among the last to leave in January 1916. Approximately 40 Newfoundlanders had died there, a grim taste of the great casualties the regiment would soon suffer on the Western Front.”

W_Beach_Helles_Gallipoli-7Jan1916-wikipediaChristopher Morry tells his grandfather’s story in the book When the Great Red Dawn Is Shining. Howard Morry of Ferryland fought at Gallipoli, fought at Beaumont-Hamel, and came home to Newfoundland. Lucky man!

Those buried at Gallipoli

I could not find the names of all the men of the 1st Newfoundland Regiment who died at or due to Gallipoli. Below are the names of 22 who are buried there.

nf-reg-wwi-badgeBewhey, E.
Blyde, M. J.
Brown, J. M.
Carew, D. M.
Dunphy, J.
Ebsary, H. E.
Ellsworth, J.
Fitzgerald, J.
Hardy, W. F.
Hiscock, S.
Hynes, J. J.
poppy-d-stewartKnight, G. S.
Lodge, S.T.
McWhirter, H. W.
Morris, R.
Murphy, W. J.
Roberts, F.
Roper, F. C.
Simms, G.
Squibb, J.
Tibbo, J. J.
Wighton, C. Capt.

 

World War I

World War I Canadian recruiting posterIt seemed like a good idea at the time: that’s the explanation I come up with for why World War I started. Virtually the entire world became embroiled in war due to one disorganized act of violence in Serbia against the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and his wife was the politically small spark that lit big militaristic hopes and expansionist dreams.

WWI historian David Stevenson said on CBC’s Sunday Edition that negotiation and compromise could have averted war. No one imagined it would be a four-year-long worldwide bloodbath. Would they have been more cautious if they had?

According to Margaret McMillan in The War that Ended Peace, the 19th century had been peaceful between nations in Europe. Conflicts were internal, distant or between specific nations. General war in Europe was not something even the eldest person alive in 1900 had experienced. There were no memories setting off warning bells.

World War I painting by Frederick_Varley_German_Prisoners-1920
German Prisoners, Frederick Varley, 1918-20, Canadian War Museum

In The Guns of August, Barbara Tuchman quotes the former German Chancellor in 1916 saying, “How did it all happen?” Then-Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg replied, “Ah, if only one knew.” During the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, having recently read Tuchman’s book, President John F. Kennedy told his brother Bobby that he didn’t want somebody writing that about him in years hence. He reached a settlement with Russia. A veteran himself with a brother killed in WWII, Kennedy had memories of war.

A Family War

World War I photo British cavalry en route to Vimy Ridge
British cavalry en route to Vimy Ridge, Imperial War Museum

WWI was a family war, not just for those with loved ones fighting, but for the protagonists. The heads of the three major participant nations were cousins. Kaiser Wilhelm II and King George V were grandchildren of Queen Victoria, as was Tsarina Alexandra of Russia. The mothers of George V and Tsar Nicholas II were sisters. The Kaiser and Tsar were 2nd cousins. All had been friends since childhood. But once declarations of war started, they couldn’t help each other.

Nations piled in like a bar fight. To help friends, attack enemies, make a score, settle a score. Some had no choice: imperial powers immediately brought in their colonies. Very few remained neutral.

The end of every fight might lay the seeds for the next. The terms of peace in 1919 made The War to End All Wars become The War that Caused World War II. It also redrew the world’s map, ended monarchies, birthed the Soviet Union and led to the end of colonialism.

Youth Mourning, George Clausen, 1916, Imperial War Museum
Youth Mourning, George Clausen, 1916, Imperial War Museum

The valour of those who fought and those who mended the damage got done what had been started. But most likely they all asked themselves the Chancellor’s question, “how did it all happen?” The estimated 16 million military and civilian war dead never got an answer.

 

The Uncles’ Great War

Charlie-Scanlon-1950-London-ONAn uncle and two great-uncles are my touchstones for the First World War. The one I knew best was Charles Scanlon, husband of my mother’s older sister Ada. He was 20 years older than she. Uncle Charlie told wonderful stories, but I don’t remember any being about the war. I knew only that he was a veteran of the war before the one in which my father had been.

2nd Battle of Ypres

Looking through my aunt’s photos and papers recently, I found out Uncle Charlie had been wounded at the Second Battle of Ypres, in April 1915. That was the battle in which the German Army first used the First World War London Free Press 1997 re 2nd Battle of Ypresweaponry of poison gas. At Ypres, it was chlorine gas. I remember the tone of voice adults used, whispers almost: “he was gassed, you know”. Although I didn’t know what it meant, I knew it was awful and that it explained a lot. I don’t know if Uncle Charlie had been gassed. I don’t remember him having the chronic lung or eye damage that I’ve read are major effects of it, if you survived the initial blast.

Lymburner brothers

My mother’s mother had two brothers and both were in World War I. I knew one of them, Uncle Otto Lymburner, from visits to my grandparents’ house. But I never knew his brother Edmund. I mistakenly thought that he had died in the war. But Uncle Eddie came home, married and had a family. He had been wounded, and he died in 1948 at the age of 49.

They both Otto Lymburner 1960 First World War veteranjoined the Canadian Expeditionary Force early in 1916. I don’t know what they did in the war. Maybe my grandmother told me, or would have had I asked. I just remember her with eyes filled with tears, saying “poor Eddie.” It was a sorrow that came from the war, I knew, and it scared me seeing her sad.

We learned about the world wars in school. To me, they were ancient history. If we did any projects that connected us to veterans among our families or friends, I don’t remember them.

If we’d had such projects, or if I had paid attention if we did, maybe I’d know the cause of my grandmother’s tears. I might know if Canadian Army physician John McCrae had First World War monument with In-Flanders-Fieldstreated Uncle Charlie’s injuries. I remember memorizing the poem In Flanders Fields in school. Lt. Col. McCrae wrote it during the Second Battle of Ypres, where Uncle Charlie was wounded. I loved the poem’s sad beauty, but I never in my wildest dreams connected it to my uncle’s life.

Canada entered the war 100 years ago Monday, August 4th. CBC Radio is airing a 10 part series about Canada’s war. The Bugle and the Passing Bell, produced by Steve Wadhams, is here.

On eBay – Canadian Expeditionary Force WWI items