Tag Archives: Canada

Insanity at #Shorncliffe. #FWW

“May they not take it too seriously! Seein’ as ‘ow the training is all washed out as soon as you turn that narrow street corner at Boulogne, where some watcher with a lantern is always up for English troops arriving, with a “Bon courage” for every man. A year ago today-but that way madness lies.”

(Captain Charles Hamilton Sorley from a letter to the Master of Marlbourgh, in War Letters of Fallen Englishmen, edited by Laurance Houseman, Victor Gollancz Ltd, 1930)

It somewhat surprises me that I can quote from a War Poet, for whenever I’m asked about the War Poets the default answers is “Not a fan”. It is not that I don’t like them. They wrote some of the finest poetry ever written in English. They wrote a lot of crap too, but we won’t dwell on that today. It is just they are shite historians. They are part of the history of the Great War, but they did not write that history. I remember Mr Millinship, one if not the best teacher I ever had reading Dulce et Decorum Est and asking me what I thought of it. Don’t think he was too impressed with my reply, I said something along the lines of. “It took him three years to come up with war is hell. My dad’s a soldier don’t you think I don’t already know that?” I was 11 at the time, an easy going child in a difficult world. Back to Sorley. Sorley was for a time at Shorncliffe but the madness he was writing about was not the madness at Shorncliffe but the madness of war.

Someone who will never be as famous as Owen or Sorley, basically because he wasn’t a War Poet but who dealt with insanity, his own, at Shorncliffe was Private 513212 William Anderson, Canadian Army Service Corps Training Depot. (CASC TD)

William was born in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, England. After serving in the Inniskilling Fusiliers He emigrated to Canada it was here he enlisted at Petawawa, in No.2 CASC TD. he was 37.

William sailed to England on the SS Olympic arriving in England on the 28th December 1916 and is taken on the strength of the CASC TD at Shorncliffe on the 29th. On the 5th May 1917, William was posted to the 7th Reserve Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, (Eastern Ontario Regiment). (PPCLI (EOR). Six months later he is admitted to 44 Casualty Clearing Station suffering from Trench Feet, a condition caused by standing with unprotected or badly protected feet in unsanitary water.  Sent back through the evacuation train to England and the General Military Hospital in Colchester. January 1918 sees William at the Military Convalescent Hospital Epsom and on the 28th at the Manor War Hospital Epsom. May 16th and William is back at Shorncliffe. This time he is at 11 Canadian General Hospital and diagnosed with Dementia Praecox (Schizophrenia). On the 28th May, his diagnoses is changed to Exhaustion Psychosis, which is an abnormal mental state in which the patient is restless, illusional, and has severe communicational problems. At 11:30 pm on the 14th June 1918, William Anderson’s madness ends.

William is buried in Shorncliffe Military Cemetery.

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#Folkestone #Canadians #FWW #WW1

Currently in Folkestone at the museum is an exhibit about the Canadians in Folkestone during the First World War. Put together by students from various educational establishments in the town with help from Gateways, University of Kent and others. Well with a visit, despite a few dodgy lines of script on one of the display panels.

Some Eighteen or so, Canadian units(1) crossed directly from Folkestone in the First World War, the rest went mostly via Southampton. Ranging from the Royal Canadian Dragoons through Artillery Batteries to Infantry, no horses or heavy equipment, the men carrying only personal kit which included their rifles.

The first Canadian unit to cross was the Royal Canadian Dragoons on the 4th May 1915. They were to serve mostly unmounted not receiving the last of their horses until March 1916.

One of the soldiers who crossed with the Royal Canadian Dragoons had the service number “1” He was No.1 W.O. (Warrant Officer) (Regimental Sergeant Major Dore. Canada’s most senior soldier, as opposed to “Officer”

George William Dore was born at Dennis Park, Stourbridge Worcestershire, England on the 12th October 1872. On the 21st September 1894, he enlisted in the Royal Canadian Dragoons (RCD) as No.633 Private Dore. It is possible that he served with the RCD in the Yukon Territory during the Goldrush and also with them during the wars in South Africa. He rose steadily up through the ranks and re-engaged at three yearly intervals. On the 24th September 1914, he attested into the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force as No.1, Regimental Quarter Master Sargeant George William Dore. He was 42 years and 10 months old. This was also the date he embarked for Europe. The first stop for the RCD was England and they were to remain here until they embarked to France from Folkestone on the 4th May 1915. George was not long in France when he fell and sprained his back. He returned to England on the Hospital Ship “St Andrew” landing at Southampton on the 20th May 1915. From Southampton, he was sent by Ambulance Train to the 1st N (Canadian?) Hospital in Newcastle. He was to remain here until he returned to his unit via Le Havre on the 20th November 1915. On the 18th June 1917 during an authorised leave of absence, he was promoted to Warrant Officer Class 1. The next year on the 29th June 1918 he returned to Canada on furlough he was due to return to France but the Army decided he was to remain in Toronto. On Christmas Eve 1924 while carrying two parcels he slips and fell on the steps of his family home, 279 Westmorland Avenue, Toronto. This fall resulted in the fracture of his right leg and ended his military career. On the 30th April 1925, he was discharged from the Canadian Army. The next day, the 1st May 1915 a Board of Officers met to verify the service towards pension and Conduct of No.1 Regimental Sergeant Major George William Dore, Royal Canadian Dragoons. They verified his service as

RCD 21st September 1894 to 20 years 3 Days
23rd September 1914
CEF 24th September 1914 to 4years 216 Days
29th April 1919
RCD 30th April 1919 to 6 years 1 Day
30th April 1925
He was discharged aged 52 years and 6 months. His service record states on discharge that he has;
Good knowledge of horses and horsemanship, accountancy and clerical work. Sober Reliable and Meticulous, a strict disciplinarian.”
He was awarded the !914-1915 Star, the General Service Medal, the Victory Medal, and the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal. George William Gore died on the 3rd June 1948.(2)

1.Soldiers from other Canadian units also crossed from Folkestone, but the 18 units crossed as a Battalion/Battery/Regiment, not as drafts or individuals.

2.Information gained from the Service Records of George William Dore.

 

 

#Shorncliffe’s other Air Raid Victims #FWW #Folkestone

The story of the bombing on the 25th May 1917 is well known. The burials of the Canadian Soldiers killed led to the Canadian Day Memorial Service now held annually at Shorncliffe Military Cemetery. Not quite as well known is that 13 other Canadian Soldiers all from theCanadian Field Artillery who were killed in an earlier air raid were buried there. I say were because only the remains of 12 still lay buried at Shorncliffe. Sgt 42623 Edward Charles Harris’s remains were repatriated and now rest in St Catherines Cemetery Toronto.

The air raid occurred on the 13th October 1915 at Otterpool Camp. Zepplin L14 dropped four bombs on the camp killing 14. Another soldier 86687 Harry James Rixon died on the 15th, he is buried at Easthamstead. One other soldier 86398 Pringle Borthwick is buried in Wilton Cemetery, Hawick.

The soldiers killed in the air raid on the 13th October 1915 at Otterpool and are buried in Shorncliffe Military Cemetery  are:

IMG_8547.JPGCharles Boeyckens, a Belgian from Antwerp who enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force. Buried apart from the other soldiers killed, he is buried very close to the Belgium plot in the cemetery in Plot C.123

The others are buried in Plot O numbers O.303-O.313 inclusive. They are:

IMG_853086372 David John Philips. Plot O.303

IMG_853186436 Sydney George Lane who was born in Burgate Hampshire. Plot O.304

IMG_853286503 Ernest William Bayes who hailed from Walthamstow in Essex. Plot O.305.

IMG_853386463 Richard Dyer Simpson. Plot O.306

IMG_853486474 Richard Stewart Truscott. Plot O.307

IMG_853586676 Charles Gordon Peterkin Plot O. 308

IMG_853686658 Wilfred George Harris. Plot O.309.

IMG_853786552 Samuel McKay. Plot O.310.

IMG_853886791 Thomas Dickson. Plot O.311

IMG_853986777 Henry Adrian Horn. Plot O.312. The epitaph reads “Fear not them who can kill the body but are not able to kill the soul.”

IMG_8542400004 Douglas Routledge Johnston. Plot O.313. The epitaph reads “Till the morning breaks and the shadows flee away”.

Sources

Surrey History Forum

Kent History Forum

CommonwealthWar Graves Commission Website

Service Records of Canadian Soldiers WW1

 

So Who was Leslie Swain? Missing the Connection #FWW #WW1

It is now April 2017 we have just commemorated Vimy and the Battle of Arras. Which happened “Over in France”. Soon we will be commemorating the arrival of the Americans, “Over There.” Every 11th November we commemorate the dead, who died, “Over There.” We look at the names on War Memorials. Tell everyone we will remember them, we don’t, the generation that did has gone too. We are losing the connection. Yet the connections to some are still here. We just ignore them. The CWGC did some sterling work on the local connections this year. People visited the CWGC war graves in their local cemeteries. Ignored the ones without the standard CWGC headstone. Nether the less it was a good start. IMG_8311Sgt William  George Upton DCM MM he was in the Machine Gun Corps (Cavalry) when he died and is buried a couple of hundred yards from the  Machine Gun Corps (Cavalry) Memorial. Ignored because he does not have the standard CWGC Headstone. There are plenty of others in Folkestone Old Cemetery ignored for much the same reason. William is just an example. At least these graves are being taken care of by the CWGC, and if his headstone deteriorates, as it will do, it will be replaced with a CWGC stone. Although I think some of the information will be lost. So there is a connection there. The connections we are in danger of losing, and in some cases have lost are the memorials inscribed on other grave stones and personal family memorials.  Memorials such as, IMG_8317 To Captain R.C. Gilchrist. Robert Crooks attached 59th Scinde Rifles.Can not write about them. The temptation to title it  “Peccavi” would be too much.Burmah Police Medal, buried at Beuvry Communal Cemetery.  The memorial is on a family grave in Folkestone Old Cemetery. His father was Brigadier-General R. A. Gilchrist.  Now there is a local connection which like old soldiers is rapidly fading away.

Walking around Folkestone Old Cemetery there are others.IMG_8318This is the grave of James Brice, died in 1915 age 54. Not a Military death, it’s not a war grave. So we do not bother with it. We should, it is a memorial to his son, James George Brice. He died on the Somme in 1918. His memorial on his father’s grave tells us more than a name on an Offical War Memorial ever will. It tells us who he was. The son of James Brice. It tells us he was loved and missed. It tells us how his much he was missed. How he was remembered. It makes James George Brice a person again.IMG_8320Horace William Reader Killed in Action on the 24th May 1915. commemorated on the Menin Gate memorial to the Missing. But he is not “missing”, we do not know where in the salient around Ypres he is buried. We do know he is here in Folkestone remembered on a gravestone on his father’s grave where he lived on in his families hearts. This is where he was remembered. We would rather go on a jolly to Belgium than a walk around our local cemeteries to find out about him though.IMG_8322W.B Thomas. His mum was called “Nellie”. Mum’s called Nellie always sound like nice mums. Don’t think you will find many graves in France with “Had a Nice Mum” on them Here we find out his mum had not long died. He had brothers. It is just not aCWGC grave so goes unrecognised and eventually, all  the connections will fade away and be gone too.

IMG_8324William George Young. Royal Garrison Artillery, buried in Italy. Remembered here on his father’s grave. He was an only son. Part of a family, we know he was remembered. It says so here. Gone and not forgotten by his dad, his mum. His grave will be though and the connection lost.

This grave is a wonderful look at the history here. Keep going down the tombstone you will find Malcolm, “NeverForgotten” commemorated on the Arras memorial. He had a brother killed in South Africa stories that are just not told on the official memorials. Who would connect Rupert Hall on a South African War memorial with Malcolm Hall on a WW1 memorial?  Here is the connection. Here the families memory.IMG_8338

IMG_8342Cecil Hall, commemorated on his Mum’s grave. Outlived his mum which is what all children should do. The tombstone is slowly falling over. One day it will be flat and no one will know who is buried there, or who was remembered.

The next memorial is to a soldier buried in Aden. Aden is not a place currently on the tourist routes. His grave is not easy to visit. Even if there was a link to Charles being buried there. At least here in Folkestone it is possible to visit his memorialIMG_8370 Charles lived at 33 Sydney Street.

There are many more memorials such as the ones above in Folkestone Old Cemetery. Hundreds and thousands scattered throughout out the land and in local cemeteries in other countries. Each memorial is a local connection, slowly fading.

So who was Leslie Swain? he is on his granny’s gravestone here in Folkestone Old Cemetery. IMG_8161

Leslie’s parents lived at 73 Foord Road in Folkestone. He had served for two years in the territorials before moving to Canada. On the 18th October 1915, he attested into the Canadian Expeditionary Force. Leslie served in the 47th Battalion Canadian Infantry. He died sometime between 5th-7th May 1917 and has no known grave. Leslie is commemorated on the Vimy Memorial.  The area has strong links through theShorncliffe Trust to Canada and have just completed a successful trip to Vimy with a large group of Canadians.  These trips and links are important and have to be maintained. Hopefully though,  we will remember that Canadians were not a super race that came from the from the prairies of Canada, they were “Us” they came from here, were remembered here, and we should never forget that again.

Visit your local cemeteries and remember the connections are here.

 

 

Canadian War Graves at Shorncliffe #FWW

Shorncliffe Military Cemetery is a place of pilgrimage. A fascinating place to gather hooks for history to hang onto.  With the focus on Vimy this year it is the Canadian graves that will be getting the most interest.  There is more to Shorncliffe cemetery than Canadians though. There is a memorial to an officer in the Mahratta Light Infantry killed in 1917 as well as numerous other memorials and graves. On a previous a visit I spent some time chatting about Chin Peng and the Chinese War Graves. There is also a South African War Grave, an Old Contemptable, but yesterday was really just about visiting some of the Canadian graves. IMG_8292 This is the gravestone of Cecil Kidd Wilson one of the first to die. Which no doubt seems a strange thing to say about someone killed in April 1918. The 1st April 1918 was the day the RAF was born and the day C K Wilson RAF, died, making him one of the first from the RAF to be killed.

Heading down the hill into the main bit of the cemetery my next stop and where I sit down is May Arnold’s grave. Some people sit by Willie McBride’s grave at Authuille on the Somme. I sit by May’s at Shorncliffe.IMG_8295 May married a Canadian soldier, we shot him at dawn. Not for marrying May, we shot him for desertion. May’s husband was also an American. One of the things about the Canadian Expeditionary Force in the First World War, the men who forged a nation at Vimy is where they came from. A large number were Americans.   Two other graves caught my eye yesterday the first. IMG_8299 Thomas Geddes, from Glasgow in Scotland. Struck off strength on the 5th October 1916. He had died on the 1st October 1916 from appendicitis.

The last grave I stopped at was this oneIMG_8301 The grave of Trooper H J C Prior of Lord Strathcona’s Horse. Difficult to find a more Canadian regiment. Still part of the Canadian Army, now I think it is an armoured regiment. A son following in his father’s footsteps. He died on the 4th August 1918. Harry John Chauvell Prior is a reminder that the Canadians were part of an Imperial Army. He was born in France. His father Major General Prior was in the Madras Staff Corps, Harry had served for eight years in the Ceylon Mounted Rifles. Unfortunately, his service record has not been digitalised a project for the future is to find out if he took part in the cavalry during the Battle of Moreuil Wood in March 1918.

One last grave, I did not stop at,IMG_8304He was Irish. Don’t know much about him. He lived with his wife in Montreal. I just like the epitath “Someday we’ll understand” One day

One day we may know, but I doubt we will ever understand.

Enlisting and Trains “Train Window Death” #FWW #WW1

“Train Window Death” A very recent tragedy. It reminded me of Private 2778 James “Jas” George, 2/6th Seaforth Highlanders death over a hundred years ago. Jas had his head out of the window chatting to friends in another carriage. The train was approaching Grantown-on-Spey when he hit his head on a viaduct. He died shortly afterwards at Ian Charles Hospital in Grantown-on-Spey. Jas was 31 years old with four children. He is buried in Elgin New Cemetery.

Mind you getting a train wasn’t that easy.

Andrew Simpson was killed a few weeks before Jas. He was on his way to enlist and was killed in a railway accident in Bulawayo, Rhodesia. Andrew is not on any memorial that I know of.

Another man who had problems getting to a train was Alexander Cumming.

Alexander was born at Baillieward, Grantown-on-Spey, 11th October 1883. The son of John and Isabella McMillan Cumming of Garth Green, Grantown-on-Spey. He was a student at the Grammar School in Grantown-onSpey. Alexander’s first job was as an apprentice clerk in Lord Elgin’s Estate Office in Dunfermline in Fife. Then he emigrated to Canada. Here he became a rancher in Alberta.  In 1915 Alexander decided to enlist. Easy, walk downtown and sign on the dotted line. Or get a bus or a train to the nearest city. Alexander decided on a train. So he walked. Well, when I say “walked” that was only part of the way to the station. He then boarded a raft. This brought him a bit closer. He still had a way to go. He did what any self-respecting rancher would do. he completed the last part of the 300-mile journey to his nearest railway station by bullock waggon. This was by no means the end of his journey to enlist. That was just to get to the station. Alexander then crossed the Atlantic and made his way to his parents and then on to Elgin. Here he enlisted. His travels were not over. The army sent him to Salonica. Salonica was the end of his journey. Private S/18408 Alexander Cumming died of illness on Christmas day 1916. He is buried in Salonica, at Lambert Road Military Cemetery. He is commemorated on Grantown-on-Spey War Memorial, Grantown-on-Spey’s Grammar School’s War Memorial, and a family gravestone in Cromdale Churchyard.

Jas, Andrew, and Alexander are all included in my book Poppies from the Heart of Strathspey

 

 

A Folkestone (ish) In a Perfect World, would have been a Love Story

An American boy meets an English girl. He is a few years older and he sweeps her off her feet. A few weeks after he arrives in England they marry. It is now for them a perfect world. Nothing else matters they are young and so much in love. Love that they hoped would last for their forever.

It is straight out of an Imperial Romance novel, it captures everything belief,love, and romance. A belief in a just cause, love between two people, the romance of a wartime encounter.

He was an American, 25 years old and lived in Cleveland, Ohio. The “Buckeye State”, The British Empire was now at War with Imperial Germany. The British had gone to the aid of plucky little Belgium. The cause was good, just and right. So he left his home and enlisted in Canada. In many ways he was just what the Empire was looking for. Ex-US Army he had seen service, a trained soldier. The Empire, of which he now was a part, was sending troops as fast as they could to Britain. He was sent to Salisbury plain. possible on leave, or an a day pass, he met his English Rose in London.

She sees in him the romance of America, a real American from the West. All American heroes are from the American West. Sent by the Empire to save her from the Hun. He would save her, the King, and the Empire. Together they would sail away to their new home in the sun. A perfect world in the midst of a tragic one. They married in Hampstead in December 1914.(1)

In a book there would be a moment of tragedy, the hero would get killed performing a deed of unquestioning valour and glory. Death in his moment of triumph. Glory for King, Empire and his young English wife. She would spend her days in black. Weeping for the loss of her forever love. They would be immortalized and remembered for ever.

In this story the hero does indeed go to France, and dies in a hail of bullets. But it is not a perfect story in a perfect world. It is at times dark, evil, and sickening time.  First to name the hero and heroine. He is Freddie, she is May Alexandra, together they are the Arnold’s.

Freddie, did live in Cleveland USA with his mom. He did serve in the US Army. He also did enlist in the 1st Battery of the Artillery Brigade of the Canadian (Overseas) Expeditionary Force, as a Gunner/Bombardier in 1914. Being in the first contingent it is known he was on Salisbury Plain. After their marriage in December 1914 their address was 100 Risborough Road, Bayswater, London. Freddie did die in a hail of bullets in Belgium. He was shot by firing squad in Boulogne.(2)  Possibly the only American citizen executed by the British Army in the First World War. Between February 1915 and January 1916 Freddie had been admitted to hospital on two occasions as being sick, and once for shell shock. The third stay in hospital was from the 2nd January until the 22nd of May. On discharge he was posted to the Marlborough Details Camp. From here he went absent on the 5th June 1916. Possibly on the 7th June, or maybe on the 27th June Arnold was caught in civilian clothes. He had deserted. Freddie would be tried by Field General Courts Martial on the 5th July 1916. There never is a good time for a deserter to be recaptured. In a perfect world he would not have been tried four days after the start of the Somme offensive. That and to be captured and tried by the British. Freddie ad May’s perfect world was now disappearing With over 19,000 dead on the first day the British were not going to show any mercy. Freddie was executed on the 27th July 1916 at Le Portel.

Life was to become even more cruel. This was not a perfect world. Freddie’s Mom received a letter from the Canadian Record Office.

Madam:-

With deep regret, I have the honour to inform you that a report has been received to the effect that the soldier marginally noted was tried by Field-Martial at Boulogne, France, on the 5th of July, 1916, on the charge of “When on active service deserting His Majesty’s Service” and was sentenced by the court to suffer death by being shot”. The sentence was duly carried out at 4:37 a.m. on the 25th July 1916.

I have the honour to be…”

May had moved to Folkestone by this time and lived at 4 Radnor Park Crescent. Why did May moved to Folkestone? No idea. It might have been to be closer to her husband. Perhaps she had plans to try and get to Boulogne. May might have come from Folkestone. She, for whatever reason, had decided that Folkestone was the place to be. After Freddie had been discharged from the Army  May moved again. This time to number 19 Bouverie Road East. It seems life might settle down in Folkestone. The war was still going on it was now ten months since her husband was executed. Grief never truly ends, it get slightly easier with the passing of time. Ten months had gone by it was not a perfect world but…

That but was to arrive on the 25th May 1917. A German Gotha bomber had dropped a bomb on Tontine Street in Folkestone dozens had died. Another Gotha had dropped a bomb on 19 Bouverie Road East May was seriously injured by this bomb. The medically people in Folkestone were overwhelmed by the Tontine Street explosion and couldn’t cope. May was rushed to Moore Barracks Hospital Shorncliffe. It was here that May died.

Opposite the War Memorial in Folkestone on the cliff top there is a little sign on the railings. This is what it says:-

“After WW1, Folkestone wanted to record the names of its dead and details were requested from relatives. Mrs Butcher replied, believing her son had been killed in action. She received a Municipal Certificate of Glory and his name was inscribed on Folkestone’s War Memorial. I fact private Frederic Butcher of the East Kent Regiment  refused to go over the top he was tried by Court Martial. On 27th August 1918 he was shot by a firing squad. Probably his mother never realised how he died. It may not have been unique for a disgraced soldier to be included on a War Memorial but it was very rare. Today those wronged men have now been given a full pardon and their names are now recorded alongside those of their comrades.”

Crossing over to the War Memorial there is Private F Butcher’s name with his comrades. His name has been there since the memorial panel was inscribed in the early 1920s.

Freddie’s name, the wife of May of 4 Radnor Park Crescent and, on her death in 1917, of 19 Bouverie Road East Folkestone, is not there.

May is not commemorated by name in Folkestone either

(Freddie) C/40124 Bombardier Frederick Stanley Arnold, Canadian Field Artillery is buried in Boulogne Eastern Cemetery.(6)

May Alexandra Arnold is buried in Shorncliffe Military Cemetery.

Sitting at May’s graveside today, chatting away, as you do. Gazing at the other graves it was tempting to be sad and tearful. Then I realised May and Frederick had, in a world of terror death and destruction, had had their day in the sun. May had died so young, 21 years old. Just though, a hundred years ago, fleetingly,  they had found their perfect world.

 

Sources.

  1. Free BDM UK web site
  2. Service Record
  3. Details from, For Freedom and Honour, by A.B. Godefroy
  4. Shot at Dawn, by Julian, Putkowski and Julian Sykes
  5. May Alexandra Arnold Gravestone Shorncliffe Military Cemetery
  6. CWGC web site