Thursday, April 28, 2011

The 1st. Battalion And The Battle Of Givenchy 1915

Here I am back at it with my research of the 1st. Battalion.

The Battle of Givenchy was a smaller engagement sandwiched between Festubert in May, and Loos the following September. Originally the attack on June 15th. was to be made by the British 7th. and 51st. Divisions with the Canadian 1st. Division in support. As the plan was developed the Canadians were delegated to take two German strongpoints known as the Duck’s Bill and H3. Supposedly, lessons had been learned at Festubert, and plans were made to address the issues of barbed wire and machine gun nests. Three artillery pieces were secretly moved, and camouflaged, closer to the front line to eliminate machine gun nests. A tunnel dug under the German trenches was packed with explosives in the hope that it would eliminate a large section of the German front line trenches. Lastly an artillery bombardment using high explosive shells was intended to destroy barbed wire.

The Duck's Bill crater in 1919, Library and Archives Canada.
The four companies of the 1st. Battalion were to lead the attack. Two weeks prior their Ross rifles were replaced by Lee-Enfields. By mid afternoon of  July 15th. the Battalion was in place.

Pte. Maurice Henry Brown wrote to his friend Art Wheatley of London on June 19th. (1)

“London may be well proud of her sons; they did everything that could be done in this struggle.

Our beloved Col. Becher (2) lost his life leading them. No one was loved so well as he, but this war seems to be taking our best men.
We knew an attack was to be made, and the 1st. Battalion was honoured with the job. We marched into the trenches at 2 o’clock in the afternoon, and waited till 6. Four four days a terrible bombardment of the enemy’s trenches had taken place. At 5:30 a fierce concentration fire from our guns was turned on them. At one minute to 6 we blew a mine up. This was a signal for the attack. The mine was too near to our trench, and its violence shook our trench all to pieces, killing a number of our men, and the earth which it threw up, coming down, smashed some of our men’s heads beyond recognition. Being a signaller I was kept in the trench.(3)

Well, the boys from Chatham, I believe, started the attack, followed quickly by the London boys. The din was terrific, the struggle terrible. We dared not put our heads over the parapet to see our boys advancing, but it was a brilliant sight. Nearly everybody over at the same time. They soon had the first line cleared of Germans, and then off to the second line, and they had just about reached them when I got mine.

A big shell struck the trench above us. Four were killed and four of us completely buried by six to eight feet of earth. I continued shouting to let them know where I was, but soon went off for lack of fresh air. The next thing I know they had dug me out. I didn’t know what had happened, but my memory returned after a while. I had given myself to my Maker. I did not expect to see any more of this world, but God in His providence had heard your prayers.

I am now in hospital again, just two weeks after my return to the regiment. It was the worst experience I ever had.”

The problem was that two important positions were not taken by the British so that German machine guns were able to play havoc with the attacking Canadians while a counter attack was organized. It was during the German counter attack that Lieutenant Frederick William Campbell earned his posthumous Victoria Cross.

Casulties during the Great War are never exact. According to Sir Max Aitkens Givenchy cost the 1st. Battalion somewhere around 366 killed, wounded, and missing. (4) Included in this total were twenty out of twenty three officers. I suspect that that figure is low. I did a count from the Ministry of Militia's "Official List Of Casulties" from June 13th. to June 30. (5) The organization of these lists is confusing as to dates - so the hell with it - I counted the last two weeks of June to see how it squares with other figures that I have seen.

The breakdown is a follows:
Killed in action and Died of Wounds  107
Wounded 461
Suffering from Shock 32
Ill 8
Gas 1
Missing 5

If the Battalion was at full strength before June 15th. (which is unlikely) that is a casulty rate of well over 50%. Since the Battalion went into a rest area after the 17th. the majority of the casulties would have occured on June 15th. and 16th.

(1) “The London Free Press”, July 6, 1915.

Canadian Virtual War Memorial
Major Henry Campbell Becher (Jan. 20, 1874-June 15, 1915) was a member of a prominent London family. His father Henry Becher had been mayor of London for one term. At the start of the war he was Lt. Colonel of the 7th. Fusiliers which was London's militia infantry regiment. He was second in command of the 1st. Battalion.

Library and Archives Canada
(3) The British engineers found that water encountered under no man’s land prevented them from tunnelling under their objective. So they got the brilliant idea that increasing the charge would do the job. It resulted in killing some of the Battalion, and exploding the bomb reserves in the Canadian front line. Resulting in a shortage of grenades.

(4) Sir Max Aitkens, "Canada In Flanders: The Story Of The Canadian Expeditionary Force", vol. 1, 1916.
(5) Ministry of Militia, " Official List of Casulties to Members of the Canadian Expeditionary Force: compiled to June 30, 1915". Ottawa, 1915.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Civil War Veterans Buried In London, Ontario

There was a beginning made in 2006 in listing civil war veterans buried in London for a Civil War Rededication Service in 2006. I have included some names that were partially researched at that time. I have done some checking into these veterans; but by no means an exhaustive research. I will leave that up to those who are interested in carrying it further.

Woodland Cemetery

Frederick Mathias Alberstadt. He was a private in Company B, Missouri Cavalry. He can be found in the 1901 Canada Census where he gives his immigration year as 1879.

George W. Duncan. He was a sergeant in the 107th. USCT.

Frederick John Fitzgerald. He was a Corporal in the 19th. US Infantry. His enlistment papers gives his date of birth as c.1846 in Kingston, Ontario.

George McLean. He was a Private in the 4th. Missouri Infantry.

Henry Peters. He was a Private in the 1st. New York Marine Artillery. The 1901 Canada Census puts his birth as 6 October, 1838 in England. He died in London Jan. 28, 1914.

George Washinton Pitt. There is quite a bit available on this man as he was a prominent jeweller in the city. He was born on 19 April, 1836 in Granger, New York, or 20 April, 1835 depending on the source. He died on 28 April, 1921 in London. The 1911 Canada Census gives his immigration year as 1875. His obituary in “The London Advertiser” mentions that he fell to his death from a third story window at Victoria Hospital. The paper speculates a bit on the possibility of suicide. Medical authorities deny it. But Hey this is small town Ontario !

Manser John Thorpe. He was Quartermaster Sergeant in the 16th. New York Calvary.

Mount Pleasant Cemetery

Charles J. Ashton. He was a Private in the 78th. Indiana Infantry. He was born December, 1827 in England and died 7 March, 1915 in London.

James Bailey. He was a Sergeant in the 21st. New York Infantry. He died in London 9 October, 1911.

James M. Charles. He was a Private in the 8th. Pennsylvania USCT. He died in London 5 November, 1908.

Charles Cox. He was a Private in the 1st. New York Engineers. He died in London 7 May, 1929.

Oliver Fountain. He was a Sergeant in the 12th. USCT. He died in London 11 April, 1897.

William James Laskey. He was in the 45th. Wisconsin Infantry. He died in London 17 August, 1934. He was the last Civil War Veteran to be buried in London.

Thomas Mills. He was a Private in the 5th. Michigan Infantry. He died in London 27 June, 1903.

William Peel. He was a Private in the 97th. Pennsylvania Infantry. He died in London 13 February, 1927.

Martin V. B. Stearns. He was a Private in the 13th. Illinois Infantry. He died in London 2 December, 1908.

St. Peters Cemetery

James H. Flood. He was a Private in the 185th. New York Volunteer Infantry. He died in London in 1890.

William Reeves. He was a Private in the 24th. Michigan Infantry. He was born 14 August, 1845 in Greensville, Ontario and died in London 17 August, 1929.

St. Anne’s Anglican Cemetery

William Caldwell. He was a Private in the 4th. US Infantry. He died in London in 1931. Apparently he also went under the alias Ira Kelbourne.

1871, 1881, 1891, 1901, 1911 Canada Census
Ontario, Canada, Deaths, 1869-1936 and Deaths Overseas,1839-1917, Ontario Archives, MS 935_125
New York's Town Clerk's Registers of Men who Served in the Civil War, ca. 1861-65.
"The London Free Press"
"The London Advertiser"

Sunday, April 17, 2011

London And The Civil War

The American Civil War had a huge impact on the city of London, and Southwestern Ontario. It added a huge boost to the economy of the area. The increase in the size of the British garrison funnelled yet more money into the local economy, and forced politicians and civil leaders to look at the state of their local militias.

What often goes missing is the number of local men who fought on both the Confederate(1), and Northern sides in the conflict. Surprising, as I would have thought that genealogists, and historians, would have been hot on their trail. As this is the 150th. Anniversary of the Civil War I will try to outline some of the sources, and a few of the individuals who were veterans.

London had a branch of the Ontario chapter of the Grand Army Of The Republic which lasted from October of 1891 to December 15th., 1911. What documents survived are in the J. J. Tallman Collection at the University of Western Ontario.

Another source is the local newspapers - “The London Advertiser”, and “The London Free Press”. Lastly, and not the least are the local cemeteries. Except for the newest cemeteries, it would be fair to say that every cemetery had at least one burial of a Civil War veteran. When you take into account the region, Civil War veteran burials might well number in the hundreds.

In the City of St. Thomas one veteran Octavius Wallace (1837-5 May, 1862), killed at the battle of Williamsburg, was transported back to St. Thomas. His grave was registered with the Sons of Union Veterans, and is decorated every year with a small American flag.

(1) Very difficult to find those who fought in the Confederate army. Apparently there was a Confederate recruiting office in the city of London . Whether or not this was fact or rumour needs to be ascertained. There were deserters from the Confederate army living in London at this time; but as to whether they remained or went back to their homes after the war is not easy to find out.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Canadian Women March

By September 1918 it appears that Canadian women had begun to suspect that young soldiers were not going on leave to England to improve their minds. More than likely they would be found on English beaches.
"The London Advertiser", September 4, 1918.

Well - the floozy !

“The London Advertiser” on September 21, 1918 reported on a march in Toronto.


                      AGAINST ‘FLOODING THE DOMINION

                        WITH BLUSHING ENGLISH BRIDES

 Prominent Toronto women feel keenly on the question of Canadian soldiers marrying overseas. In their opinion it is a vital problem and one which should be dealt with by our Government at once.

‘It is the most unfair to our Canadian girls,’ said Mrs. E. A. Stevens, president of the Provincial Women’s Christian Union, and the matter is one which the women should bring to the attention of our good government league, and thus draw it forcibly to the attention of the Canadian Government, whose duty it is to look after the young womanhood of this Dominion.’

‘As a result of the fact that the British Government is playing the role of a match-making mamma and has clubs and organizations for the purpose of encouraging matrimony among the colonials, the success of their scheme is apparent in the statement attributed to Sir Edward Kemp (1) that ‘Canadian soldiers overseas are marrying English girls at the rate of one thousand a month.’

                              Thousands of English Brides

‘This means after the war that Canada is to be flooded with thousands of blushing English brides, while the Canadian women will be forced to work in the offices, shops and factories for the remainder of their lives.

The women of Canada have made their sacrifices without a murmur in letting their young men go overseas. Many of them will never come back, and it is my opinion that those who are left should be encouraged to marry the girls at home.

Now that the tide has turned in favour of the Allies and the Americans are pouring into the field of battle, I feel that the question of giving our young men who have seen service since the beginning of the war an opportunity to return to Canada on a short furlough.’ ”

Well now isn’t that interesting. If Canadian soldiers were marrying at the rate of one thousand a month it should not take more than ( roughly 300,000 active at any one time, and I think that this is a generous figure, divided by 12,000) 25 months to marry off the whole Canadian Corps ( many are already married, and two wives are a no no in Victorian Edwardian Canada). So probably the whole job could be done sooner than 25 months.

In fact War Brides were much more a World War Two phenomena than with the First. The Great War Canadian soldier spend most of the war years in Belgium or France. Leave was not easy to get for the ranks. Certainly it happened. “It appears ’wounded, Blighty, marriage’ is becoming a popular pastime with our fellows,” wrote Private Donald Fraser in his diary.(2)

(1) Sir Edward Kemp (August 11, 1858-August 12, 1929) succeeded Sir Sam Hughes as Minister of Militia and Defence in 1916. In 1917 he went to London as Minister of the Overseas Military Forces of Canada.
(2) Tim Cook, “Shock Troops: Canadians Fighting The Great War, 1917-1918”, vol. 2, Viking Canada, 2008, p. 174.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

March Keywords

It’s time to look at key words again. As I have mentioned before, I follow very closely the key words that land people onto my blog. As much as possible, I try to tie blog entries to what people are looking for. Even so sometimes I truly wonder what it is that triggers Google to send them to this blog.

How many veterans in Ontario
Interesting question. Are they asking how many there were or how many are left? I see various numbers out there. Across Canada the accepted figures seem to be over 600,000 men and women for World War One, and around 1.1 million men and women for World War Two. I am not sure what the numbers are for the Boer War, Korean War, or various peace keeping missions. For Southwestern Ontario somewhere around 75,000 for the First World War, and probably triple that for the Second World War.

Ojibwa boots they were
What ? I assume that Google zeroed in on the name of the submarine.
мемель фото 1944-1945

No idea.

Arthur sippi London Ontario
The Sippi’s were a fairly prominent family in London, Ontario, in the late 19th. century. The only Arthur Sippi that I am aware of was a professional baseball player. Attestation papers list Lt. William Griffin Sippi.
Library and Archives Canada.
Southwestern Ontario trench mortars

Actually we save them for elections. They help keep politicians away.

Photos of men of London who served in ww1
There are a few in the blog, and I will be adding more as I get them. So far I have around 200 saved on disk which I have scrounged from various sources. Not all are Londoners, many are from the region. It’s a thing with me to try and put a face to these men and women where possible.