St. Matthew’s War Memorial Project – lest we forget
The names of 48 men from St. Matthew’s Anglican Church in the Glebe who were killed in action in the first and second world wars are poignantly displayed on special wall plaques in the church. Sixteen of these men were killed in the First World War. Sadly, as the years have passed, their personal stories have faded from memory. The goal of a recently completed four-year church project has been to rectify this. Since 2013, the stories behind each of these 48 soldiers, airmen or sailors have been researched and documented. We began delivering these stories to the St. Matthew’s congregation on the Sunday before Remembrance Day every November since 2014. Here is the first of the stories.
ROBERT HENRY RALPH
Robert Henry Ralph was born in Ottawa on March 6, 1888, son of flour merchant Joseph and his wife, Isabella Ralph. The second youngest of 6 children, the family lived at 235 Holmwood Avenue, facing the western end of Brown’s Inlet.In 1913/14, Robert initially served for a year in the 43rd Regiment, Duke of Cornwall’s Own Rifles out of the Cartier drill hall on Elgin Street. By 1915, he was a book binder by trade, living at 201 Rideau Street and dating Annie Gillam. The following year, on May 24, 1916, Robert and Annie were married at St. Matthew’s Church and set up their home at 223 Paterson Ave, just a mere 200 meters away.
With World War 1 now well underway, and Allied casualties mounting, just twelve days after their wedding, on June 5, 1916, Robert enlisted in the Canadian Field Artillery and was assigned to the Canadian Garrison Artillery, 1st Siege Battery. Gunner Robert Ralph (#343827) was one of 216 soldiers of the newly re-named No. 1 Canadian Siege Artillery. Following 7 months of training, his unit departed for England in January 1917, leaving behind his newly married wife, Annie.
No. 1 Canadian Siege Artillery was soon deployed to the Western Front and took part in the Battle of Vimy Ridge in April 1917, in support of the troops of the 1st Canadian Division, his unit firing three hundred pound shells from their 9.2 inch heavy British howitzer guns. Artillery was a vital element of all battle planning of the war and quickly became the most feared aspect of life in the trenches, on both sides of the wire. At the same time, serving in any artillery unit was a most difficult and dangerous assignment as they were themselves a highly valued target of enemy shelling. It is estimated that nearly three quarters of all casualties in World War 1 was caused by artillery fire.
And yet, despite all of this, Gunner Robert Ralph survived the next 20 months to see out the end of the war and the signing of the Armistice on November 11, 1918 bringing all hostilities to a close. Unfortunately, it was also at this time in the second half of 1918, that the influenza pandemic was spreading like wildfire through allied troops on the western front, as well as populations the world over. The most terrible disease ever, it resulted in a minimum of 50 million deaths worldwide. Pneumonia affected more than 4,700 Canadian soldiers, resulting in 1,261 deaths.
In December 1918, still in Belgium and prior to his unit returning home to Canada, Gunner Robert Ralph was infected by this influenza and was taken to the nearby No. 51 Casualty Clearing Station at Tournai Hainaut, a town which had remained under German occupation for the entire war, liberated just 3 days before the Armistice on November 8, 1918. Anti-biotics had yet to be developed, meaning an infection of this nature was always a significant danger to one’s health.
On December 13, 1918, just 32 days after the end of the war, Gunner Robert Ralph, # 343827, after surviving all of those major battles of 1917/18, succumbed to a deadly combination of influenza and broncho-pneumonia and passed away. Fifteen other Canadian soldiers also died the same day from either pneumonia or wounds suffered earlier in the war, this rate of daily death amongst Canadian troops continuing for many weeks after the war.
Remembered at St. Matthew’s, thirty years young, Gunner Robert Ralph, 1st Siege Battery, Canadian Garrison Artillery, was buried at Tournay Communal Cemetery, Allied Extension, in Belgium, along with 688 other Commonwealth soldiers. Robert Ralph was the last of the sixteen soldiers from St. Matthew’s to perish in World War 1, never again seeing his wife Annie. Of interest, his older sister Florence, born in 1884, lived until 1995, passing away at age 111. He rests in Belgium and is remembered at St. Matthew’s Church.
GEORGE S. SELLEY
George Selley was born January 6, 1882 in Devonshire, England where he was raised. A gardener by trade, he married Lavinia and in 1907 celebrated the birth of daughter Doris, in Sidmouth, Devon, living at #6 Hill Side Terrace. The family emigrated to Canada on May 15, 1912 and eventually had two more children – Aileen and Cyril. They lived in Ottawa at 189 McGillivary Street in Old Ottawa South, just off the Rideau Canal.
Less than a year later, on April 3, 1916, George Selley enlisted in the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force (# 246104), and was assigned to the newly formed 207th Infantry Battalion, known as the Ottawa Carleton Battalion. They trained at both Rockcliffe and in Amherst, Nova Scotia until they deployed to England with a total strength of 679 soldiers, sailing from Halifax on June 2, 1917 on the SS Olympic (sister ship to the ill-fated Titanic). The 207th Battalion was used to reinforce the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, 2nd Battalion, Eastern Ontario Regiment. Private Selley and his unit were deployed to France on November 11, 1917 and entered the trenches 10 days later on November 21, 1917.
On the home front, Lavinia, with the 3 children, moved to the Glebe in 1918, living at 417 Catherine Street. Private Selley served with the ‘Princess Pats’, one of Canada’s most famous fighting units and having seen action in all the most famous battles to that point including both Vimy and Passchendaele, for the next 10 months.
By late summer of 1918, the Allies were desperate to break the stalemate of trench warfare of World War 1 which was now entering its fifth year. “The Hundred Days Offensive” began on August 8, 1918, and was designed to bring the war to a close with the Patricias’ heavily involved in this battle plan. Beginning with the Battle of Amiens, the Allies achieved a series of strategic victories which finally brought the fighting to a close on November 11, 1918 with the signing of The Armistice. Halfway through this Offensive, the Canadian Corps, under the leadership of Lt. General Arthur Currie, found itself charged with the responsibility of capturing the heavily defended commune of Cambrai. To achieve this meant overcoming German defenses throughout a series of manmade canals in this area, further compounding the challenges faced by the Canadians. The Battle of Canal du Nord was part of this campaign to liberate Cambrai, lasting from September 27 to October 1.
At 05:20 am on September 27, all four Divisions of the Canadian Corps attacked under total darkness, capturing areas defended by 1st Prussian Guards Reserve Division as well as the 3rd German Naval Division. Most objectives were captured that day and eventually the key objective of securing Bourlon Wood was taken by the Canadians. The road to Cambrai was opened, the famed German Hindenburg line was pierced, and 36,000 prisoners were captured. The Princess Pats were held back from the initial assault, but moved forward that same afternoon, crossing the canals on the wooden bridges built and installed by the Canadian engineers for the battle. At 6pm, and under the cover of growing darkness, The Pats moved forward to capture Tilloy Hill and village, just outside Cambrai. While resulting in yet another victory, casualties on both sides were heavy with overall allied losses tallied at 30,000 troops.
In an attack on Tilloy Hill as part of the Battle of the Canal du Nord, on September 28, 1918, just 54 days prior to the signing of the Armistice, Private George Selley of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI) was killed in action, witnessed by his comrade in arms, Private Discombe also originally from Sidmouth, Devon.
Private George S. Selley is remembered by the Town of Sidmouth WW1 Memorial Monument, in Devonshire, England, He is also remembered by the PPCLI “Patricia’s Roll of Honour” as well as at St. Matthew’s. Unfortunately, George’s wife Lavinia passed away in 1924 at age 41, with his 3 children taken in by their uncle. Happily, George’s oldest daughter Doris, in 1928 at age 21, graduated in Nursing from the University of Toronto.
Private George Seely was buried in the Mill Switch British Cemetery, alongside 106 other fellow Canadian soldiers from the Battle of Canal du Nord, where he rests today.
RAYMOND WILLIAM NICHOLS
Raymond Nichols was born January 16, 1885 in Wantage, England, the youngest son of Henry and Mary Nichols. A scholar by nature, he completed a seven-year science program at City of Dublin Technical School, whereupon on February 2, 1901, he was hired as a lab research assistant at age 16 at the famed St. James Gate Guinness Brewery, focusing on the study of barley and cereals. Promoted to the Scientific Department, he stayed with Guinness until 1911, joining the Irish Department of Agriculture in related research in cereals. Searching for a new life, he emigrated to Canada in 1912, and after taking specialized courses in Chicago, joined The Government of Canada at Ottawa’s Central Experimental Farm. Living on campus and furthering his research in flour and cereals, Raymond was clearly pursuing his passion in chemistry now on this side of the Atlantic, working directly with the head of the research program, known as the Dominion Cerealist.
Possibly due to the heavy casualties mounting on the Western Front as a result of the Second Battle of Ypres, just seven months following the outbreak of war in Europe, Raymond enlisted on April 28, 1915 with the 10th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment. He earned the rank of Captain and was shipped overseas in May 1916, now with the 80th Battalion, which was absorbed into the 51st Battalion. In June 2016, an officer now with the famed Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry which had originally formed in Ottawa at Lansdowne Park in August 1914, he was assigned to the front in northern France, part of the Canadian Fourth Division.
By the beginning of October, 1916, the ‘Patricias’ were heavily involved in the notorious five month long Battle of the Somme, with Captain Nichols’ unit fighting as part of this at the Battle of Ancre Heights. On October 20, Captain Nichols and his Battalion successfully captured the Regina Trench, with Raymond being the most senior officer to survive this battle. The Canadians had earned a reputation as a fierce fighting force. British Prime Minister Lloyd George stated, “Canadians played a part of such distinction that thenceforward they were marked out as ‘shock troops’ “, a term still in use today. As was the custom with troops being relieved after approximately a week of heavy fighting, they were about to be relived from duty from the Battle of Ancre Heights. Captain Nichols and a fellow officer were walking down a communications trench when an anti-personnel artillery shell exploded above them, spraying deadly shrapnel in all directions. Captain Raymond Nichols, 31 years young, was killed instantly and his body was never found. And in the mysteries of war, his fellow officer alongside him was unhurt.
Along with 11,284 other Canadians, Captain Raymond William Nichols’ name is inscribed on the walls of Canada’s Vimy War Memorial (entry #7630), dedicated to the memory of those soldiers killed in this Great War, but whose bodies were never found. As his Mother had already passed away, the medals of Captain Nichols were sent to his nephew Henry Nichols, in Oxford, England. But Captain Raymond Nichols was not yet finished. The research in wheat flour that he had undertaken at the Central Experimental Farm proved valuable and continued long after the conclusion of World War 1. His colleagues, under the direction of the Dominion Cerealist, continued his investigations. In 1921, five years after his passing, the scientific paper, “Researches in Wheat Flour and Bread” was published by The Government of Canada.
One of the contributing authors of this empirical paper, published accordingly, was Raymond William Nichols of Ottawa. Raymond William Nichols is remembered on both sides of the Atlantic by memorial plaques at St. Matthias Church in Dublin as well as at the Royal Society of Chemistry in London. In Ottawa, he is remembered at Doric Lodge 58 and at St. Matthew’s.
His name is permanently engraved on the walls of Canada’s National War Memorial at Vimy Ridge.
Horace Hunt was born March 10, 1897, son of Charles and Martha Anne Hunt, with the family residing at 326 Flora Street with six children in total. Young Horace was active at St. Matthew’s, and on June 28, 1909 at Britannia, he won prizes for both the 600 yard and one mile races at the Church spring picnic.
At 15 years of age, Horace Hunt (#7831) joined local militia units from 1912 onwards. By 1914, he was living with his brother in Woodroffe and working as a plasterer when war broke out. Like many of his friends, this caused him to enlist on September 22, 1914, just weeks after war was declared, at age 17. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, C Company, Eastern Ontario Regiment, Governor General’s Foot Guards, Canadian Infantry as a Bugler and was shipped to England just 11 days later on October 3, 1914, one of the very first Canadian units to depart overseas. Horace seemed happy and wrote to his mother in early April 1915 cheerfully stating that, he “had been complimented by his officer for winning distinction in company regimental sports”.
That same month, the First Canadian Division and his unit was deployed on the Western Front in Northwestern France and became embroiled in the Battle of St. Julien, part of the Second Battle of Ypres on April 24, 1915. It was on that day when German forces attacked the Canadians in an attempt to obliterate the salient which was stubbornly occupied by the Canadians, once and for all. Violent artillery bombardments were followed by one of the first documented uses of deadly mustard gas with the target being the Canadian line. Intense combat followed this barrage with the Canadians able to hold their positions until reinforcements finally arrived.
In their first appearance on a European battlefield, Canadian troops had established a reputation as a formidable fighting force., but at a most terrible price. In just two horrific days of battle, 6,035 Canadians - one in every three soldiers - were lost from Canada's force of hastily trained civilians who had arrived just months earlier on the Western Front. And one of these casualties was young Horace Hunt.
In a letter from his fellow Bugler, G. Cassidy to Horace’s mother, he wrote the following: “The Germans had been shelling us all day. Bugler Hunt had been missing…they found him with a bullet through his forehead and one through his chest…they found 6 or 7 dead Germans around him. We don’t know if he killed them, but if he did, he sold his life dearly. We buried him and Serg Aballard of Brockville in the same grave.” Later, when the Canadians returned to recover their bodies, and as became common throughout the war, their corpses were never found, possibly due to subsequent artillery fire. The Battle of Ypres is permanently remembered by the people of Belgium at the Memorial at the Menin Gate, in Ypres. On the walls of this unique Memorial are inscribed the names of 54,839 allied servicemen who were killed in this deadly Battle of Ypres and whose bodies were never found. The name of Bugler Horace Hunt, 2nd Battalion is posted on these marble walls in perpetuity. To this day, at 8pm every evening since 1928, the citizens of Ypres remember these souls, and perform “The Last Post” ceremony, with Canadian supplied silver bugles.
Built by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, at the upper arch are engraved the following words: “To the armies of the British Empire who stood here from 1914 to 1918 and to those of their dead who have no known grave.” And below that is the following where the actual names are located: “Here are recorded names of officers and men who fell in Ypres Salient but to whom the fortune of war denied the known and honoured, burial, given to their comrades in death.” The name of Bugler and Private Horace Hunt, 2nd Battalion, Canadian Infantry, is so recorded.
Less than a year after his death, his father Charles, age 48, enlisted and served in the 77th and 224 Forestry Battalions. Following the war, he became the drum major for the Governor General’s Foot Guards in honour of his 18 yearold son Horace. Bugler Horace Hunt turned out to be not only one of the first from St. Matthew’s to be killed in action in World War 1, but also proved to be the youngest of all 48 men from the congregation killed in both wars. Private Horace Hunt is remembered in Ypres and at St. Matthew’s.
FREDERICK ARTHUR THOMAS SIEVERS, MM
Frederick Thomas Arthur Sievers was born September 1, 1877 in Essex, England to his German father Ernest and English mother Harriet. By 1891, the family had emigrated to Canada, living at 179 Fifth Avenue, near Muchmor school. Known more by his middle name Arthur, he was one of eight children born between 1880-1900 (2 older brothers and 5 younger siblings). His father was a lithographic, trained in making books while Arthur eventually became an electrician. In 1914, Arthur volunteered and served in the 13th Infantry Battalion, Quebec Regiment based at Valcartier. This was a prelude to him enlisting the following year. Working in Port Arthur (now Thunder Bay), Ontario, he joined up with the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force on July 2, 1915 with the 52nd (New Ontario) Battalion (# 439477). The 52nd trained in Port Arthur through to early November when they were mobilized for deployment to England. En route by train to Saint John, the Battalion disembarked in Ottawa on November 6, where they were inspected on Parliament Hill by the Governor General, the Duke of Connaught. The Battalion continued on with its journey to Saint John, New Brunswick, finally leaving Canada on November 22 on the SS California, bound for Plymouth
The 52nd finally arrived in England on December 3, 1915 for six weeks of training at Camp Witley, and was then deployed to Flanders region in Northwestern France on February 21, 1916 where it joined the 9th Brigade of the Third Canadian Division. The 52nd Battalion entered forward areas on March 1, 1916 near Lochre, where they underwent additional training with the Princess Patricia’s Light Infantry for a week. Finally, on March 10, in the Kemmel area in Flanders, southern Belgium.
Over the next 2.5 years, the 52nd is involved in all the major battles involving Canadian forces, including the Battle of the Somme, Vimy Ridge, Ypres, Passchendaele, Hindenberg Line and, eventually, the Battle of the Scarpe.
This latter battle was a key event during the “The Hundred Days Offensive” which began on August 8, 1918. Designed to bring World War One to a close after four long and weary years of fighting, the Canadian Corps were heavily involved in this battle plan. The Battle of the Scarpe was a 5 day battle in Northern France from August 26-30, involving both the 2nd and 3rd Canadian Divisions, including the 52nd Battalion. Although an allied victory which resulted in the capture of 3,300 German prisoners of war, the Canadians, under the command of Lt. General Arthur Currie, incurred almost 6,000 casualties, another horrific price paid as was the case in so many of these battles from 1915 onwards.
On a bright and warm morning after a night of heavy rains, at 11:00 hrs on August 28, the 52nd was one of four battalions of the 9th Brigade ordered to attack on a one thousand meter front and pierce heavily fortified German defenses near Boiry Notre Dame, east of Arras, supported by the Canadian 3rd Division artillery. It was during this action whereby the Canadians seized an important portion of the German Fresnes-Rouvroy defence system and advanced more than 8 kilometers between Boiry and the Cojeul River. Heavy fighting took place and it is surmised that during this morning battle that Private Arthur Sievers, 4 days prior to his 41st birthday, went missing in action. His body was never found.
The ‘Military Medal, with Bar’ is one of the highest decorations awarded to Canadian servicemen, on the recommendation of a commander in chief in the field, to those who display “individual or associated acts of bravery or devotion under fire.” In the 52nd Battalion in World War 1, only 21 of these ‘Military Medal with Bar’ were awarded, one of these to Private Arthur Sievers. In total, only 848 ‘Military Medals with Bar’ were awarded in total to Canadians in all of World War 1.
The memory of Private Arthur Sievers, along with 11,284 other Canadians whose bodies were never found during the Great War, is commemorated on the walls of Canada’s Vimy War Memorial in Pas de Calais, France. In recognition of his bravery and devotion under fire, it is why his name is inscribed with the initials ‘MM’ to acknowledge his accomplishments on the field of battle.
Exactly 100 years after his death, the oldest member of “The 48” is remembered at St. Matthew’s Anglican Church in the Glebe.
WALTER FREDERICK DICKS
Walter Frederick Dicks was born February 2, 1884 to Walser Dicks and Caroline Beach. His father was a City of Ottawa Policeman and he had four brothers and sisters, although family tragedy struck when they lost 5 year old Esther, just 10 months after Walter was born as well as his baby brother Gordon in 1894, at just 3 months of age and then brother Silas at 6 years of age in 1896. In the era prior to antibiotics, many illnesses incurred by children could prove fatal.
With the family living at 494 Somerset Street, Walter attended Kent Street Public School and St. Matthew’s. In 1910, he trained as a bricklayer, following in the footsteps of his grandfather, and moved to Winnipeg, becoming a member of the Bricklayers and Plasterers Union of Winnipeg. He returned to Ottawa in 1915 to rejoin his family and almost immediately enlisted (#457179) in Montreal on June 9, 1915 at age 31. He was assigned to the 60th Battalion and after a short training period, was shipped to England on November 6, 1915, arriving in the UK ten days later for further training. His unit was eventually deployed to the Western Front in France on February 20, 1916 suffering through the Battle of the Somme for much of that year.
The following spring, Private Walter Dicks was transferred to the 5th Canadian Mounted Rifles, Quebec Regiment, on April 23, 1917, attached to the 8th Canadian Infantry Brigade, Third Division, immediately after the Battle at Vimy Ridge, likely to make up troop strength for losses incurred. His unit was then involved in the Battles of Hill 70, Ypres and Passchendaele. At some point, he was also promoted to Lance Corporal. It was also in 1917 that he learned of his father’s death in Ottawa, at age 63.
By late summer of 1918, the Allies were desperate to break the stalemate of trench warfare of World War 1 which was now entering its fifth year. “The Hundred Days Offensive” began on August 8, 1918, and was designed to bring the war to a close with the Canadian Corps heavily involved in this battle plan. Beginning with the Battle of Amiens, the Allies achieved a series of strategic victories which finally brought the fighting to a close on November 11, 1918 with the signing of The Armistice. Halfway through this Offensive, the Canadian Corps, under the leadership of Lt. General Arthur Currie, found itself charged with the responsibility of capturing the heavily defended commune of Cambrai. To achieve this meant overcoming German defenses throughout a series of manmade canals in this area, further compounding the challenges faced by the Canadians. The Battle of Canal du Nord was part of this campaign to liberate Cambrai, lasting from September 27 to October 1. While resulting in a victory, casualties on both sides were heavy with allied losses tallied at 30,000. The village of Bourlon Wood was retaken by the Canadian Third & Fourth Divisions on September 27th, 1918, with the Canadian Corps now focusing on the City of Cambrai as its next strategic objective. The capture of Cambrai proved most challenging over the next ten days with constant fighting and German counter attacks.
On the night of October 4, 1918, Lance Coporal Dicks and his 5th Canadian Mounted Rifles were stationed in the Village of Bourlon when a German air raid took place. It was during this bombardment that Private Walter Dicks, # 457179, 34 years young, was killed instantly by an enemy aerial bomb. Lance Corporal Walter Frederick Dicks is buried at the British War Cemetery at Bourlon Wood, along with 250 other servicemen, in the Pas de Calais region in France, where he rests today. He is also remembered on the family headstone at Ottawa’s Beechwood Cemetery. Like so many families who were grief stricken with the loss of their son during this war, along with his parents and two sisters who both died before 31 years of age, Walter Frederick Dicks is remembered. By 1921, the original family of 7 had all passed on with the death of Caroline.
Lance Corporal Walter Frederick Dicks is remembered today at St. Matthew’s Anglican Church in the Glebe.
THOMAS GEORGE KING
Thomas George King was born March 17, 1887 in London, England and emigrated to Canada, becoming a farmer in Kenmore, Ontario. He met and married Sarah whereupon they became parents to three daughters and a son.
Upon the outbreak of World War 1, he eventually enlisted (#145542) with the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force on November 25, 1915 in Ottawa. Likely as a result of this enlistment and prior to joining up, the family relocated to Ottawa to 10 Adelaide Street in the Glebe, just north of Lansdowne Park. In 1916, the family relocated again to 276 Bank Street.
With two summers of earlier military experience with the 56th Grenville Regiment Lisgar Rifles, Thomas was assigned to the 77th Battalion for training, shipping out to England on June 19, 1916. He was posted to the 87th Battalion, known as the Grenadier Guards, on July 7, 1916, which arrived on the Western Front on August 11, 1916, part of the 11th Brigade, Fourth Canadian Division, during the Battle of the Somme.
In preparation for the Battle of Vimy Ridge, on April 9, 1917 just three days before the start of this conflict, Private King was wounded in action, taking a rifle bullet in his forearm. He recovered and eventually returned to the trenches. In November 1917, like thousands of other soldiers, he suffered with trench fever (a lice born disease which takes a week to pass), returned again to the trenches and continued fighting throughout 1918. The Allies were desperate to break the stalemate of trench warfare of World War 1 which was now entering its fifth year. “The Hundred Days Offensive” began on August 8, 1918, and was designed to bring the war to a close. The ‘Second Battle of Arras’, August 26 – September 3, 1918 was a key event during the “The Hundred Days Offensive”, and within this conflict was the Battle of Drocourt-Queant Line, on September 2-3 involving the Canadian Fourth Division, including the 87th Battalion. This fortification of German trenches, bunkers, machine gun nests and barbed wire situated between these two French towns of Drocourt and Queant, part of the feared Hindenburg Line.
At 05:00 hrs on September 2, 1918, the Canadian Corps attacked this area, supported by both tanks and aircraft. In a ferocious battle which eventually saw 7 Canadians awarded Victoria Crosses, the 4th Division took the village of Dury but at a heavy price, having to advance up an open incline swept by German machine guns as well as shelling by enemy artillery. Victory was achieved with the German forces forced to retreat with more than 6,000 captured as prisoners of war; however, the price of victory was high. In this Battle of Drocourt-Queant Line, in the first four days of September 1916, Canada suffered more than 5,600 casualties.
One of these casualties was Private Thomas George King of the 87th Battalion, Grenadier Guards, who was killed in action shortly after leaving the jumping off trench when attacking enemy positions near Dury in this battle. He endured more than two years of battle in the trenches of France, until just 70 days before the end of hostilities. Like all those killed in this battle, he was buried at Dury Mills British Cemetery, near to the village and the Dury Canadian War Memorial, where he rests today.
Private Thomas George King, 31 years young, left behind his wife, Sarah, and three young daughters and one son. He is remembered today at St. Matthew’s Anglican Church in the Glebe.
Maurice Samwell was born September 10, 1895 in Wales, Ontario (a town which no longer exists as it was flooded by the creation of the Seaway in the 1950’s) to Anglican Church Minister, Reverend Robert Samwell and his wife Jane. With two twin brothers, Cameron and Evan, and a sister Mary, he was the oldest of the four children.
In 1901, Reverend Samwell was transferred from the parish of Wales (near Cornwall) to St. Matthew’s Anglican Church in the Glebe, with his family moving 100 kms north to Ottawa. Unfortunately for the young family, Reverend Samwell contracted typhoid fever the following spring and died after a fifteen-week illness on August 24, 1902 at age 36. In 1905, his mother Jane married Reverend G. C. Clarke, living at 123 3rd Avenue until circa 1911 when they left for Pakenham and then Fitzroy Harbour in 1914.
Maurice, 19 years old, enlisted (#113) in the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force on December 4, 1914 in Toronto while he was living in Fitzroy Harbour, just months after the start of World War 1. His occupation listed as a Clerk but later amended to include railway lineman experience, he was assigned to the 2nd Division Cyclist Company. Following 5 months of training, his unit was deployed to England on May 16, 1915 on the SS Corinthian and arrived eleven days later. Following further training, Private Samwell was finally shipped to France on September 15. In February 1916, Private Samwell was sent to Trench Warfare School Wiring Class and remained with the newly renamed Canadian Corps Cyclists Battalion.
The Battle of the Somme, one of the most infamous engagements of the War, began on July 1, 1916, a day remembered by the loss of more than 57,000 British troops, including the decimation of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment with 90 per cent losses. With this heavy fighting now taking place, just two weeks later on July 17, 1916, Private Samwell requested and was granted a transfer to the 21st Battalion Machine Gun Section, Eastern Ontario Regiment, and “taken on strength” just three days later. His mates were in this outfit and he wanted to be with them, according the reasons documented for this transfer.
During the summer/autumn of 1916, the Battle of the Somme was in full force, a conflict which eventually cost more than one million lives. One of the few allied victories during this horrific five-month engagement was when Canadian forces attacked the German stronghold at Courcelette on September 15, 1916. Canada suffered thousands of casualties in this Battle of Courcelette, which lasted for seven days. Designed to punch a hole in German lines for Cavalry to penetrate, the Battle was remembered both for the introduction of armoured tanks in modern day warfare as well as the formal debut of both the Canadian Corps and the New Zealand Division in World War 1.
The fighting was launched at 06:20 hrs on September 15 and the Canadians advanced, taking multiple objectives but at a huge cost. Total Allied casualties numbered more than 29,300 in this one-week conflict, with the three Divisions of the Canadian Corps suffering 7,230 casualties in this one week of fighting alone. British Army Commander, General Douglas Haig wrote that the Canadian achievement ‘…was a gain more considerable than any which had attended our arms in the course of a single operation since the commencement of the (Somme) offensive.”
And unfortunately, on this very first day of battle, Canadian casualties included Private Maurice Samwell (#113) who was killed in action on September 15, 1916, just five days after celebrating his 21st birthday. His body was never found.
Canada’s Vimy War Memorial commemorates those servicemen who were killed in action in the Great War, but whose bodies were never found. His name, M. O. SAMWELL, along with 11,284 others, is inscribed on the wall of the Vimy Memorial in the Pas de Calais region in NW France.
He is remembered today at St. Matthew’s Anglican Church.
JUKES FORD PERKINS
By Kevan Pipe
Julius “Jukes” Ford Rumsey Irving Perkins was born July 10, 1898 the only child of Alwynne and Grace Lorrene Perkins, married in Ottawa the year before on September 1.
Likely because his parents were young (20 and 17 years old), the family lived with Alwynne’s parents at 24 The Driveway, facing the Rideau Canal. By 1916, at age 18, Jukes was employed by the Topographic Branch of the Department of the Interior, as a photographer.
On November 9, 1916, having just turned 18 months early, Jukes Perkins enlisted (#507431) for service, and was assigned to the newly formed Royal Flying Corps, 27 Squadron, located at RAF Hounslow. The motto of the Squadron: Quam celerrime ad astra - 'With all speed to the Stars'.
27 Squadron were flying the slow Martinsyde “Elephant” fighter aircraft (a nickname adopted by the Squadron and used even today). It evolved more towards a bomber/reconnaissance role by the time Jukes Perkins began flying in 1917. It was in this aircraft he learned his flying and related technical skills.
Jukes Perkins quickly earned the rank of Second Lieutenant on September 1, 1917, as documented in the London Gazette, the official governmental publication for this purpose. His experience in topography and photography was of immense value to the allied efforts and why he would have been assigned to this bomber/reconnaissance squadron, likely taking valuable air photos of battlefields and enemy placements. This information was vital to the planning of battles with the enemy and the skills of 2nd Lt. Perkins were in short supply.
It was at this time in fall of 1917 when 27 Squadron was re-equipped with the Airco DH.4S, a plane which was able to carry twice the bombload as compared to the ‘Elephant’ at both greater height and speed. It was a plane which was popular with the pilots, despite the fact that the large fuel tank was located between the two man crew. 2nd Lt. Perkins would have assumed the role of both gunner in the second seat while also doing both photographic reconnaissance as well. The squadron was heavily involved in supporting the British and Canadian offensive actions around Cambrai in November/December 1917.
Royal Flying Corps 27 Squadron was assigned to Serny Aerodrome in NW France as of October 12, 1917. 27 Squadrons’ DH.4S was now being used for low level missions against German troops and it was this type of action which was of prominent importance in early 1918. Lt. Perkins was now flying Airco DH. 4B 2094 aircraft in both bombing and reconnaissance missions with his partner, in this two-seater plane being Lt. Ray Foley (fellow Canadian and friend from 61 Rosemont Ave., Ottawa).
On March 8, 1918, RFC 27 Squadron and aircraft DH4 B2094 carrying Lt. Ray Foley and 2nd Lt Jukes Perkins took off on operational duty. It was last seen by the rest of the formation going down between the villages of Walicourt and Busigny during combat with enemy aircraft while engaged in a bombing run. Located about twenty kilometers southeast of Cambrai, they went missing in action. It was later discovered that that they had indeed crashed and were killed on impact.
Grand- Seracourt British Cemetery is located in the Picardie region in northwestern France near to St. Quentin. It contains the graves of more than 2,000 Commonwealth servicemen. 2nd Lt. Julius ‘Jukes’ Perkins, RFC 27 Squadron #507431, is buried at Grand- Seraucourt British Cemetery, where he rests today, beside his flying partner and Ottawa friend, Lt. Raymond George Foley.
Kevan Pipe is a Glebe resident and member of the St Matthew’s Anglican Church Communications Committee. For further information, please visit www.the48ofstmatthews.ca
ALLAN CYRIL WALKER
By Kevan Pipe
Allan Cyril Walker was born April 15, 1894 in Victoria, BC, son of James and Annie Walker. He had an older brother David and two younger sisters, Emely and Lydia.
The family moved to Ottawa and by the time of the 1901 census, was living at 151 Strathcona Avenue, about hallway between Bank Street and the Rideau Canal, and close to St. Matthew’s Church.
In 1913, he joined the Duke of Cornwall’s Own Rifles (#319923) and spent three years in the reserves. This is the same unit and general time period as fellow St. Matthew’s congregation member Glen Wilson, who was just a year older than Allan and who lived close by on First Avenue. It is likely that they were friends.
And just like Glen, Allan was a printer by trade. Perhaps he too worked at Mortimer’s Printing as Glen did?
On Feb 12, 1916, 21 year old Allan enlisted in the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force and was assigned to the 5th Trench Mortar Battery, 5th Infantry Brigade, Second Canadian Division.
Following field training in Canada, his Battery was organized in Whitley, North Yorkshire in England in December 1916 under the command of Captain W. Abbott. Allan was promoted to Bombardier The 5th Trench Mortar Battery was comprised of both heavy and medium mortars.
His Battery was deployed to France in 1917 and proceeded to become involved in many of the major battles of the war, including Vimy Ridge. His Brigade and Battery was under the command of Brigadier-General Archibald Macdonell and following Vimy, the Canadian Second Division, including Bombardier Walker’s unit, then went on to the treacherous Battles of both Hill 70 and Passchendaele, the latter of which took place from July 31 to November 10, 1917.
Located in western Belgium near the French border, the battle was nicknamed ‘103 Days in Hell’ as a result of the horrible casualties incurred. In Passchendaele, both the British and Germans each incurred about 260,000 casualties (wounded and killed) within which Canadians accounted for about 15,600 men, 5,000 more than the Battle of Vimy Ridge just six months earlier. While Passchendaele was eventually captured by the Allies and the objectives of capturing the ridges both south and east of the nearby City of Ypres were achieved, thereby helping to break the flow of supplies to the German 4th army, the cost was overwhelming in terms of human life.
Following this, with winter now rapidly approaching, the western front settled into a nervous state of stalemate, waiting for spring weather to arrive in March so that major hostilities could once again commence. This period in the first quarter of 1918 was focused on raids across no mans’ land as well as artillery barrages, often times focused on these mortar units.
On February 6, 1918, Bombardier Allan Cyril Walker, of the 5th Trench Mortar Battery, 5th Infantry Brigade, Second Canadian Division and just 23 years young, was killed in action.
Allan Walker was buried in the Bully-Grenay Communal Cemetery, British Extension, in the Pas de Calais region in NW France, just north of the City of Arras. Opened in April 1916, from April 1917 until the end of the war, this cemetery was used primarily for Commonwealth Artillery units and those who were killed in this region.
Along with 802 other Commonwealth Servicemen killed in this Great War, Bombardier Allan Cyril Walker of Strathcona Avenue in Ottawa rests in this cemetery in France today. He is remembered at St. Matthew’s Anglican Church in the Glebe.
Kevan Pipe is a Glebe resident and member of the St. Matthew’s Anglican Church Communications Committee.
William Charles (Charlie) was born January 26, 1897 in Woodroffe, Ontario, son of Thomas and Margaret Saunders. He joined the Ottawa Boy Scouts 11th Troop and became 14th Troop Leader (St. Andrew’s), which led towards him becoming a military cadet from 1913-15.
He moved to Ottawa and was working as a clerk and attending St. Matthew’s Church, when on August 23, 1915, just seven months after his 18th birthday, Charles enlisted in the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force, #300124. He was assigned to the Canadian Field Artillery, 2nd Brigade as a ‘Signaller’ and was shipped overseas almost immediately. Signaller Charlie Saunders entered the front lines of the Western Front on November 15, 1915 and into the trenches just four days later, along with his ‘chum’, fellow Signalman Jack Heron, where he would remain for the next nine months. It is amazing to think that in less than 90 days, he went from being a teenaged clerk in Ottawa to the battlefield trenches of World War 1.
On April 4, 1916, they are moved to the Salient and from this time onwards, are stuck into the daily actions of trench warfare, a dreadful experience for all servicemen in World War 1. The life of a Signalman was a dangerous one, often having to crawl out ahead of the trenches to signal his colleagues as to actions taking place, or repairing communication wires cut by enemy bombardment.
A good example of what Charlie and Jack endured took place just weeks after their arrival in the trenches. Jack wrote that on April 26, 1916, they were being held in reserve when ‘an exceptionally heavy bombardment’ of the allied lines occurred. In their dugout, the two signalmen received an S.O.S. call for help. They immediately left their hole, which was then blown up a minute later by enemy fire. “Charlie then went out into the field and repaired communications line which had been broken earlier, without regard to personal safety.”
As of July 1, 1916, along with his buddy, Jack Heron, their brigade was involved in the six month infamous action called the Battle of the Somme, a ferocious affair with over one million casualties on both sides, including over 24,000 Canadians. Jack documented in a letter to his friends which was later published in the Ottawa Citizen, many of their activities on the line. He wrote, “No-one expected to live. I was lucky enough to get away with a wound in my leg…Charlie took part in the greatest of the world’s great battles and helped towards its success.”
Charlie received tragic news in June when he found out that his Uncle, William George Saunders, also of Woodroffe, was killed in battle on June 8, 1916.
On September 27, 1916 during action in the Battle of the Somme and in preparation for the specific Battle of Regina Trench which would begin on October 1, the 2nd Brigade war diary documents the heavy shelling they were firing that day, up to 50 rounds per minute, with the brigade itself being subjected to heavy artillery fire including gas attacks. Signaller Charles Saunders is fully involved in this battle near Courcelette, a commune in NW France.
As documented by his chum, Signaller Jack Heron, “When running a wire across open country in open view of the enemy’s lines, a task requiring the greatest of courage, William (Charlie) Saunders was killed.” He suffered severe shrapnel wounds in his legs and was brought to the nearby #9 Casualty Clearing Station. He never recovered from these mortal wounds and died shortly thereafter.
Signaller William Charles Saunders, #300124 and just 19 years of age, 2nd Brigade, Canadian Field Artillery, COEF, was buried in the Contay British Cemetery in the Somme valley near the village of Contay, France, along with 1,132 other Commonwealth servicemen.
He rests there today and is remembered at St. Matthew’s, The Anglican Church in the Glebe.
HAROLD TORRANCE BURGESS
Harold Torrance Burgess was born on Christmas Day, 1893 to William and Letitia Burgess in North Bay, Ontario. His family moved to Ottawa around the turn of the century. The youngest of 4 children with siblings William, Lillian and Frances Pearl, the family tragically lost their Mother, Letitia who died suddenly at the age of 41 on September 2, 1906. Harold was 12 years old.
The Burgess family resided at 63 Waverly Street, close by to his school Ottawa Collegiate (now Lisgar Collegiate) where he graduated circa 1910, while also serving in the Ottawa Public School Cadets, attending St. Matthew’s Church in the nearby Glebe.
Following graduation, Harold eventually moved to Victoria, BC and began work as a stenographer. Less than 3 months after war is declared, Harold enlisted on November 9, 1914 while still in Victoria and was assigned to the 30th Battalion of the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force (#77494). Just 3 months later, on Feb 23, 1915, his unit was shipped to England and was quickly assigned to the Western Front in France. Likely due to both the terrible casualties suffered in battle as well as his own capabilities, Harold quickly rose the ranks and was appointed as Sergeant. On May 14, 1915, he was transferred to the 7th Battalion (1st British Columbia Regiment). The battalion became part of the 1st Canadian Division, 2nd Canadian Infantry Brigade where it saw action at along the Western Front in France. During this period, he was awarded both the Victory Medal and British Star for serving in battle in France in 1915.
It was during this time that his division fought in a number of major conflicts, including the Battle of Festubert, a part of the larger battle of Artois during May/June 1915 in which more than 200,000 casualties on both sides were incurred (which included French forces attacking, capturing but failing to hold Vimy Ridge). The Canadians suffered more than 2,000 casualties during this overall battle.
His brigade continued on into 1916, fighting in the Battle of Mount Sorrel and then into the infamous Battle of the Somme which started on July 1, 1916 lasting through to mid November 1916, with more than a million casualties on both sides.
On August 11, 1916, Sergeant Burgess applied for and was transferred to the British Army’s 7th Battalion. Harold continued with his own development and on November 9, 1916, Sergeant Burgess was awarded a commission and now held the rank of 2nd Lt. with the 7th Battalion, London Regiment, Royal Fusiliers where they fought in the Battles of Fleurs Courcelette and Le Transloy, part of the final actions of the Battle of the Somme in November 1916.
2nd Lt. Burgess was then assigned to 3rd Battalion of the London Regiment and it is with this unit that he was attached in spring 1917. It was likely that in March, he was involved in the buildup to the overall Battle of Arras, a major offensive devised by the Allies to achieve a major penetration of German lines and break the stalemate which existed on the Western Front at that time. Vimy Ridge was part of this overall offensive.
2nd Lt. Harold Torrance Burgess was killed in action on April 2, 1917. It is likely that he died in the preparation for the Battle of Arras which began just 7 days later, as part of the British Army.
Of great interest, less than 3 weeks after his death, Harold’s father enlists in the Canadian Army, 58 years old, in the 230th Forestry Battalion and serves overseas in both England and France, before being discharged in July 1918, due to his age.
2nd Lt. Harold Torrance Burgess is buried at Agny Military Cemetery with 407 other Commonwealth servicemen. It is located near the Pas-de-Calais, France.
Harold is remembered at Lisgar Collegiate Institute as well as St. Matthew’s Church. In addition, like so many families who were grief stricken with the loss of their son, at Ottawa’s Beechwood Cemetery, he is remembered on the family headstone of his mother Letitia and his father, Lt. William Burgess who died in 1929. On both headstones in Ottawa and France is the inscription William chose for Harold’s battlefield headstone:“He sleeps the sleep of those who bravely die.” In Pas-de-Calais, Harold rests today.
EDWARD CUNO MCGILL RICHER
Edward Cuno McGill Richer, known to most of his friends and colleagues as McGill, was born Nov 26, 1891 in Hastings, East Sussex, England. He, alone, emigrated to Ottawa and by age 22, is listed as a 2nd Division Civil Servant, and resided at 537 Gilmour Street.
Great Britain, and by extension, all of the British Empire, declared war on Germany on August 4, 1914 when the latter refused to withdraw their invading troops from Belgium. Just six weeks later, McGill Richer enlisted in the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force (Serial #40249) on September 21, 1914 in Val Cartier, Quebec. In his attestation papers, he listed his next of kin as William Richer, his father, in England.
Likely due to his 3 years of earlier service with various military units including the Duke of Cornwall’s Own Rifles and the pressure of getting trained troops over to Europe, he was immediately awarded the rank of Lieutenant and assigned to the Canadian Field Artillery. He served in various brigades, ending up with the 14th Brigade, 61st Battery of the Canadian Field Artillery, and served with this and other batteries throughout virtually all of World War 1.
Interestingly, he completes his original posting and is returned to Canada in November 1917, only to re-enlist in Kingston and return to France in February 1918.
The ‘Second Battle of Arras’ took place from August 26 to September 3, 1918 and was a key event in the closing months of the Great War. The allies devised a major strategy called “The Hundred Days Offensive” which began in August, 1918 with the intention of this plan geared towards bringing the war and its’ devastation to a close.This strategy led to a number of major conflicts along the Western Front in NW France with one of these being the “Battle of Drocourt-Queant Line”, on September 2-3 which involved elements of the Canadian Fourth Division, fighting to take the village of Dury.
This ‘line’ was effectively a German defensive formation of troops and armaments, stretching between the towns of Drocourt and Queant, consisting of multiple lines of trenches, bunkers, fortifications, machine gun posts and lots of barbed wire. It was the northernmost part of the Hindenburg Line, the most critical defensive position for Germany.
Supported by tanks and aircraft, the Battle began at 05:00 hrs. on September 2, 1918, with the Canadian Field Artillery’s 61st Battery ordered into action. It laid down a barrage of shell fire with their heavy guns against German positions along these enemy lines. And while Allied heavy guns and mortars delivered this ferocious fire against these targeted and key objectives, they themselves were deemed to be highly valued targets of German artillery.
The Canadians and our British comrades attacked the southern part of the line with our 4th Canadian Division focused on the centre section. After heavy fighting, victory was achieved but at a most heavy and devastating price. In just this battle, in the first four days of September, Canada suffered more than 5,600 casualties. Reflecting on how difficult this battle was, a total of seven Victoria Crosses were awarded to Canadians for ‘gallantry in the face of the enemy’, the highest honour given to Commonwealth troops in this specific battle.
On this late summer morning of September 2, a German artillery shell exploded above one of Canadian Field Artillery’s 61st Battery heavy weapons and knocked their gun out of action. This position was led by Lt. Richer, who was severely wounded, along with ten other fellow Canadians, by this barrage of enemy artillery fire which rained down on their location. Lt. McGill Richer was struck both in the face and abdomen by shrapnel and evacuated to the nearby No. 1 Casualty Clearing Station.
Lt. Richer did not survive for very long.
After serving for almost four long years, and just seventy days before the end of World War 1, the next morning, September 3, 1918, he passed away from these horrible wounds. He was buried that same afternoon at nearby Ligny-St. Flochel British War Cemetery, along with 631 other Canadian and Commonwealth as well as 48 German servicemen, located in the Pas de Calais region of France. He was 3 months away from his 27th birthday.
Remembered at St. Matthew’s Anglican Church, Lt. Edward Cuno McGill Richer of Ottawa rests in France today. Photo: The War Graves Photographic Project By Kevan Pipe
Glenholm Wilson was born on January 18, 1894 to Arthur and Eliza Wilson. The family lived but 100 meters from St. Matthew’s at 164 First Avenue, just east of Bank Street in the Glebe. In 1910, as a sixteen-year-old, he joined the 43rd Regiment, Duke of Cornwall’s Own Rifles and served with this unit for 5 years while also working as a printer on Sparks Street with Mortimer’s Printing.
Less than seven months after the start of World War 1, on Feb. 22, 1915, Glen Wilson, 21 years old and single, enlisted in the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force (#410230) and was assigned to the 38th Battalion, known as the ‘Ottawa Overseas Battalion’, part of the Eastern Ontario Regiment, 4th Division. Following six months of training, his 1,000 man strong Battalion was shipped to Bermuda for island protection. Finally, on June 9, 1916, the 38th arrived in England and was eventually deployed to the Western Front in north west France on August 13 to join those in the trenches in Ypres, Belgium as part of the Battle of the Somme.
Their battalion defended the allied line near Kemmel Hill at the southern point of the Ypres salient until September 23, 1916 when the 38th was ordered to join other units of the Canadian Corps to prepare for what became known as the Battle of Ancre Heights, near Beaumont Hamel, where the Newfoundland Regiment had earlier suffered gravely on July 1, 1916 (670 casualties out of a total force of 780 men).
Following two months of action, the 38th Battalion on November 17, 1916 was ordered to join the fighting taking place in the Battle of Ancre, part of the attack on the Regina Trench, the longest single German line in all of World War 1. The next day, on what is regarded officially as the last day of this excruciating four-and-a-half-month long Battle of the Somme, the 38th Battalion ‘went over the top’ as part of the Canadian 4th Division. The battle was a success for our Canadian troops with all military objectives having been gained, including the capture of the Regina Trench, north of Courcelette as well as the Desire Support Trench on November 18.But what a cost paid for this victory in terms of human life. Five hundred casualties were suffered by the Battalion. And one of those was Sergeant Glenholm Wilson, who on November 18, 2016, was killed in action “…while leading his platoon on to victory when his superior officer had fallen.” He was two months short of his 23rd birthday.
This Battle of Ancre, on November 18, brought the Battle of the Somme to a close. Three million soldiers on both sides were involved, with a total of one million casualties suffered by both German and Allied forces. Sergeant Wilson was one of 700 men killed as well as 2,000 others who were wounded, from the 38th Battalion, the ‘Ottawa Overseas Battalion’, part of the Eastern Ontario Regiment, 4th Division, Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force. This from a total unit force of 4,500 soldiers who served with the Battalion during all of World War 1, a casualty rate of sixty percent.
On Sunday evening, June 17, 1917, almost 7 months to the day after he was killed, led by Ottawa Anglican Archbishop Charles Hamilton, a commemorative bronze plaque was unveiled to a crowded St. Matthew’s church congregation. Prime Minister Arthur Meighen was in attendance that early summer evening and, according to the Ottawa Journal (June 18), read extracts of Glens’ letters home to his family and in his comments, “encouraged other young men to follow in the footsteps of this young man who was ready to give all for his ideals.”
In his final letter home, Glen wrote to his parents: “If I fall, with God’s help, I shall have died doing my duty.”
This specific message is commemorated on this memorial plaque, commissioned by his family, with the 38th Battalion badge. The plaque is located on the south west wall of St. Matthew’s. Sergeant Glenholm Wilson, twenty two years young, of 164 First Avenue, Ottawa, is buried in the Regina Trench Cemetery in the Somme Valley near Courcelette, France, where he rests to this day.Photo: The War Graves Photographic Project
The Story of Albert Edward Cuzner
Albert Edward Cuzner was born in Ottawa on August 31, 1890 to John and Sara Gee Cuzner. He was one of five children, living first at 523 Sussex Street (now Drive). He attended Ottawa (Lisgar) Collegiate, played hockey on the school senior team and graduated in 1908. He then attended Ottawa Model School (Teachers College) on Elgin Street (now City Hall). Scholastically inclined, he moved on to the University of Toronto from 1909 to 1915, playing rugby and hockey and graduating in Applied Science. He continued with Forestry in 1915–16 and in summer, returned to Ottawa and lived with his brother Willard at 256 First Avenue, attending St. Matthew’s Church.
As a scientist and forester, he had a passion for flying and while in Toronto, he graduated on September 3, 1916 from the Curtiss Flying School. Now a licensed pilot and a most valuable asset to the war effort, he enlisted (#707447) and was shipped to England later that same month with the Royal Naval Air Service 8 Squadron as a Flight Sub Lt. Now piloting the famous Sopwith Camel which he named “Doris,” he entered active duty, flying initially out of Walmer Airfield near Dover on England’s southeast coast.
In April 1917, 8 Squadron was relocated to the Western Front and was involved in the Battle of Vimy Ridge with both bombing and reconnaissance missions. The Royal Air Corps endured horrible losses during Vimy Ridge and later in April. While surviving Vimy Ridge, just 12 days after the Ridge was taken, Flt. Sub Lt. Cuzner took off on a mission and encountered the war’s most lethal German ace, Baron Manfred von Richthofen (the Red Baron) and what became known as his “Flying Circus” due to his red-painted Fokker triplane.
Flt Sub Lt. Albert Edward Cuzner was caught by the Red Baron on Sunday April 29, 1917 at 19:40 hours and shot down and killed in action, the Red Baron’s victim number 52 of 80. His remains were never recovered from the crash site.
Cuzner of 256 First Avenue was awarded Britain’s Victory Medal and is remembered today in multiple ways. His name is inscribed on the walls of the Arras Flying Services Memorial in the Pas de Calais region in northwest France, along with the names of 1,000 other Commonwealth airmen whose bodies were never recovered. He is also remembered on the Royal Naval Air Service “Roll of Honour” at the University of Toronto Soldiers’ Tower, at Phi Delta Theta fraternity (awarded a Gold Star), at Lisgar Collegiate and at St. Matthew’s Anglican Church in the Glebe.
Kevan Pipe is a Glebe resident and member of the St Matthew’s Anglican Church Communications Committee.
Private Richard Lodge Downing
Richard was born on December 15, 1886, to John and Ellen Downing in the District of Prescott. He was the middle of 7 brothers and sisters, eventually with the family living at the turn of the century at 162 Carling Avenue, near Bronson Avenue (this building was demolished at some point in time, likely after World War 2 in the expansion of Carling Avenue into today’s major thoroughfare).
In the summer of 1914, Richard as both single and working as a merchant in Vankleek Hill near Ottawa. When World War 1 broke out in August 1914, he was one of the first Canadians to enlist (#16995) for the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force when he signed up on September 18, 1914 in Val Cartier, Quebec.
Assigned to the 1st Canadian Division, 2nd Infantry Brigade, 7th Battalion known as the British Colombia Regiment (G Company), they shipped out to England just 2 weeks later with more than 1100 men from Quebec City on HMS Virginian, landing in England on October 14, 1914. The 7th Battalion was deployed to the Western Front in northern France in February 1915, fighting in the Battles of Ypres, Gravenstafel, St Julien, Festubert and by spring 1916, preparing for battle at Mount Sorrell, helping to restore the allied situation at Sanctuary Wood.
By the month of June, German forces were concentrating on the Mount Sorrel area, located east of Ypres in south east Belgium, the only area of high ground still under in Allied control in spring 1916. British forces were amassed on the high ground of the Ypres Ridge at Zillebeke (referred to as Mount Sorrel), incorporating the double summits of Hills 61 and 62, which involved 3 divisions of the Canadian Corps, including the 1st Division. Of strategic importance to the Germans, this allied force was the final impediment to their control of the entire Ypres sector. The Germans attacked on June 2, 1916 at 08:30 hrs with heavy artillery, chlorine gas as well as the detonation of 4 secret mines which they had dug and located beneath allied lines. This attack resulted in German forces capturing the high grounds in this area. The Canadians were charged with re-taking this area of Hills 61 and 62 and a counter attack by the 3rd Division was launched the next morning at 07:00 hrs, effectively repulsed by the Germans with heavy Canadian casualties.
Canadian 1st Division General Arthur Currie was given the responsibility for retaking Mount Sorrel and both Hills, immediately after on June 4. After 9 more days of planning and fighting, the 1st Division accomplished this objective and restoring allied presence on the ridge with the major battle taking place on June 13.
The toll on both sides was significant. The 2 weeks of battle caused 8,700 Canadian casualties including more than 1,000 killed and another 1,900 missing in action and thousands captured as Prisoners of war. It was during this heavy fighting in the trenches of Mount Sorrell on June 11, 1916, at 19:30 hrs, Private Richard Lodge Downing, 29 years young, was killed in action.
Along with 2,458 other Commonwealth servicemen killed in this area in World War 1, he is buried at The Railway Dugouts Burial Ground (Transport Farm) in southern Belgium near Ypres, not far from the Canadian War Memorial located at the peak of Hill 62 (Mount Sorrel). This memorial is one of five official memorials located in the battlefields of World War 1 dedicated to the losses suffered by the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force.
Of note, 33 year old Private A.Y. Jackson of the 60th Battalion was also wounded at Mount Sorrel on June 3. A famed member of the Group of Seven painters. As well, McGill University sports star and graduate Captain Percival Molson of the Princess Pats was also wounded at Mount Sorrel on June 3. Re recovered but was killed in action in 1917, age 37.
Private Richard Lodge Downing, 7th Battalion, is remembered at both the Vankleek Hill War Memorial located on the campus of Vankleek Hill Collegiate Institute as well as at St. Matthew’s. He rests today in Belgium.
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