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St. Matthew’s War Memorial Project – lest we forget

 


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

Kevan Pipe is a Glebe resident and member of the St. Matthew’s Anglican Church Communications Committee.


GLENHOLM WILSON

Grave marker

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

Kevan Pipe is a Glebe resident and member of the St Matthew’s Anglican Church Communications Committee. On Sunday, Nov 12, he will be presenting the stories of two WW1 soldiers – Maurice Samwell and William Saunders. The public is welcome to attend at St. Matthew’s for the service starting at 10 am and/or coffee at 11:15 with the presentations starting 15 minutes later.

 



Albert Edward Cuzner

Albert Edward (Eddy) Cuzner of the Glebe, born August 31, 1890, died April 29, 1917 during the First World War, was shot down by the Red Baron.
Courtesy of university of Toronto archives

 By Kevan Pipe

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.

The Glebe Report will bring to readers each month from now until November 2018 one of the stories of these 16 young men from the community who fought for the freedom we enjoy today in recognition of the 100th anniversary in 2018 of the signing of the armistice that brought a formal close to hostilities in the First World War. Should you wish to add to the stories of these 16 soldiers and pilots, please email editor@glebereport.ca.

Here is the first of the stories.

The Story of Albert Edward Cuzner

By Kevan Pipe

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.

 


 

 

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