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.
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
September 14, 2017
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.
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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