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Friday, May 27, 2016

2nd/Lieut Henry Cope Evans, RFC

2nd/Lieut. Henry Cope Evans has the title as "the oldest Canadian ace of the Great War".

Born July 26, 1880, Evans was the only son of W. H. and Alice M. Evans of West Point, Camberley, Surrey, and was educated at Woodcote House School, Windlesham, and Haileybury. As a young man Evans emigrated to Ontario to learn fruit farming. He enlisted in the Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery during the Second Boer War, and served in South Africa for a year as part of "C" Battery. On returning to Canada he took up ranching near Macleod, Alberta, and also held a Government appointment as Range Rider. A keen sportsman and horseman, he was well known as a polo player, and was one of the early pioneers of the game in Western Canada. So in this sense, he was a an expert horseman like his 19th Dragoon and RFC mate, Stanley Winther Caws, and in fact was probably a member of the Legion of Frontiersmen.

On 23 September 1914 at Valcartier, Quebec, he enlisted as a trooper in the 19th Alberta Dragoons, service # 1951, arriving in England with the 1st Canadian Contingent in November 1914. He served with the Dragoons in France from February until September 1915, was promoted to the rank of sergeant and was badly affected by poison gas.

He was transferred to the Royal Flying Corps and commissioned as a temporary second lieutenant on 13 September 1915. On 25 September joined No. 24 Squadron in action at the front, not being officially gazetted as a flying officer (observer) until 22 November.

Evans was posted to Home Establishment on 26 January 1916 for pilot training, being appointed a flying officer on 15 May, and being granted the Royal Aero Club Aviator's Certificate No. 2603, after flying a Maurice Farman biplane at the Military Flying School, Farnborough, on 23 May.

He re-joined 24 Squadron, flying antiquated DH2's on 4 July 1916, gaining his first victory on 20 July, driving a Roland C.II down out of control over Fleurs, and the next day he destroyed another enemy aircraft over Combles. Between 6 and 9 August he destroyed a further three enemy aircraft, gaining the five confirmed victories needed for flying ace status. Awarded a Distinguished Service Order. Evans was shot down and killed by German anti-aircraft fire on 3 September 1916 while on a morning offensive patrol over the British Fourth Army front. 

According to Trevor Henshaw, "Evans was flying an operational patrol combat with three HA's (hostile aircraft)shot down FLERS (Somme) safe landing? N.20a. at 11:05 am, killed ldg?, aircraft shelled?"

A downed DH2 September 1916 the Somme
He was listed as "missing" by the War Office, and as his remains were never recovered he is commemorated at the Arras Flying Services Memorial.

Check this out:

Monday, May 23, 2016

Lieutenant Stanley Winther Caws, Royal Flying Corps

Lieut. Stanley Caws, RFC
Lieut.Stanley Caws is considered to be "the First Canadian Airman Killed in Action" during the war. 

Born March 22, 1879 St. Helens, Island of Wight to a well off family headed by father, Douglas Caws, he was a veteran of the Boer War serving in the elite 19th Paget's Horse, Imperial Yeomanry. He later emigrated to Edmonton, Alberta in 1903 with careers in the North-West Mounted Police, as a prospector, farmer and later joining the 19th Alberta Dragoons in 1913. 

He attested September 23, 1914 to the CEF's 1st Divisional Calvary, service #1908, as an acting member of The Legion of Frontiersmen, however on arriving Shorncliffe February 1915, England transferred to the fledgling Royal Air Force. graduating as a pilot in May, he joined 10 Squadron at Choques, France flying two-seater BE2Cs. On September 21, during a reconnaissance flight over Laiman, Caws and his observer, Lieut. W.H. Sugden-Wilson, were attacked by three German Fokker fighters, led by famous German ace Lieut. Max Immelmann, in a fight that lasted fifteen minutes they kept their assailants at bay until they had expended all they ammunition. Then, completely defenseless, Lieut.Caws was killed instantly by machine-gun fire; his observer, though wounded in the leg, managed to glide the aircraft down behind enemy lines, where he was taken prisoner. KIA Venay, France (near Lens) September 21, 1915.
Night fighter BE2c

There is much. much, material to be found on Lieut. Stanley Caws and his demise, on the Internet. Although his observer managed to land the aircraft and survived as a POW, Caws was killed instantly and apparently "burnt to a cinder" on landing. Lieut. Caws was given a full military burial by the Germans Willerval, east of Neuville.

The full account can be found here:

Over the years, the grave of Lieut. Stanley Winther Caws has either been lost and/or destroyed. Thus his name is perpetuated on the Arras Flying Service Memorial as having no know grave.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Lieutenant John Percy McCone, Royal Air Force

Lieut. John Percy McCone, RAF was a Canadian-born pilot in the Royal Flying Corps 41th Squadron that was the 67th Victory of the Red Baron, Baron Manfred von Richthofen. The Baron's combat report reads as follows:

Aircraft SE5A No. C1054 41 Squadron RFC
Engine No.115259 Lewis gun 27914 Vickers Gun B358

14:40 hrs., above Combles. SE5. Brought down behind the enemy's lines.
"During a protracted single-seat fight between ten SE5s and 25 machines of my own group, I attacked an Englishman at an altitude of 2,500 metres. Under my machine-gun fire , both wings broke away from the aeroplane in the air. The pieces were scattered in the vicinity of Combles. Weather fine.
A SE5a fighter late 1917 35 Squadron

"Shorty McCone had claimed two out of control victories while with the Squadron, an Albatros Scout on 22 January flying B68, and an unidentified enemy aircraft which he saw last diving into Beugny village on 23 March, flying C1054.

23 year-old L/Cpl John Percy McCone had joined the 33rd Battalion, CEF in London, Ontario April 23, 1915 and immediately transferred to the Canadian Cyclist Depot, Canadian Engineers. He had been born Quebec City March 11, 1891. Veteran of the Mexican Army insurrection Transferred to RFC and flight training in Reading February, 1917. Appointed flying officer and appointed to 41 Squadron December 5, 1917. Called "Shorty' because of his 5'4" height.

His body was never recovered and his name is commemorated on the Arras Memorial to Missing Airmen, France

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Lieutenant Henry Lloyd Hammond, 215th Squadron, RAF, MIA

Born August 6, 1895 on a farm in Woodhouse Township, Port Dover, Norfolk County, Ontario to parents George Hammond and Elizabeth Burtch. The farmland in this area of South-Western Ontario has very sandy and fertile soil, allegedly the best in Canada. They did and continue to grown high income crops like tobacco, asparagus, ginseng and ginger. As the oldest son, owning this farm was the future Henry Lloyd had to look forward to. His officer's attestation record shows that on January 1, 1916 a medical officer considered him fit for active duty, single, occupation was a farmer, he had served in the 39th Norfolk Rifles Regiment and enrolled in "Canadian Officer Training Corps" for one year.

He was enlisted in the 133rd (Norfolk's Own) Battalion in Simcoe, Ontario as a Lieutenant on January 1, 1916. However somewhat puzzling in his service file is a notation dated October 2, 1916 "S.O.S.  Permitted to resign - inefficient". His last pay day was November 1, 1916. However in researching the background of Henry Lloyd Hammond, we were investigating his death on August 4, 1918 and how he came to be piloting a British heavy bomber of the period (Handley Page 0/400) in the skies over France. I was sure that his statement as having one year in the C.O.T.C. was relevant so when I could not locate his name on either the McGill or U of T Honor Memorials, I looked farther afield. Sure enough I found his name on the Memorial Roll of the Ontario Agricultural College in Guelph graduating in 1917 on the Honor's List. I am suspecting Henry's father, George, was an area farming and political friend of Lt.- Col. Arthur Clarence Pratt, Officer in Command 133rd Battalion and the long-time MPP (1909-1919) for South Norfolk, Country and born just down the road in Lynedoch. Pratt was no doubt more than an acquaintance to Sir Sam Hughes therefore released Henry Lloyd legally by using the excuse that he wasn't efficient. What we didn't know as while that during his service in the 133rd Battalion AND during his classes at O.A.C. in Guelph, in all probability he was taking flying instruction late 1916/early 1917 at Leaside Aerodrome and ground classes at University of Toronto. He met his future wife, Roselin Kenney, about this time in Toronto. They married November 5, 1917 in Toronto probably after his flight instruction was finished up in Texas and prior to leaving for England.Much of the maintenance and ground crew of the early RAF (Canada) was female. He gave his occupation as farmer AND soldier. She was a housekeeper.
At his point, we have not found the British service record for Henry Lloyd Hammond. Again speculation says he arrived in England late 1917 or early 1918 around the time the 215th Squadron was being raised. No. 215 Squadron RAF was formed in France on 1 April 1918 by renumbering No. 15 squadron of the Royal Naval Air Service. No. 15 Squadron RNAS had been formed on 10 March 1918 to operate the Handley Page 0/100 as a night bomber squadron against targets in Germany. Soon after the squadron became part of the Royal Air Force it returned to England to re-equip with the Handley Page O/400 before returning to France as part of the Independent Air Force. After World War I hostilities ended (November 1918), the squadron disbanded on 18 October 1919.

So Lieutenant Hammond was assigned to this 215th Squadron, a night bombing unit fighting the huge-for-its-time Handley Page O/400 heavy bomber. This monster operated with a crew of three - a pilot and two
Royal Air Force Handley Page O/400 heavy bomber
observer/gunners. On the night of August 3, 1918, aircraft HP O/400 #C2372 was flying a night bombing mission to a target called FIVES Railway Station behind German lines with Lieut. H.L.Hammond as pilot; Sgt. H.F. Pheby as gunner and 2nd/Lt H.W. Brinkworth as gunner. The aircraft was lost: Hammond was classed as Missing In Action; Brinkworth and Pheby classed as Killed In Action. Strangely, the Veteran Affairs Canada Virtual Memorial have Lieutenant Hammond listed on the Arras Memorial and not on the Arras Flying Services Memorial, where rightly VAC should have him. This is where Sergeant Henry Thomas Pheby #220141 and 2nd/Lt Wilfrid Henry Brinkworth are located. There is some possibility. the aircraft was downed behind German lines with the three men being taken prisoner and/or injured  and/or buried behind enemy lines.

Thanks once again for Marika Pirie and her photos and newspaper clippings.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Private George Lawrence Price #256265, 28th Battalion Last Man KIA

Photo by Bob Richardson 2007

James McWilliams

Half a mile behind him, the village of Havre, east of Mons, was in joyous tumult as Belgian villagers welcomed their liberators, A Company of the 28th Northwest Battalion of the Canadian Corps. Private Goodmurphy had abandoned the festivities to do his own reconnaissance of the suspicious-looking hamlet across the Canal du Centre. His platoon had been told by Captain ‘Blondie” Ross to halt on the west bank of the canal. But the west side was devoid of cover, and Goodmurphy had spotted loop-holes in the top level of the brick house closest to the bridge. When the advance resumed it would be over this bridge the 28th would cross. The house offered a perfect position for German machine-guns to sweep the bridge and its approaches.

Art Goodmurphy, a former glazier from Regina, was a veteran despite his twenty-one years. He had been through a lot with the 28th -- the Somme in 1916, Vimy Ridge, Hill 70 and Passchendaele in 1917, and already this year -- Amiens, the D-Q Line, Canal du Nord and Cambrai. Now at last the Allies were on the move, pushing the Germans steadily eastward. Casualties had been a lot lighter over the last ten days. It looked like the end of the war was near, but it didn’t pay to get confident. Yesterday a shell had ploughed into the ground beside Goodmurphy and four of his chums. They should have been goners, but it failed to explode. Then there was Private Coughler, killed just a few days ago. Now there was this suspicious bridge. If anything looked like a trap this was it.

Goodmurphy rose cautiously to his feet. All remained silent except for the distant rejoicing. He advanced along the road towards the ominous bridge crouching like a gigantic iron grass-hopper over the canal. So intent was he upon the dark loop-holes that he jumped when a soft voice called from beside him, “Murph, where you going?”

It was Private Price, an A Company runner, crouched behind a shrub. George Price was a native of Port Williams, Nova Scotia. One of very few Maritimers in the Saskatchewan battalion, he had been working on a farm near Stony Beach when he walked into Moose Jaw to enlist. “Looks suspicious to me,” said Price. “I think we should go across there and see what‘s in those houses. Let’s get a couple more guys to go over with us.”

Within minutes they had found three more ’Norwesters’ to make the recce. All were Privates and Lewis-gunners, but as no one wanted to lug the heavy weapons on a reconnaisance patrol, each was armed only with a pistol. If any had thought to look at their watches, they would have discovered it was almost eleven o’clock on the most important day of their lives -- 11 November, 1918.

At 05.00 that morning, in a railway car on a siding in the Forest of Compiegne, the German and Allied delegations had signed the documents arranging the Armistice. All fighting would cease in six hours -- at 11.00. An hour and a half after the signing, at 06.30, Canadian Corps Headquarters had received the news. From there it had been dispersed to the four divisions, then to the twelve brigades, then down to the forty-eight battalions and support units. From battalion headquarters it had became more difficult to disseminate the glad tidings. The last weeks’ rapid pursuit meant that numerous platoons, sections and even individuals, were scattered over a wide area, all isolated and hard to find as they slipped stealthily forward along country lanes, through woods, and across fields devoid of cover.

The foremost unit was the 28th Northwest Battalion, advancing south of Mons against increasing enemy fire. It had been 09.30 while clearing the Bois la Haut that Headquarters of the 28th had received Marshal Foch’s communiqué accompanied by this terse addendum:

“Attacking battalions ordered to push on with all possible speed in order to gain as much territory as possible before 11.00 hours.”

An officer astride a captured horse was sent to notify the platoons stretched along the line of advance. In Havre the word had arrived around 10.30. “The street was plugged with people shouting, ‘Germans kaput!’ We reached a corner with five roads and a big building marked with bullets and shrapnel from 1914 when a staff officer appeared and said there was going to be an armistice,” recalled Dick Herrod of Moose Jaw. “‘What the hell’s an armistice,’ we asked after he was gone. Then word came from somewhere to ’Give ’em hell till eleven o’clock.”

Meanwhile half a mile ahead, the five privates, alert and watchful, were advancing on the ominous bridge. They had just reached the west bank of the canal when they spotted a German machine-gun crew setting up on a knoll on the far side, but to the right of the houses. Without a moment’s hesitation they all dashed across the bridge into the hamlet of Ville-sur-Haine. Except for the loop-holes in the nearest of the two adjoining houses, all appeared serene.

“We ran up to this first brick house, kicked the door open, and went in just like gangsters with our pistols drawn,” recalled Art Goodmurphy. Waiting for them were the inhabitants, Monsieur Stievenart and his six-year-old son, Omer -- alone. “Les allemandes sont alles,” they announced, their faces beaming. Upstairs, the Canadians found beside the loop-holes, a litter of tools and spent casings.

Years later Omer Stievenart recalled, “About 10.30 the Germans suddenly ran down stairs, left their tools and ran away, not by the front door, but by the rear. My father and Monsieur Lenoir (who lived next door) surprised at the unexpected flight, looked toward the bridge and distinctly saw soldiers in khaki uniforms -- just like the British in 1914.” Thus Ville-sur-Haine had its first glimpse of its liberators.

In the adjacent house the Canadians discovered only an elderly couple, the Lenoirs. After searching that house, they gratefully accepted celebratory refreshments. No sooner had they taken glasses in hand when German machine-guns opened up from the knoll behind the houses. Bullets knocked tiles from the rear roofs and pock-marked the solid brick walls. Price and Goodmurphy stepped into the street, sheltered by the houses, to check on the bridge. “It looked like an emery wheel the way the bullets were ricocheting off that iron-work. There was no way anybody could cross that bridge now.” The Canadians gathered in the Stievenarts’ house on the corner to plan their next step.

At that moment, five minutes before eleven, these five young Canadian privates were the tip of the entire Allied advance. They knew nothing of that, nor that the rest of the world was going mad with joy at the impending cease-fire. They just knew their recce patrol had sprung the suspected trap, and they were stuck on the wrong side of the canal. Because there were no windows overlooking the canal, Price and Goodmurphy decided to have another look at their escape route while the enemy blasted away at the back wall of the house. Maybe they had quit firing upon the bridge.

Lifting the latch, the two stepped out onto the cobbled street. The bridge was still under heavy fire, with ricochets whining in all directions. Then they sighted a lone German soldier. “He was down in the canal creeping along the edge of the water. He was ducking down, but he didn’t know we were there.” Price and Goodmurphy looked at one another, but neither moved to shoot him. “Hell, he was just trying to get out of there, back to his own people.”

By now more of the 28th had arrived on the far bank of the canal and taken what little cover they could find. From there they watched the final scene unfold. Even closer, across the street, was another eye-witness, Mademoiselle Alice Grotte, a twenty-three year-old nurse with dark, flashing eyes. She saw the two young Canadians step into the street, while the elderly Lenoirs beckoned wildly for them to come back inside.

“George was facing me,” recalled Art Goodmurphy, “and I was saying something to him when all of a sudden, BANG! He fell forward into my arms. I could have cried. It was not an accidental shot. It was a sniper from way up the end of the street.”

Alice Grotte darted into the street heedless of the sniper as Goodmurphy dragged his comrade to shelter behind a brick wall. Together they carried him into the end house. Everyone tried to help. Madame Lenoir tried to feed the wounded man broth; the nurse, Alice Grotte, made Price as comfortable as possible. She recognized that he was mortally wounded. Within a minute or two Private George Lawrence Price was dead, the last battlefield casualty of The Great War, the War To End All Wars.

All at once the machine-guns stopped their savage chatter. No rifle shots sounded. In the distance church bells rang. The four Canadians decided to chance re-crossing the bridge carrying their comrade’s body. In silence they crossed while from the distance came sounds of jubilation. On the far side they met Captain Ross and told him what had happened.

“But the war is over. The war is over,” the shocked Captain kept repeating.

“Over?” exclaimed Goodmurphy incredulously. “Over? How the hell did we know that? No one told us. It sure as hell wasn’t ‘over’ across there!”

The villagers of Ville-sur-Haine pleaded to be allowed to provide a coffin and bury their fallen hero, but Price was buried in the nearby cemetery of St. Symphorien. Like every Canadian soldier killed in action, he was laid to rest wrapped in a blanket. By one of those ironies of war, the last casualty was buried beside the British soldiers killed near Mons during the first battle of the war.

George Price’s comrades met again fifty years later, on 11 November, 1968, to erect a monument to his memory on the spot where he died. With them to unveil the plaque on the wall of the Stievenart’s house was the last commanding officer of the 28th ‘Norwesters’. Also present was the girl with the dark, flashing eyes who fifty years earlier had tried to save the life of Private Price, the last casualty of The War To End All Wars. The plaque states in both English and French:


A number of years ago, James L. McWilliams sent me the foregoing article he had written as an article ffor Reader's Digest magazine and gave me permission to share it.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Private John Henry Parr 4th Battalion/Manchester Regiment 1st KIA

Photo by Bob Richardson 2007

 John Henry Parr (19 July 1897 – 21 August 1914) was a British soldier. He is believed to be the first soldier of the Commonwealth killed by enemy action in the First World WarParr was born in Lichfield Grove, Finchley, now in the London Borough of Barnet. His father was a milkman. He lived most of his life at 52 Lodge Lane, North Finchley, the youngest of the eleven children of Edward and Alice Parr.  Many of his siblings died before their fourth birthday.On leaving school, he took a job as a butcher's boy, and then as golf caddy at North Middlesex Golf Club. Then, like many other young men of the time, he was attracted to the army as a potentially better way of life, and one where he would at least get two meals a day and a chance to see the world. 

The 5'3" tall Parr joined the 4th Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment in 1912, aged 15, but claimed to be 18 years and one month old to meet the minimum age requirement. He was nicknamed "Ole Parr", possibly after Old Tom ParrPrivate Parr specialized in becoming a reconnaissance cyclist, riding ahead to uncover information then returning with all possible speed to update the commanding officer. At the start of World War I in August 1914 Parr’s battalion was shipped from Southampton to Boulogne-sur-MerFrance. With the German army marching into Belgium, Parr's unit took up positions near a village called Bettignies, beside the canal running through the town of Mons approximately 8 miles (13 km) away. On 21 August, Parr and another cyclist were sent to the village of Obourg, just north east of Mons, and slightly over the border in Belgium, with a mission to locate the enemy. It is believed that they encountered a cavalry patrol from the German First Army, and that Parr remained to hold off the enemy whilst his companion returned to report. He was killed in the ensuing rifle fire. Since the British army retreated to a new position around the Marne after the first battle of Mons, Parr's body was left behind. In the ensuing months, the slow entrenchment of the war meant that news of Parr's death was not recognized until much later. After a while his mother wrote to the regiment asking about her son, but they were unable to tell her of his condition, and it may have been that they thought that he had been captured. At the time, there were no dog tags to help with the identification of casualties. The circumstances of his death remain unclear: the front line was approximately 11 miles (18 km) away, and he may have been killed by friendly fire rather than a German patrol, or in the Battle of Mons on 23 August. He is buried in the St Symphorien Military Cemetery, just southeast of Mons, and his age is given on the gravestone as twenty, the army not knowing his true age of seventeen. Coincidentally, his grave faces that of George Edwin Ellison, the last British soldier killed during the Great War. On 21 August 2014, the 100th anniversary of Parr's death, a memorial paving stone was ceremonially unveiled in the pavement outside 52 Lodge Lane. The ceremony was attended by about 300 people, including local dignitaries and Parr family members, one of whom read a letter from his mother to the War Office written in October 1914 to inquire about him. A memorial "standing stone" nearby, to bear a plaque with further details of Parr's life and death, is planned. A plaque has also been placed in the golf club where he worked as a caddy. While Parr is believed to be the first Commonwealth soldier killed in action, several soldiers had been killed by friendly fire and accidental shooting after the declaration of war but before troops were sent overseas, starting with Cpl Arthur Rawson on 9 August 1914. 

Sunday, April 3, 2016

A/Sergeant Arthur George Knight #426402, 10th Battalion, Victoria Cross

Photo by Bob Richardson 2008
Born June 26, 1886 in Hayward's Heath, Sussex to parents Edward Henry Knight, a carpenter/joiner and Ellen Stoner living in Reigate, Surrey. He had three younger sisters. In the 1911 U.K. Census, Arthur George Knight is found serving in India with the 12th Battery Royal Garrison Artillery and single, born in Ramsgate. We find Arthur George emigrating to Regina, Saskatchewan June 25, 1911 on the S.S. Albania from Southampton to Quebec where he found employment as a carpenter living at 1843 Rae Street. He enlisted in Regina with the 46th Battalion on December 19, 1914. At time of enlistment, Edward Henry Knight was 5'9" tall, had fair complexion, blue eyes, fair hair and his religion was Church of England.

Joined the 46th (South Saskatchewan) Battalion, 1st Reinforcing Draft, December 19, 1914 in Regina, Saskatchewan. They sailed July 5, 1915 from Montreal to Southampton on the S.S. Edele. On arrival Shorncliffe Camp July 18 assigned to 32nd Reserve Battalion. Forfeited 7 days pay for AWL Shorncliffe August 19, 1915. Assigned to the 10th Battalion August 23. Sent first to #3 Field Ambulance then to #1 Canadian General Hospital, Etaples for treatment chronic nephritis then January 18, 1916 sent on to Monk's Hospital, Shorncliffe for treatment mylgia. Return to 10th Battalion May 4, 1916. Awarded the Croix de Guerre by the King of Belgium in the Field July 12, 1916. Appointed Lance Corporal June 16, 1917. Appointed Acting Corporal with pay August 22, 1917. Promoted full Corporal September 25, 1917. Broke ankle tripping over barbed wire while delivering food rations, sent to 1st Canadian Field Ambulance. Promoted Acting Sergeant March 3, 1918. Killed in action September 3, 1918. Awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously December 4, 1918.

Killed in action September 3, 1918 during the 4th Division attack on Dury village and the Drocourt-Queant Line. His Circumstances of Casualty form claims " Killed In Action - While taking part in operations with his company, he was struck by shrapnel in the forehead from an enemy shell, at about 3:00 p.m. on September 3, 1918, when 500 or 600 yards left of Buissy. He died shortly after being wounded". Buried in Dominion British Cemetery, grave I.F.15, 9 3/4 miles South East of Arras.

His attestation paper and service record can be found at Library and Archives Canada HERE
His page on the Veteran Affairs Canada Virtual Memorial can be found HERE