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Monday, November 30, 2009


My wife, Lynn, never knew her maternal grandfather Martin Herbert Clearwater. In fact she barely remembers her grandmother, Mamie Clearwater. Therefore she was somewhat surprised to say the least when I recently informed her that her Grandfather had served with honour during World War One.

Her Clearwater family in Ontario originated when Great Grandfather Edgar Boviere Clearwater and his new wife, Philena Martin, immigrated to Whitby, Ontario from their New York Hudson Valley home. Edgar was the second generation in his family to "Anglicize" his surname. Originally known as Klaarwater, the Dutch family were one of New York's first families. Philena died in child birth 1863 leaving Edgar and 7 year old Floyd Wellington. Afterwards Edgar remarried young Mary Fisher and later the family moved to Huntsville, Ontario. Floyd was a printer and became Publisher of the Huntsville Forester, as well as Town Councillor, School Trustee and eventually Town Post Master. After marrying Ellen Martin, the young couple had six children with only three surviving into adulthood. The oldest was Martin Herbert (Bert) Clearwater.

When war broke out in August 1914, Bert was a "Driver" working and living in Toronto with his mother at 252 Albany Avenue who had left Floyd by this time and two younger brothers, Frederick and Gordon. He enlisted in Toronto's 95th Overseas Battalion being raised by the 2nd Queen's Own Rifles Regiment. Shortly before heading overseas with the Battalion, Bert married his Huntsville sweetheart, Mamie Keating and gave his address as 294 Concord Avenue. Son Roy Clearwater was born December 21, 1916 in Huntsville. The 95th Battalion headed by Lt.-Col.R.K. Barker and consisting of 36 officers and 1061 ranks departed from Halifax June 2, 1916 on the SS Olympic (sister ship to the Titanic)heading for England. In England, the 95th Battalion was broken up for reinforcements on the battlefields of France with Bert being taken on strength by the 1st Western Ontario Battalion in the trenches. Private Clearwater served courageously with the 1st Battalion until February, 1917 when he was admitted to hospital with Scabies and Trench Fever. He rejoined the unit and fought with them in the Battle of Vimy Ridge and Hill 60. Bert was sentenced to 3 days Field Punishment #1 for "being in an estamanet during prohibited hours" on July 21, 1917. On August 8, 1917, Private Clearwater was admitted to hospital with funicles (boils) on the legs and thighs. They were severe enough to get him a "blighty" being sent to a hospital in England and undoubtedly as a result of German gassing. After discharge from hospital, he was posted to the 4th Reserve Battalion promoted to rank of Lance Corporal. He served with this reserve unit for the balance of the war, probably training newly arriving troops from Canada. Bert was sent home to Canada from Kimmel Park Camp January 24, 1919 aboard the Cunard ship H.M.T. Aquitania from Liverpool arriving Halifax January 24. He was discharged February 19, 1919 at the age of 35 in Toronto from the Canadian Expeditionary Force as "Medically Unfit". He resumed his life with wife Mamie and together they had four more children including Lynn's mother, Joan Yvonne Clearwater. Bert's war service and medical problems followed him in civilian life with his death on March 23, 1934. He is buried within Park Lawn Cemetery, Toronto along with many of the Clearwater family including his father, mother, wife and a son.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009



One of the three survivors from my Grandfather's photograph of his eight friends was Herbert Arthur Wiles. Herbert was born in Byng Inlet, Ontario, a small community on the shores of Lake Huron's Georgian Bay north of Midland. He was working in Toronto as a clerk and was enrolled in the 2nd Queen's Own Rifles Regiment militia when World War One broke out August, 1914. When the QOR called for volunteers to join the forming Canadian Expeditionary Force in Valcartier, Quebec, the single, 22 year old was at the front of the line. His younger brother, Charles, still living in Midland at the same time joined Western Ontario's 4th Battalion. He likewise survived the war rising to the rank of Staff Sergeant.

Promoted to rank of Corporal Herbert embarked with the 3rd (Toronto) Battalion for England and spent the wet winter of 1914-15 training with the Battalion on the Salisbury Plain. Cpl. Wiles survived the battles of 2nd Ypres, Festubert and Givenchy with minor injuries. He was promoted to rank of Sergeant July 20, 1915 and January 1, 1916 was promoted to Company Quarter Master Sergeant, "A" Company. He fought with the 3rd Battalion through Mount Sorrel, The Somme, Vimy Ridge and Hill 60 being hospitalized with scabies in 1917. Later in August, 1917 being attached to the Brigade Training School, he was stricken off service to the Canadian Corps Reinforcement Corps. In July 1918, Sgt. Wiles was invalided sick with Chronic Nephritis. He eventually returned to Canada September, 1919 after serving with the Canadian Discharge Depot in Witley Camp for seven months. A true war veteran!

Being discharged in Toronto, he moved back to his hometown of Midland after the war and was employed as an Electrician. We found his marriage in 1923 to Ethel May Pearn, 27, in Fenelon Falls, Ont. Herbert A. Wiles died in 1964 and is buried in Midland's Lakeview Cemetery along with wife Ethel, brother Charles and the rest of his family.

A tragic ending to this story has his only son, Kenneth William Wiles, joining the Royal Canadian Infantry Corps in World War Two and being sent to the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry in the field. Pte. Kenneth Wiles, #B/163616 was Killed in Action in Holland March 8, 1945 and is buried in Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery. We will remember them!

Sunday, November 22, 2009



Robert Charles Williams was one of the tens of thousands of young single British men that set out for a new and potentially profitable life in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, after the turn of the the 20th Century. In fact, our Robert Williams was probably the "Robert Williams" mentioned in the Home Children (1869-1930) Library and Archives Canada database  as one of  19 young "labourers and domestics" arriving aboard the S. S. Montrose April 20, 1911 in Quebec City. Robert was a native of Hereford, Herefordshire, England, born March 21, 1895, young son of widow Mrs. Alice Williams. He ended up working on a farm in Wawanesa, Manitoba for room and board and pennies a day.
Therefore it is no surprise that he succumbed to the lure of a free trip back to England , the potential for excitement and the promise of free room and board plus a wage of $1.00 per day by enlisting with the 226th (Men of the North) Overseas Battalion.

Canadian Pacific Steamship's S.S. Montrose 1897-1914
The 226th Battalion, headquartered in Daulphin were recruiting in the small farming communities of Manitoba when Robert joined their roster on February 18, 1916 in Glenboro, Manitoba. Robert and the 226th Battalion trained at Manitoba's nearby military camp, Camp Hughes, until it was time to depart to England. Departing Halifax December 16, 1916, they sailed to Liverpool on the Titanic's sister ship, SS Olympic, arriving December 28 and spending Christmas at sea with several other battalions from the Canadian Expeditionary Force. The battalion was led by Lt-Col.R.A.G. Gillespie and consisted of 32 officers and 1035 ranks and moved to Bramshott for training. Shortly after arrival in England, most of the 226th Battalion were transferred to the 14th Reserve Battalion in Dibgate for further disbursement. Private Robert Williams was stricken off service from the 14th and sent to the 27th City of Winnipeg Battalion on April 31, 1917 who at the time were serving in the front lines of France near Vimy Ridge. He served with the battalion in the trenches until suffering a gunshot wound in the forehead near Passchendaele November 6, 1917. He returned to the 27th Battalion in January, 1918 and soon after was awarded a Good Conduct Badge. Fighting with the unit continuously until the 27th City of Winnipeg Battalion and the 6th Brigade, and 2nd Canadian Division were called upon in August to be the spearhead in a move to relieve Wancourt from German control. The 27th Battalion war diaries have an outstanding 3-page narrative of the attack south-east of Arras, August 26-28th, 1918. Unfortunately our Private Robert Charles Williams was one of 14 27th Battalion soldiers Killed in Action on August 26, 1918 in the attack on Wancourt, led by Lt. Andrew F. Christie. In the successful attack, the war diaries claims that despite their losses, the 27th Battalion captured "264 prisoners, about 20 machine guns, one heavy trench mortar, two search lights and one holograph". Private Robert Williams, #1000802 is buried in the Tilloy British Cemetery with a number of his mates. I am proud to own his British War Medal. His death was not in vain!

Friday, November 20, 2009


I was very fortunate to inherit the medals, photographs, postcards and correspondence from my late grandfather, John Cody, #62307, 3rd (Toronto) Battalion. Much of this material refers back to the three years he spent as a Prisoner of War in German Prison Camps. During this time he was treated brutally and physically abused, principally over his refusal to work for the Germans after his capture in October 1915 doing reconnaissance work in the Ploegsteert Woods area of Belgium.

One of the items he cherished, probably almost as much as his medals, was a photograph postcard sent to him in 1916 during his incarceration in Munster Prison Camp, of eight of his fellow Non Commissioned Officers in the 3rd Battalione

On the reverse of the photo are the names of the men and the following in my grandfather's handwriting "Comrades of my company whom I left behind at the front. They have all been killed since. Sent from Leeuwarden, Holland (repatriation), 1918.

They are: from the left, back: Company Sergeant Major George Patrick #63912, Killed in Action 06/12/1916; Sergeant Albert Lancey #9575; Sergeant William Jack #9569; Lt. Sgt. Alan Reeve #9485, Killed in Action 27/03/1918 (in RFC as a Lieutenant); middle row from left - Company Sergeant Major Francis Knight #9459, Died of Wounds 19/09/1916; Company Sergeant Major George A. Mote #9389, Died of Wounds 06/02/1917; front row from left - Sergeant Herbert Wiles #9510; Sergeant John A. Newton #426149, Killed in Action 08/10/1916.

We now know that in fact three of the men; Sergeants Wiles, Jack and Lancey, although all severely wounded, in fact survived the war and returned to Canada. I will be entering profiles on these eight brave men in coming weeks.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Family and friends that remember my wife Lynn's late father, Bill Alexander, may not know that he was named after a family member and World War One Veteran. Indeed Lynn and I did not realize that fact until we visited Ireland last year and the birthplace of Lynn's amicable father and his Alexander clan, in Ballysakeery, County Mayo.

British War Medal, 1914-15 Star, Victory and Death Penny
William Alexander was a son of Joseph and Margaret (nee Carroll) Alexander and brother to Aaron Alexander, Lynn's Grandfather. Born in 1882, Lisglennon, Ballysakeery, Mayo, William left Ireland at some point and immigrated to the Melbourne area of South Australia. When World War One broke out in August, 1914, William enlisted as a Lance Corporal with the Australian Imperial Force at Sern Depot with the service number 104. He was assigned to the 3rd Light Horse Regiment, "A" Squadron in Canberra, listing his previous occupation as a "Policeman". He was later promoted to Sergeant Master Farrier and transferred to the 13th Light Horse Regiment. We know little about William's service with the 13th other than he left Adelaide, Australia with this unit on October 22, 1914 on the HMAT Port Lincoln. He would have fought in Gallipoli in the front lines with ANZAC forces with this unit and evacuated to Egypt in December 1915.

Later being sent to the Western Front in early 1916, the 13th Light Horse Regiment carried out traffic control, rear area security and prisoner escort tasks while being assigned to 1st ANZAC Division. In 1917, they were very active in the more traditional cavalry role of reconnaissance during the more mobile phases of battle.

William Alexander, #104, Farrier Sergeant died of disease on December 17, 1917. He has no known grave and therefore is listed on the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial, Somme, France.

***EDIT*** November, 2011

New information from the website and Australian new on-line documents service file states that at some point, William Alexander contracted Tuberculosis. He was hospitalized briefly and sent home back to Australia on a hospital ship. Apparently he succumbed to the disease on board the ship and was buried at sea. Hence his name is listed on the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial in France.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Today, I received in the mail from Library and Archives Canada, two sets of photocopied services records on men for whom I recently purchased WWI Victory Medals. This in spite of the continued slowdown due to a fire and seasonal volume at LAC. Both men served in the Canadian Expeditionary Force and both men lost their lives in the war. I intend to blog both men's profiles, as I intend to do with many more: they are respectively Pte. Charles F. Adams, #404785, 20th Battalion and Pte. Cecil Charles Jones, #1669, 5th. Field Ambulance.

Private Charles Frederick Adams, #404785, 20th Battalion

Charles Adams was a 24-year old single salesman, living with his parents at 64 Rosemount Ave., in Toronto when he enlisted with the 35th Overseas Battalion in Toronto on May 13, 1915. In his will, he left his estate to his mother, Elizabeth, but also $100.00 to "my fiancee, Miss Vera Reaman, 6 Humewood Ave., Toronto". He had been serving in the 2nd Queen's Own Rifles militia since the year's beginning and was probably hoping at some point to meet up with the 3rd (Toronto) Battalion in France, because of this affiliation, however he ended up being sent to the city's 20th Battalion as a reinforcement March 16, 1916.

The Circumstances of Death card in his service file describes his Death From Wounds on June 6, 1916 as follows: "Billeted in Dikebusch. At about 7:00 PM on June 9th, 1916, a shell struck the billet wounding Private Adams (and several other men) on the hip and in the stomach. He died of his wounds received in action June 10, 1916".

Private Charles Frederick Adams is laid to rest in Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery in Belgium. He has a visible presence on the Veterans Affairs Canada website.