Search This Blog

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


John Babcock was a man well on his way to fulfilling his own "Bucket List". Known as Canada's last surviving veteran of World War One, John Babcock died in California on February 18, 2010 at the age of 109 years. A day which also happens to be my birthday. It is because of this fact that I recently bid on a sports card honouring John Babcock, on E Bay. Little did I know that within hours of my bid and much to my astonishment, I won the item as the only bidder.

John Henry Foster Babcock was a young 16 years old when in Syndenham he enlisted in Kingston's 146th Battalion recruited by equally young brothers Charles and Robert Gowdy #835341 and 835171 respectively. See Norm Christie's interesting stories on these brothers in his excellant King and Empire series here.

Jack went overseas with the 146th Battalion, as did many underaged soldiers, for the Canadian Expeditionary Force was badly in need of reinforcements in 1916. Promoted to Lance Corporal he ended up in the Young Soldiers Battalion along with 1,300 young men, hoping to reach France. Luckily, he never did.

After the armistice was signed, John Babcock was returned to Canada and with the help of the Canadian Government, was taught the principles of an electrician. In the 1920's he emigrated to the United States, never to return to the land of his birth. At the age of 65, he obtained his pilot's licence and was active until his death. The full and complete story of John F. Babcock can be be found here on Richard Laughton's amazing blogspot on the man.

Rest In Peace, John F. Babcock.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


In Part Two of my blog on 2nd/Lt.Alan Reeve, we visit the Captain of the Bristol F2B Fighter, Captain Henry Russell Child, the story of being shot down by the Red Baron and the tragic death of Alan Reeve's brother, Sergeant Frederick Reeve #172285, 19th Battalion, C.E.F.

PART TWO - Like Alan Reeve, Henry Child was a veteran of the Infantry Corps. He was a west London native born March 27, 1895 and coming from a upper middle class family in northwest Harlesden. Early in the war 1914, he received his commission with the 21st (4th Public Schools) City of London Regiment Royal Fusiliers. He entered France November 14, 1915 with that Battalion. This battalion was disbanded April 24, 1916 "as many of the men had gone to take commissions". Later in that year Lieutenant Henry Russell Child obtained permission to take flying instruction at the Grahame-White School in Hendon. He received his Royal Aero Club Aviators Certificate #4188 on Feb. 3, 1917 and eventually found himself posted to the 11th Squadron, Royal Flying Corps in France as a 2nd Lieut. A connection with the 2nd Regiment Queen's Own Rifles and Alan Reeve was the top Ace of 11th Squadron with 30 kills Canadian Squadron Leader Andrew McKeever of Listowel, Ontario, a member of that Regiment while attending school in Toronto and who served with the 58th Battalion in France.

Child was soon promoted to Captain and was matched with 2nd Lieut. Alan Reeve in early 1918 who flew as the Observer in the 2-seat Bristol F2B Fighter/Reconnaisance aircraft. They flew a number of missions together. However on March 27, 1918, Bristol aircraft #B1332 with Child/Reeves aboard was flying a reconnaisance mission over Chuignolles, south of Bray-sur-Somme in the Somme when at 16:35 they were shot down behind German lines. According to author Floyd Gibbons in his The Red Knight of Germany Child and Reeve in Bristol B1332 were the 73rd Victim of the Red Baron, Baron von Richthofen. Although there are several military cemeteries close to the crash site that contain unidentified flyers from the Royal Flying Corps, Child and Reeve are both commemorated on the Arras Flying Services Memorial. There actual graves remain waiting to be discovered.

The twin bother of Lieut. Alan Reeve was Frederick Reeve. Frederick enlisted as a Private in Toronto with the Queen's Own Rifles 83rd Battalion, service number 172285. He embarked with the 83rd from Halifax on the S.S. Olympic. On August 18, 1916, Frederick was taken on service to Toronto's 19th Battalion, being quickly promoted to the rank of Sergeant on March 29, 1917. However, on May 9, 1917 during a period the 19th Battalion held the trenches near Dickenbusch in "Spoilbank Trench", he was listed as Missing In Action. His name is commemorated with honour on the Vimy Memorial.

Saturday, February 6, 2010


When I first started researching the Non-Commissioned Officers in my grandfathers photo from his friends in the 3rd Battalion, little did I know there would a direct connection to the infamous Red Baron. This profile of Alan Reeve admittedly is one of the more interesting ones I have done.

PART ONE - The Reeve family that resided at 1816 Gerrard St.E., Toronto in August, 1914 had immigrated from Cambridge, England about 1905. The family however, is shown as living at 167 Major Street on the 1911 Census with Charles father, Charlotte mother, Harold son and Maud daughter. This is very close to the University of Toronto - our man Alan Reeve may have attended the school for a year or two but at this time did not reside with the family. Nor did his brother Frederick, who also listed his birthday as November, 1894. It is entirely possible the two brothers Alan and Frederick were twins.

Alan and Frederick Reeve were both members of the 2nd Regiment Queen's Own Rifles militia. Alan joined the draft leaving Toronto for Valcartier and ended up as a Private in "C" Company, 3rd (Toronto) Battalion. Brother Frederick later joined the QOR's 83rd Battalion and was Killed in Action May 9, 1917 while serving with the 19th Battalion in France. This family and brothers are not to be confused with the Reeves Family one of whom also enlisted in the 3rd Battalion (Pte Cedic Reeves #10069) and who will be the subject of a future blog. Alan followed the "Dirty Third" through their Salisbury Plains training and into the trenches in February 1915. He was unscathed from the activities of 2nd Ypres in April, 1915 and promoted to rank of Corporal on May 23. He was hospitalized in July for a short period with Enteritis and in August attached to 3rd Field Company, Canadian Engineers for a week followed by Bombing School. January 9, 1916, Alan Reeve was promoted to full Sergeant in the field. On May 30, 1916, he received a blighty in the form of a severe gun shot wound to his right arm and admitted to hospital in England. Discharged to 12th Reserve Battalion, West Sandling in August 1916 and thence seconded to the Pay Office in London. In March 1917, Sgt. Alan Reeve was sent on command to Officer's Training College, Bexhill and in April was Gazetted as a Temporary Lieutenant. He was sent back to the 3rd Battalion as an officer replacement in the field May 26. In September Alan was attached to the Royal Flying Corps as an observer and sent to London for a one-month course. By November 11, 1917 2/Lt Alan Reeve was seconded for duty with 11th Squadron, Royal Flying Corps in the field in France. A famous Canadian Ace who also flew with the 11th Squadron was Listowel-born Major Andrew Edward McKeever, D.S.O., M.C. and Bar, Croix de Guerre who had 30 kills by wars end. McKeever coincidentally also came out of the ranks of the Queen's Own Rifles and apparently was a crack marksman serving in Toronto's 58th Battalion before being recruited for the R.F.C.

Alan was granted 14 days leave in England on March 1, 1918. On March 24, 1918 he was reported as Missing In Action while flying as the observer to Captain Henry Russell Child in a Bristol F2B (#B1332). The two were flying a patrol over the town of Chuignolles, Somme, south of Bray-sur-Somme, when at 16:35 they were supposedly confronted and shot down by Squadron Leader Baron von Richthofen as The Red Baron's 77th kill. Richhofen was only to fly for a few more weeks and score only three more victories before being shot down himself over the Somme on April 21, 1918.

2nd/Lieut. Alan Reeve and Captain Henry Russell Child have no known grave. Their names are commemorated on the Arras Flying Services Memorial in France. I often wonder if there are graves in the area marked "A Unknown Flying Officer of the Royal Flying Corps" and if they might be identified.