Search This Blog

Thursday, November 28, 2013


When the rather mundane medals came up for auction, I remember my only interest was based on the fact that World War One grouping named to a Canadian Railway Troops killed in action are relatively rare, so I submitted a low bid. Much to my surprise it was successful and thus my research began. The story of Sapper Thomas Arthur Reeves #136500, his demise and his family were to dominate much of my awake time for the past week.
Reeves Family Home, Humber Bay, ON
Francis Frederick Reeves was 1862 born in Canterbury, Kent to schoolmaster Henry Reeves and wife Jane. Francis emigrated about 1882 to Canada and found employment with the CPR in Nipissing, ON. He met Catherine Tompkins, a native of Great Horwood, Bucks, England marrying her in North Bay 1885. By 1891, the couple had moved to Etobicoke West, had children Harry (4) and Jennie (2) were working as gardeners living with Frank's younger brother Charles and younger sister Violet, who had also emigrated to Canada. By 1901, the family had moved to Humber Bay,ON. The brother and sister had departed by 1901 however the following children had been added: Frank (9); Egerton (7); Cedric (5); Thomas (3) and Winnifred (4 months). Thomas had a twin brother who died at a young age. In the 1911 Census, for some inexplicable reason, the family name is listed as "Burnes". However Frederick (8) and George (6) had been added along with employee Fred Bragg (22). All these people with housed in a very substantial dwelling located at today's northwest intersection of Berry Road and Stephen Drive, the site today of the Stonegate Plaza. A number of area market farmers banded together in 1892 to form nearby Humber Vale Cemetery (later to become Park Lawn Cemetery in 1916), it is probable that Frank Reeves was one of them. It is worth noting at his point, Frank Reeves was employed as a "gardener" and not a "farmer". He and his Reeves family were to develop a number of garden nursery locales in the City of Toronto, under various names, which exist to this day. There is also to this day family living across the street from the location of the first site of the market garden in nowadays Etobicoke.
Humber Bay Cenotaph, R.C.L. 8th Street
Thomas Reeves gave his birthday as September, 1897 when he enlisted in Toronto's 74th Overseas Battalion, C.E.F. in Toronto on November 13, 1915. Barely old enough (18) to enlist with his parent's permission. However certainly not old enough to fight in the brutal trenches of Europe given his true age (born late1898) under any circumstances! He was following older brother Cedric Reeves #10069 (born 1896), an original Valcartier member of Toronto's 3rd Battalion who had already been wounded in the 2nd Battle of Ypres, April 1915. Still older brother Frank Owen Reeves #324907 (born 1892) was to follow the two of them into battle when he joined in Guelph the then forming 56th Battery, Canadian Field Artillery March 20, 1916. I feel that Frank may have been either a student or instructor at Guelph Agricultural College.

Humber Bay Market Gardens, circa 1935
The 74th Battalion was raised in the Western outskirts of the Toronto, by the 36th Peel and Dufferin Regiment mobilizing in Camp Niagara.The battalion sailed for England  on the S.S. Empress of Britain with a strength of 34 officers and 1,046 ranks under the command of Lt.-Col.J.M. McCausland. It had departed Halifax March 29 and arrived Liverpool April 9, 1916. An earlier draft (October 1, 1915) had already departed for the U.K. On arrival in England, the 74th Battalion was broken up for badly needed reinforcements to front line units. Thus young Thomas was sent  on June 8, 1916 to the 1st Canadian Mounted Battalion, then fighting in the front lines in France, arriving at the trenches June 12. Serving with this dismounted Infantry battalion, Private Reeves suffered a gun shot wound to the cheek September 17, 1916. He had not yet reached his 18th birthday!.While recovering in hospital in England, his actual age was found out. After convalescence, Thomas was transferred to the much less risky Canadian Railway Troops on February 4, 1917 and arrived back in France February 24 being assigned the the 5th Battalion The, CRT. Now Sapper, Thomas Reeves, 18 years old, was killed in action May 14, 1917.
Sapper Thomas Reeves
The official war diary for the 5th Battalion, Canadian Railway Troops, for May 14, 1917, reads as follows:

Duisans - Arras, France
B Company double tracking Duisans to Achicourt. The attached labour, 12th West Riding, 550 strong, has now changed into the 24th and 5th Labour Companies, the total average attached labour on the work, including 450 2nd Canadian Labour Battalion mounts to 990 attached labour altogether. C Company ballasting Arras-Pampoux Line north of Scarpe River, also grading into Pampoux. 2 other ranks killed and one wounded of the 5th Bn., C.R.T., 4 other ranks killed and 7 wounded of 12th Lincolns attached. Damage to line, 1 break, repaired at once. 2 platoons worked till 2:00 am 15-517 unloading train at Q Dump. General maintenance carried on. D Company, 1 platoon grading on "B7" Line, 1 platoon on "B6" Line, 2 platoons on maintenance of "D" and "D2" Lines. 180 attached labour divided between "B6" and "B7" Lines. Weather - fine.
And so a brutal day for the "C" Company, 5th battalion, CRT and young Sapper Thomas Reeves and his brother in arms, Sapper Jacob Orr Cherry #27524, were initially interred in the closer burial ground, Rue St. Michel British Cemetery, Arras. However with battlefield consolidations, the bodies were exhumed in 1921 and reburied int he larger Faubourg-D'Amiens Cemetery, Arras, where they lay to this day.
 I have yet to receive the World War One service records of Thomas' two older brothers, Cedric and Frank, however they have been ordered. The Reeves family have remained active in the florist/garden business in Toronto since the turn of the century. The area of family market gardens located in the Humber Bay/Stonegate area of Etobicoke, north of the Queensway and south of Bloor street, west of the Humber River, is now asphalt and concrete. By count there are approximately 75 low-rise apartment buildings in the neighbourhood. Plans have been announced to redevelop the plaza into a high-rise community with food stores, library and storefront community centre. Park Lawn Cemetery remains as tranquil as ever and home to Francis Frederick Reeves and wife, Catherine (as well as our Richardson, Timpson and Clearwater Families).

Special thanks are extended to Michael Harrison, Denise Harris from the Etobicoke Historical Society and Jessica Ehrenworth of Toronto Archives, without whom their cooperation, this blog would not be possible.

Illustrations and photographs: special thanks to Marika Pirie and book "Memories of a Place Called Humber Bay", Harry & Blanche Hall, 1991

Thanks as well to David Bluestein, new owner of the medals, for the Telegram newspaper clippings.

Sunday, November 24, 2013



During the war 245 officers and 8096 N.C.O.'s and men have passed through the 3rd Battalion and it has suffered battle casualties amounting to 181 officers and 4596 other ranks.

The Honors awarded it include:
  • Victoria Crosses                         2
  • C.M.G.                                        1
  • Distinguished Service Order       11
  • Bars to the D.S.O.                       2
  • O.B.E.                                          1
  • Military Crosses                           50
  • Bars to the M.C.                           11
  • Distinguished Conduct Medals    42
  • Military Medals                            233
  • Bars to the M.M.                          23
  • Second Bar to the M.M.                1
  • Meritorious Service Medals           6
  • Foreign Decorations                     9
  • Mentioned In Dispatches             44    
The battalion took a great pride in the turnout of the horses and vehicles of its transport which was successful in winning, 7 times out of 11, the whip awarded by the Brigade Commander for the best transport in the 1st Brigade.

3rd Battalion marching into Germany, 1919

The Band of the battalion was formed in the Autumn of 1915, all of the bandsmen being men who were then doing duty in the trenches, The original instruments were provided through the generosity of a few Toronto friends.

3rd Battalion Band, 1915
The battalion received a great deal of assistance from the 3rd Battalion, Toronto Regiment, Women's Auxiliary, which under the Presidency of Mrs. Amilious Jarvis, was untiring in supplying socks and other comforts and helped each year to provide the men\s Christmas Dinner, besides performing a multitude of services for the women relatives of the men of the battalion. Shortly after the Armistice this association presented the battalion with its regimental colours.
In 1916 an Association, of which Major Ward Wright was President, was formed in Toronto, for the purpose of keeping together ex-members of the battalion.

The Following Officers, N.C.O.'s and Men Who Went To France With The Toronto Regiment Returned To Toronto With It:-
  • Lieut. - Col. J.B.Rogers, C.M.G.,D.S.O.,M.C.
  • Lieut. - Col. D.H.C.Mason, D.S.O., O.B.E.
  • Capt. E.H.Minns, M.C.
  • Capt. A.K.Coulthard, M.C., M.M.
  • Capt. H.T.Lord, M.C.
  • Lieut. A.V.Noble
  • Lieut. D. Morrison, M.M.
  • Lieut. J.L.Austin

  • 9356  R.Q.M.S. G.R.Pollock
  • 9068  Sgt. H.V.Spence, D.C.M., M.M., Belgium Crosse de Guerre
  • 9306  Sgt. R.J. Clapton, M.S.M.
  • 9070  Sgt. N.Thorn, M.S.M.
  • 9265  Sgt. R.H. Williams
  • 10153 Sgt. W.H. Minett
  • 9074  Cpl. J. Mullen, M.M.
  • 9226  Cpl. R.J.Murdock
  • 9606  L.-Cpl. G.Spraggett
  • 9889  Pte. W.Bennett
  • 18171 Pte. J.Bodell
  • 18761 Pte. J.J.Burns
  • 9900  Pte. T.Clarke
  • 9434  Pte. G.W.Dent
  • 10026 Pte. T.Franklin
  • 9513  Pte. H.Kingsley, M.M.
  • 9801  Pte. W.J.Leatham
  • 9463  Pte. W.C.Legier
  • 18213 Pte. Ed Lindsay
  • 9332  Pte. A.S.Lukeman
  • 9073  Pte. W.Maitland
  • 9105  Pte. R.G.Ottey
  • 9748  Pte. S.H.Pilling
  • 9714  Pte. Wm.Renfrew
  • 9251  Pte. H.Sanderson
  • 9373  Pte. H.F.Smith
  • 9057  Pte. P.C. Stephenson
  • 10171 Pte. G. Stretton, M.M.
  • 9497  Pte. E.W.Thorne
  • 9494  Pte. P.H.Theberge
  • 9385  Pte. H. Webster
  • 10079 Pte. G.White

Thursday, November 14, 2013



The 1st Canadian Division then took over a new sector farther north , the 1st Brigade being in Reserve at Vis-en-Artois. On October 10th, the enemy withdrew to the Sensee Canal.The 3rd Battalion took over from the 15th here and co-cooperating with the
3rd Battalion Divisional Patch
engineers, carried out a daring and successful raid. The Engineers bridged the canal with a cork bridge , "B" and "D" Companies crossed, captured several prisoners, 4 machine guns and accounted for many of the enemy. Two days later the enemy again retired, the 3rd Battalion following to the Cambrai-Douai Road. The next morning the 1st and 4th Battalions carried on the chase, getting as far as Pecquencourt, where there was over 1000 civilians.The pursuit continued for three more days, when the 3rd Battalion arrived at the outskirts of St. Amand. Here the 1st Division was relieved by the 3rd Canadian Division, the 3rd Battalion being moved to Montigny, where it remained training and resting until the signing of the armistice on November 11, 10:00 am, on December

3rd Battalion Machine Guns August, 1918
Two days later, on November 13th, as part of the Army of Occupation, the battalion, commanded by Major Mason, commenced the march to the Rhine, a distance of some 250 miles. The route lay through Valenciennes and Mons, the latter only recently being freed by the 2nd Canadian Division. Everywhere flags were displayed and enthusiastic crowds greeted the troops. At Arquennes a civic reception was tendered the battalion. On November 24th and 25th "C" and "D" Companies formed the Infantry of the Advanced Guard. The Meuse was crossed at Andennes on the 28th, and the hilly country of the Ardennes entered on the 30th. At noon on December 4th, the battalion, led by the Corps and Divisional Commanders, entered Germany at Poteau, bayonets fixed, and the band playing the "Maple Leaf Forever." Two days later the battalion furnished "A" and "B" Companies to the Advanced Guard, under Major Mason, which pushing steadily forward, reached the Rhine at Wesseling, 5 miles south of Cologne, at 10:00 am, on December 9th, the first Canadian troops to reach the River.They had covered 85 miles in five and a half days Four days later, on Friday, December 13th the whole Division crossed the Rhine at Cologne, being inspected as they did so, by General Sir Herbert Plumer, Commanding the Army of Occupation. After a few short moves, the battalion settled down in the workman's barracks at the Wahn Dynamite Factory, 10 miles south-east of Cologne, where here Christmas and New Year's Day were very pleasantly spent.  
3rd Battalion Marching Into Germany December 4, 1918

S.S. City of Poona
On January 10th, 1919, the Battalion entrained for Belgium and went into billets at Moxhe, Ciplet and Avin, 10 miles northwest of Huy on the Meuse, where it remained till March the 18th, before entraining for Le Havre. The monotony of this period was relived by a good deal of short leave for trips to points of interest in Belgium, and by a review of some 2500 men of the Division in Liege. Early in March the King's Colour given by His Majesty to the Battalion.was formally presented by the Divisional Commander, Maj.-Gen. Sir Archibald C. McDonnell, K.C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O. On the night of March 22nd-23rd, four years and six weeks after its arrival in France, the Battalion crossed to England and went into hutments at Bramshott, where the demobilization documents of all ranks were made out, and eight day's leave granted during the following three weeks. April 14th saw the Battalion again commanded by Lt.-Col. Rogers, embarked on the S.S. "Olympic" which on the following day sailed for Halifax, reaching that port on the 21st. The Battalion arrived in Toronto with the 4th Battalion in the afternoon of April 23rd, with a strength of 31 officers and 694 warrant officers, N.C.O.'s and men; of the former two were originals officers and six had been in the ranks when the Battalion entered the war. Of the latter 32 were originals. Detrainment took place at North Toronto Station were the previously returned veterans of the Battalions' were drawn up to receive it. Preceded by them, and followed by the 4th Battalion, it marched down Yonge St. and via Queen's Park to the University Stadium, the grand stand of which was crowed with the fiends, and relatives of the members. For the last time the Battalion formed Mass. The next movement it was over-whelmed by a rush of its friends and then there and there ceased to exist as a military unit.

Private Eric Richard Seaman #9825, 3rd Battalion
Prisoner of War Repatriation, December 1918

"I'll never forget the train that pulled out of this camp and on to the docks in Hamburg, and it was Christmas Day, 1918. There were soldiers everywhere, on the running boards, on top of the railway cars, and everything. I'm sure there must have been about twenty-five hundred of them and we got off it whooping and yelling, and there what do you suppose we saw at the very dock, right in Hamburg? There she was, the "S.S. City of Poona", with the Union Jack floating at the stern. Oh gee, the sight of that flag after months and months in that bloody country, you know. It got so you wondered if you would ever get back."

Major D.H.C. Mason, 3rd Battalion
March Into Germany, December 1918

"The march to the Rhine finished up in a race between the 1st and 2nd Divisions quite unexpectedly. I happened to have the advance guard, and just before noon I was just mounting my horse and the signaller was just going to leave the telephone when a message came through from Brigade, a very excited Brigade Major said,": The Brigadier wants you to get to the Rhine tomorrow as soon as possible." So I said, "Right." 10:15-10:30, something of that kind, the next morning we hit the Rhine and gave them the time. All I heard was a fervent "Thank God". That afternoon I think that I had pretty near every member of the Divisional Brigade staff in to see me to shake my hand. It appeared that hey had suddenly discovered that the 2nd Division was further ahead than they thought, you see. Hence this frantic message. Sir Archie MacDonnell wouldn't have been fit to live with for a week, you know, if the 2nd Division had got there before the 1st."

Saturday, October 5, 2013


LATE 1918

The hard pounding by the 2nd and 3rd divisions had left General Currie short of his ambitious goal by only the final objective, the Drocourt-Quent Line. Pressure mounted from Haig and GHQ to continue the advance, and Currie received orders on 28 August that set the date for the assault on the D-Q Line as 1 September. Originally, GHQ had wanted to launch the assault earlier, but Currie had refused, needing time to consolidate his gains, rest his troops, and prepare a set-piece infantry-artillery attack on the strongly fortified position. Currie commented in his diary, "believing the Quent-Drocourt line to be the backbone of [enemy] resistance, we have decided...not to attack it until ready, then we go all out."

Currie wanted to secure his line of departure by completing the taking of the Fresnes-Rouvroy Line, and by clearing the approaches of the D-Q Line by capturing some heavily fortified villages to the Canadian Corps' front. These attacks were carried out by the 1st Canadian and 4th British Divisions on 30-31 August. The attack in the1st Division's area, carried out by the 1st Canadian Infantry Brigade under Brigadier General William Griesbach was described by Sir Archibald Macdonell as a "tactical masterpiece." Turning on an open flank to the south of the German positions to his advantage, Griesbach executed a converging "pincer" attack into the flank and rear of the German line. Instead of rolling west to east parallel to the German defenses, as most barrages did, the 1st CIB advanced behind an ingenious barrage that ran from south to north. The daring maneuver was highly successful, despite the short time allowed for its preparation."
Shock Army of the British Empire, The Canadian Corps in the Last 100 Days of the Great War, Shane B. Schreiber, Vanwell Publishing, 2004, page 78.

Unknown Sergeant of the 3rd Battalion, Sains les Marquion

The Battle of Arras -
On August 25th, the 3rd Battalion entrained for the north, and went into billets at Dainville, just west of Arras. Meanwhile the Battle of Arras had opened, the 2nd and 3rd Canadian Divisions having made a splendid advance. The 1st Division had moved up in support and was soon engaged. The 1st Brigade was ordered to take the Vis-En-Artois Switch on August 30 and moved into assembly positions in the evening of the 29th, the 3rd Battalion under Major Mason, on the slope of the Sensee Valley, with a view to attacking in an easterly direction, while the 1st and 2nd Battalions were to attack from the south, and effect a junction with the 3rd in the enemy's position. (the pincer) The attack took place at  dawn and was completely successful. though, the objective being a short one, the enemy's artillery had full play and caused many casualties. "A" and "C" Companies attacked in line, "B" Company passing through them, while "D" Company were in reserve. The following day the advance was continued a few hundred yards by "D" Company and that night the battalion as relieved and moved back into bivouac near Wancourt.
Canal du Nord, near the location of the 3rd Battalion attack

The day was spent in resting and refitting, orders having been received for a grand attack on the Drocourt-Queant Line the following morning. For this attack the 1st Brigade was to be in support to the 2nd and 3rd Brigades and if all went well, was to push through and exploit success, At 5:00 am, the Battalion fell in on the Cherisy Road, and advancing to the southwest of Upton Wood, formed battle order there and at 8:00 am advanced to the attack. It soon bcame evident that the neighbouring troops had had difficulty in taking their objectives, and the Battalion moved forward practically alone to a strong position on the railway embankment overlooking the Canal Du Nord, where it received orders to halt. It was commanded during the day, successively by Major Mason, Major Kippen, and Major Crawford, the first two having been wounded. The following day the 4th Battalion passed through the 3rd, pushing to the Canal. The Division was then relieved by the 2nd Canadian Division, going to rest billets west of Arras. The Battalion had in the two attacks lost an astounding 18 officers and 334 men!

Milton,ON war trophy captured by 3rd Infantry Battalion

The Battle of Cambrai and the Canal du Nord - On September 15th, the division moved forward by train to Hendecourt, where final preparations were made for an attack on a two-army front: First Army on the left, Fourth Army on the right. The Canadian Corps was on the left of the First Army, the 11th British Division, which was attached to the Canadians was on the extreme left. The 1st Canadian Division attacked with the 3rd Brigade on the left, the 1st Brigade on the right, the 2nd Brigade passing through both to the final objectives. The 1st Brigade attacked in three jumps, the first carried out by the 4th Battalion which crossed the Canal Du Nord...the second by the 1st Battalion... and the third by the 3rd Battalion under Lt.Col. Rogers, on the right. All these operations were successfully carried out. By the end of the day the 3rd Battalion had 28 German field and heavy guns to its credit and Captain G.F. Kerr, in command of "B" company had done work which earned him the Victoria Cross. Some days later the attack was continued, the 1st and 4th Battalions of the 1st Brigade being employed. "B" and "D" Companies of the 3rd Battalion were used to reinforce these battalions, owing to their losses. The 3rd Battalion suffered casualties to 11 officers and 183 other ranks during these two operations.

LIEUTENANT S. SPROSTON - 10th Canadian Infantry Battalion
September, 1918

"I know we had very heavy fighting both in Villers les Cagicourt and in Cagicourt. Drocourt-Quent Line was the line and that was strongly fortified; and he fought right to the last. Tremendous! I never saw so many German dead as there was around that place. Thousands of them. They fought all that ridge, but the 10th took it between 7 and 8 o'clock at night. "B" Company attacked with "Dawn" Company in support. We were on the right and we flanked them-got right around-by-passed them. We got our objective. But "C" Company and "D" Company had some terrible heavy fighting and heavy casualties. Very heavy casualties, but the Germans had tremendous casualties too."

Captain George F.Kerr, Victoria Cross
September 27, 1918

"For most conspicuous bravery and leadership during the Bourlon Wood operations on 27th September,1918, when in command of the left support company in attack. He handled his company with great skill, and gave timely support by outflanking a machine-gun which was impeding advance. Later near the Arras-Cambrai Road, the advance was again held up by a strong point, far in advance of his company, rushed this strong point single handily and captured four machine guns and thirty-one prisoners. His valour throughout this engagement was an inspiring example to all."

Awarded the Victoria Cross
London Gazette, #31108, 6 January 1919

Photos by Richard Laughton and Bob Richardson

Monday, September 30, 2013


EARLY 1918

By early 1918, the Canadian Corps headed by Lt.General Arthur Currie, had evolved into an elite and efficient fighting force, possibly the most efficient weapon on the Western Front.

"In the first half of 1918, The Corps reached its maximum fighting efficiency when it all came together; command and control, staff work, and training. Certain changes in establishments in the first half gave each Canadian division a sapper brigade (three battalions each of 30 officers and 969 other ranks) and a pontoon bridging unit (66 all ranks) capable of bridging 225 feet. This organization would admirably meet the needs of the "Hundred Days". The other major change gave each division 96 advanced Vickers machine-guns, 30 more than in an Imperial division, Canadian brigades retained the four-battalion infantry brigade (Imperial brigades had been reduced to three battalion strength). By August, the Corps could punch considerably above any other. The four Canadian divisions stood at 84,000. With the addition of over 35,000 Corps troops, this made the Canadian Corps the strongest in the BEF and the equal in assault and firepower of a small Army. Knowing this and the Corps reputation, Haig made it the vanguard of the 1918 summer offensive."  We Lead, Others Follow, First Canadian Division 1914-1918, Kenneth Radley, Vanwell Publishing, 2006.

The Battle of Amiens, August 8, 1918
The end of January, 1918, found the battalion again in the line in the St. Emile Sector immediately north of Lens and it continued to do tours in this Sector and at Hill 70 till the great German offensive opened on March 21st. A few days later, the situation north of Amiens being serious, the 1st Division was rushed down there in buses. It had, however, no sooner arrived than it was ordered north again to support the retiring line before Arras. Here the 3rd Battalion went into the line at the beginning of April at Telegraph Hill. During the next four months several tours were done in the line about Arras, some south and some north of the Scarpe and a great deal of trench digging was done in the rear areas which were made extraordinary strong in view of a possible further enemy offensive in this region. The remainder of the period was spent in vigorous training at Caucourt and Izel-Les-Hameau. During this time a series of Regimental, Brigade, Divisional and Corps Sports were held, the latter being possibly the greatest sporting event ever held by the British Armies in France. The 1st Division scored 101 points, nearly twice as many as any other Division, and of these, 30 were to the credit of the 3rd Battalion.
Lt. Henry T. Poste, 3rd Battalion

In the first days of August, the Canadian Corps was very secretly assembled to the west of Amiens in preparation for the great British counter offensive which was to open on the 8th. On the night of the 5th, the troops were moved forward in buses and concealed during daylight hours in woods and villages. At dawn on the 8th, the 3rd, 1st and 2nd Divisions attacked, with the 4th in Reserve, the French on your right, and the Australians on their left. The 1st Division attack was opened by the 3rd Brigade, the 1st Brigade leap-frogging them and being in turn leap-frogged by the 2nd Brigade. So heavy was the fog for the first hour or more that the Headquarters and Companies of the 3rd Battalion were completely hidden fro one an other's view, and advanced to their objectives by compass bearing, but when the mist lifted, every Company was found in its place, and in spite of determined resistance, the objectives were all taken on time together with several field guns and six heavy guns. An unusually large number of the enemy were left dead on the field. The Battalion had advanced some ten miles over very difficult country and before it halted had reached the Luce River, east of Cayeux.
Upton Wood Cemetery& battlefield

The next morning the Brigade side-slipped to the south and, at noon, advanced to the attack of Beaufort, which was taken by the 1st and 2nd Battalions, the latter of whom pushed forward posts into Rouvroy. At 6:00 pm the 3rd Battalion pushed through and established a line to the east of Rouvroy. The following day (the 10th) the 4th Canadian and 32nd Imperial Divisions passed through to the attack of Fouquescourt and Parvilliers and on the 11th the Battalion was relived and moved back to Beaufort. Throughout these operations it was commanded by Lt.-Col. Rogers. The casualties amounted to 16 officers and 235 men.

Major D.H.C. Mason, 3rd Battalion
Battle Of Amiens - August 9, 1918

"The thing (attack) was done in three waves. Each Division with one Brigade; went a certain distance, to a certain line; stopped; and the next Brigade went through it, carried n, to another liner and then the final Brigade went through it, to the finish".

MAJOR IAN SINCLAIR (Queen's Own Rifles), 13th Battalion
Battle of Amiens - August 9, 1918

"We were to attack on a front called Hangard Wood where there had been bitter, bitter fighting in the Spring, where a German battalion and a British one had fought to a standstill in the Spring and it was just a solid mass of bodies, the whole place, and we tried going through it in the attack and it was just impossible to even get through the mass of dead in there so we split and went around either side but it was just an astounding piece of luck that day that everything went with us. The Germans couldn't see us coming. The first break we ever had in the war, and then we moved so fast we over-ran the first lot and the rest never recovered. The biggest advance that there had ever been on the Western Front in a single attack. It was beautiful"!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


LATE 1917

"The word "Passchendaele" conjures vivid images of the Great War's fruitless slaughter and epitomizes the nadir of war fighting. This was the place where seemingly homicidal, chateau-dwelling generals sitting kilometers behind the lines ducked their thin gums in delight as they planned to murder off their troops in one hopeless assault after another. The horrific pervasiveness of quicksand-like mud and unburied corpses brought to mind Dante's images of hell. This blighted battlefield has maintained a firm grip on the popular memory of the war. For most of the British troops it was an unwavering horror show of defeat and destruction, but for the Canadians it provided another victory - which seemed Pyrrhic at first, but played a key role in restoring the British Army's morale, and probably saved Sir Douglas Haig's job as Commander-in-chief."  Shock Troops, Tim Cook, 2008
Private Walter Newby,3rd Battalion KIA, Nov.6, 1917

Early in September it was again in the line, holding the newly won trenches covering the ruined mining towns of CITE ST.EMILE and CITE ST.EDOUARD between HILL 70 and LENS. For 19 days the battalion was in the front line or in close support and always under shell-fire. It was one of the most trying tours it had ever done, - as the enemy was extremely aggressive and deluged the whole area with shell-fire, while the advanced posts were so severely hammered by guns and minenwerfer that they were only held by the greatest gallantry on the part of the garrisons and at a cost of 5 officers and 86 men killed and wounded.
Private Roy D. Loomis, Tyne Cot Cemetery

In the middle of October the Canadian Corps marched north to take its part in the Third Battle of YPRES, which had been in full swing for some months. The advance of the 2nd and 4th Armies had by this time almost reached the last high ground in this part of Flanders, the PASSCHENDAELE RIDGE, and to the Canadian Corps was assigned the task of capturing this important position. This was to be done in two phases, the first being assigned to the 3rd and 4th Divisions, who in the end of October secured a footing on the western spurs of the main ridge. The second phase was to be carried out by the 1st and 2nd Divisions.

With thanks to Marika Pirie
After ten days preparation and training near CASSEL in the rear area, the 1st Division, in the beginning of November, moved up and prepared to attack on November 6th. The attack was carried out by the 1st Brigade, with a brigade of the 2nd Division on its right. The 3rd Battalion, under Lt.-Col. Rogers, was divided, "B" Company and half of "A" Company being in support to the main attack, while "C" Company and the other half of "A" Company, supported by "D" Company, and commanded by Major Mason,delivered a subsiduary attack on VINE COTTAGES, a strong point on the GOUDBERG SPUR. This position was surrounded on three sides by almost impassible swampy ground, which cut it off from the main attack and made it very difficult of access except from the enemy's side. The position was, however,  successfully taken by Major Crawford, yielding 40 prisoners and 6 machine guns, and contact established with main attack. The strength of the position, the terrible condition of the ground and the heavy shell=fire made this a very expensive operation, the troops engaged losing 60% in casualties. Corporal Barron of "D" Company was awarded the Victoria Cross for his action on this occasion. The remainder of the battalion composed of "B" Company and half of "A" Company, under Major Cooper, during the day, moved up very gallantly through intense shell-fire to the support of the 2nd Battalion, but did not come into action. The half of "A" Company, having had all its officers killed, was led throughout the action by Company Sergeant Major Williams. Altogether the battalion had lost 9 officers and 254 other ranks.
Passchendaele - Canadian soldiers and prisoners, 1917

On the 7th the battalion was relieved and shortly afterwards moved south in buses, going into the line on the southern outskirts of LENS, just one month after it had left here to go north. After a few tours here, the 1st Division was relieved and moved back for a few month's Christmas rest, the battalion going to DIEVAL, south of BRUAY. Here Christmas was celebrated in much the same way as the proceeding one.

Norm Christie - The Canadians At Passchendaele
October to November, 1917

"The Battle of Passchendaele was the bloodiest and most costly battle of the First World War. Lasting from August to November 1917, it cost the Commonwealth more than 250,000 soldiers - killed, wounded or missing - for an advance of less than 6 kilometres. The losses were sadly typical of the Great War, but it was the truly repulsive conditions of soldiers attacking through knee-deep morass and the wounded drowning in the mud which gave Passchedaele its legacy as "Hell". The Canadians entered the battle in mid-October and between October 26 and November 10, launched four major attacks, finally capturing the village of Passchendaele and a piece of the ridge beyond. The two weeks of fighting cost the Canadians more than 5,000 dead and 11,000 wounded. Many of the men just vanished in the sea of mud. But the tenacity of the men never faltered and their capture of Passchendaele was a huge achievement".

Daniel G. Dancocks - Legacy of Valour, The Canadians At Passchendaele
November 6, 1917

"Pinned down by deadly fire from three machine guns in a fortified post, a number of attempts were made to rush the enemy gunners but the men were mown down each time. Enter Corporal Colin Fraser Barron. Carefully cradling his rifle to protect it from the mud, Corporal Barron began to crawl forward. There was no cover, and it appeared to those watching that Barron's approach would certainly be discovered. Miraculously undetected, he crept to within blank-point range of the enemy post. Tossing several bombs, Barron opened fire on the surprised and stunned gunners. Four were killed outright, and the rest fled. But they did not get far, as Barron shot them down with one of their own machine guns. For his bravery, Barron would be awarded the Victoria Cross".

Canon Frederick Scott (Padre 1st Canadian Division) - The Great War As I Saw It
November 6, 1917

"Then I started to walk up the terrible muddy roads till i came to the different German pill-boxes which had been converted into headquarters for the battalions. Finally, after wading through water and mud nearly up to my knees, I found myself the next afternoon wondering near Goudberg Copse, with a clear view of the ruins of Passchendaele, which was held by another Division on our right. The whole region was unspeakably horrible. Rain was falling, the dreary waste of shell-ploughed mud, yellow and clinging, stretched off into the distance as far as eye could see. Bearer parties. tired and pale., were carrying out the wounded on stretchers, making a journey of several miles in doing so. The bodies of dead men lay here and they were where they had fallen in the advance. I came across one poor boy who had been killed that morrning. His body was covered with a shining coating of yellow mud, and looked like a statue made of bronze. He had a beautiful face, with finely shaped head covered with close, curling hair, and looked more like some work of art than a human being. The huge shell holes were half filled with water often reddened with human blood, and many of the wounded had rolled down in the pools and had been drowned".

Saturday, May 18, 2013


EARLY 1917

The remainder of the winter (1916-17) passed without incident, the battalion doing regular trench tours in the neighbourhood of Souchez and the north end of Vimy Ridge. This winter cost 17 officers and 87 other ranks killed and wounded. (interesting to note that your odds of being a casualty were much greater if you were an officer although less than 4% of the battalion were officers and 96% of the battalion were enlisted men).

Vimy Ridge Memorial April 9, 2007

In March, orders were received that several corps, including the Canadians, were to open the spring offensive with an attack upon the Vimy Ridge and the lines to the south of it.. Careful training and study of the ground were carried out during the following weeks and when at dawn April 9th (1917), the battalion went over the top, under Lt.-Col. Rogers, not a detail had been overlooked and everything was carried out according to plan. The battalion was on the extreme right of the corps and had the longest distance to go, but though its flank was quite up in the air, it took and passed its final objectives on time the village of Farbus and Farbus Wood and captured many prisoners and four guns (the first to be taken by the Canadians), on the eastern slope of the Ridge.The cost was only 6 officers and 179 men in casualties. During the next few days, the gains made were extended into the flat country east of the Ridge and here, on April 28th, the Second Brigade took the entrenched village of Arleux. The 3rd Battalion was in support but was not used in the successful attack, though it suffered from shell-fire.
1st Division, Vimy Ridge, April 9, 1917

A mile beyond Arleux was the entrenched village of Fresnoy and its capture assigned to the 1st Brigade. The 3rd Battalion, commanded by Major Mason, was on the right, the 2nd in the centre and the 1st on the left, the 4th being in support. The attack was launched at dawn on May 3rd and, so far as the Brigade was concerned, was entirely successful. The troops on either flank, however, were unable to come up and the enemy on their fronts brought heavy enfilade fire to bear on their positions.
A/Major W.E.Curry, KIA April 9,1917
So hot was the fire that even the supporting platoons could not get forward and throughout the day the position was held by the assault troops alone, commanded by Captain (later Major) Harry Hutchison, DSO,MC,MID, who, though the enemy was on three sides of them, stuck to their ground and beat off repeated counter-attacks. When darkness permitted the rushing up of reinforcements ad supplies, there remained three officers, of whom two had been hit, and a few score of men, out of the nine officers and nine platoons (about 200 men) who went into the attack, and eight of the nine Lewis guns showed marks of shell or bullet, but not a foot of the ground taken had been lost. On the evening of the following day, the battalion was relieved by Imperial troops and the entire Division moved back for a month's much-needed rest, the 3rd Battalion going to the village of Petit Servins. The whole operation cost the battalion 12 officers and 245 other ranks.
Sergeant Henry Garlick #63370, MM

In June the battalion went again into the line, which had now become stabilized in the flat ground east of Vimy Ridge, taking over part of the Mericourt Sector. Regular trench tours were carried out without special incident till the attack of the 1st and 2nd Divisions on Hill 70 and the ground to the south of it, in the middle of August. The attack of the 1st Division on Hill 70 was carried out by the 2nd and 3rd Brigades, the 1st being in support. Although not engaged in the actual attack, the 3rd Battalion did valuable work and suffered 117 casualties in holding the line before and after the battle. Following this brilliant and completely successful action the 1st division moved into the back area for rest and training, the battalion going into billets in Monchy-Breton.

Captain Henry Sloane Cooper, MC & Bar, OBE, MPP - 3rd Battalion
Battle of Vimy Ridge - April 9, 1917
"When we started over at 7:30 in the morning they still had a 5.9 barrage on our old front line and it looked as though our battalion would have to go through it. It stopped just as we got there. That was counter battery work that did that, that stopped it and how! Well then from then on there was relatively little shelling. We just outgunned him so much that he didn't have a chance of coming back"  CBC Flanders Fields

Pierre Berton - VIMY
Battle of Vimy Ridge - April 9, 1917
"The techniques that would be used to capture Vimy Ridge were honed and polished in the careful planning that preceded the larger raids, as early as December (1916), five officers and ninety men of the 3rd Battalion from Toronto had trained for a week using a replica of the enemy trench system located by aerial photography. These practice trenches were actually dug and the men trained to leap into them, first with dummy grenades and later with live ones. Scouts who had been over the ground guided the attacking parties to within fifteen yards of the enemy wire. The attackers flung bathmats over this obstacle and were in the enemy trenches in just eight minutes. In that time they killed or wounded one hundred Germans, cleared one hundred and thirty yards of trench, and suffered thirty-five casualties. These were not seasoned veterans. Two thirds of he party were new men who had arrived just in time to be trained for the job". VIMY, Pierre Berton, McClelland & Stewart, Toronto, 1986

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


"The troops, of course, had been eagerly following the reports of the great battles that had been raging there (The Somme) for the last month and more. A continuing optimism still marked the accounts of the action in the London newspapers and in the less colourful resumes provided by Comic Cuts, as the Corps Intelligence Summaries were called. Ground had certainly been captured, and no British battle had ever been fought on so massive a scale. Perhaps, after all, this was really the beginning of the end. Many were still looking hopefully for the "break-through" and an early conclusion to the war".  Battle Royal, D.J. Goodspeed, 1962.


The battalion had just come out of the line, when on June 2nd, the 3rd Canadian Division which was holding the line on the left of the 1st Division, from Hill 60 and Mount Sorrel, to Sanctuary Wood, was attacked and partially driven from its trenches after a terrible five-hour bombardment. Next morning the 3rd Battalion moved forward and for four days held part of the trenches to which the 8th Brigade had been moved back, to the west of Mount Sorrel. Heavy artillery was being brought up with a view to counterattack, and on the 8th the line was taken over for three days by battalions of the 2nd Canadian Division while the 1st Division, who were to make the attack, were withdrawn to rest. On the 11th, the 3rd Battalion went into the line again opposite Mount Sorrel.under command of Lt.-Col. Allan, and at 1 o'clock in the morning of the 13th, in darkness and heavy rain, attacked and captured this formidable position, with the 3rd Brigade on its left and the 1st Battalion in support.. The shellfire was intense and throughout the day the battalion suffered severely , losing altogether 16 officers and 412 men, or about three quarters of the officers and two thirds of the men engaged. The same night the remnants of the Battalion were relieved on Mount Sorrel and after a few days for rest and re-organization went into the line again and did regular trench tours for the following 2 months.

Private Charles and Wally Gray,3rd Battalion

Lt.W. E. Chatterton, Adanac Cemetery
By this time, the Battle of the Somme was in full swing and, in the middle of August, the 1st Division started by route march for Tournehem, where it commenced training for the assault, preparatory to taking part in the great offensive. The end of August found it in the Somme, where it did 3 strenuous tours at Mouquet Farm near Pozieres, at Courcelette and Practice Trenches

Finally, on October 8th, the Battalion went over the top in an extensive attack, the objective of which was the famous Regina Trench. The 4th Battalion was on its right and the 16th Battalion on its left. The 4th, 3rd and 16th Battalions' objectives were taken on time, but the remainder of the attack was held up by heavy uncut wire, leaving these three units in a dangerous salient. Throughout the day the enemy counter-attacked persistently. The units on both flanks ran short of bombs. and the 3rd Battalion's reserve supplies were passed to them. Later, our own men ran short, and fresh supplies could not be brought up because of the barrage. Late in the afternoon, a determined enemy counter-attack found the whole line short of ammunition, and without the bombs so essential for this trench-to-trench work, while all but one of the Lewis guns had been knocked out. It was a hopeless fight but desperately fought, and the majority of the battalion died where they stood, Two officers and a handful of men managed to fall back to the jumping-off trenches, which they continued to hold until relieved. The losses totalled 27 officers and 682 men.

The main road to Bapaume, Somme 1916
Shortly after arriving on the Somme, Lt.-Col. W.D.Allan, D.S.O., was taken seriously ill as a result of an old would, and was invalided to England, where he died shortly afterwards, deeply mourned by every officer and man who had served under him. He was succeeded by Major (later Lt.-Col.) J.B. Rogers, M.C. Following the October 8th operations, the 1st Division was transferred to the Vimy Ridge front south of Lens, where it held the line till December. On the 9th of this month, the 3rd Battalion made a successful raid opposite "The Pimple" at the north end of the Ridge. Many Germans were killed and a machine gun brought back by the raiders. Before Christmas, the Division was relieved and moved into the back are for its first rest in many months, the 3rd Battalion going into billets in Bajus, a little village south of Bruay. That Christmas was one to be remembered. The men of each company sat down to dinner together, and turkey, plum-pudding, and beer were served in abundance by the officers and sergeants who acted as waiter

Sergeant Sidney Packham, #404419 - 3rd Battalion
Battle of Mount Sorrel - June 3, 1916

"Dear Mrs Gray: It is with deep regret that I have to write and tell you about poor Charlie (Private Charles Gray, #404092, "B" Coy.). He was killed on the night of June 3rd, and Wall was wounded at the same time. I was not there at the time but from what I have been told by his other comrades, I gather that Wall was not seriously hurt, and they told me that Charlie passed away very peacefully a few minutes after he was hit. He was taken away in a bag after he was very quietly, with great respect, laid to rest with other fallen hero's who have given their lives for the cause of right. I remain yours very sincerely, Sid." Buried Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, Belgium. Ontario Archives, Letters From The Front Collection

Major Herbert R. Alley - 3rd Battalion
Battle of the Somme - August 31, 1916

"We went in at Pozieres which the 28th Australian Battalion had just taken. The attack was over and successful but the German was constantly counter-attacking. We had him there (Sausage Valley, Somme), you see, where he had us at Mount Sorrel. We were on top of the Ridge and everything down below was in plain view and he didn't like it." CBC Flander's Fields interviews

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


The devastating 2nd Battle of Ypres between April 22 and April 30, 1915 cost the 3rd Battalion 19 officers, including three of the four infantry company commanders, and 469 others ranks. Included in that total  and what hurt the 3rd Battalion the most was the fact that 287 men taken as Prisoners of War by the Germans. (the second most of any Canadian unit during the war). Those that were not considered casualties, from the Commander on down, all were suffering from fatigue and irritable nerves. Prior to the end of April, the battalion suffered few casualties but did have a large number of men lost to sickness and illness. These men was replaced by members of the 3rd and 9th Battalions left behind in England. After the 2nd Battle of Ypres the 3rd received a small reinforcement from Shorncliffe Camp on April 28 of 32 men and four officers. However it was not until May 3 when 287 reinforcements from the 23rd Battalion arrived while the battalion was in billets resting. One of these 287 was my Grandfather, Corporal John Cody, #63207. The 23rd Battalion was a composite reinforcement battalion from the beginning consisting of soldiers from British Columbia, Manitoba, Alberta and Quebec thus overnight making the 3rd Battalion very much a National unit, if not in name, at least in effect.


Men of the 3rd Battalion honoured here
"In the third week of May, the Third Canadian Brigade attacked and took the Orchard at Festubert. and on the night of 20-21st the 1st Brigade took over this very difficult position.The trenches were mere ditches, and, being under perfect observation from the hostile position on the Aubers Ridge, were unmercifully pounded by the enemy.On the third night, an attempt was made by "C" Company of the 3rd Battalion and a composite platoon from "A" Company to improve the position. but owing to the lack of artillery support, the intense shell and machine gun fire, and the enemy's uncut wire, the attack could not get forward. On the 28th the battalion , and in earwas withdrawn to close support and later, after a total of eleven very trying days, during which its casualties had been 8 officers and 182 men, was relieved entirely and went into bivouac near Bethune. Here it rested, refitted and reorganized, and in early June was again ready for action.
Festubert Landscape, 1919

A few days later it moved forward to Givenchy, where on June 15th an extensive attack was to be attempted. So far as the 1st Brigade was concerned, the attack was to be made by the 1st Battalion, who carried their objective, but owing to the failure of the troops on their flank, were unable to maintain it and lost extremely heavily. The 3rd Battalion was in support and lost 5 officers and 165 other ranks from shell and machine gun fire. Throughout these two operation Lieut.-Col. Rennie commanded the battalion.

On June 28th, the Canadian Division went into a quiet part of the line at Ploegstreert, commonly known as "Plug Street," after having in two months, fought through three of the most trying battles of the war. Here it remained for over three months, doing regular trench tours and building an elaborate system of trenches, which at that time was considered a model (editor: of which remnants can still be seen). On October 7th, the 1st Brigade side slipped  a few miles north to Dranoutre, near Bailleul, and the battalion went into line line at R.E. Farm, just north of Wulverghem. Also In October, the 2nd Canadian Division arrived, and the old Division  now became known as the 1st Canadian Division. During the month 50 men from the battalion, along with men from other units, were introduced to his majesty King George V, on the battlefield as well  during August, the 3rd Battalion received a large draft of reinforcements from Toronto's 35th Battalion and smaller drafts from the 46th (South Saskatchewan) Battalion and in October, the 60th (Victoria Riffles Montreal) Battalion.


3rd Battalion War Diary May 25, 1915

For the next six months (except for a three weeks rest in January) the battalions of the Brigade held this bit of line, four days in support, four days in the line again, then four days in reserve at Dranoutre, and so on with monotonous regularity. November was extraordinary wet and the unrevetted trenches and flimsy dugouts melted away, so that in spite of desperate and continuous work, it was  nearly Spring before they were hospitable again. Casualties during this time, chiefly from rifle grenades and trench mortar shells, mounted up to 6 officers and 165 men, for the trenches gave little protection and there was not a dugout in the area that would stop even a 4.1 in. shell.

In November, Lieut.-Col. Rennie left to assume command of the 4th Canadian Infantry Infantry Brigade and the command of the Battalion fell to Lt.-Col. (then Major) W.D. Allan. The end of March, 1916 saw the 1st Division on the march to the Ypres Salient again, and early in April the battalion went into the line on the International Sector, immediately south of Hill 60, and St. Eloi. The 2nd Canadian Division were at the time engaged in a protracted struggle for certain mine craters at St. Eloi, and the whole southern part of the Salient was somewhat lively. For two months the battalion did regular trench tours on this and the Hill 60 sector, suffering a good deal from shell-fire, but not involved in any actions."

Private Harold R. Peat #18535 - 3rd Battalion
Battle of Festubert - May 25, 1915
"When a man is lying close to the ground there is not so very great a chance of his being hit by bullets. They pass overhead as a rule. It is when a man is kneeling or standing, or between the two positions that the danger lies. The lad Bob and I were just in the act of rising (to carry in a badly needed ammunition box) when mine came along. I flet no more than a stinging blow in the right shoulder, a searing cut and a thud of pain as the bullet exploded in leaving my body. I fell on my face and blood gushed from my shoulder. I closed my eyes. From a distance I heard Bob speak. "I'm going to fix you," he said, and knelt beside me. He got into such a position that his own body shielded me from any of the enemy bullets. It was a marvelous piece of bravery; less has earned a Victoria Cross. Bob  then turned me around so my head was towards our trench and my feet towards the Germans. Then he struggled to lift the ammunition box. Bob tried to reach the trench, but a rain of bullets got him and he fell dead only a little way from me." ( "Bob" may have been Private Robert Downey #63277, 3rd Battalion, 22 years old, member of "C" Company who was Killed n Action May 25, 1915)"

Private Frank V. Ashbourne #9170 - 3rd Battalion
Battle of Festubert - May 26, 1915
"At Festubert, one thousand of us went in and only five hundred returned. Again reinforced to one thousand we were cut right down to five hundred and sixty at Givenchy. On the morning of May 6, 1915 (editor: this date was an obvious error as the battalion were in reserves, I believe it was meant to be May 26), I was just going to fry some bully beef when a shell dropped beside me, It seemed to lift me lift up in a dense cloud of vile black and green smoke. I was temporarily dazed and choked by the poisonous gases. I found I was wounded in the left side just behind the armpit and up on top of my left rib; also on the left eyebrow and just behind my left ear. As a result I was relieved of further active service as of February 9th, 1916, in Toronto, Ontario."

We thank Marika Pirie for the use of some photographs and newspaper clippings

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


One of the items I have in my collection of items related to the 3rd Battalion is a small booklet titled " A Brief History of the 3rd Canadian Battalion Toronto Regiment". It is a 30 page synopsis of the founding, fighting and finishing days of this 1st Brigade, 1st Canadian Division battalion during World War One, the battalion my grandfather, Corporal John Cody.

I thought it might be interesting some to reproduce this booklet in a series of chronological blogs, featuring men of the battalion and archival material. This item does not show an author nor does it mention anything about a date or copyright so I am assuming it is safe to publish as it appears to be extremely old. A much more comprehensive history of the 3rd Battalion can be found in the book Battle Royal, Major D.J. Godspeed, The Royal Regiment of Canada, 1962.


S.S. Tunisian
The 3rd Canadian Battalion was formed in September, 1914, at Valcartier, Que., from drafts from three Toronto units, the 2nd Regiment, Queen's Own Rifles of Canada, the 10th Royal Grenadiers and the Governor-General's Bodyguard. Lieut.-Col.Robert Rennie, M.V.O., (QOR) was placed in command. It at once became a unit of the 1st Canadian Infantry-Brigade under command of Brig.-General M.S. Mercer, (then Lieut.-Col.).

On October 3rd, in company with the remainder of the 1st Contingent, the battalion having embarked at Quebec on the S.S. Tunisian, sailed from Gaspe Bay for England and went under canvas on Salisbury Plain. Three and a half months were spent there in training, organizing and equipping and during this time the 1st Canadian Division was formed from the units comprising the First Contingent. Each of the selected battalions then received a name, and the battalion became the "3rd Canadian Battalion, Toronto Regiment."


Captain G.C. Ryerson, 3rd Battalion
In February the division crossed to France, the remainder of the contingent being left in England to supply (reinforcement) drafts. (editor's note: a large number of men, about 200, from the broken-up 9th Battalion were sent to the 3rd Battalion to replace ill, over aged, under aged and deserted soldiers of the 3rd).  On February 11th, the 3rd Battalion landed in France at St. Nazaire and after a 48 hours' train journey, went into it's first billets at Merris, 15 miles west of Armentieres. A few days later it received its initiation into trench warfare from the Imperial Divisions, holding the line before Armentieres, and on March 4th went into the line on its own for the first time, a little further south at Fleurbaix. Toward the end of March the division was relieved and moved south to take part in an attack on the Aubers Ridge, but this attack was cancelled, and the division marched up to the neighbourhood of Cassel, in the rear of the Ypres Salient, taking over in the middle of April the French trenches from Langemarck to Zonnebeke, northwest of Ypres, and thus forming the extreme left of the British Army.

Kitchener's Wood, 1915
On April 22nd the 2nd and 3rd Brigades were holding the line, the 2nd on the right, the 3rd on the left with the 1st Brigade in reserve about Vlamertinghe. In the afternoon the enemy launched the first gas attack of the war against the French and to a lesser extent against the Canadian left. The attack entirely broke the French, exposing the Canadian left flank which bent but held. The 2nd and 3rd Battalions, the latter commanded by Lieut.-Col. Rennie, were rushed up in support, arriving at midnight, and were attached to the Third Brigade at Shell-trap Farm. The former at once went into the line on the exposed left flank. During the following morning "C" and "D" Companies of the 3rd Battalion were placed under command of Major Kirkpatrick and moved forward to fill in a gap on the right of the 2nd Battalion between the famous Kitchener's Wood and the village of St. Julien. Throughout the day and night this flank held in spite of desperate German attacks, but the following day it was pushed back, "C" and "D" Companies being completely wiped out in a vain attempt to stem the tide. All this was done under heavy artillery fire and without artillery support, for the line had not been expected to hold and most artillery had been withdrawn. Meanwhile, many British battalions were being rushed up and about April 27th, the line was stabilized and the Division relieved, the 3rd Battalion being the last to be withdrawn. After several days in support, the division left the Salient and moved south. (editor's note: actually the Battalion moved back into the front line briefly on May 2, suffering a number of casualties). This was the battalion's first battle. It is known as the Second Battle of Ypres and the Canadian part of it as St. Julien sometimes Langemarck. It cost the battalion 19 officers and 460 men in casualties. (editor's note: It was at this time the 3rd Battalion received its first substantial reinforcements May 3 when some 296 men from the 23rd Battalion were sent to the 3rd Battalion while in reserve, including my grandfather).
Kitchener's Wood, 3rd Battalion, 1915
In May, in order to relieve the enormous pressure at Ypres, the First Army opened an attack at Festubert, a little north of Labassee, then the right of the British Line and after a couple of weeks rest, the Canadian Division was thrown in at this point.

Corporal J.W. "Jack" Finnemore  #9785 - 3rd Battalion
April 22, 1915  - 2nd Battle of Ypres
"I was wounded on the last jump over between leaving an old trench and building a new one. My brother F.A. Finnimore (Staff Sargeant Frank Finnimore #9781) was wounded there just before I was.I started to take his putee off when Captain Strait (Major John Everett Streight, Prisoner of War)said to me ".Come on Finnimore. Look after your section. Never mind, you'll have to leave him (my brother)." A newspaper back home reported that we kissed each other goodbye on the front, but I only did his leg up.That was all!." Jack was captured by the Germans and became a Prisoner of War. Frank survived his wounds.

Private Frank V. Ashbourne #9170 - 3rd Battalion
April 24, 1915 - 2nd Battle of Ypres
"We went into the line with a thousand and only two hundred of us came out of it. Sir John French said that it was our Battalion that stopped the advance of the Germans. "C" and "D" Companies suffered the most and were almost wiped out. I was with my brother Bert (Private Bertram Ashbourne #9171), shortly before we were separated by the gas attack at St. Julien, on April 24-25, 1915. My brother was wounded at Langemarck and taken prisoner of war. During the gas attack at St. Julien we lost the first line of trenches and had to move back to the supports. At the back of those trenches we lay down flat and covered our mouths with wet clothes, waiting for the Germans to come up. They came up slowly thinking we were all dead from their gas, but not so. It drifted slowly over us and showed the Germans about seventy-five yards away. We were suddenly ordered to rapid fire and I don't think that about more than a dozen Germans got away alive. We advanced again and regained our front trenches with minimum losses".

These men all survived the war.

(to be continued)