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Friday, April 3, 2015


Major Frederick Amy, 5th CFA 1944
Much has been written on the Canadians involvement in the 2nd Battle of Ypres, the first time use of chlorine gas in modern warfare and the horrendous loss of life until it was officially over May 4, 1915. However very little has been written about the subsequent battles of Festubert and Givency in May and June 1914, both of which were equally brutal and  man consuming. The 1st Brigade was first reinforced  by the few 1st Contingent men from their own battalions left in England and in the Canadian Depot in France. However by the end of April with some battalions at something approaching half strength, the 2nd Contingent reinforcement battalions were considered sufficiently trained being sent to France as front line reinforcements. Consequently the 3rd Battalion received a draft of 9th Battalion reinforcements in March/April as well as 4 officers and 296 men from the 23rd Battalion. (including my own grandfather, Cpl. John Cody #63207, on May 3, 1915. The 4th Battalion, on April 29, received a large draft of 15 officers and 523 men, most of whom were a draft from the 11th and 23rd Battalions. as the 1st Division was again called to the offence  in Festubert on May 15, it it easy to see that the battalions of the 1st Division,  had only a couple of weeks to train and integrate. Lance Corporal Raulin Amy, Jr # 63057 was one of the young men from the 23rd Battalion to join the 4th Battalion in the field. He was to be killed in action on May 31, 1915.

ThE Battle of Festubert May, 1915 (Thanks to Richard Laughton)
The Battle of Festubert was actually a continuation of other British battles in 1915. There were no trenches - only machine gun fortified breastworks composed of sandbags, no geographical features save drainage canals with the town and battlefield under observation from the Aubers Ridge. North and east of the town ran the German line which consisted of a strengthened position known as the Quadrilateral, a fortified farm Ferme du Bois and a Orchard. Commonwealth troops launched the attack May 15 with some ground being captured. However the Germans remained strong with a second assault made May involving the 3rd Canadian Brigade. Without going into details, repeated attacks n German strong points over following days, were unsuccessful for a variety of reasons, principally lack of intense artillery support and faulty communication.May 20 saw the Canadian 16th and 15th Battalions attack  successfully taking the Orchard and North Breastwork with a huge loss of life. Next day the 5th and 10th Battalions attacked German positions being turned back after initial success again with huge losses. Dissatisfied with the results, 1st Army Commander, Sir Douglas Haig, took charge requesting the 1st Canadian Brigade to attack on May24. The 2nd Battalion were instructed to attack and secure the strong position known as K.5 once again while the 3rd (Toronto) Battalion was instructed to consolidate and launch attacks from the position known as the Orchard..
When the attack was launched some men of the 3rd Battalion, supported by the 4th Battalion, did break into the German Line, but they were cut off and killed or taken prisoner. As the 3rd Battalion attacked from the Orchard, the 5th and 7th Battalions launched a determined assault on the South Breastwork, and finally after 30 minutes of fighting K.5 was in their hands again with heavy losses. The next day (May 25) dismounted Canadian Cavalry of the Lord Stathcona's Horse, made an attempt to take a bit more of the South Breastwork, but were unable to push the line forward.
Finally on May 25, 1915 the Battle of Festubert was called off. For a gain of two km the British Army had lost 14,500 men, killed, wounded and missing. Canadian losses were 2,468, including 661 dead. Norm Christie, Other Canadian Battlefields of the Great War, CEF Books, 2007.
However the Canadians, principally the 3rd Battalion and the 4th Battalion under the 3rd's command, remained on the from line until being relieved by the Gordon Highlanders on the morning of June 1 still suffering casualties until the last hours. L/Cpl Amy of the 4th Battalion was the final Canadian casualty of the battle. 
L/Cpl Raulin Amy #63057  KIA May 31, 1915
Raulin Amy, Jr. was the single son of a well-known Quebec accountant. Raulin Amy Sr. first shows up in the 1881 Census for Bonaventure, Quebec as an eighteen year old rooming house resident, native of Jersey, Channel Isles. The family name continues to this day and can be traced back to the 1300's in Jersey. Apparently he had immigrated about 1881. He and 20 year old Maltilda Clarke married in 1888 in Anglican Church, New Carlisle, Quebec. By the 1891 Census the couple has two daughters Beatrice and Elizabeth, living in St. Alexis, Quebec.. By 1901, the growing family is living in Quebec City, Montcalm Ward consisting of Raulin Sr, wife Maltilde, daughters Lillian 12, Beatrice 10, Else 9, Julia 6, Clara 2 and sons Raulin 8 and Michol 4. By 1921, the family was living at 39 Dartigny Street, St. Jean Baptiste, Quebec City and had added Winter 16, Ernest 15, Herbert 13 and Frederick 9 to their growing family. They ended up with thirteen children. Raulin Amy Sr. died 1950 in Quebec City. It appears the Maltilde died in 1912 during or after giving birth to Frederick Keith. Major Frederick Keith Amy was killed in Holland October 29, 1944 while serving with the Canadian 5th Canadian Field Artillery and is buried in Bergen-Op-Zoom Canada War Cemetery.

The area around Festubert 1919
Late 1914, Raulin Amy Jr. was a fast rising clerk in the Saguenay Paper Company when the 23rd Battalion was finishing its recruitment after moving from Montreal to Quebec City, preparing for departure to England. He enlisted November 16 as a Lance/Corporal age 21 years, He was a physical presence at almost 6 feet tall although had no previous military experience. He embarked with the battalion on the S. S Missanabie  February 17 for England landing at Bristol March 7. The battalion were immediately sent to Shorncliffe Camp, Moore Barracks where they received a few weeks training prior to landing in the trenches of 1st Division units. So this is how young Raulin Amy found himself at the front lines of France with the 4th (Central Ontario) Battalion on May 31, 1915.

The last notation in Amy's service record Casualty Sheet simply states "Killed - No particulars - 1/6/15". However an addendum was added by a person unknown as follows, almost in answer to questions being asked:

Aug 3.
This man was instantly killed at Festubert on the night of May 31, 1915 by a shell which exploded in his trench. He was buried in the part of the line known as the Orchard. The location on (comb.sheets 36aSE, 36SW, 36bNE, 36NW) is S.21.d.8.3.. Not known if a cross has been erected. 
The Canadian Orchard in 2015. Where is Raulin Amy?

L/Cpl Raulin's name is commemorated on the Vimy Memorial, strangely with a death date of June 1, 1915. There is a campsite situated exactly on the site that Amy was reported to have been buried. It is not known at this point if his body was ever recovered but seems quite plausible as the area remained in British hands until the great German advance of March 1918. Sergeant Martin Thomas Lyons #63550 was killed the same day possibly by the same trench shell. I presently own L/Cpl Amy's three World War One medals.



Pip said...

I have just located this wonderful site and was hoping someone might be able to assist me learn more about my Alexander Chisholm whose attestation paper I have cited. He was born 22 March 1884 in St John, New Brunswick. At the time he signed the attestation paper he stated that his trade was soldier as he was a member of the 22nd Dragoons and had briefly participated in the Boer War. He enlisted on 24 November 1914 in St John. He was 24 years of age. He may have lived in Toronto in later life.

Alexander had a son Allan Andrew born 1910 in St John, New Brunswick. Allan participated in WW2. He was a temporary Warrant Officer (Special Branch) - Fire Prevention on 15 April 1944 in the Royal Canadian Volunteer Naval Reserve (reference: UK, Navy Lists, 1888-1970 [database on-line])

I am not familiar with negotiating the Canadian records and would really appreciate any guidance anyone can offer.

Many thanks


Bob said...

Greetings Pip
Thank-you for your comments.
I am not well versed in these units. However you should be able to find much information on the CEF Study Group Forum HERE.

Bruce Gordon said...

Hi Bob,

My grandfather, Maj. E. J. Ashton DSO was in command of Companies B and C, 10th Batt. at Festubert on the initial attacks on K5 21 May 1915. If you would like a copy of his memoirs let me know.


Bruce Gordon