On Genealogy: Story of Pte. Émile Lamothe

Genealogy story #4 features my Great Grand Father, Émile Lamothe, whom I called Grand-Pépère Lamothe.  I figured since my last two blogs featured the other Veterans in my family, that I’d continue on that note.

Cleophas Émile Lamothe was born on June 10, 1897, in Bonfield, Ontario to Marie Louise Charron, age 38, and Joseph Magloire Lamothe, age 42.  For those of you who don’t know where Bonfield is (and I don’t blame you, I’d actually be more surprised if you actually knew where it was), it’s a small township in Northeastern Ontario, located on the north shore of Lake Nosbonsing in Nipissing District.

Émile enlisted on May 13 1918 to the 1st Depot Batallion, 1st Central Ontario Regiment. Regimental #3037591.

Screen Shot 2017-05-31 at 11.53.15 PMThere was some question as to whether he volunteered or whether he was drafted.  So, I did some research – turns out volunteers for the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) were questioned at the place of enlistment to complete the two-sided Attestation papers which included the recruit’s name and address, next-of-kin, date and place of birth, occupation, previous military service, and distinguishing physical characteristics. Recruits were asked to sign their Attestation papers, indicating their willingness to serve overseas. By contrast, men who were drafted into the CEF under the provisions of the Military Service Act (1917) completed a far simpler one-sided form which included their name, date of recruitment, and compliance with requirements for registration.  Having reviewed his Attestation Papers/Particulars of Recruit – I was able to deduct that Grand-Pépère volunteered his services.

Screen Shot 2017-05-28 at 8.59.58 PMÉmile was short in stature, only 5’2.5″ and was 20 years and 11 months old when he enlisted.  He was noted as being single and a Farmer.  He was listed a Class One, Category A2.

Assessments were made by medical officers as to the suitability of men to perform military duties. A system of lettering and numbering was devised to enable a mans abilities to be quickly noted. Class One meant he was single and Category A meant that he was able to march, see to shoot, hear well and stand active service conditions.  The 2 meant that he was fit for dispatching overseas as regards to physical and mental health but required training.

The other thing I wanted to investigate further was  the Depot Battalion.  At first I had no idea what a Depot Battalion even was.  It turns out that in 1917-1918, when it was no longer possible to recruit enough men for infantry battalions, depot battalions were organized in Canada to obtain personnel who would then be sent to the Canadian Reserve Battalions in England.

Émile was initially part of the 1st Depot Battalion, 1st Central Ontario Regiment.  What I have been able to find out so far is that it was authorized by General Order 89 of   September 1 1917 (see below) and by General Order 57 of 15 April 1918.  They were to reinforce the 4th, 19th, 123rd and 208th Battalions through the 3rd Canadian Reserve Battalion.  They were commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel B. H. Belson.

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His military records are quite scant to be honest and contain only about 15 documents in total.  So I’m not able to get a really good idea of what he did in The Great War or even where he was posted, not even his position is noted in his records!   All I know thus far is that on August 20 1918 he TOS (took on strength) at Bramshott Military Camp.

I don’t have his regiment’s war diaries and mobilization accounts – I will have to request them in person, but I believe I have found the reference to them and can find them at the Canadian National Archives when I go to Ottawa later this month.  However, there’s a snag – I see from his personal file that he’s noted under 3 separate regiments – 1st Depot Battalion, 1st Central Regiment, then the 1st Depot Battalion, 2nd Quebec Regiment and 1st Depot Battalion 10th Canadian Reserve Battalion.  But, I cannot decipher when he was SOS from one and TOS with another.  This is important for tracking his movement in the war diaries.

June 20 2017 Update:  Spent the day at the National Archives of Canada today.  The assistant working at the genealogy desk provided me with some information I had been seeking.  She said that as part of a depot battalion and because we can only find him in England – that he likely did not see action.  He would have been training and keeping in shape over his time in one of the military camps, in the event that he was called up to infantry for one of the battalions they were backing up.  She further added that there are not likely war diaries for depot battalions, but if there was they would not be very interesting, but that I could check the records anyway.  

 

All WWI military records are available online, so I was able to access his WWI Canadian Expeditionary Force Personnel File via Ancestry.ca (the site I am doing my family tree on).  You can also access them through the archives website.

I am just now taking in that these documents are 100 years old, I am going to post as many documents as I possibly can!


Military Records Summary

May 13 1918:  Attested at North Bay, Ontario

July 21 1918: Embarked at Québec

August 8 1918:  Arrived London, England via the S.S. Somali – she was built in 1901 by Caird & Company Greenock and served as a troop carrier in WWI

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📷: 1st August 1914  – Serving as a Hospital ship

August 20 1918: TOS (took on strength) at Bramshott a.k.a. Bramshott Military Camp, which was a temporary army camp set up on Bramshott Common, Hampshire, England during WWI. Bramshott was one of three facilities in the Aldershot Command area established by the Canadian Army. The permanent facility on both occasions was at the British Army’s Bordon Military Camp. Bramshott was one of two temporary camps set-up for additional accommodation in the lead-up to D-Day, along with Witley Camp.

November 11, 1918 – WWI ends – Armistice

Feb 19 1919:  In Ripon he was admonished and condemned to pay 1/9.5 (confirmed as 1 pound, 9 schillings, 5 pence) for losing 1 scrubber (??? What kind of post did he after the war ended that he would have that he lost a scrubber?  Did he work in a mess hall?  Did he work in a medical unit? Was it for scrubbing his boots?)  The only notation I’ve found that can be somewhat related to war is a breathing apparatus that absorbs the carbon dioxide . But I don’t think that would be it because this has specifically to do with diving.  

June 20 2017 Update:  Genealogy Assistant at National Archives advised that he literally lost a “scrubber” for cleaning.  The reason she believes this is that he was there well after the war ended and was likely involved in clean up tasks.  Given the price he was penalized to pay, she thinks it was likely a long handled scrubber.

June 14 1919: SOS (struck off strength) at Ripon – was now a part of the 10th Reserve Battalion.  He was likely transferred to this Battalion as the other battalions he was part of demobilized and returned home.

Belgic4th-bJune 23 1919:  Embarked at Liverpool on the SS Belgic. The White Star Line vessel was to be named Ceric & intended to replace Titanic in 1914. The outbreak of WWI changed all of that.  During construction, White Star decided to go with the name of Belgic IV. She was launched in Jan 1914, but was not yet completed when WWI  began later that year and the work was stopped. Belgic IV  was eventually completed in 1917, but as a troop transport and freighter rather than the passenger liner she was designed to be.

July 1 1919:  Disembarked in Halifax, NS

July 3 1919:  Discharged due to Demobilization

QUESTION:  DOES ANYONE KNOW WHY HE WOULD HAVE STAYED IN ENGLAND AS LONG AS HE DID  AFTER THE WAR HAD ENDED?

June 20 2017 Update:  While at the Canadian Archives the genealogy lady informed me that some of the troops had to stay overseas longer to clean up and pack up.  Not everyone was able to go home right after Armistice, that AND there were only a limited supply of troop ships, so everyone had to take their turns.  The sick, injured, infirmed were sent home first.  The abled bodied men, were left to clean.

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After being discharged from the military he returned to Bonfield.  He married Marcella Houle on September 27, 1927. They had three children (Thelma, Clifford and Edward) during their marriage.

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Record of their marriage in the Église de Sainte-Bernadette Registry in Bonfield, ON

When I was young we’d drive up to visit them from Kitchener, it was about a 5-6 hour drive.   They lived at 217 Yonge Street.  I haven’t been there since 1993 (the day of Grand-Mémère Lamothe’s funeral) and the house has long been sold.   I remember it was a white and light green house, with a large wrap around veranda.  I always thought the house was cool and creepy at the same time, because it was so old. It was Grand-Mémère Lamothe’s parents place – she was born there.  When you’d walk in, you’d immediately walk into the living room (to the left) and the stair case to go upstairs was  to your right, it had a white railing.  I remember Grand-Mémère rocking away in her chrome glider , by the window, watching her shows.

The room immediately to the right when you walked in the front door used to be a parlour and as a child that totally creeped me when out they told me what it had been used for, but, that was in the days well before funeral parlours. Nonetheless, I could always envision dead people in there.  I remember they’d put their Christmas tree up in there and that’s where the whole lot of us would open gifts before/after midnight mass at St. Bernadette’s.

When you walked toward the back of the house from the entrance, I recall there being a long dining table before you stepped through a single door to the kitchen.  Just before you entered the kitchen (on the right hand side) there was a cabinet, that’s where Grand-Mémère would hide all of the goodies – and where I may or may not have snuck a few extra pieces of licorice.   The kitchen must have been to be an addition,  I’m sure of it.  It was big (or seemed big for a 12 year old) and filled with white cabinets.  There was a kitchen table in there with a bench, and on the back wall was a picture of The Last Supper.  They never had a bath tub or shower in the house, we’d have to bathe in the kitchen sink.

Grand-Mémère would get up very early in the mornings – and when we’d come down she’d make us peach or maple soupan (French slang for porridge) and the best Map-O-Spread toasts.

Photos above:

  • Left  – “The cousins” (Mona, Darlene and Doreen) and their children (Mona: Tina & Darryl), (Darlene: Lisa, Francine & Stephanie), (Doreen: Sylvie, Ginette and Stephanie).  Note the green colour of the house and the laundry station.
  • Top Right – “June 1984” – Mom Mona, Me, Darryl, Grand-Pépère and Grand-Mémère and Pépère.  Note the white cabinets!
  • Bottom Right – “Grand-Pépère’s 87th Birthday” at Ma Tante Thelma and Uncle Rene’s in Bonfield.

There were two doors in the kitchen – one exiting to the veranda toward the front and the other going out the the old step up laundry washing area/ line they had (see photo above).  They never owned a dryer. Grand-Mémère did all of the laundry by hand and hung it out back on the line to dry.  Now by hand I mean, she had an old fashioned washing machine where you would wash it and then you had to take the piece of clothes and put it in a wringer and it would fall in a big bucket of clean cool water to rinse, then she would take it out of the rinse water and wring it again – so to me that is still by hand!

Coming from a generation that they did, and the house sourcing from a well, I’m sure they were afraid of the well running dry – at night time we had a large marmite (pot) at the top of the stairs to pee in, if we had to go.  Grand-Mémère would empty it when she got up in the morning.  I also remember that the rooms didn’t have doors, they had curtains – and that there were 3 bedrooms plus theirs which was at the front of the house.   Come to think of it, I don’t think I was ever in their room.

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At Grand-Pépère & Grand-Mémère Lamothe’s in Bonfield, 1981

I remember Grand-Pépère fiddling around in the back tool shed.  I remember going in there as a child and thinking “wow this place is filled with really cool old junk”. 

They had a garden out back and had a rain barrel that they’d collect water in to water their garden.

I remember the house wasn’t too far from the train tracks cause I would hear it whistling at night time.

It’s when you sit here and reminisce on your life that you wish you had the thirst for knowledge then like you do now.  The things I would love to have asked Grand-Pépère;  from 1897 to 1992 he must have seen soooo many crazy things!  He went from a seeing the first Ford Model T to a Lamborghini.  He went from coal and wood fires to electricity, telephones and tv’s all during HIS LIFETIME.  He saw two World Wars and was at one of them.  Oh the stories  Grand-Pépère would have told me as he puffed on his pipe and  sat on the front veranda.

Emile Lamothe died on April 17, 1992, in his hometown at the age of 94.

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Namaste

T xo

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On Genealogy: Story of Pte. George V. Lee

Welcome to story #2 of my family tree. Today, I’m going to share with you the story of my paternal grandmother’s father’s brother  – my Great Grand Uncle, George Victor Lee who was killed in action (KIA) in The Great War.

For this story you’re going to have to stretch your memory all the way back to History class, WWI and trench warfare.  I was able to access his troop’s War Diaries and his personal military records.  I was able to track his regiment from deployment to the day Pte. Lee was KIA.  I did a lot of research and spent countless hours on trying to understand exactly what was going on during the war as he was progressing through it so I could make the story more 3 demential and personal to me and our family.  Some of the history parts of this story were “borrowed” from other story tellers well versed in history and the Great War. Some, is me being an amateur historian, war buff and genealogist.  I don’t purport this blog to be 100% factually accurate (about the details of the war). I am not a professional, just passionate.

Screen Shot 2017-05-27 at 10.40.15 PMThe deadline was 11:00 p.m. on August 4 1914. If Germany did not remove their troops from Belgium, Great Britain would declare war. As Big Ben struck the hour across the Thames that night, Chancellor David Lloyd George wrote, “The big clock echoes in our ears like the hammer of destiny.” Germany remained silent and Great Britain was at war!

At the time that Britain declared war, George Victor Lee was living at 3 Shady Row, Meltham Mills, Yorkshire, England with his wife Agnes (nee Dickenson).  He was the son of Tom Lee and Hannah (nee Crabtree).

George enlisted on March 24 1912 when he was 17 years old.   His Territorial Force Attestation Papers indicate that he worked as a Millhand (Cottons) with J. Brook Bros Ltd. A bit of research and I found out that Jonas Brook and Brothers was a silk mill complex in Meltham that employed over 1,000 workers during that time.

He was a member the 1/5th Battalion, The Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding Regiment).  Regimental Number: 1985.

The Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding Regiment) (Territorial Force) was mobilized on August 4 1914 at Huddersfield, Yorkshire, England, later that month the troop was deployed to coastal defences near Hull and Grimsby.  On November 5 1914 it moved to Doncaster in billets and the regiment was assigned to the 147th (2nd West Riding) Brigade in the 49th (West Riding) Division in April 1915 for service on the Western Front, they served together until the Armistice in November 1918.

They were gearing up to take their place in history in what is now known as The Battle of Aubers Ridge (May 9-10 1915), which was a disastrous attack that cost 11,000 British casualties for no material gain: it was a supporting operation to a much larger French attack.

The British attack was to be launched by General Sir Douglas Haig’s First Army. It was intended to attack on two fronts, to the North and South of Neuve Chapelle, with the hope that the two attacking forces could meet up behind the German front lines. Haig had requested extra artillery to increase the strength of the 40 minute bombardment planned for the morning of 9 May, but all available artillery reserves had been sucked into the fighting at the second battle of Ypres, still raging just to the north.

From the army records I obtained, we know that on April 14 1915 The Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding Regiment) embarked for France and Flanders, landing at Boulogne. After which they traveled through Estaires in intense cold.

The War Diaries report that on April 16 1915, 2 days after disembarking, breakfast was late as the cook crew had a tough time recovering from the night prior.  They marched off around 10:00 a.m., the road was very bad.  Orders were given that every man must have a new pair of boots before they go out – they were only issued a few days before they left Doncaster.

At Estaires on April 19 1915 there was some reported shelling & artillery action.

On April 21 1915, some German shells were noted to have hit the trenches and an order was received to move to billets.

On April 28 1915 a shell hit 4Q, there were reported casualties.  The next day, a report was received from another trench that the enemy had been heard under his trench mining.

There was rain in the trenches and some shelling according to the War Diaries.  This coincides with the reports of the battle that heavy rain on May 6 and dense mist on May 7 caused a French postponement of the main attack; it would now go in on May 9 and the subsidiary attacks would happen at the same time, not a day later in accordance with the original strategy.

May 9 was a fine, sunny day.  The Battle of Aubers went ahead.  It was fought over the same ground as the battle of Neuve Chapelle, 10-13 March 1915.

 

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From this map you can see that 49th Div, 147th Brigade is not on the 1st line, but, they are near La Boutillerie

Except from the troop diaries:

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May 9 1915:  

South of Fleurbaix:  

4:45 a.m. – artillery bombardment of enemy lines directed at Fromelles Ridge.  Batt’n in dug out move between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. from derelict houses

11:10 a.m. enemy shelled Fleurbaix, no 2945 Pte Prier slightly wounded

At 4:30 p.m. an HE (high explosive) shell burst among men of D Company @ Croix Marechal killing 4 and wounding 4.  The struggles of the 13th London Rgmt & East Lanes came in and stayed night bringing with them  “depressing and highly coloured accounts of action”.  

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May 10 1915:  4:35 p.m.  Nine shells fired at Fleurbaix.  Batt’n still in dugout.

The British attack on 9 May was a total failure. The Germans had greatly strengthened their lines around Neuve Chapelle after they had been overrun during Neuve Chapelle, and the British artillery bombardment was simply not heavy enough to destroy the new German lines.  The British troops went over the top early on the morning of 9 May and were cut down by German machine gun fire. No significant progress was made, and early on 10 May Haig ended the offensive. The British suffered 11,000 casualties in one day of fighting on a narrow front.

George came through that battle.  The British casualties in the Northern pincer on 9 May 1915 were  as follows:

  • 8th Division: 4,682 of which 192 officers
  • 49th (West Riding) Division: 94 of which 2 officers
  • 7th Division: 25 of which 1 officer

We are going to fast forward a few months.  In October 1915 – the troop is stationed at Canal Bank, North of Ypres taking over from the 1/8 West Yorks.  There was considerable activity with the enemy (trench mortars and bombs).  There was some 50 casualties of the 4th battalion after a bombardment by the Germans.

November 1915:

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If you find the diaries difficult to read, I’ve transcribed them for you:

Nov 1:  Much rain, transport mules fell into a trench in chateau grounds late during the evening.  Endeavoured for 2 hours to dig them out, one died meanwhile and the other had to be shot.

Nov 2:  Usual working parties at night

Nov 3:  Relieved at chateau by 8th Rifle Brigade.  This battalion relieved the 6th West Riding Regiment in Brigade Reserve in Farms left sector.  Coys were disposed as follows:  A – West Bank of Canada new bridge 6D, B Coy (company) dug outs at Hulls Farm, C Coy dug out at Modder Farm & Saragossa, D Coy Pelissier Farm Batton Headquarters Malakoff Farm.

Nov 4:  In occupation of farms.  Carried rations and stores for 6th W.R.R. in trenches

Nov 5:  In occupation of farms.  B Coy (company) shelled at Hulls Farm 1 casualty, 1 platoon removed to Malakoff.  

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Nov 30 1915: Summary of casualties for the month of November  ….. “Other ranks – killed by shell – 3”  Total casualties for the month 73

That one casualty as a result of B Company being shelled was my great grand uncle,  Pte George Lee. He is buried at Bard Cottage Cemetery, a British military cemetery located in the Belgian village of Boezinge, a town in Ypres . There are 1,643 dead commemorates, of whom 40 could not be identified. Boezinge made up the largest part of the war in the area occupied by the Allies, just opposite the German lines across the Ieper league between Ypres and the Iron . There are 1622 British, 15 Canadians, 2 South Africans and 4 Germans (1 of which are not identified). 

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Imperial War Graves Commission – Pte Lee’s headstone inscription, “HE SLEEPS WITH THE GLORIOUS DEAD THAT WE MIGHT LIVE”

I haven’t been able to locate any photos of him.  I wish their war records came with their military photo.  I am going to try and connect with some of my extended family who still live in England to see if they may have some.

I have a photo of his brother (my great grand father), Joseph Lee.

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Joseph Edward Lee (left) & friend (right)

Which oddly, I have his photo but cannot locate ANY war documents for him … at all.   This photo was given to me stating that it was a photo of “Joseph Lee & friend”.  I wonder, is that other gentleman in uniform really a friend?  Maybe it’s his brother George? They are both wearing WWI British military uniforms and were enlisted at around the same time I assume.  Does anyone have any other ideas how I can identify the man on the left in this photo or have any other source to locate Joseph Lee’s military records?  I’ve search Ancestry.ca high and low, I’ve searched Google, Forces War Records, The UK National Archives, and nothing.  I figure if he has a British uniform on, he has to at least have enlisted, even if he didn’t go to war, and every one who enlists at the very least must have a military file.  Any other thoughts would be appreciated!

Thank you kindly in advance, and I hope you enjoyed the read as much as I enjoyed working on the story and writing about it!

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. / At the going down of the sun and in the morning, We will remember them.”

End Note:

George Victor Lee’s death is noted in the article, Shady Row, Meltham Mills

At least three men from Shady Row were killed in action during the First World War:

  • Private Joseph Crabtree of Shady Row was “killed instantly by a shell while stretcher bearing at the Front”

  • Private George Lee of 3 Shady Row, serving in the 5th Duke of Wellington’s Regiment, was killed in action by a shell on 4 November 1915

  • Private W. Stokes (aged 21), son of F.W. and Rosa Stokes, of 11, Shady Row, was killed on 3 September 1916

Namaste

T xo