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8 November (1915)…

Posted By on November 8, 2021

Captain Kenneth Theodor e Dunbar Wilcox 8 November 1915 Reninghelst Churchyard Extension (P. Ferguson image, September 2016)

Captain Kenneth Theodore Dunbar Wilcox
8 November 1915
Reninghelst Churchyard Extension, Belgium
(P. Ferguson image, September 2016)

2nd Lieutenant Kenneth Theodor Dunbar Wilcox
8th Battalion The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment)

These past days of commemoration bring us another story of a son whose remembrance is recorded elsewhere and can be best accessed by reading of him at Westminster School and The First World War. Still there is a reminder of this day when I cycled, along with a friend, to Reninghelst from Ieper (Ypres)…the journey against the wind, a stop to photograph poppies in the grasses alongside a cornfield…more wind…into the town where we visited a few Great War sites and the journey back to Ieper with the wind at our backs…back to Ieper in no time at all. With these visits I do often wonder whose tableaus of life I have failed to capture…what stories are left behind…what will I learn in the future from these stone sheets of time…what could others learn on a simple wander to these rows of lives?

Kenneth Wilcox arrived on the Western Front 13 October 1915. Within a month of his arrival Kenneth lost his life, age 20, south of Ypres at Lankhof Château also known as Lankhof Farm by the British. The British bunkers remain in the area and can be seen from the roadside in the farmer’s fields and very near to a demarcation stone. The stone and bunkers were another one of the stops on the 11.2 Km journey from Ieper to Reninghelst…(no wind here though). Again the story is another remembrance of a parent’s walk to their son’s grave though this one is not one of pilgrim families but the story of burying a son. Kenneth’s father was Reverend Alfred G. Wilcox who was the Senior Chaplain of the XV (Scottish) Division and the Highland Division and who presided over his son’s burial. At the time a wooden cross with his son’s name…today a stone marker at grave 2 bearing the inscription Faithful Unto Death.

Kenneth Theodore Dunbar Wilcox (Imperial War Museum)

Kenneth Theodore Dunbar Wilcox
(Imperial War Museum)

During the Great War Reninghelst village was far from the frontlines and was the location of a number of field ambulance stations. The graves at the Churchyard and Extension were in use from March to November 1915 when the nearby Reninghelst New Military Cemetery was opened. There are 3 Great War burials, one unidentified in the churchyard and 56 Great War burials in the extension. The latter also includes two burials from the Second World War.

This Day
8 November 1915
205 Fatalities
Source: Commonwealth War Graves Commission

7 November (1914)…

Posted By on November 7, 2021

Eric John Western Dolphin 7 November 1914 Ploegsteert Churchyard, Belgium (P. Ferguson image, September 2016)

Captain Eric John Western Dolphin
7 November 1914
Ploegsteert Churchyard, Belgium
(P. Ferguson image, September 2016)

Captain Eric John Western Dolphin
1st Battalion Hampshire Regiment

The 1st Battalion Hampshire Regiment landed at Le Havre, France 23 August 1914 and fought as reinforcements at the Battles of Le Cateau (26 August 1914) and later at the Battle of the Marne (6 -1 2 September 1914), the Battle of the Aisne (13 – 28 September 1914) and the first Battle of Messines (October 1914). In November 1914 Captain Dolphin lost his life when near Ploegsteert, Belgium the enemy, possibly in an act of false surrender, shouted out “Don’t shoot!”

Captain Dolphin was the son of Lieutenant Colonel H.E. Dolphin, Royal Artillery (Retired) and his wife (name unknown) of Oak Lodge, Guilford. Their son Eric, age 28 is buried at Ploegsteert Churchyard, grave A.4. Dolphin, following his years of school at Stubbington and R.M.C. Sandhurst, served with his regiment since 1906. Ploegsteert Churchyard is the site of 9 Great War burials in a single row with a short rectangular hedge and iron and stone gateway. The burials date from October 1914 to February 1915 including six soldiers from the Hampshires, one from the 11th Hussars and three Canadians.

Eric John Western Dolphin (Imperial War Museum)

Eric John Western Dolphin
(Imperial War Museum)

My visit to Ploegsteert was memorable as I rode on a bicycle to the churchyard from Ypres (Ieper) a distance of 15 Km. I had been some while prior as one of the Canadian graves belonged to Thomas Sutton a Chilliwack soldier that I had researched. Sometime afterward I became interested in a second soldier at the churchyard, Lieutenant Herbert Beaumont Boggs. Both soldiers died 26 February 1915 and are the first fatalities of the 7th Canadian Infantry Battalion (1st B.C. Regiment). On this second, perhaps third visit, I chose to photograph all the headstones on site as well as the memorial to Belgium troops from the town.

This Day
7 November 1914
752 Fatalities
Source: Commonwealth War Graves Commission

6 November (1917)…

Posted By on November 6, 2021

Gunner Wainwright Merrill 6 November 1917 Ypres Reservoir Cemetery, Belgium (P. Ferguson image, August 2018)

Gunner Wainwright Merrill
6 November 1917
Ypres Reservoir Cemetery, Belgium
(P. Ferguson image, August 2018)

Gunner Wainwright Merrill served as Arthur Ashton Stanley
343939
6th Siege Battery
Canadian Garrison Artillery

Though the Wainwright Merrill story can be found elsewhere on the internet (See Lauren D. Sphon: The Harvard Crimson) he is chosen here for a simple reflection on my part….a parent’s walk to their child’s graveside at Ypres Reservoir Cemetery I.I.91.

Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.A., Wainwright was a student at Harvard College but chose to leave and signed on, giving a false birthdate as he was underage, with the Canadian Expeditionary Force [CEF]. He was the son of Samuel, member of the editorial staff of the Boston Globe and the late Estelle Merrill (also of the Boston Globe and a charter member of the New England Woman’s Press Association)…Wainwright’s enlistment into the C.E.F. was not met with his father’s approval. The surname Stanley appears to have been adopted from a cousin.  At the time of Wainwright’s enlistment in Montreal, Quebec he recorded his address as the St. James Hotel. Wainwright arrived on the Western Front 17 October 1917 and died of his wounds 6 November 1917 at No. 6 Field Ambulance. His injuries were caused at noon when the 6th Siege Battery was heavily shelled by 5.9 German guns and the cellar billet in which Wainwright was located was blown in on top of him.

Ypres Reservoir Cemetery was originally called Cemetery North of the Prison and was started in October 1915 and in use throughout the war. After the armistice the cemetery was enlarged when remains were re-interred here from around the Ypres Salient and concentrated from smaller burial grounds…Ypres Reservoir South Cemetery (Prison Cemetery No. 1) and Ypres Reservoir Middle Cemetery (Prison Cemetery No. 2). The use of Prison reflecting the location of the cemeteries near to the city’s lockup. Today there are 2,693 Commonwealth burials on site of which 1,034 personnel are not identified.

My interest in Gunner Merrill, this day, relates to a letter received by the Office Commanding, Canadian War Graves Detachment, Ypres, Belgium (and included in Wainwright’s service record) from his father Samuel Merrill who visited the grave sometime prior to 20 August 1920. Within Samuel’s letter he notes he originally requested his son’s remains be re-buried at an American Cemetery near Paris, France. However after seeing where his son was interred and perhaps influenced by all he saw on his pilgrimage Samuel wrote…having visited his grave I have concluded that it would be much better to let his body remain where it lies…

Samuel Merrill also makes mention of the original wooden cross marking the grave that had a bullet hole below the inscription. Wainwright Merrill was 19 years of age and was the author of A College Man in Khaki published in 1918. A number of books, in Wainwright Merrill’s memory, are located at  Harvard College Library Funds presented through the Wainwright Merrill Memorial Fund established in 1986.

Wainwright Merrill would have been a Harvard graduate of the Class of 1919.

Wainwright Merrill portrait from A College Man in Khaki. (Canadian Virtual War Memorial)

Wainwright Merrill portrait from
A College Man in Khaki.
(Canadian Virtual War Memorial)

This Day
6 November 1917
1,907 Fatalities
Source: Commonwealth War Graves Commission

5 November (1914)…

Posted By on November 5, 2021

Captain John Francis Allen. (Headstone cropped on far right) 5 November 1914. Ypres Town Cemetery (P. Ferguson image, September 2016)

Captain John Francis Allen
(Headstone cropped on far right)
5 November 1914
Ypres Town Cemetery, Belgium
(P. Ferguson image, September 2016)

Captain John Francis Allen
1st Battalion Loyal North Lancashire Regiment

Buried at Ypres Town Cemetery John Francis Allen’s father, William Henry, lived at Broham House, Broham, Bedford, England. The 1st Battalion Loyal North Lancashire Regiment landed at Le Havre, France 13 August 1914 and participated in many of the war’s early engagements, the Battles of Mons and the subsequent retreat, the Marne, Aisne and the first Battle of Ypres. Captain Allen, the battalion’s adjutant, died of wounds received during the First Battle of Ypres. On 17 February 1915 and 1 January 1916 J.F. Allen was posthumously Mentioned in Despatches. He was 32 years of age.

Ypres Town Cemetery, where Captain Allen is buried at E2.15, is the resting place of 144 others of which 136 are identified. The cemetery was in use from October 1914 until May 1915.

John Francis Allen. (Imperial War Museum)

John Francis Allen.
(Imperial War Museum)

This Day
5 November 1914
287 Fatalities
Source: Commonwealth War Graves Commission

In preparing a research record of images for November 1 – 11 one must understand that it was not a set goal in its day to find markers for each of November’s first eleven days. To have managed to take images for each representative day in this current series (over some years) is somewhat bewildering though I confess that with Captain Allen’s headstone image he was not the initial focus of the day’s outing. As a result Captain Allen’s marker is cropped. For this I apologize to him and to his family. However, one must surely be aware that I will revisit Ypres Town Cemetery…being a little way beyond the Menin Gate Memorial…not a too distant walk. And with the camera shutter sounding – another image will be produced, Captain Allen being the focus, and subsequently added to this soul’s story for 5 November (1914)…

The marker image here is also the only one I have for the 5 November date…and in its cropped fashion, in many ways, it completes the series though the forthcoming image for 9 November is also an only record for that day. The soldier’s graves next to Captain Allen are Second Lieutenant J.A. Tucker (far left) and Captain G.R. Shedden (centre).

4 November (1918)…

Posted By on November 4, 2021

Sergeant Alfred Norris M.M. and Bar 4 November 1918 Brookwood Military Cemetery, England (P. Ferguson image, September 2012)

Sergeant Alfred Norris M.M. and Bar
4 November 1918
Brookwood Military Cemetery, England
(P. Ferguson image, September 2012)

Sergeant Alfred Norris M.M. and Bar
438822
1st Battalion Canadian Machine Gun Corps

For Bravery in the Field…a twice decorated soldier who was awarded the Military Medal and a bar, representing a second award of this honour. Alfred Norris received recognition for his coolness and courage at Fresnoy, France and again for conspicuous gallantry at Passchendaele Ridge, Belgium. (Citations for both awards appear at the end of this article).

Born in 1892 at Bilston, Staffordshire, England, Norris was one of many farmers from across Canada who joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force. Norris served initially with the 52nd Canadian Infantry Battalion but in March 1916 transferred to the 1st Company Canadian Machine Gun Corps. The corps being known to many soldiers as the Emma Gees. Norris was severely wounded 9 August 1918, suffering penetrating wounds to the head and chest. At the time of his injuries Norris was transported to No. 2 Canadian Hospital at Le Tréport, France.

After initial treatments Norris was eventually removed from the dangerously ill list and sent to 1st General Hospital, Camberwell, England where he died of his wounds. Sergeant Norris is buried at Brookwood Military Cemetery, Surrey, England at grave III.G.4. In all there are 1,060 other Great War burials at Brookwood. Norris’ next of kin are recorded in his service record as James and Ada Norris of Pinewood, Ontario. Two brothers, James and Leonard also served during the Great War.

Brookwood, created in 1917, is located almost 50 Km southwest of London and is the largest war graves site in the United Kingdom covering 37 acres. At first  personnel buried at Brookwood were those who died of their wounds within the London District. The cemetery includes nearly 3,500 Second World War burials of which almost 2,400 are Canadians; as well as memorials and more recent solider graves. 786 burials from non-Commonwealth nations are represented at Brookwood including 28 unidentified French.

In 2015 a Great War memorial was constructed to commemorate those casualties who died in the United Kingdom and whose graves are unknown.

This Day
4 November 1918
2,772 Fatalities

Citations

Military Medal

On May 3rd & 4th 1917, during the operations against FRESNOY, the N.C.O., after taking up his gun position, came under heavy rifle and machine gun fire, and was buried twice by shells but held on to his position. on the evening of the 4th, his No. 2 was wounded and he carried him to safety and went back and remained in position until relieved after which he went out and brought in three wounded men. Throughout these operations by his great coolness and courage, he did much to keep up the morale of his crew.

Bar to Military Medal

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. During the offensive around PASSCHENDAELE RIDGE Nov. 8th 1917. This N.C.O. displayed great coolness and fearlessness under heavy shell fire. After taking up their position, the gun and tripod were destroyed by shell fire and the crew buried. Cpl. NORRIS dug the men out and, after getting a new gun, took up another position, moving to alternative positions several times on his own initiative, thereby saving his crew from heavy casualties.