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  • Writer's pictureArt Duval

Chapter 10 :The Men of Penetang:The Last 100 Days

Spring 1918

The Men of Penetang continued to see their hard work awarded as, on March 27th, John Pearson received the Good Conduct Badge, and on the 11th of May, Bruce Gropp received the Military Medal, a very high achievement. The Criteria for a Military Medal is as follows:

The medal is awarded to Warrant Officers, Non-commissioned Officers and non-commissioned members for individual or associated acts of bravery on the recommendation of a Commander-in-Chief in the field.

Just before Christmas they would gain other reputations with the people around Pernes. Off the line for a few weeks a calf was driven into an establishment and years before it was mechanical, “Bull riding” was invented.

The 116th would return to the front lines on the 22nd of December, and would have to spend Christmas day in the trenches. Christmas was quiet but the Germans raided on the 26th only to be repulsed. It is unimaginable that men would be in trenches in knee high water in the month of December, but that was the situation.

The 116th was on the front lines through most of January building up the strong point and reinforcing the trenches. Ralph McCall would receive a good conduct badge in early January. Robert Beaulieu, and Frederick Morin would also receive good conduct medals that winter. Some of the men, John Cummings, William Nesbitt, Robert Lucas, Charles Hurst, Napoleon Dault, and George Murray would receive 14 day passes with the english speaking fellows going to the UK and the French going to Marseilles. Later in February more men would be granted leave. On the second of November Joseph Bellehumeur would go on Leave and in March Jack Dusome and James Brock would go on leave on the same date, (can we presume together?). It would be awhile before anybody would go on leave again.

On April 22 1918 My Grandfather would respond to his conscription and be taken in to the service. Looking up his records and those on the cenotaph began this whole work. He would not see action, but wouldremain in England and would tell tales of many who were broken by the war. He died the year I was born, but still feel him daily in my life.

There was a scattering of those conscripted, In may Lawrence Gregoire was also called to service and Henry Quesnelle would see service after being conscripted earlier.

In the early part of 1918 the Germans knew that they would not win a war of attrition. New tactics would be needed. So tactics changed, they amassed their troops and would make a push for Paris. Perhaps with the fall of Paris the troops would be demoralized and victory would be theirs. The men of the 116th stood in their way.

Sir Douglas Haig Field Marshall of all the British troops gave the men the following letter:

To ALL RANKS OF THE BRITISH ARMY IN FRANCE AND FLANDERS: "We are again at a crisis in the War. The enemy has collected on this front every available Division and is aiming at the destruction of the British Army. We have already inflicted on the enemy in the course of the last two days, very heavy loss, and the French are sending troops as quickly as possible to our support. I feel that everyone in the Army, fully realizing how much depends on the exertion and steadfastness of each one of us, will do his utmost to prevent the enemy from attaining his object."

Lietenant Colonel Samuel Sharpe

In the spring of 1918 Command of the 116th was in flux. Colonel Samuel Sharpe had taken ill and for reasons only he knows took his own life. Colonel Sharpe was an inspirational leader and was sadly missed by the troops.

The pressures on the men would lead some of them to drink. Being drunk while on duty would lead Wesley Amoe to be imprisoned twice in 1918. Perhaps he felt unlucky, however was life in prison doing hard labour be worse than life on the front line in the trenches?

At some point through all the horror, Bert Atkins had found time to get engaged and he asked for and was permitted to marry in March of 1918. Two others would also get permission, John Cummings and James Brock.

Andrew Bald and family, photo provided by family

Letter home from Mr Bald

Andrew Bald would bow out of the war, his rheumatism would not let him continue. This arthritic condition would continue for the rest of his life.

Neil MAcMillan would be out of service with a cyst on his toe, and Edward Maher would receive wounds in action. Wilbur Cascagnette would take ill with influenza as many side effects to trench life would rear it's ugly head.

Others would become casualties of a different nature, such as Clifford Hames.

Clifford Hames was born in Anworth, Manitoba on March 5, 1895 and was the son of Reverend Arthur Benjamin and Sarah Jane Hames (nee Power) of Penetang. He lived in Toronto when he enlisted on February 18, 1916 and was a student at the University of Toronto. His sign-up papers stated he had previous militia experience, was Methodist, and was described as being 5'5 1/4" with a fair complexion, light coloured hair and brown eyes. It was also noted that he had a scar on the left side of his face. He was assigned as a sapper to the 5th Divisional Signal Company, Canadian Engineers.

Clifford was an architect student at the University of Toronto when he signed his attestation papers on 18 February 1916. He gave his mother Sarah in Penetanguishene, Ontario as his next of kin. As a Sapper with the Divisional Signalers, Canadian Engineers, Clifford went overseas that May.

In August of 1917, Clifford transferred to the Royal Flying Corps in England, training with the 62nd Training Squadron based at Swingate in Dover. On 25 April 1918, Clifford died as a result of an accident with the

airplane that he was flying. With misty weather conditions, Clifford was unable to bring his aircraft out of a stall and it went into a flat spin, crashing at 8:15 am. Clifford is buried in the St James Cemetery in Dover.

Two of Clifford's brothers also served during the war. Edgar enlisted in Hamiota, Manitoba in March of 1916 and went overseas with the 203rd Battalion. Transferring to the 8th Battalion, Edgar died of his wounds on 18 August 1917 in France. He is buried in the Noeux-les-Mines Communal Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France. Clifford's brother Clarence enlisted in March of 1916 in Toronto and went overseas with the 67th Depot Battery, Canadian Field Artillery. Details of his service are unknown. He returned to Canada in October of 1918 to resume his schooling as a medical student at the University of Toronto.

Clifford's father Arthur retired from the ministry in 1919 "due to bereavement in the loss of two sons in WW1, being on the verge of nervous collapse and breakdown of health" (from the memoirs of Arthur Hames). He died in 1931 in York, Ontario followed by Clifford's mother Sarah in 1937 in Clarkson, Ontario. Along with daughter Olive, they are buried in the Park Lawn Cemetery in Toronto.

Clifford Otto Robinson Hames is commemorated on page 588 of the First World War Book of Remembrance in Ottawa, on the Memorial Screen in the Soldiers' Tower at the University of Toronto, and along with his brother Edgar, on the family grave marker in the Park Lawn Cemetery in Toronto.

Info found at the site below.

The final countdown The last 100 days

Summer 1918

Ypres to Auchel then back at it in Ypres

Road Map of Auchel to Ypres with St Omer on the Left.

The battle of attrition on the front lines would cause the Germans to blink first. Realizing that the war would be lost if it continued like this, they launched an offensive that pushed the Allies back. But undaunted, the allies repulsed them and had the Germans on the run for the rest of the War.

On July 6th the 116th relieved the Princess Patricia’s. Later in the month they would be relieved by the first Battalion, many of the men from Penetang would have passed each other while the front was changed over.

William Kennedy would receive a Good Conduct Badge in this time. Promotions would continue to come to those from Penetang. Cory Norton would become a Lieutenant, he would also become a 1st class instructor of musketry. John Peacock was promoted to Lance Corporal, a promotion he would later relinquish. Napoleon Picotte and Robert Beaulieu were promoted to Sergeant.

At the time the men were led from the front. In other words, the higher the rank (of NCO's) the more likely it was to become a casualty. So many relinquished their promotions.

George Morin, who had earlier been sentenced to death by firing squad, his sentence commuted to hard labor would be released to rejoin the front lines with his regiment. He may have been better off to stay in prison.

On his first day on the line he was asked to help with casualties, a job he did well. He was under heavy fire when he returned to the allied lines. He returned to the line but he was not with his own battalion and it was getting dark. He was convinced to stay there the night, and as exhaustion was overcoming him he did just that. The next morning he set off for his own platoon and in reaching there he was informed his pack from home had been redirect as he was listed as missing. This disturbed George and he was distraught. Going to find his pack he got turned around and realizing the French country side was so much like home, he continued into it. Still in uniform he found an elderly man cutting wood and knowing the French language he took up with this man and helped him to cut split and pile wood.

This went on for months until a French family seeing a soldier still in uniform inquired as to his presence in the French country side. Finding a Canadian Officer away from his post George was court martialed.

George represented himself and explained his predicament. He did not want to abandon the army, but only found it so much more enjoyable in the countryside. (I don't think we can blame him for that!) The army however did not see it the same way and sentenced him to die by firing squad.

Alas, they gave him a commuted sentence of hard labor and again George did what was asked of him. Released eventually to the front lines, he was mercifully killed by a bullet to the head in a village in France.

In the late Spring and early summer of 1918 the Germans were on the offensive. They pushed the Triple entente forces back to within 30 Kilometers of Paris. The territory that the 116th and 1st and many others had fought for was lost. But better days were ahead. We now know these days as the Hundred Days. This would be the final battles of the first world war and although it would seem the war would soon be over, many would sill lose their lives. The 116th and first would be involved in what would be known as the “Hundred Day offensive”. Starting on August 8th the Germans would be pushed out of the trenches and would be in full retreat. However with those victories came death as well.

William Kennedy and Napoleon Picotte, would be killed in action that first day. Napoleon had just won the very prestigious Meritorious Medal three days previous. William and Napoleon are a good lesson in researching our fallen. . Both lie side by side in France and language, culture or anything else separated these two young men from their graves in such a war. We should see their stories as such, inseparable by any current political agenda.

William Kennedy, Willie as he was known as he signed his name Willie Kennedy was born February 6th 1896 in Penetang. He signed up with many of the other young men on the 10th of February 1916. Willie was 5 foot seven inches tall and was 19, a month away from twenty, when he enlisted. Willie had fair hair, grey eyes and light complexion. He was the son of Mr and Mrs John Kennedy, and was Roman Catholic. He had been injured (Face and hand) previously in May of 1917 but had since returned to action. This image was taken from : where he was apparently part of the Bugle band.

He trained and travelled oversea with the 157th before being transferred to the 116th with whom he fought across France and back till being killed in action on the first day of the “hundred day offensive”.

He is buried at: HOURGES ORCHARD CEMETERY Domart-sur-la-Luce Somme France. Pushed back from Ypres to Amiens

Napoleon Picotte was born in Penetang on April 17th 1893 in Penetang to Arthur and Rachel Picotte. Napoleon was a railroad clerk in Penetang at the outbreak of the war. He was 22 years old with a dark complexion and dark eyes and was tall man standing 5 feet 11 inches tall. Napoleon had a first cousin Elie who also joined the 157th.

Napoleon was ambitious right from the start, many of the people who signed up on February 10 1916 were witnessed by Napoleon Picotte. Napoleon trained with the 157th at Base Borden before being shipped overseas with the unit. Once in England he was transferred to the 116th Battalion and travelled to France with the battalion.

Napoleon was one of those caught cutting their great coats and was fine dully. It would be the only time he would find himself in trouble. On 18th of November 1917 he was promoted to Lance Corporal, in December of 1917 he completed a course at the pernes range. In May of 1918 he was promoted to Sergeant, and received a Meritorious Merit award in August. On August 8th at the beginning of the offensive, Napoleon Picotte was wounded and would die a few days later. He is buried besides William Kennedy at Hourges Orchard Cemetery, Domart-sur-la-Luce, Somme France.

Very heavy fighting would occur in the following days. The German forces were loath to give up their positions and the men fought for every inch. They were fighting through the Bade rench, much of it in very close quarters. Reserve units were employed. They would attack Demouin wood and be on to Hammond wood. The fighting was now out of the trenches. Progress was quick and at one point they found themselves behind an enemy gun. This allowed them to fire back and help one of the following platoons to achieve their objective. The men were tired but in high spirits with all the progress they were having. The Germans launched a series of devastating offensives beginning along the Western Front on 21 March 1918 in an effort to win the war.

Germans Mass for an Attack in the West

Russian withdrawal from the war, due to internal revolution and defeat on the battlefield, allowed German forces to mass on the Western Front. With the United States now in the war and sending a seemingly endless supply of troops overseas, Germany attempted to win the war with a knockout blow before the untrained Americans became an effective force.

Operation ‘Michael’ Unleashed

On 21 March 1918, the German offensive began, spearheaded by specially trained ‘storm troopers’ and savage barrages of gas and high explosive shells. The attack mauled two British armies and overran thousands of stunned Allied troops. Later assaults struck Belgian, British, French, and American forces at strategic points from the English Channel to the Marne River, east of Paris.

The Canadians Spared

The Canadian Corps escaped a direct blow, but several of its divisions were pulled away temporarily to plug holes in the Allied line. The 2nd Division fought with British units for several months.

The Canadian Motor Machine Gun Brigade, led by Brigadier-General Raymond Brutinel, raced along the British front offering important fire support from its armoured cars. The Canadian Cavalry Brigade also fought to slow the German advance. In one fierce action, Lieutenant Gordon Flowerdew was awarded the Victoria Cross.

The Germans Defeated

The series of German offensives in 1918 failed to defeat the Allied armies in the West, despite their initial successes. Germany’s own loss of 800,000 killed, wounded or maimed from March to July exhausted its manpower reserves and included disproportionate casualties to its elite storm troop and assault units.

The Canadian Corps escaped largely unscathed from the Germans’ spring offensive, but Sir Douglas Haig would soon call upon it to help lead a strategic counterattack. This offensive, launched in August against German forces badly weakened by the spring fighting, would be called the Hundred Days campaign.

Canadian War Museum

On to the Hammond Wood

The men had so much success that they reached the German artillery, with the guns being silenced the germans began to surrender in droves. In all the men captured 16 Big guns, 40 machine guns and about 450 prisoners. The 116th casualties were 2 officers, and 30 other ranks killed; 10 officers and 148 other ranks wounded and missing.

The 116th spent a few days holding the lines before being relieved on the 16th of August. But in the meantime they would repel a german counter attack where they would lose 15 more men along with 64 wounded.

Xavier Francis Longlade would lose his life on the 10th of August 1918 when an enemy aeroplane would drop a bomb on him. Xavier enlisted in Penetang, (157th training as a pioneer he transferred to the 177th). Xavier was 5 feet 2 and a half inches tall with a ruddy complexion, brown eyes and black hair. He was 22 years old when he enlisted. He had a brother Joseph who enlisted in Tessalon.

Xavier arrived England on the Metagama in 1917 arriving on the 14th of May in Liverpool. A few days later he was transferred to the 3rd reserve Battalion. He spent the majority of 1917 in England then on the 18th of January he was transferred to the 123rd battalion. The 123rd Battalion was a pioneer battalion. A pioneer battalion made all the fortifications and housing on the front lines that the men in the line would need. They would install bridgework and build plank roads, facilitating troop movement and artillery. In May of 1918 he was transferred to the 9th Brigade, which was attached to the 116th.

On the evening of the 10th of August Xavier and two other soldiers were in a “Bivouac” 100 yards west of Beaucourt when an aeorplane dropped a bomb directly on it. Xavier and the two others were instantly killed.

On August 12th Charles Hirst would see his fighting come to an end. Charles had come to Canada as a British home child, Born in England, he had enlisted in Penetang and trained and travelled overseas with the 157th. Charles was 22 yrs old with a ruddy complexion, blue eyes and brown hair. He was married (Delia) and five foot six inches tall.

Soon after arriving in England Charles was transferred to the 116th. He was briefly with a labour battalion while dealing with injuries and he had also been promoted but requested that he be returned to the ranks. He was awarded a good conduct badge in 1917 and was with the 116th till august of 1918.

He lies at:Bouchoir New British Cemetery, Bouchoir, département de la Somme, Picardie France. To Bouchoir, on the Somme

Noble John Braden would also die on the 12th of August 1918. Noble John Braden was born in Dartmoor, Ontario, December 31 1897. Dartmoor is now a ghost town, that area now being called Sebright. John was living in Penetang and was a farmer. John had a ruddy complexion with grey eyes and brown hair. He was 21 years old when he enlisted, but would soon be 22.

Noble John would train with the 157th in Base Borden and travel with them overseas. Like so many others he was transferred to the 116th Battalion shortly after arriving in England. He was also promoted to Lance Corporal, was reprimanded for not following an order and was off to France to fight in the War. Where he was fined for the cutting his great coat.

On the 11th of October Noble John was hospitalized when he contracted the measles. He would spend some time in Hospital and in early January he would be off to the UK for leave. He would also receive his promotion to Sergeant that month.

In April he contacted impetigo, possibly it was misdiagnosed and had to do with mustard gas, or perhaps it was just the poor conditions in the trenches, it resulted in a rash on his face. I suspect it worse than simple impetigo as he would spend nearly a month in Hospital.

On the 12th of August he would lose his life. He would receive the military medal for his actions that day. He died in capturing a wooded area of France.

The C.E.F. -circumstances of casualty reports " this non-commissioned officer was with his Platoon in a trench, when the enemy surrounded them and while fighting his way out, he was instantly killed by machine gun fire."

He does not have a grave, but is remembered in Penetang, Sebright, and on the Vimy Ridge Memorial.

Also losing his life after a tumultuous time in the military was George Morin. George enlisted early in Niagara on the 5th of September 1915. George joined the 74th Niagara battalion and trained there to go overseas. After having difficulties in the trenches in July of 1916 George had a breakdown while being exposed to the horrors of war. George walked away from the trenches and found himself walking about the French countryside eating vegetables and hunting at night. A few months later he was found and court martialed. He was found guilty of desertion and sentenced to be shot. Luckily that sentence was commuted and he was given a sentence of hard labor. George worked hard and was released in May of 1918 to rejoin the forces. He joined the 52 Battalion and fought with them until his death on August 15th. George was with his battalion in the Town of Demery when he was shot in the head by a rifle bullet and died instantly. He is buried in the Roye New British cemetery under G Morin.

Roye New British cemetery

Alfred Hamilton Thompson signed up in Barrie as a Lieutenant with the 157th Overseas on March 1916, at 24 years of age. He was born in Penetanguishene to W.M. and Julia K. Thompson on February 27, 1896 and was raised Anglican. He was educated at Upper Canada College, his occupation was merchant (his father owned a very successful retail business in Penetang) and he was unmarried. He was also a Freemason and belonged to Georgian Lodge 348 (Midland). Lieutenant Thompson's obituary notice states that he enlisted as a Private in October 1916 and that he was made Lieutenant one month later, He transferred to the Royal Flying Corp in May 1917, then transferred to the Royal Naval Air Service where he died of wounds on September 26, 1918. He is buried in Longuenesse (St. Omer) Souvenir Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France.

The Battle of Amiens was the beginning of the end of the German armies. A powerful Allied force, spearheaded by Canadian and Australian troops, nearly broke through the enemy lines on 8 August, pushing the Germans back several kilometres.

Secret Preparations

After the failed German offensives in spring 1918, the Allies regrouped and counterattacked along the Western Front. Prepared in secret, with a major counter-intelligence operation to deceive the Germans as to the real location of Canadian and Australian ‘shock troops,’ the attack at Amiens would prove one of the most successful of the war.

A Near Breakthrough

The offensive at Amiens was a surprise assault based on a combined arms approach to war. The infantry attacked behind a creeping artillery barrage, supported by tanks, cavalry, armoured cars, and tactical airpower.

On 8 August, the Canadians advanced 13 kilometres through the German defences, the most successful day of combat for the Allies on the Western Front. But the Germans rushed reinforcements to the battlefield to prevent an Allied breakthrough, and subsequent fighting became far more difficult and costly, especially since the attacking forces were moving beyond the range of their guns. By the night of 11 August, most offensive operations had ground to a halt.

The ‘Black Day’ of the German Army

Amiens, called the ‘black day’ of the German army by one of its commanders, shook German faith in the outcome of the war and raised Allied morale.

Previously, most Allied commanders had predicted the war would continue well into 1919 and possibly into 1920. Amiens proved that the German army, bending under the strain of four years of attritional warfare, was closer to defeat than anyone had predicted.

In a trend continued by other set-piece attacks in the following months, the battle was exceedingly costly. The Canadians suffered more than 11,800 casualties in total, including nearly 4,000 on 8 August alone.

Canadian War Museum

The 116th would continue to occupy the front till the 29th of August when they were relieved and returned to their billets. But not before Frederick Morin was injured on the 28th of August. George’s brother Frederick was 34 and married when he joined on February 10th 1916 in Penetang. Barely over the lower limit in height, he was a small man. Nevertheless he left three young children, Harry, Alice and Archie, all under 2 years old with his wife (Delima)to go to war overseas.

On the 28th of August he would receive gunshot wounds to his left thigh and back. Luckily he would survive those wounds and would return to his family a little while later. His fate was far better than that of his brother George.

Also on the last day of their days in the Trenches John Peacock would lose his life. John Leslie Peacock enlisted on the 10th of February 1916 in Penetang. He was 19 years old and single at the time of his enlistment. He had a ruddy complexion, with blue eyes and brown hair. Before he would ship off to Europe he would marry the daughter (Florence) of fellow 157th (Forester) Robert Stratton Lucas. She would become a young widow.

He had been wounded in 1917 but remained on duty. On the 28th of August during an attack on Bois Du Sart and Bois Du Vert he was killed in action. He would never return to his young widow. He is burried at Vis-en- artois cemetery 8 miles south of Arras. John Peacock was born in Penetang on July 7, 1896, raised Methodist, and was described as a single labourer, 5’71/2” tall, ruddy complexion, brown hair and blue eyes. His father was Fred

Peacock. John enrolled in the 157th Overseas on February 10, 1916 at the age of 20 and was later absorbed into the 116th Battalion, Central Ontario. Lance Corporal Peacock died on August 27, 1918. He married after his enrollment and had a daughter that he never saw. His wife probably did not receive the monthly Separation Allowance as it was only paid to volunteers married at enlistment. This previously wounded soldier died during the last “one hundred days” offensive on August 27, 1918, a bloody day in which 409 Canadians died. Most actions took place in the Boiry section where Lance Corporal Peacock died, age 22. “Previously reported Missing now Killed in Action. Attack at Bois du Sart and Bois du Vert” His remains are buried in Vis-en-Artois British Cemetery, France. The War Diary for the 116th records the following for that day: 27th. “IN THE LINE. Zero Hour was at 4.55 a.m., on the morning of the 27th, The objectives being Boiry- Notre Dame and Artillery Hill. “A” Company was to follow in support of the 52nd Battalion, “D” Company followed by “C” Company were to work along the sunken road between Bois Du Bert and Bois Du Bert. “D” Company, making direct for Artillery Hill and “C” Company to capture Boiry-Notre Dame. “B” Company was in reserve. Considerable opposition was encountered from machine guns, and further progress being impossible after the capture of these two woods it was found necessary to re-organize, the whole being under the command of Major Pratt, Major Sutherland having been killed by machine gun fire. It was found necessary to withdraw the line somewhat to complete reorganization, and despite the heavy machine gun fire as well as artillery fire, rations were brought up during the night, and distributed to the several platoons.”

North to Arras, Vis an artois cemetery

As we can see by the maps, the men of Penetang were in all the big Battles of the First World war.

Records of those who died:

Francis Xavier Longlad(E)

Napoleon Edward Picotte

Charles Hirst

Noble John Braden

John L Peacock

Art Duval

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