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  • Writer's pictureArt Duval

The Men of Penetang Chapter 9 winter 1917/1918 IT wasn't over by Christmas.

Winter 1917

IT was supposed to be over by Christmas, but another Christmas would come and go. Cards and gift would come, but no family would be seen. Even if you had a brother close or a freind the horros of daily death being at your door...Many would also receive some military awards at this time.

World War 1 Christmas Card

Christmas was approaching and the end of 1917. On the 7th of December 1917 Bruce Gropp would receive a Good conduct badge. On the 9th of December Charles Hurst, William Nesbitt, Robert Lucas and William Kennedy would also be so honored. George Murray would receive his Good conduct badge on the 20th of December.

Towards the end of the year, with many losses needing to be replace, many of the men were promoted up the ranks. Charles

Day, was made a Lance-Corporal, as was Napoleon Picotte, James Brock and Ralph McCall, while William Baxter was promoted to Sergeant, and Thomas Hartley was promoted to the unusual rank of Shoeing smith. Shoeing Smith was a blacksmith that would shoe the horses. Horses were still very much in use in the first world war. The first world war was a strange combination of old and new. There were aeroplanes and horses and tanks all in the same war.

On November 1st Jack Dusome would receive a gunshot wound but would return to duty after a brief stay in Hospital. When he returned to action it would be with the 43rd.

On November 7th of 1917 George Dusome was with the 4th Battalion of the Canadian infantry in the Ypres Salient. George joined in Penetang but was one of a handful who ended up with the 177th Simcoe Foresters instead of the 157th. George could barely write, he roughly signed his attestation papers but also marked it with an X. William Baxter witnessed the attestation for him.

George stood 5 foot 2 and a half inches tall. (Barely above the minimum of 5’2”) He had a dark complexion with Brown hair and eyes and would soon turn 19 years old when he enlisted. He travelled to Europe on the Metagama on the 17th of May. Shortly thereafter, he was transferred to the 3rd reserve Battalion until on September 5th 1917 he was moved to the 4th.

The 4th Battalion was involved in action around the Ypres Salient. During one offensive, on or around the 7th of November, after 2 months in the war, George Dusome went missing. Later, it became apparent he was killed in action. George’s body was never found. George Dusome was born on April 24, 1897 in Penetang to Mr. and Mrs. Paul Dusome. He was recruited in the 35th’s major recruiting campaign in Penetang on March 3, 1916. He was Roman Catholic, worked as a labourer, and was 5’21/2”, dark complexion, black hair and brown eyes. He was drafted into the 4th Battalion. Private Dusome exact day of death in not documented. He appears to have died in the mud at Passchendaele on, or about, November 20, 1917. Official records state: "Previously reported Missing now Killed in Action. Information is available that during the military operations in the vicinity of Passchendaele on the night of November 7, 1917, he “fell out” of the company on the number No. 5 Duckboard Track, and details regarding his death are not available.” He was 20 years old and is honoured on the Menin Gate, Belgium.

He is remembered at Vimy ridge and on the cenotaph in Penetang.

On to Ypres, from Godewaervelde

Casualties continued on the 9th of November, William Kennedy received a gunshot wounds to his face and left hand,. On the 24th of November 1917 Aubrey Thomas McFadden would feel the effects of german mustard gas. He would survive till the first of December where he would succumb to his injuries.

Burwash Hall today

Aubrey Thomas McFadden was a student at Burwash Hall in Victoria College when the war broke out. On the second of November 1915 he enlisted with the 157th in Penetang. A few months later he joined the signal corp in Toronto. He lists his mother Christina McFadden as his next of kin and her address as Penetanguishene. Aubrey was 20 years old, 5 foot 6, with a fresh complexion, grey eyes and dark hair when he enlisted. His face had been scarred in childhood on his forehead and cheek.

Aubrey Thomas McFadden was a sharp man and found his way into the signal corp as a sapper. He travelled overseas on the SS Baltic, arriving on the 29th of May 1916. He spent time in the signal pool before March 14th 1917 joining the 4th signal corp. He would spend the next few months with the 4th.

In September he had been granted 14 days leave, he must have enjoyed himself, for he returned 24 hours late. For this he was fined 2 days pay and forced to endure Field Punishment number one for 5 days. Field Punishment number one consisted of being handcuffed to a stationary object, such as a fence for up to two hours a day. When not attached to a stationary object he was subject to hard labour.

About a month later he would be exposed to Mustard gas and after a week of what must have been excruciating pain he succumbed to his injuries. He is buried in Mendinghem Military Cemetery, Belgium. His inscription chosen by his Mother reads,

SOLDIER REST, THY WARFARE O'ER. MOTHER. Mendingham Cemetery in relation to Ypres.

As 1917 would come to an end William Brathwaite would head off to leave in the UK, Ernest Lalonde would head off to Paris. Robert Lucas and Frank Anderson would also be granted leave in December.

To the forefront

Winter 1918Ypres to

The men of the 116th battalion had spent the year improving the reputation of the Canadian soldier. 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.

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."

Was the end in sight, would they realize they were winning, or did they just keep their heads down and do their jobs.

Files available at the LAC linked below (Click on orange words)

George Dusome:Records

Aubrey Thomas McFadden: Records

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