Richard John Perring, my 3rd Great Uncle, was born 122 years ago today. His parents, Annie Bester and Walter Perring, were my 3rd Great Grandparents. Another way to look at this was that he was my Great-Grandfather’s uncle. In fact, it is likely that my Great-Grandfather, James Charles Mungham, and his uncle knew each other, as there was only an 8 year age difference between them. My Great-Grandfather emigrated from Britain to Canada with his family, including his parents Harry Mungham and Ellen Perring in 1908, arriving when he was three and a half years old. Ellen Perring was the eldest child of Annie Bester and Walter Perring, and though I can’t be sure, it is very possible that her and her family’s decision to move to northern Ontario was in part due to her parents’ decision to do the same thing the previous year. So when My 2nd Great Grandparents and their children arrived in Orillia, Ontario in 1908, Ellen’s parents, and her younger siblings, including Richard, who would have then been 11 years old, were there to greet her.
Three years later, in the 1911 census, Richard was listed as working as a labourer at a “wheel works.” Sometime between then and late 1914, he had moved south to Winchester, Ontario, slightly south-east of Ottawa, and began to pursue a career as a baker. It was also in Winchester that he married Mary Elizabeth Lambert in December of 1914 when they were both 19 years old. Almost exactly a year later, in December of 1915, Richard attested to the Canadian Expeditionary Force in the 87th Battalion (Canadian Grenadier Guards) of the Canadian Expeditionary Force.
His unit sailed for Britain on the 23rd of April, 1916, one day after his 20th birthday. He spent the rest of the spring and the early part of the summer in training, and then on August 10, 1916, the unit sailed for France. By the fall of 1916, the 87th was fully involved on the 1916 Somme offensive. At some point during the more than month-long battle of the Ancre Heights, Richard went missing. It was later declared that he had been killed on or before October 22, 1916, exactly 6 months after his birthday. His remains were never found.
Back in Orillia, Ontario, my 2nd Great Grandmother had lost a brother. She also had 2 sons of her own “in khaki” at the same time.
My birthday is April 22. I have now had 21 more birthdays that Richard ever experienced. Had he not been killed in France, there is even a possibility that he would have lived to celebrate his 81st birthday on the day I was born. The what-if’s of so many young lives resonate a lot more somehow when one can connect these kinds of clear timelines to them.
Richard is memorialized at the Vimy memorial in France. I am honoured to post the Commonwealth War Graves Commission commemorative certificate for my uncle here.