Henry Walter Mungham was my 2nd Great Uncle, older brother to my Great-Grandfather, James Charles Mungham, and Albert Mungham who I profiled in the early summer.
Born in England and immigrating to Canada with his family when he was 11, Henry was the oldest of Harry Mungham and Ellen Perring’s eight children. Harry enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force on September 17, 1915, just over a year after Britain and consequently Canada declared war on Germany. He was 18 years old.
Henry joined the 45th (Manitoba) Battalion, sailing for England in March of 1916. The 45th was used as a reserve battalion to reinforce other groups, and in May of 1916, Henry was reassigned to the 31st (Alberta) Battalion, and sent to join them in France. The 31st was part of the 6th Infantry Brigade of the 2nd Canadian Division.
The summer into the fall of 1916 was the famous Somme offensive, a time where the remaining trappings of 19th century warfare gave way to the full-on industrialization of battlefields. The 2nd Canadian Division, including the 31st battalion, became most directly involved in this part of the conflict in September 1916 with the Battle of Fleurs-Courcelette. On the morning of September 15, 1916, the men were ordered to go “over the top” of the trench after a series of artillery fire was meant to clear the way. Zero hour was 6:20am.
In the immediate aftermath of this battle, Henry was listed as “wounded and missing.” His family was informed, and this remained his status until June of 1917 when he was “declared, for official purposes, to have died on or since September 15, 1916.” This status was changed yet again in February of 1918, when he was deemed to have been “Killed in Action on September 15, 1916.” Henry was 19 years old.
Henry’s remains were never found, and he is memorialized at the Canadian monument at Vimy. I remember seeing pictures of my Grandmother, Henry’s niece whom he would have never met, standing beside his name at the memorial when she had the opportunity to visit it. She would sometimes say that her uncle died at Vimy, Canada’s most famous battle, but of course this was not the case. As mentioned above, Henry’s brother Albert also enlisted, though never went overseas, a blessing for a family that had already lost a son.
I am honoured to share the commemorative certificate from the Commonwealth Ware Graves Commission for my uncle here. I dedicate this post to my Grandmother and Henry’s niece, Mary Ellen Rajotte (nee Mungham), who passed away earlier this month.