Joseph Jean Baptiste Thivierge

I have been thinking about this post for a long time.  This, along with the post from earlier in this series on Wilfrid Lacasse, is one of only two posts from my maternal Grandfather’s side of my family, which, interestingly, I have the most genealogical background on both from my research through Ancestry as well as through work that has been done on family history by a number of different distant relatives throughout the years. This part of my Canadian pedigree can be traced back to my 8th Great Grandmother, Marie Helene Desportes, who was according to some reports the first child of European descent born in  New France (now the Province of Quebec). Born in 1620, she married twice and had fifteen children, one of whom, Marie Morin, married Gilles Rageot, a recent arrival from France, in 1673. From here, the Rageot (later Rajotte) family spread in French Canada, then eventually also into western Canada.  My Grandfather, Albert Rajotte, was fascinated by this family history, as are many descendants of the Rajotte lines.  That said, it is the branch of my family history with the least evidence of direct participation in the Great War.  There may be many reasons for this, but, as I wrote in the entry on Wilfrid Lacasse, I suspect that at least in part, this is due to the fact that the war was not part of the French Canadian consciousness in the same way that it was in English Canada.  This was related to the fractious relationship with British Imperialism in French Canada as well as to the sense that, as this fantastic article from the Canadian War Museum states: “neither France nor Britain was “a mother country” retaining the allegiance of French Canadians. The “patriotic” call to arms rang hollow.”  Attempts were made through a variety of means to appeal in different ways to French Canada’s interests, including the poster below blatantly appealing to the connection between French culture and Catholicism, but enlistment would never reach the pace it did in English Canada.

French Canadian recruitment

Recruitment poster directed at French Canadians: loosely translated: “Are we waiting until it’s ours that burn? Let’s join up, and right away.”

The Canadian government’s 1917 reversal of a previous promise to never conscript men into military service also hurt the relationship with French Canada. Demonstrations at the Military Service office in Quebec City turned to a deadly riot in March of 1918, with English troops opening fire on French protesters.  These wounds between what Hugh MacLennan later famously called the two solitudes would not easily heal, and in some very real ways, still haven’t.

Joseph Jean Baptiste Thivierge, my 2nd cousin 2x removed, was one of these French Canadian conscripts.  He was not connected to the Rajotte line, but rather to the Monette line, my Grandfather’s paternal grandmother’s line.

Thivierge

Abbreviated family tree of descendants of Elmire D’Amour and Auguste Monette

Joseph was born in 1895 in Hull, Quebec, to Jean Baptiste Thivierge and Adelia D’Amour.  By the time Joseph was called up under the Military Service Act to join the 2nd Depot Battalion of the Eastern Ontario Regiment, it was May of 1918.  He was 22 years old, and an accountant, still living in Hull.  His mother, Adelia, was listed as his next of kin.  He trained throughout the summer, and was transferred to the 2nd Canadian Tank Battalion in September of 1918. On October 4th, 1918, he sailed from Halifax for England, arriving on October 18th.  On November 11, hostilities ended, and Jospeh, never having left England, re-embarked for Canada eleven days later, arriving on November 29.  He was discharged from the service on New Year’s Eve 1918.

While in retrospect, it is clear that Joseph would never see the western front, and his voyage to England and back is almost comically short, he had no way of knowing that he wasn’t going to find himself inside a tank in France. For nearly six months, he was training for, and even shipped overseas in preparation for, a war he did not sign up to fight. I can’t imagine how frightening and frustrating this may have been.

Joseph married Alice Sauve in 1919, and they went on to have two children.  Joseph passed away in Hull at the age of 64 in 1960.

 

Sara Gladys Langton and Richard Sackville Cresswell

Sara Gladys Muriel Langton was my first cousin 3 times removed.  We are both descended from Francis Langton and Sarah Bishop who were her Grandparents, and my 3rd Great Grandparents.  She is second cousin to Martha Richmire (who I posted about in February), and first cousin to Emma Maud Law (who I posted about in December) and to my Great Grandfather Joseph James Foster who I will write about toward the end of the project.

Sarah Langton

Abbreviated family tree of Sara Gladys Muriel Langton

The youngest child of Francis Langton and Sarah Bishop was Albert Edward Langton.  His father was 51 and mother was 45 when he was born in 1866, older parents even by today’s standards.  His oldest sibling was 18 when he was born. Albert left Peterborough and his family at the age of 16.  Although we can’t know the specific reason from the records available, it is very possible that with 9 surviving older siblings, 4 of which being brothers, there may not have been much in the way of prospects connected to any family business or agricultural endeavour for him to take on once he was of age.  He moved to North Dakota where he worked as a railroad labourer.  It was here that in 1889 he married Louise Millwood whose family was also originally from Canada. It appears that over the first 15 to 20 years of their marriage they moved frequently between North Dakota and southern Manitoba, their children being born almost alternately between the two regions.  Sara, or Gladys, as she was more commonly known, their third child, was born in 1893 in Gretna, Manitoba, a border town between Canada and the United States. By 1906 it seems the family had permanently settled in Canada near Morris, Manitoba, 50 kilometres south of Winnipeg.

Richard Sackville Cresswell was born in Elham, Kent, and moved to Canada with his family in 1904 when he was 13 years old. He eventually began working for the railroad, as did Gladys’ father, as a brakeman. In early March 1915, at the age of 23, Ritchie enlisted in the 44th Overseas Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary force. This was a short-lived situation as by April 27 of the same year, he was discharged as medically unfit.  There are no clues as to what the nature of the medical reason for the discharge may have been.

Ritchie and Gladys were married in November 1915, and settled continued to live in Manitoba. They had one daughter in 1916.  Ritchie worked his entire career on the railway.  He passed away in 1970, and Gladys passed away in 1984.

1914-18recruitmentitem22l

One has to wonder what the war years were like for Ritchie and Gladys.  Although he had been deemed medically unfit, he was clearly not unable to work, and with only a month spent in Winnipeg training, it would not have been evident to those who knew him casually that he had, in fact, volunteered.  As a man in his mid-20s, he would have been considered the ideal candidate for a recruit.  The pressure being exuded through government propaganda as well as through the popular media of the time (mostly newspapers and novels) framed unwillingness to join as a character flaw, or a sign of cowardice.  There was little public consideration given to a person’s or a family’s individual situation beyond how many boys they had “in khaki.” Much like it can be today though modern media, hyperbole was used to incite action for a specific cause, and this could create very deep divisions in and between communities.  Perhaps this was not an issue for Gladys and Ritchie, but the fact that it could have been, is certainly worth some thought.

Percy Freely Latham

Percy Freely Latham was my first cousin twice removed, and was first cousin to John Pickering and William Frederick Pickering. Percy’s mother, Emily Pickering; John and William’s father, John Pickering, and my great-grandmother, Mary Alice Pickering; were siblings: three of the 10 children born to James Pickering and Elizabeth Wilson.  My great grandmother was the second youngest of these sibling which is part of what accounts for her nephews being veterans of the first world war while their first cousin, my grandfather, Joseph Foster, was a veteran of the second world war.

Percy’s mother, Emily, was the eldest of the Pickering siblings, and was born in 1873 in Stockton, Yorkshire.  She was 13 years old when her family immigrated to Canada and settled in Ontario (East York, now Toronto) where her father was a rail labourer.  In 1894, at the age of 20, She married Henry Freely: a milk delivery man 20 years her senior who had immigrated from Germany as a child. Emily and Henry had five children together before Harry died due to pneumonia and heart failure in 1901.  This left Emily alone with her children, ages newborn through seven.  Percy was the second youngest, only two years old. Two years later, Emily, still only 30 years old, re-married.  Her second husband, Alexander Latham, was very much a father to the two youngest Freely children, as both of them added his name to theirs, and Percy listed him as his father on his attestation papers. Emily and Alexander had five more children together, the youngest two of whom sadly died in infancy.

Percy attested to the Canadian Expeditionary Force on February 5, 1916.  On his attestation papers, he listed his date of birth as May 18, 1897, which would have made him 18 years old.  I will spare you the math from all the dates above, but this is not consistent with other records. It wasn’t until after he had already been serving for over two years that the military discovered that he had aged himself by two years.  He was actually only 16 years old when he enlisted.  He originally enlisted in the 169th Battalion, which, after arriving in England in October 1916 was absorbed into the 5th Reserve Battalion.  At this time, Percy was transferred to the 2nd Pioneer Battalion.  Pioneer battalions were infantry battalions plus skilled labour.

It was the pioneers that built the dug outs, built the roads in forward areas, laid barbed wire entanglements, and were the power house in trench construction. Pioneers also were the ones who followed on the heels of the Infantry in the attack to fill trenches and build passable avenues for the guns to be brought forward.  (From description of 3rd Canadian Pioneers at Russians in the CEF).

He arrived with the unit in Northern France in early December where they were stationed at Fosse 10, and were supporting nearby trench activity.  The war diary of the battalion has a beautiful description of what would have been Percy’s first Christmas away from home, including the description of the dinner.

2nd Pioneer Christmas

In the spring of 1917, the 2nd Pioneers were supporting the preparations for the 2nd Canadian division’s attack on Vimy Ridge.  They were laying cable for communications and explosives, as well as track for trams in order to get supplies closer to the front.  On April 8, 1917, the day before the Canadian guns opened fire on the German line, Percy was shot in the left wrist and through to his abdomen.  He was evacuated to a field hospital at Le Treport, then back to England to recover at several different hospitals before being released in August of 1917.   Throughout the rest of 1917 and in to 1918, 18 year-old Percy was moved through several reserve battalions in Bramshott, and was even put in some senior roles on an acting basis. Late in 1918, he was returned to Canada, and discharged in January 1919 as medically unfit, likely as a result of his earlier injuries.

In the 1921 census, Percy is listed as living in Toronto with his parents and younger siblings, and his occupation is listed as “engineer.”  He married in 1924, but I have no other information about his life after this time until his death in 1969 at the age of 70.

John Edward Hewlett

One more brief post to get us back on schedule:  John Edward Hewlett was the son of Joseph Hewlett from his first marriage.  Although not related to me, he was half brother to Herbert Hewlett, and step son to Elizabeth Mungham.

John was five years old when his father married my cousin. His father was a rail engine driver, and as the family grew from three to seven children between 1890 and 1896, he followed in his father’s footsteps.  It is clear that he was a Sapper with the Royal Engineers, but beyond that, his service record is nearly illegible, so I cannot tell where he served or even with what units.

He was married before the war, and he and his wife had seven children between 1910 and 1921.  I do not have a date of death for John.

 

Herbert George Hewlett

Herbert George Hewlett was my 2nd cousin three times removed.  We are both descended from Thomas Mungham, an agricultural labourer, and Elizabeth Sarah Wood who were my 4th Great Grandparents, and Herbert’s Great Grandparents.  They were born in Kent, England in 1809 and 1921 respectively.  They were married in June of 1841, but their son, William Mungham was already 7 years old at the time, which would have made his mother 13 at the time of his birth.  Whether this was indeed the case or William was a child from another union, he was certainly claimed by both as their son.  Herbert was descended from William, while I am descended from Thomas and Elizabeth’s third son, Henry.  In all the census data, William is listed as a labourer, sometimes agricultural and sometimes industrial such as on the railway.  He married Sarah Elizabeth Johnson in 1858, and they had six children together, including Herbert’s mother, Elizabeth Ann who was born in Kent in 1861.  In 1889, she married widower Joseph Hewlett who had three children from his first marriage, aged 8, 5 and 4.  Joseph and Elizabeth went on to have four more children together, the youngest of whom, Herbert, was born in 1896.

Hewlett

Abbreviated family tree of Herbert Hewlett

In the 1911 census, Herbert is listed as 15 years old, living with his parents and three of his older siblings, and working as a newspaper boy in Dover, Kent.  He joined the Royal Navy in May of 1915 when he was 19 years old as a stoker, being trained at Pembroke II in Chatham. He then served aboard the HMS Jupiter and HMS Blenheim.

He was aboard HMS Jupiter at a time where she was assigned to the Medeterranean sea to the Suez Canal Patrol, then to the Red Sea, then back to the Suez Canal with a home port in Port Said, Egypt.  This must have been an extraordinary experience for a newspaper boy from Dover. HMS Jupiter returned to England in November 1916, at which time Herbert spent some more time at Pembroke II, close to his family in Kent, before being assigned to HMS Blenheim in February of 1917.  This ship was a depot ship to the destroyer fleet throughout the rest of the war.

Herbert married three times in his life, and I found no indication that he ever had children.  He died in 1985 at the age of 89.

Wilfrid Lacasse

As happens with us all, life happened to me last week, and I did not get my post on Wilfrid Lacasse, my 2nd cousin 3x removed, completed.  Apologies for any confusion that the blank post may have created! This will mean you’ll see two posts from me this weekend, one on Wilfrid today, and another tomorrow on Herbert Hewlett.

Wilfrid Lacasse is one of only two members of my maternal grandfather’s family I am profiling over the course of this year.  I have a few theories about why that is, but most notably is the fact that my grandfather came from a French Canadian family in an isolated part of Northern Ontario.  French Canada was less likely to subscribe to the British imperial rhetoric driving recruitment, so the likelihood of enlistment was lower.  Also, being in a community where the main industry were mines and mills, men’s incomes were important to the survival of families, and the products of the work was considered important to the war effort.  Wilfrid is not only one of the only two members of this side of my family I will be profiling, he is also the only member of the American war effort I have as part of this project.

Wilfrid and I are both descended from Laurent Lacasse and Emelie Bergeron who were my 4th Great Grandparents, and Wilfrid’s Great Grandparents.  Both families extend back generations in Canada, with traces back to the settlement of “New France” around the St. Lawrence River. Both were born just south of Montreal, and, sometime after their marriage, settled in the Ontario community of Clarence Creek, just south of the Quebec/Ontario border.

Lacasse

Abbreviated family tree of Wilfrid Lacasse

While I am descended from their son Jean Baptiste, Wilfrid is descended from their oldest son, Laurent, and then his son, also named Laurent.  Wilfrid’s father and his mother, Josephine Bergeron, were both born in Clarence Creek, where they married and where their children were born.  In the 1901 census, completed early in the year, Laurent and Josephine are listed as living in Clarence Creek with with their four daughters and one son: Wilfrid.  In July of that year, Josephine died, leaving Laurent with five children ranging from one to twelve years.  By the end of the year, the family had moved to Michigan, potentially to be closer to his brother Felix, who already lived there.

Wilfrid was living in Alger, Michigan when the American forces joined the war in 1917. He was twenty four.  As I’ve written before, American service records were destroyed in a massive fire at the National Personnel Records Centre in St. Louis which destroyed 80% of service records of men discharged from American military forces between 1912 and 1960.  As such, there is no military file for Wilfrid, but there is a record of a request his wife made for him to have a military headstone upon his death.  This record states that he served as a cook at Camp Mills in Long Island, New York. This was a camp that was established in the autumn of 1917 as an embarkation point for troops leaving for Europe.  His period of service was less than a year, ranging from September 2, 1918 to July 1919.  Since the war ended in November of 1918, it is very unlikely that he served overseas.

He returned to Michigan after his discharge where he married Ruth McMaster in 1924 and began his family.  They later moved to Wisconsin where he lived until his death in 1952 at 59 years of age.

 

 

Herbert Dash

Herbert Dash, my first cousin four times removed on my mother’s side, was descended from Sarah Gill and Charles Bester, his grandparents, and my 4th great grandparents. As illustrated below, he is one of three brothers who served during the war.  His brothers, as well as two of his first cousins, will be the subjects of future posts.

Dash

Abbreviated tree of Herbert Dash.

Charles Bester, son of John Bester and Mary Constable, was born in Little Eversden, Cambridgeshire, in 1833, and Sarah Gill, second daughter of John Gill and Elizabeth Munns (of whom you can read more here), was born in 1837 in Orwell, Cambridgeshire.  They had ten children, including Annie Bester, my 3rd Great Grandmother, and Elizabeth Bester, born in 1863, Herbert’s mother.

Elizabeth Bester was the 5th of the Bester children. By the age of 18, she was a servant in the home of the Roads family in Orwell, Cambridgeshire. In 1885, at the age of 22, she married 19-year old farm labourer Walter Dash, also of Cambridgeshire.  They had seven children between 1885 and 1895, Herbert being the second youngest, born in 1894.

In 1909, 15-year old Herbert joined the Royal Navy as Boy, 2nd Class, beginning his service at HMS Ganges. Between 1910 and 1914 he served aboard several ships including HMS Berwick in the West Indes, HMS Hampshire (the famous ship that sank after hitting a mine in 1916, killing most on board including Lord Kitchener), and HMS Zealandia.

When the war began in the summer of 1914, 20-year old Herbert was aboard HMS Black Prince, which was stationed in the Mediterranean. The first part of the war was spent patrolling for German merchant ships, and by December 1914, she was transferred to the Grand Fleet.  Eighteen months later, she was one of 250 ships that engaged in the deadly Battle of Jutland. The German High Seas Fleet had hoped to surprise the British Fleets, but codebreakers alerted the British to the approaching ships.  The clash began on the afternoon of May 31, 1916 off the coast of Denmark.  Black Prince, approaching the battle with the rest of the Grand Fleet from the north, was somehow separated from the rest of the fleet.  At the time, what happened to the ship was a mystery to the British forces, but German records have since revealed that she approached the German ships in the darkness, potentially thinking the outlines of the ships were British, just before midnight.    This mistake proved deadly.  Once spotted, Black Prince was fired on by six German battleships.

Devon Heritage (devonheritage.org) cites an eyewitness account of the aftermath from a crew member who had been on board HMS Spitfire:

“We were just recovering from our ramming match with the German cruiser, and most of the ship’s company were collected aft, when suddenly there was a cry from nearly a dozen people at once: “Look out!”

I looked up, and saw a few hundred yards away on our starboard quarter, what appeared to be a battle cruiser on fire, steering straight for our stern. To our intense relief, she missed our stern but just by a few feet; so close was she to us that we were actually under her guns, which were trained out on her starboard beam, She tore past us with a roar, rather like a motor roaring up a hill in low gear, and the very crackling and heat of the flames could be heard and felt. She was a mass of fire from fore-mast to main-mast, on deck and between decks. Flames were issuing out of her from every corner.

At first sight she appeared to be a battle cruiser, as her funnels were so far apart but afterwards it transpired that she was the unfortunate Black Prince with her two centre funnels gone. Soon afterwards, soon after  midnight, there came an explosion from the direction in which she had disappeared.”

All 857 officers and crew were lost.  Combined, the German and British forces lost 25 ships and over 8,500 men that day.

Herbert Dash, along with many others who lost their lives at the Battle of Jutland, is commemorated at the Portsmouth Naval Memorial.  I am honoured to post a memorial certificate to my cousin here.