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.

 

Nellie Richmire and Edward Clinton Biccum

Martha “Nellie” Richmire was my 2nd cousin twice removed on my father’s side.  Like Emma Maud Law who I profiled in December, Nellie Richmire is also descended from Francis Joseph Langton and Sarah Bishop, my 3rd great grandparents, and Nellie’s great grandparents. As the abbreviated tree below demonstrates, Emma was in fact Nellie’s aunt.

Langton and Law abbreviated tree

Nellie’s mother, Margaret Eden Law, was the oldest child of Martha Jane Langton and John William Law. She was born in 1871, and married in 1889 to Ransom Richmire,  a teamster in Cardinal, Ontario, when her youngest sister, Emma, was only one year old.  Nellie was born in 1896 in Cardinal, where she lived with her family until marrying Edward Clinton Biccum in June of 1915.  She was 19, and Edward was 18.

Of course, when they married, the war had already been raging in Europe for 10 months, and Canada was immersed with it.  Local battalions were being created in counties across the country, and, starting in late 1915, the 156th battalion began recruiting in Grenville and Leeds counties.  Cardinal, where Edward was born, was in Grenville county, and on February 6, 1916, almost exactly 102 years ago, he travelled to the neighbouring town of Iroquois, Ontario to attest to the Canadian Expeditionary Force in the 156th.

Canadian_Expeditionary_Force,_156th_O.S._Battalion,_Barriefield,_July_7,_1916_(HS85-10-32558)

The 156th Battalion before sailing to Britain.  One of these men is Edward Clinton Biccum.

Cardinal is a beautifully situated village on the St. Lawrence River, directly across from New York State.  It is still a small community described as and “industrial” village, as has been its primary industry since the late 18th century.  Edward identified himself as a “labourer” on his attestation papers, and it is likely he worked in one of the mills.

On the day that he attested, his wife Nellie was 5 months pregnant with their first child. These were not the heady days of late summer 1914. The spirit of adventure that had inspired some men to enlist early on had turned to a sense of patriotism, duty, and even resignation perpetuated through the popular media of the day encouraging all men who were able to “do their bit.”  From early 1915 onwards, Canadians had been in active combat.  Many men had perished. Both Edward and Nellie would have known that enlisting was a dangerous thing for their little family.

The battalion spent its early days training close to home.  Edward would have been close by on June 14 when his son, John Edward, was born.  His son would have been just over a month old when the picture above of the entire battalion was taken.  In October 1916, Edward and the rest of the 156th bade their families goodbye, and left for Halifax to sail to England.  The 156th sailed on the Mauretania, sister ship to the famous Lusitania, and arrived in England on October 31, 1916.

Very soon after his arrival in England, Edward was temporarily promoted to Acting Lance Corporal.  He was only twenty years old. He and the other members of the 156th were split up and assigned to other battalions as reinforcements. After being assigned to the 154th and the 6th battalions, once he reverted to his rank of Private, he was assigned to the 2nd Battalion in May of 1917.

CEF_E2c

Cap badge of the 2nd battalion of the Eastern Ontario Regiment.

Barely three months later, in August 1917, he was wounded in his arm in the Battle for Hill 70 near Lens, France.  He was evacuated to Britain to heal, and was eventually able to rejoin his battalion in France in November.

On March 21, 1918, at the age of 21, Edward was killed at what I can only assume was the first day of the German offensive at St. Quentin–the same day and at the same battle that Stanley Frederick Gill from my maternal line was taken prisoner.  I have had a hard time finding a war diary for Edward’s battalion, so I am making an educated guess that he was killed at St. Quentin based on the date and the number of men from the 2nd battalion who were killed on that day and buried in the Aix-Noulette Communal Cemetery.

Edward was posthumously awarded the rank of Corporal. I am honoured to share the CWGC commemorative certificate for my cousin’s husband here.

Back in Cardinal, Nellie Biccum and her toddler John, not yet two years old, were left without their husband and father. In the 1921 census, the two are listed as living on their own, but her parents and siblings were living in nearby Edwardsburg, so one hopes that she had some assistance.

In August of 1925, just over ten years after her marriage to Edward, she married Frank Brant, a 30-year old farmer from Michigan.  Nellie and John moved with Frank to Michigan where the new couple had three more children, Margaret, James, and Dorothy, born in 1926, 1928, and 1930 respectively.  Nellie died in 1978 at the age of 82, and John Biccum died in 1989 at the age of 72. Although Edward never got to see his son take his first steps, his descendants and his name are still in Michigan today.