Aaron Gill

Aaron Gill was my first cousin five times removed.

A painter and decorator by trade,  Aaron was born in 1876, making him 40 years old when he reported for duty under the terms of the Military Service Act in  July of 1916.  He was passed by the medical inspectors at the time of his enlistment, but a month later, his superior officers had submitted paperwork declaring that he should be discharged as he was “unlikely to become an efficient soldier.”  The reason cited was a large hernia. The discharge was approved.

I wonder at the mixed feelings that this must of created for him. On one hand, the there was the consistent message that everyone must “do one’s bit.”  Even among my modest count of 52 soldiers, Aaron had three nephews ( David, Ezekiel, and William Gill) and several cousins in uniform, and the societal and familiar pressure may have been intense.  On the other hand, he must have had a sense through the experiences of his personal connections, the consistent casualty lists published in the papers, and families being left without fathers and husbands, that this was not something to take lightly.  He had a wife and eight children that he would have been leaving behind had he been sent to the front.  It is easy to imagine that being discharged would have been, at least in part, a relief.

George Arthur Saggers

George Arthur Saggers was my first cousin three times removed.  We are both descended from Henry John Mungham and Eliza Francis Ing who were my third great grandparents and George’s Grandparents.  Henry and Eliza were both born in Kent to families making their living in brick making. They married in 1871 when Henry was 24 and Eliza was 18. They lived at least the first 12 years of their married life in Kent where Henry also worked as a brick maker, and where they were living when their first five children were born, including my 2nd Great Grandfather, Harry, and George’s mother, Rosetta.

Sometime between 1883 and 1886, the family relocated to Essex, where Henry (as well as my 2nd great grandfather Harry) continued his trade in brick making.  Henry and Eliza went on to have 5 more children in Essex.

Born in 1877, Rosetta Mungham was the third child of Henry and Eliza.  She is not listed as living with her family at the time of the 1891 census, at which time she would have been 14, so it is possible that she had taken work as a servant in her youth.  In 1899 at the age of 22, she married Alfred George Saggers a general labourer from Essex, and their first child, George Arthur, was born the following year.

Being born in 1900, George was too young to join the war effort at its outset, but in the summer of 1917, 17 year old George enlisted in the Royal Navy for the duration of the war.  Hi occupation at the time was listed as an engine cleaner, and his rank was a stoker.  He trained at a shore establishment in Devonport (Plymouth), and on December 6, 1917, he was assigned to HMS Aurora, a fairly new Arethusa Class light cruiser.

HMS Aurora

HMS Aurora

Aurora had already see her fair share of significant action in the war, taking part in major battles and the sinking of some significant targets. In 1918, soon after George would have been assigned to her, she was reassigned to the 7th Light Cruiser Squadron of the Grand Fleet.  HMS Aurora was one of the ships present at the surrender of the German High Seas Fleet, in November 1918.

The role of a stoker was one of the most difficult and thankless of the Navy.  As is outlined in a 2013 PhD thesis for the University of Exeter, stokers were regarded as the lowest class of men, yet without them, the great ships of the fleet would never have left port.

George served aboard Aurora until March of 1919, and there is little record of his life after the war.  He passed away in Essex in 1966 at the age of 65.

 

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.

 

Ernest James Perring

Ernest James Perring was my first cousin four times removed.  We are both descended from James Perring and Emma Law who were his grandparents, and my 4th great grandparents.  James Perring was an agricultural labourer who lives the entirety of his life in Essex.  He and his wife Emma had twelve children of whom I could find record: one daughter and eleven sons.  Of these sons, one was my third great grandfather, Walter Perring; one was Joseph Perring who lied about his age to enlist in the war and whose sons, Edmund and Alfred, have also been part of this project; and another was James Perring, Ernest’s father.

Ernest James Perring 2

Abbreviated family tree of James Perring and Emma Law

 

At some point between 1841 and 1851, James and Emma Perring and their family were committed to the Saffron Walden Union Workhouse.  In the 1851 census, the couple and four of their children are listed as “inmates” at the facility, including three year old James. Fortunately, this wasn’t a permanent situation for them, and by 1861, the family’s fortunes had improved enough that they were no longer in the workhouse.

By the 1871 census, James had married his first wife, Mary Ann Wilkinson, and was working as an agricultural labourer.  At some point in the following several years, his first wife died, and in 1878, he married Mary Ann Palmer with whom he raised his two children from his first marriage as well as the five that they had together.  By the 1881 census, the family had relocated to Edmonton, Middlesex (London area), and James was working as a “platelayer” which was a railway employee whose job was to inspect and maintain a section of track.

Ernest was born in Edmonton in December of 1883.  By the age of 18 he was working as a clerk, and in 1909, at the age of 25, he married Ada Isabel Cresswell.   Four children soon followed, as did a change of career, as by 1917, he is recorded as being a “steam bus driver.”  Steam busses were common in London and elsewhere as a form of transportation.  This experience served him well, as in 1917, he enlisted in the Royal Navy as an Air Mechanic.  Upon the formation of the Royal Air Force on April 1, 1918, he was transferred into their service, also as an air mechanic where he served for the duration of the war and through to 1920.

Ernest and Ada lived the duration of their lives in and around London, and Ernest passed away in 1963 at the age of 79.

 

Frederick Charles Clements

Frederick Charles Clements was my first cousin four times removed.  We are both descended from Michael Ing and Mary Ann Macey who were his maternal grandparents, and my fourth great grandparents. Michael Ing was born in 1826 in Boughton-Under-Blean, Kent.  His trade was a brick maker.  In 1850, he married Mary Ann Macey, the daughter of another brick maker, a very common trade in Kent during the 19th century. Michael and Mary Ann were 25 and 20 respectively when they married.  Together they had eight children:  I am descended from their oldest child, Eliza Frances.  Eliza’s younger sister, Sarah Ann, worked as a domestic servant on a large farm in as a very young woman, but in 1876, at the age of 22, she married Arthur Clements, an omnibus driver from Herne, Kent.  Arthur and Sarah started their family soon after starting with their daughter Elizabeth Jane, born in 1878; Frederick Charles, born in 1880; and Thomas     Albert, born in 1885.  Later, Arthur and Sarah also adopted a young girl, Phoebe Ing, who must have been a relation of Sarah’s.

By the time he was 20, Frederick was working in the brickfields with his father. In 1911, all the Clements siblings, Elizabeth, age 33, Frederick, age of 31, and Thomas, age 26, were all still living with their parents and their adopted sister. In 1914, the war would disrupt this family unit with Frederick attesting to the South Staffordshire Regiment on September 4, 1914, mere weeks after Britain formally declared war.  Frederick’s records are quite difficult to read, but it seems he was initially with the 1/5 battalion, then transferred to the 3/5 battalion.  It seems likely that it was with the 1/5 battalion in the 46th Division that he spent his recorded time on the Western Front throughout 1915. This would have included time in the final stages of the Battle of Loos in October of 1915.  In the beginning of December of 1915 it appears that the battalion was sent to Egypt, but Frederick was not among those who went as he was then transferred to a reserve battalion stationed in England.

Loos2

British Troops at the Battle of Loos, Autumn 1915.

Frederick’s brother, Thomas, was sent to the eastern theatre, and as we will learn next week, this was a sad turn of events for the Clements family.

Many years after the war, in 1933, Frederick married Esther Annie Rosina Larkman who was over 30 years his junior.  The two lived out their lives in Kent, and Frederick lived well past his 80th year.

 

Albert George Mungham

Albert George Mungham was my 2nd Great Uncle, older brother to my Great Grandfather, James Charles Mungham. He was seven years old when his family arrived in Canada and eventually settled in Newdale, Manitoba to farm in 1908.

Albert volunteered in early 1916, and was sent to Winnipeg with the 190th Overseas Battalion in anticipation of sailing overseas.  Like many, he was not entirely honest about his age on his attestation papers.  He aged himself by three years, saying he was 18 years and 10 months old, when really, he was 15 years and 10 months old.  He was tall and strong, working as a farmer, so it is likely that he was not questioned.

His service record is very thin, with a mention of a brief hospitalization for a sore throat and then a transfer to a depot battalion, and then there are discharge papers signed in March 1917 in Winnipeg in which he discharged due to being medically unfit.  Whether this had anything to do with the fact that he still would have been not quite 17 at the time is hard to say.

Although Albert never left Manitoba, he still gave over a year of his life to military service, at least part of it thinking that he could go overseas and face very real dangers–dangers that would have been very clear to him based on his brother Henry’s service which we will explore further later in the year.  This is still a commitment I think is worth remembering.

He later married and had two children.  He lived in various places in Manitoba and British Columbia, and passed away in New Westminster, BC in 1983 at the age of 83.

 

 

Ernest Robert Mungham

Ernest Robert Mungham was my first cousin, four times removed.  He and I are both descended from Thomas Mungham and Elizabeth Sarah Wood who were my 4th great grandparents and his grandparents.  I wrote more about Thomas and Elizabeth in the post about Herbert George Hewlett, who was Ernest’s second cousin.  Where I am descended from Thomas and Elizabeth’s son Henry, and Herbert was descended from their first son, William, Ernest was the son of their son Alfred, born in 1845 in Milton, Kent.

As early as the age of 16, Alfred is listed in the census records as a labourer, later detailed in the 1871 census as a “brickfield moulder.” He married Elizabeth Maria Fagg in  1867 at the age of 22.  They went on to have eight children. Ernest, their 6th, was born in 1879.  Ernest followed in his father’s footsteps and was also a brickfield labourer.  He married Ada Louisa Wood in 1905 when he was 26, and they had three children between 1905 and 1911.  When war broke out in 1914, 35-year old Ernest was supporting his wife, two daughters, ages 9 and 6, and son, age 3.

Ernest’s service record is one of the many burnt records, so I do not have a precise timeline of when he attested and where he served.  From the honour roll and medal records, we can tell that he served with the Prince of Wales’ Leinster Regiment, with the 7th and 2nd battalions.  The 7th battalion was raised in October 1914, and it is likely that this is the unit to which Ernest volunteered.  This battalion was in France from December of 1915 until it was disbanded and troops were dispersed to various battalions.  Ernest was reassigned to the 2nd battalion, and was eventually discharged in August of 1918 as physically unfit.  Again, due to his record not being available, I do not know why he was considered unfit.

Sadly, just a month after his discharge, Ernest’s second daughter, Winnifred Florence, died at the age of 10.  Four years later, Ernest and Ada lost another daughter, Joan, at or just after birth.

Ernest lived the rest of his days in Kent, passing away in 1949 at the age of 70.