Harry Addison McIntyre was my second cousin, three times removed. We are both descended from William Langton and Margaret Risdale who were my 4th Great Grandparents, and Harry’s Great Grandparents. He was part of the same branch of my family as Thomas Ross Milne, in whose post I have already recounted some of the earlist days of my paternal line’s family history.
Harry’s father, John, was the sixth child of Mary Ann Langton and Malcolm McIntyre. Eventually settling in Grand Valley, Ontario, slightly north-west of Toronto, John is listed throughout the census years as a Grain Buyer and a merchant. On the 28th of January 1873 at the age of 23, he married 17-year old Mary Georgiana Rudd, also from southern Ontario. Between 1874 and 1900, they had 12 children, though sadly four of them did not survive past infancy, and one passed away at the age of 14. Their first child, a daughter born in 1874 who only lived for one day was not named, and the four other children are memorialized on the back of the grave marker of John and Mary. In 1911, they also lost their first son William at the age of 36 to drowning.
It was five years after this last loss, that this family’s youngest surviving child, Harry Addison, volunteered for the Canadian Expeditionary Force at the age of 17 years and 9 months.
Harry trained in Toronto with the 164th Battalion, and sailed for England from Halifax on April 11, 1917. He was in England for nearly a year before being transferred to the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI), and sent to France in April of 1918. The PPCLI was a significant part of Canada’s last 100 days of the war. 100 years ago right now, they were pushing the German lines back toward Mons where the British army first engaged the German army in 1914.
The following is verbatim from a letter written by Harry’s son, John, as he recalls what his father told him about a particular incident in the trenches during this 100 days:
He was suddenly awakened to realize that in the coming darkness three German soldiers had crept upon them and were standing on the parapet of their trench. One was a German Captain who held a Luger […] trained on them. Beside him was a German Corporal with a rifle, and a German Sargent with a machine gun, all guns pointed at the four Canadians.
[…] No prisoners were being taken after the brutal four years of war. My dad happened to be lying on his side with his left arm hidden under him in the gathering darkness. Dad was fully aware that he had a grenade clipped on his belt, and knew that this was their only hope. He very slowly moved his hand and worked the grenade loose from his belt. These grenades had a four second timer which was activated by pulling out a pin. Dad slipped his thumb into the ring which holds the pin in place, he pulled the pin, counted three seconds, then lobbed the grenade over the parapet between the Captain who was pointing his Luger at Dad standing over him, and the Sargent with the machine gun. He threw it just clear of the parapet hoping none of the shrapnel would blow down into the trench.
All three Germans died instantly and fell into the trench with the Captain right on top of Dad. All three died before they could use their gun. Dad said the first thing he did was to feel himself all over to see where the Captain shot him. He was all covered with sticky blood. It took him a while to realize that the blood was not his, and the three helped each other to push the dead soldiers of them and stood up.
The story goes on to tell how Harry found the Captain’s Luger the following morning, and decided to keep it and the shell that had been in the chamber of the gun. Harry’s grand daughter recalls being fascinated by this gun and the shell.
The PPCLI returned to Canada in March of 1919 to great fanfare. Harry returned to southern Ontario and studied to become a dentist. In 1923, he married Edith Pearl Jenkins in Toronto, Ontario, and eventually the two settled in Clinton, Ontario, about 20 minutes east of the south-east shore of Lake Huron. In his 40s, Harry again served his country in the second world war as a Captain in the Canadian Dental Corps.
Harry passed away in 1955 at 56 years of age in Clinton, Ontario. I would like to extend my thanks to Harry’s granddaughter for her permission to share the photo of her Grandfather above as well as the excerpt from her father’s letter.