Epitaphs of the First World War
Part V

Second Lieutenant James John Tobin.
Credit: Cramm, The First Five Hundred of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, p. 300.

“We gave our son. He gave his all.”

Epitaph of Second Lieutenant James John Tobin, Regimental No. 69, Royal Newfoundland Regiment, 20 November 1917 (age 24).

James enlisted on 2 September 1914 with the Newfoundland Regiment, leaving his $10-per-week job as a barber. He landed at Suvla Bay, Gallipoli in September 1915. After the evacuation of Commonwealth forces from Suvla Bay in December 1915, he was admitted directly to hospital in England with jaundice. In July 1917 he was married by proxy to a Mrs. Margaret in Quebec City. Just four months later, 2nd Lt. James John Tobin was killed during the Cambrai offensive, leaving behind his new wife and child.

Credit: Provincial Archives Division, The Rooms Corporation of Newfoundland and Labrador. Sourced from Library and Archives Canada, Reference: RG38-A-2-e, Finding Aid 38-27, Reel T-18017, Volume 489, Item Number: 654829, Record Group: Royal Newfoundland Regiment and Forestry Corps, p. 27.

James’ wife was employed in Quebec City as a nurse for the children of a Mr. A.J. Price of the Quebec-based Price Brothers & Co. lumber sawmill and pulp and paper giant. In December 1917, Mr. A.J. Price wrote to the Deputy Colonial Secretary of Newfoundland to inquire “what pension she and her child will get from the Newfoundland Government”, as Mrs. Tobin’s grief was such that she was unable to deal with her late-husband’s affairs.

James’ brother Walter Tobin also enlisted with the Newfoundland Regiment, but survived the war. In 1918, James’ wife moved to live with his mother in Boston, Massachusetts.

Second Lieutenant James John Tobin is buried in Marcoing British Cemetery, Nord, France.

Tobin’s epitaph can be found in McGeer’s Canada’s Dream Shall Be of Them, p. 125. However please note – Tobin is erroneously recorded as James John “Tait”.

Epitaphs of the First World War
Part IV

No one knows how much I miss you
No one knows the bitter pain
I have suffered since I lost you.
Life has never been the same.
In my heart your memory lingers
Sweetly tender, fond and true
There is not a day, dear Gordon
That I do not think of you.

Sergeant Clifton Gordon Carpenter, 1st (Western Ontario) Battalion.

Clifton Gordon Carpenter was born in 1898 in Montreal, Quebec. His father, Silas, served as the first chief of Montreal’s detective force before moving the family to Alberta in 1912. As a young man, Gordon was an avid sportsmen, who curled, skated, played hockey and baseball and loved the outdoors. (Note – he went by his second name, even signing his attestation papers as Gordon Clifton Carpenter).

The “Banff Boys” of the 82nd Battalion, all of whom came from Banff, Alberta. Gordon is marked by an ‘X’.

When war broke out, Gordon’s height seemed to mark him for military service, so much so that he would be stopped on the street and asked why he wasn’t in the army. Consequently, in November 1915, Gordon enlisted with the 82nd Battalion in Calgary, lying about his age (he was only 17). In his diary he noted that training in Calgary was lonesome, without family to visit. Before heading east, he was able to make final visits with his family in Banff, and even stopped off in Montreal to see relatives.

Once in England, his diary talks of training, visits to Folkestone, Shorncliffe, and Hythe to go to the movies and out for meals, and playing baseball. Eventually, through a number of reinforcement drafts, Gordon joined the 1st (Western Ontario) Battalion in late-April 1917. In September 1917 he was promoted to Sergeant, following the death of a Sergeant Adam Young, Service Number 406219 (presumably Gordon’s predecessor). He was sent to a Canadian Corps School and rejoined the battalion on 3 November 1917.

Canadians training in England. Gordon is marked by an ‘X’.

Only three days later, on 6 November 1917, during the third phase of the Canadian Corps’ attack at Passchendaele, the 1st Battalion advanced on the village of Mosselmarkt. Sadly, just as the final objectives were gained by the Canadians, an enemy shell struck Gordon, killing him instantly. In the mud and destruction of the Passchendaele battlefield, Clifton Gordon Carpenter’s body was never recovered, and he is commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial To The Missing.

As one of the missing, Gordon’s family never had the opportunity to provide an epitaph on a tombstone for him. However, his grief-stricken mother, who was never able to come to terms with losing her son, did make an undated entry in her personal diary, perhaps to serve as the lasting epitaph she was never able to set in stone:

No one knows how much I miss you
No one knows the bitter pain
I have suffered since I lost you.
Life has never been the same.
In my heart your memory lingers
Sweetly tender, fond and true
There is not a day, dear Gordon
That I do not think of you.

Clifton Gordon Carpenter’s story was brought to our attention by his family, who hoped to help commemorate both the centenary of his death and the Battle of Passchendaele. All family notes, diary details and photographs come from the family collection.

The Memorial Plaque (“Dead Man’s Penny”) of Gordon Carpenter.

Epitaphs of the First World War
Part III

“Would some thoughtful hand in this distant land please scatter some flowers for me”

Epitaph of Private Edwin Grant, Service Number 703562, B Coy., 47th (British Columbia) Battalion, 26-28 October 1917 (age 33).

Private Edwin Grant.
Credit: Canadian Virtual War Memorial, Veterans Affairs Canada 2017.

A steel worker from Aberdeen, Scotland, Edwin Grant enlisted in Vancouver in 1916. His medical examination details his identifying marks, which included tattoos of a butterfly and bird on his left arm and a butterfly and Geisha girl on his right. Edwin was killed during the opening attack on Passchendaele, with his date of death only determined to have taken place at some time between 26 and 28 October 1917. He left behind his wife, Bella, who after the war had moved from Vancouver to live with Edwin’s parents in Duluth, Minnesota.

Forms from Edwin’s service file indicate his eligibility for posthumous service medals, including two Memorial Crosses, to be sent to both his widow and mother, who were then living together in Minnesota after his death.
Credit: Library and Archives Canada, Reference: RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box 3727 – 20, Item Number: 429315, Record Group: Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF), p. 11.

Epitaphs of the First World War
Part II

“I genitori inconsolabili villa S-Lucia, Caserta”
(The inconsolable parents Villa S-Lucia, Caserta)

Epitaph of Sapper Glorio Mita, Service Number: 2497765, 9th Battalion, Canadian Railway Troops, 19 October 1917 (age 20).

Glorio Mita enlisted in July 1917 as a reinforcement with a Railway Construction and Forestry draft. On 3 October 1917, he joined the 9th Battalion, Canadian Railway Troops in France. Only 16 days later, he died of severe wounds, suffering shrapnel injuries to his head and right shoulder, as well as a compound fracture of his femur. A young, single immigrant from Italy, Glorio had worked as a labourer in Toronto, Ontario before enlisting, making his will out to his parents, who still lived in Santa Lucia, Caserta, Italy.

Sapper Glorio Mita is buried in Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, Belgium.

Epitaphs of the First World War
Part I

For our upcoming Wednesday posts, we will begin sharing epitaphs from Canadian First World War headstones. Many of them come from the new book “Canada’s Dream Shall Be of Them”

“Spirit in heaven, body in France, memory in Canada.”
Private Earl Orington MacKinnon, 10th (Canadians) Battalion, 9 April 1917 – St. Catherine British Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France.

Credit: McGeer, Canada’s Dream Shall Be of Them, p. 26.

Earl MacKinnon, of Scotch Settlement, New Brunswick was with the 10th (Canadians) Battalion just 16 days before he was killed in action at Vimy Ridge on 9 April 1917.
Credit: Canada. Dept. of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada/Personnel Records of the First World War – CEF 531398a, Reference: RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box 7001 – 20, Item Number: 166537, Record Group: Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF).
Earl MacKinnon’s epitaph was requested by his father. (See Row 1202/1D in this Headstone Schedule from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission).
Credit: Commonwealth War Graves Commission, 2017.