Epitaphs of the First World War
Part IX

McGeer, Canada’s Dream Shall Be of Them, p. 206.

“One of American Harvard vanguard, entering Canadian service in 1916”

Epitaph of Lieutenant Phillip Comfort Starr, Royal Engineers, 20 February 1918. Phillip was born in Chicago, Illinois and attended Harvard College from 1910-1912, before leaving to work as a mechanical engineer. In 1916 he crossed into Canada and enlisted with the Canadian Field Arillery (CFA). He later attended courses with the University of Toronto’s Training Company and was subsequently discharged from the CFA in order to obtain a commission in the British forces. Eventually joining the Royal Engineers, he was killed on 20 February 1918 while taking part in night reconnaissance at Ypres. Lt. Phillip Comfort Starr is buried in Bedford House Cemetery, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium.

Epitaphs of the First World War
Part VIII

“Faithful Unto Death”

Epitaph of Private John Derry, Service Number 2005364, of the 78th (Winnipeg Grenadiers) Battalion. John Derry was married and working as a teamster when he enlisted in Regina, Saskatchewan with the Canadian Engineers in January 1917. On 29 December 1917, he joined the 78th Battalion in the field as a reinforcement. He died of shell wounds to both thighs just 18 days later on 16 January 1918 and is buried in Anzin-St.Aubin British Cemetery, France.

Image Courtesy: Commonwealth War Graves Commission, 2018.

Epitaphs of the First World War
Part VII

Reginald and fellow members of D Company, 2nd Battalion pose for a portrait in the Holloway Studio, St. John’s, Newfoundland.
Credit: The Rooms. Series, Item B 5-157, 11 Sept. 1916. Holloway Studio (St. John’s, N.L.)

“Until the day dawn Jesu mercy”

Epitaph of Sergeant Reginald Bayly White, Service Number 3048, of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment. Reginald died on 9 January 1918 of tubercular meningitis and is buried in Etaples Military Cemetery. He was the son of Canon William Charles White, the first native-Newfoundlander to become Bishop of the Church of England for the Diocese of Newfoundland.

Following Reginald’s death, his parents requested that a parcel of skin boots recently sent to their son be distributed to a deserving NCO or Private of the Regiment.
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-18184, Volume 632, Item Number: 655225, Record Group: Royal Newfoundland Regiment and Forestry Corps, p. 16.

Epitaphs of the First World War
Part VI

 

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, Volume 653, Item Number: 650626, Record Group: Royal Newfoundland Regiment and Forestry Corps, p. 15.

“We Have Passed From Death Unto Life Because We Love The Brethren”

Epitaph of Private Ernest Fisher, Regimental No. 3516, Royal Newfoundland Regiment, 29 November 1917 (age 18).

Ernest, a butcher from St. John’s, enlisted on 6 March 1917. He landed at Rouen, France on 27 September 1917, making his way to the Newfoundland Regiment as they prepared for the Battle of Poelcappelle in early October.

Taking part in the Battle of Cambrai, Ernest was wounded on 21 November 1917 and admitted to the 21st Casualty Clearing Station with gunshot wounds to the chest. He died eight days later from his wounds on 29 November 1917.

Private Ernest Fisher is buried in Rocquigny-Equancourt Road British Cemetery, Manancourt, Somme, France.
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, Volume 653, Item Number: 650626, Record Group: Royal Newfoundland Regiment and Forestry Corps, p. 12.

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.