Every Remembrance Day my thoughts inescapably turn to all the veterans that have so proudly and honourably served our country and whose sacrifices have guaranteed us the freedoms that we enjoy today. I am most proud of my son, father, aunts and uncles, and grandfather – all have served in Afghanistan, World War 2 and World War 1 respectively.
Recently when going through some of my mother and fathers belongings I discovered a small treasure trove of items dating back to my maternal grandfather’s service in World War 1.
One of the things that has been on my mind lately is the fact that family histories can be so easily forgotten and when our elders slip away there is no one left to tell the stories. Storytelling and passing history and information on to succeeding generations is an important part of the culture of many ethnic and aboriginal groups and it seems to me we are losing touch with this tradition.
(There are many questions that I would like to ask my mother and father regarding both sides of the family tree, but unfortunately it is too late for that.)
So here I go, for his Remembrance Day I am writing down the story of Arthur Leopold Patterson (15 October 1889 – 15 October, 1962) from what I have been able to learn from the information found in a box of old photos.
I was lucky enough to find one photo of Grandpa Patterson in uniform and another photo that listed his Battalion number, the Queen’s Own Rifles, 166 Battalion CEF . That information led me to https://qormuseum.org where there is a wealth of information and photos detailing the history of the battalion. This in turn led me to http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca the website for Library and Archives Canada.
(For anyone looking for information regarding a relative who was enlisted during WW1 the entire service records for all enlisted personnel have been digitized and uploaded here. There were 56 pages of information about my grandfather, all scanned copies of everything on his file during the time of his service from enlistment to demobilization – a fantastic source)
Grandpa Patterson’s civilian occupation was listed as “Draper”. From what my father told me he installed commercial draperies in store windows etc.
He served 2 years in the military reserves with the Canadian Engineers, he was a drummer in the regimental band. He probably saw the posters below and decided to enlist.
At 26 years of age and standing all of 5 feet, 2 1/4 inches tall and weighing in at 140 pounds he enlisted as a full time soldier (rank – private) and was taken on strength February 28, 1916 with the Queen’s Own Rifles, 166 Battalion CEF, (Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force).
His enlistment terms: “One year or duration of the war + 6 months”
According to his service records the overseas pay rate for a private in 1916 was $20.00 per month. This was raised to $34.00 per month by the time he was demobilized and discharged in May of 1919.
The battalion web site has a fantastic high resolution panoramic photograph of the battalion forming up on May 31, 1916, Exhibition Camp, Toronto. Grandpa Patterson would likely be in this photograph as it was taken after his enlistment and before his embarkation date. I haven’t been able to pick him out yet – very difficult when they are all in full uniform and wearing their uniform caps.
He embarked from Halifax with the 1st half of the Battalion on October 13, 1916 on the R.M.S. Olympic, a sister ship to the Titanic fitted out as a troop carrier during the war.
He disembarked on October 19, 1916 at Liverpool, England
Once in England Grandpa Patterson was hospitalized for ten days (December 09 – 19, 1916) suffering from influenza. The hospital is listed on his medical records as Raven’s Croft Military Hospital, Seaford, Sussex. (Ravenscroft mansion, originally a girls school, requisitioned by the army in 1914 for use a military hospital)
Not a trivial illness back then, by 1918 influenza (Spanish Flu) had killed an estimated 100,000 soldiers. Perhaps Grandpa’s early contraction and recovery from the illness in 1916 contributed to his developing an immunity? He was certainly in the wrong place at the right time during the height of this pandemic.
He was transferred to #12 Reserve Battalion and then the Canadian Army Service Corp and served in France and Germany transporting troops and supplies to the front and returning with the dead and wounded.
He returned home and was officially demobilized (discharged) on 24 May 1919.
For his service he received the British War Medal, and the Victory Medal.
Perhaps the most poignant find in that old box of photos were a collection of four postcards he mailed home to his father while he was in Germany during the war.
The Post Cards
Grandpa Patterson was a part of history that is very hard for me to imagine given the very comfortable times that we live in and the absolute horror that WW1 was. (From my father’s recollection Grandpa Patterson was exposed to Mustard gas at one point during his service and may have suffered some lasting effects from this – the medical records on file do not show any hospitalization, however.)
He was one of the lucky ones though, and came home, got on with life, married and raised three beautiful daughters and greatly enjoyed his time at his cottage on Rice Lake where he was known to catch a fish or two…
Grandpa Patterson remembered, one of the many brave souls who made a difference….