It was long ago in England when George Cuthbert Hearsey grew up.
It was an exciting age when technology was booming. Great mills were employing many people and those that worked had more money to spend. You just had to know the business to be in and George chose well, he owned a shop and was a butcher as well. People like meat. He met Rose Sarah Humphry and they were married in 1891 at St. Olave, Southward, London and life was good. Charles Frederick, Lilian Honour and William George were born between1896 and 1900. They had three more years of happiness until July 1903 when his beloved Rose died. What could a man with three children and 12 hour work days do? Before the end of that year, George married Annie Colbourne who was willing to care for his children. It probably wasn’t love but hopefully it was a good relationship.
It wasn’t to last however for in April 1905 George died leaving Annie not only with his three children but pregnant with his third son Cuthbert, born in December that year.
Times were no longer great in Britain, especially if you were a widow with children. Those who couldn’t work were leaving Britain for Canada. Annie had no choice but to put George’s children in orphanages.
Two years later Annie married Frederick Lodge who worked in an iron foundry as a gas fitter, and had another child, Edwin Lodge the next year. The 1911 census found Charles in the Boy’s Home in Southworks London, 14, training to be a shoemaker. George and Lilian were both at Muller’s Orphan Houses in Ashley Down in Bristol, but were separated by over 1,000 other children there.
Both Charles and George became British Home Children. Charles was the first to be shipped to Canada, for a supposedly better life in April 1913. At 16, Charles left England with 119 other boys to Toronto then the Renfrew Home. At 14, William was shipped out April 1915 to Fegan Distribution home in Toronto. We don’t know were he went, but we are looking. Lilian remained in England and married in 1922.
Charles is next found working on a farm at RR5 Tillsonburg. He enlisted during the big January recruitment drive in Tillsonburg for Oxford’s Own 168 C Battalion. He was now 20. We know he attended St. John’s Anglican Church. We don’t know where he served as a Home Child but would like to know. He was past the age of having to be with the family to whom he had been assigned as a Home Child. It would be nice to hope he had been at least been cared for and content, perhaps his rural Tillsonburg address was the same family. Surely there were friends, perhaps a lady friend who shed tears when she wished him luck as she waved him goodbye.
What about his own family? Presumably he didn’t know where his siblings were. He may have had no idea William was also in Canada. But he cared enough for his stepmother, now Annie Lodge, to list her as next of kin.
His military career followed that of other boys from town, training in London and Borden and shipping to England where he was with Canadian Infantry 2nd Battalion. Not all his military papers are online so we don’t know how often he was wounded or ill, or when he had leave from the trenches, from Vimy, from Passchendaele. But I hope he was able to find his sister Lilian in England and stepmother at some point.
Here is the War Diary for the 2nd Canadian Infantry Battalion, Friday, March 29, 1918.
“Location: ARRAS: Forward Area, Mar. p.8, War Diaries. Weather Mostly fair and cool. At 3.30 a.m. the Battalion fell in and marched to position in advance of ARRAS to relieve the 8th/10th Gordon Highlanders. There were no trenches in the area and, during the day, there was considerable enemy shelling. At 8.30 p.m. the Battalion again moved forward and took up the positions occupied by the 8th Seaforth Highlanders. On our left were the 6th Cameron Highlanders of 45th Inf. Brigade, and on our right 2nd Cdn. Div. Our trench strength was - 27 Officers, 105 N.C.Os. and 592 men, total 724. The line was held by two companies in the front line and two companies in support. Each of the front-line companies held advanced posts about 200 yards in front of the front line and garrisoned by two platoons each. Weather: Mostly fair and cool. We sustained 36 casualties: 10 O.Rs. killed, 26 O.Rs. wounded.”
Charles was one of the 10 killed. How do we know of Charles? His name was on brass cross, nailed on a pulpit, inscribed with the men of St. John’s who died in WWI.