On August 27 two local men died; another on Aug. 28 and another on Aug. 30, all 100 years ago this week, fighting in what was called the Canadian ‘100 day offensive,’ when roughly 100,000 of our men defeated or pushed back 47 German divisions behind the Hindenburg line from August 8 to November 11, 1918. There were 45,835 Canadian casualties and four men from our area died in three days only two months before the end of the war.
Ewart Arthur Blatchford was a teacher, born May 17, 1893 in Brownsville to Methodist Minister Thomas Lewis and Maria McKevers. The family had five children all born in Ontario. Ewart’s elder brother Thomas, a real estate broker with a past military history, enlisted as a Captain in April 1915 and died April 26, 1916.
A month later, Ewart enlisted in Whitby with the 182th Battalion, although Brownsville was listed as his home. Overseas he was attached to the 43rd Canadian Infantry and a year later became a Lance Corporal. However, a month later he was a private once more by order of his commanding officer. He sailed to France March 29, 1918 with the 116th Bn, arriving at the front on August 17. Ewart was killed in action 10 days later, buried quickly, then exhumed to be permanently laid to rest at the Vis-en-Artois British Cemetery eight miles southeast of Arras, France.
That same day, William Henry Campbell of Tillsonburg died. He had been born Feb. 15, 1896 in Milton, Ont. the youngest son of Benjamin and Susan Campbell who for a while lived in Courtland. William enlisted Jan. 4, 1916 in Tillsonburg’s big recruitment drive for Oxford’s Own 168 Bn, C Company. He arrived in Britain Nov. 11 on the SS Lapland, where the 168th was divided up. He was transferred to the 21st Bn and later that year to the 39th Bn. In December 1916 he was given two weeks leave while in England, and had a good time. A few days after his return he was admitted to the No. 5 Canadian Field Ambulance, then a day later to the No. 10 Field Ambulance, and on Jan. 21 to the 3rd Can. Field Ambulance.
By February, William was back on the front with the 21st Bn. On the morning of August 27, William Henry Campbell was killed on enemy lines during an attack between the village of Guemappe and Sensee River. His body was not recovered, however he is remembered on the Vimy Memorial.
The next day, James Bellas was killed. James, living and working in Mt. Elgin on the family farm, had enlisted with the 49th Battalion in Woodstock on June 18, 1917 at the age of 20. His father John at one point worked with the Borden Company and he and James’ mother Frances used A.P. Grey of Tillsonburg for a ‘care of’ address. On Aug. 28, 1918 James was killed by an enemy machine gun bullet which entered his head during an attack on the village of Tilloy. He was buried quickly between Peles and Jigsaw Wood, east of Arras, and later exhumed and buried at the same cemetery as Ewart, near Arras, France.
Two days later on August 30, Harry Arthur Fisher of Tillsonburg was killed. In 1911, Harry worked at his uncle’s farm in Langton where he met his future bride Bessie Rowe, who was employed as a domestic. They were married a month before Harry enlisted March 2, 1916 in Tillsonburg, with the 168 C Company, Oxford’s Own. His troop ship arrived in England Nov. 11, where he was trained and transferred to the 2nd Bn in April 1917. He was appointed Lance Corporal in September 1917. March 13, 1918 he was awarded the Military Medal in the field.
On August 30, 1917, the 2nd Battalion attacked the enemy at Upton Wood near Wancourt in the morning. Just after leaving the ‘jumping off’ trench, his platoon was caught in the enemy barrage and he was hit in the left side and instantly killed by a large piece of casing from an enemy shell which exploded close by.
Bessie was told he was buried in Upton Wood Cemetery. Over a year after Harry’s death she remarried and later lost her second husband. In 1953 she wrote Veteran’s Affairs to find the location of Harry’s grave as she could finally go and fill a need to see it. She was informed, surprisingly, that Harry had no grave as his body was not found. Instead, his name was inscribed at the Vimy Memorial. Understandably she was ‘saddened to know I could not visit my soldier husband’s grave.’ As to whether Bessie ever saw Harry’s name at Vimy, we don’t know.
LAUREL BEECHEY – THE WORLD IS A STAGE