In November of 1915 a 32-year-old single man enlisted with the 91st Battalion. With the help of a biography written in 1971 we can fill in the blanks of this long dead officer of the 18th Battalion.
Garnet Garfield Brackin came from an established middle class Canadian family. His brother, Robert Livingstone Brackin, a lawyer (Osgoode Hall) was a politician who served after the war in the Ontario Parliament from October 1919, until his death on October 11, 1926. He was a son of an Irish immigrant and was born at Chatham, Ontario. He had, besides his brother Robert, another brother, William, and two sisters, Mary and Bessie.
At the time of his enlistment his mother was a widow and he recorded in his service record that he was living with his mother and was her sole support to the tune of $60.00 per month, not an unsubstantial amount of money ($720.00 per annum) in contrast with his income reported at $1,000.00 per year.[i] This would have left him with $280.00 per year for his personal upkeep. As a ticket agent with the Pere Marquette Railway, he earned more than the $0.35 per hour an iron moulder on average made in Canada in 1914.
As a lieutenant he would earn $2.00 per day with an overseas allowance of $0.60 per day and a monthly Separation Allowance of $40.00 per month. During his duty in Canada his income from this service would amount to $1,210.00 per annum.
His biographer shares his strong affiliation to his church and his expression of faith as a member of the choir of St. Andrews Church and that he was active at his school playing in the McKeogh School Band and participating in lacrosse.
He had served in the Canadian Militia with the 24th Kent Regiment, and one of his fellow officers, Captain Percy Kleiser Morely highly endorsed the capabilities of Brackin by stating”
“…he was handsome, an excellent soldier with a tremendous personality. He was the most popular and nicest Junior Officer he had the pleasure of serving with.”
Brackin would transfer from the 91st Battalion to the 186th where he would be reunited with Morley. Both men showed a determination to serve in active combat service, but the biography indicates that Brackin requested a reversion of his rank so he could get into combat. A review of his service record does not corroborate this claim, though his Will indicates his rank was captain when he submitted this document. He enlisted as lieutenant with the 91st and maintained that rank with the 186th Battalion until he was posted for active duty with the 18th Battalion “in the field” on August 15, 1917, joining the action at Hill 70 at Lens.
On August 24, 1917, a private from the 186th Battalion, Patrick Parnell Welsh, reg. no. wrote a letter home to his mother and father relating the horror of a German shell striking the Battalion as it returned from duty in the front lines. He mentions that, curiously, that “Captain Brackin” is now with the 18th Battalion.
Brackin would serve with the 18th Battalion and showed his leadership abilities when he took over his company after Lieutenant Vincent McCarter Eastwood (MC) was wounded during action at Passchendaele on November 10, 1917. Perhaps due to this act he earned a 14-days leave to England starting on December 12, 1917.
He had a spot of bother suffering from a social disease which took him out of service from April 7, 1918, to July 2, 1918.
His martial abilities with the Battalion were recognized as he was Mentioned in Dispatches on July 22, 1918.[ii]
From this point Lieutenant Brackin is not mentioned in the 18th Battalion until his death on the first day of the 2nd Battle of Arras and a portion of the War Diary relates the circumstances of the action resulting in the death of Lieutenant Brackin:
“The German resistance had been slight but at this point was considerably strengthened. At 1. o’clock, the Bn. was ordered to capture the village of GUIMAPPE. Personal reconnaissances in broad daylight and under sever fire by Major C.M.R. Graham and Capt. D.A.G. Parsons, M.C., O.Cs respectively for “D” and “C” Coys. were first conducted. Waiting until artillery support, inadequate as it was to meet the situation, had been obtained, “C” & “D” Coys at 4.00 p.m. advanced and captured the ruined town. Casualties in the face of both terrific machine gun and artillery barrages laid down by the enemy were fairly heavy.
Lieut. Brackin [sic], who had done brilliant work up to this moment, was instantly killed by a shell and Capt. Parsons and Lieut. Edwards sustained wounds that resulted in their immediate evacuation.”
Guemappe was important as it was just South-West of the Arras-Cambria Road, the only fully navigable road in the sector. Guemappe was adjacent to the road and had a cross-roads passing through it. The 4th Canadian Infantry Brigade Narrative of Operations for the 26th, 27th, and 28th August specifically states that the 18th Battalion was repulsed by German machine gun fire but rallied, attacked, and took its objective.
Lieutenant Brackin’s death was just one of the sacrifices the Battalion made that day. The Battalion suffered 18 men killed in action that day, 27 on the 27th, and 34 on the 28th – clearly indicating the intensity of the fighting during this stage of the battle for the 18th Battalion.
With his death Lieutenant Brackin (MID) rests at Wancourt British Cemetery along with twenty-one of his comrades
Biography of Brackin
CAPTAIN GARNET GARFIELD BRACKIN 1885-1918
Carnet Brackin was the son of James and Sarah Brackin, born 1885 in Chatham. He was 5ft. 11 inches tall, fair complexion blue eyes and light brown hair. He was a member and sang in the choir of St. Andrews Church (Presbyterian at the time).
His father was of Irish ancestry, coming to Chatham from Newmarket in 1883 to teach and be Principle of the new Forest Street school, now McKeogh School. Garnet, along with his brother Robert, who was a very clever lawyer and politician, sisters Mary Jacks of Wallaceburg and Bessie, a Music Teacher, were all raised in an atmosphere of schools, music and politics.
He played in the McKeogh School Band, played lacrosse and he was employed by the Pere Marquette Railways, earning approximately $1,000.00 per year. He resided at 309 Wellington Street West, in Chatham, Ontario.
He enlisted in Chatham in October, 1915 in the 91st Regiment, stationed at St. Thomas, Ontario in 1915-16, as Second-In-Command with Colonel P.K. Morley, also a Chathamite.
He transferred to the 186th overseas battalion “A” Company in 1917, and was promoted to the rank of Captain in a very short time. He went to England with the unit and after special courses he reverted his rank to Lieutenant to enable him to go to France in August, 1917, with the 18th Battalion. He was mentioned in Sir Haig’s dispatches for conspicuous work during the Passchendaele operation of November 1917.
On August 26th, 1918, the first day of the Battle of Arras, Lieutenant Brackin was instantly killed by a shell whilst leading his platoon in the work of clearing the Village of Guemappe, on the Arras-Cambria Road, at the age of 33 years.
He received the General Service Medal, and a medal for service in France. While in France he was awarded the rank of Captain again.
Colonel P. K. Morley, stated he was handsome, an excellent soldier with a tremendous personality. He was the most popular and nicest Junior Officer he had the pleasure of serving with.
The above information was obtained from the records at the Chatham Museum, Victor Lauriston’s Book “Romantic Kent”, Mr. William Gray, William St. Chatham, and Colonel P.K. Morley, Patterson Ave. Chatham.
Norma Satchell, 2nd Vice-Regent
May 1, 1970
[i] Per his service file. Document “Particulars of Family of an Officer or Man Enlisted in the C.E.F.”
[ii] London Gazette. No. 30706. Pg. 6198.
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