September 8, 2022
East of Trenton, Ontario
It was a night about 2-weeks before Remembrance Day about 15-years ago (the exact year is a bit foggy) when my daughter announced that she was going to volunteer to speak at her school’s Remembrance Day ceremony.
Who would of thought this innocent statement would lead me to be sitting here at an On-Route on the 401 highway?
That it would lead to a journey of discovery that would lead to countless hours of research leading to writing over 500 posts at the blog that chronicles and records the history of the men of the 18th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force?
From my daughter’s words almost 15-years ago I have found a purpose that is really an obsession. One I enjoy and one that has returned so much to me. I have a voice as an author of many originally researched blog articles that give shape and meaning to the men that served with the 18th Battalion. This endeavour had allowed me to interact with people from all over the world. From Canada, to England, to France, to Belgium, to Germany, Australia and many others.
It has given me online compatriots in crime working to find in each their own way a way to mark and commemorate the men of the 18th Battalion and other formations of many other armies of that Great War. Many have helped to shape the lives of the soldiers, be it a piece of graffiti on a church wall in France or a newly found and treasured photograph of their loved one who served with the 18th Battalion. Me, along with many others, have found photographs, letters, and other memorabilia of the men of the 18th.
So, what brings me to this place at 10:46 PM?
Men dead and buried. Some for over 100 years and some with-in the last 40 years.
These men are the men of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island that I have been able to identify with a burial site.
My mission – to photograph each soldier’s grave; record the state of the gravestone; determine its location (latitude and longitude); to place a Canadian and Poppy flag at the site. And finally, to stop, say a short pray and acknowledge and thank the man who served faithfully for Canada.
As the 18th Battalion changed its complement due to the effects of combat, weather, illness, and other factors that required the replacement of these men with new soldiers from other battalions raised in Canada and awaiting disposition in several camps in England, such as Sandling and Bramshott, it was the policy to source replacements from geographically similar battalions. For the 18th Battalion many men came from the 160th Huron, 168th Bruce and other battalions raised in Western Ontario.
But the exigencies of war require drastic measures and men from Eastern Canada were assigned as replacements to the 18th, especially after significant actions like the Battle of Flers-Courcelette (15 September 1916 at the Somme).
These men who joined units in their geographic area would have expected to serve with men from their geographic region. To be placed in an unfamiliar combat unit with men with whom they had not shared social heritage or experience must have been challenging. Customs, language and accents would be different leading possibly to teasing and bullying or socially isolating these new men. Not only were they inexperienced soldiers, but they were also not from Western Ontario.
One soldier put this into sharp relieve to me. Private Levi Dowling Hoben of Fox River, Nova Scotia. He served with the 18th. He returned to Canada and was discharged due to being no longer physically fit for duty on 30 April 1918. Less than a month later he was dead. He died from tuberculosis, and it is listed that this condition was due to his war service.
When I saw his gravestone online it was deteriorating and on a trip out east to visit family I returned to Ontario via Fox River fully set to record the condition of his grave and to submit a request for its replacement only to find, wonderfully, the gravestone had been recently replaced.
This was the genesis of an idea to do the same for other men of the 18th that I was aware of from my research.
So, tonight it the beginning of the journey. 19 men in three provinces. An estimated 4,500 kilometers of travel round trip over 14-days.
Thanks to my daughter all those years ago I begin my journey of remembrance.
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