Ortelli, Reuben George: Service no. 189438

Digitized Service Record

Source: Photo of “D” Company, 18th Battalion, post-war.


British Home Child

Ortelli, Reuben George: Service no. 189438.
This soldier died on February 19, 1977. This obituary is from the Elmira Signet. Mar 2, 1977. Pg. 29.

Regimental number: (24th Kent Regt.) 189438 Reference: RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box 7490 – 49: Item 544780. Date of Birth 30/09/1894 at London, England. N of K: Mrs. W. Dean (sister) of 65 London Rd. Eastham, London, England. For reasons unknown, Ruben became a ward of the Bernardo Society and on 3 August, 1905 (listed as 9 years old) rather than 11 if his birthdate at enlistment is correct. He was shipped to to Canada one of 433 ‘Bernardo Children’ aboard the S. S. Dominion, arriving in Quebec City on 12 August, destined for the Bernardo Home in Peterborough, ON. where he grew up. (LAC ref.: RG 76 C1a. – Bernardo File/JRH)

A single farmer living in Blenheim, ON. Member of 24th Kent Regt. Attestation: 24/11/1915 at St. Thomas, ON. to 91st Bn. transferred to 186th Bn. From his medical exam done in Chatham, ON. 22/11/15.He was 5’ 8” Complexion: Medium, Yes: Hazel and Hair Dark Brown; he had a wart on his right wrist. He had transferred from the 91st to the 186th to go over seas. Found on Nominal Roll of 186th Bn. 28/03/1917.

After the war Reuben returned to Kent County, living in Kent Bridge and it was reported that he along with a Pte. Brown and Pelkey were presented with a community medal from Kent Bridge, ON. and a pass book from the Merchant’s Bank with a credit of $25.00. CDP 31/05/1919. Reuben was returned to Canada in 1917 after suffering a leg and head wounds while in action. While he was in Canada he was admitted to the Military Hospital, London ON. for a case of Arthritis 15/12/17.

He did sail aboard the S.S. Lapland departing Halifax 28/03/17 and arrived in Liverpool, England 7/04/17. Upon landing the battalion was convinced to camp before moving on to Bramshot ( this would allow time to confirm no communical disease among the 186th Batt.). He was transferred to the 18th Batt. CEF. For service in France. Reuban was in hospital 25-26/11/17 due to a Bursa on his left knee. By the date of his injury he was in the vicinity of Vimy Ridge and wounded during the preparations of the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

After his wounding he was transferred to the South African General Hospital in France, then to 2nd West General Hospital in Epson, England. After taking care of his wounds he was transferred to Woodcote Park, Convalescent Hospital at Epson 1/02/1918.

Reuban was returned to Canada in 1918 after suffering a leg and head wounds while in action. While he was in Canada he was admitted to the Military Hospital, London ON. for a case of Arthritis 15/12/17.

After the war he settled in Blenheim, ON. It is reported that he married Beatrice May (nee Holmes) of Blenheim, ON. 12/04/1921. He farmed in Harwich Twsp. of Kent Co. The father of Lloyd and Audrey (Caughy).

It is reported that he married Beatrice Mary (nee Holmes) of Blenheim, ON. 12/04/1921.

The following was received from Brenda Wiltenburg concerning her grandfather and with her permission is posted here.

I can add a little bit of information regarding my Grandfather. Several years ago I contacted the Bernardo Home in England requesting information about my Grandfather and a lot of the following is what they provided me with.

He was the youngest of 6 children having 4 sisters (Nellie, Rose, Nancy and Jemima) and 1 brother (Frank). His birth date is recorded as being September 30, 1895 at Clerkenwell, England. He was baptized and brought up as a Protestant.

Their father, William Francis, died on June 5, 1896 at the age of 34 from consumption (tuberculosis) and their mother, Rose (Macey), died on November 12, 1896 at the age of 31 also of consumption. Both parents were labourers and the family was very poor.

Grampa went into the care of Barnados on November 3, 1896. The three younger girls were admitted to Mr. Groome’s Home, Clacton on the Sea while Nellie who was 13 years old at the time remained at home until their mother died then also went to Mr. Groome’s Home. His brother went to Miss MacPherson’s Home in Spitalfields, East London.

A maternal uncle, James Macey, was contacted but could not look after any of the children as he already had eight children of his own. Paternal relatives were too poor to help out.

Grampa went to the Barnados Receiving House at Stepney Causeway, Stepney, East London and on December 2, 1896 was placed in a foster home in Broxted near Dunmow, Essex. His foster mother, Mrs. Saville, wanted to keep Grampa but it had been decided that he, like many other Barnado youngsters, should be given the chance to go to Canada.

In preparation for his journey, he returned on July 24, 1905 to Barnados Leopold House on Burdett Road, East London. As you have already noted he sailed for Canada on August 3, 1905 aboard the S.S. Dominion arriving in Quebec on August 12, 1905. He would have been 9 years old, almost 10.

On arrival in Canada, Grampa stayed at the Barnado Home in Toronto for a few weeks and on October 5, 1905 was placed with Mr. John Campbell in Peterborough. He did well there and attended school. However Mr. Campbell indicated that although they liked him very much, it cost as much to board him as a man but he wasn’t able to do a man’s work, so they felt they must return him to the Home.

He returned to the Home and on November 17, 1908 was placed with Mr. John D. Depencier in Norwich. By July 1910 Mr. Depencier and his family and Grampa had moved to Kent Bridge.

By December 1912 Grampa had left the Depenciers and was working for James Riseborough in Kent Bridge.

By May of 1915 he was working on a farm in the Blenheim area.

In December of 1915 Grampa wrote to Barnardos saying that he had enlisted and was quartered in St. Thomas with the 91st Battalion. I have a copy of his Attestation Papers which were signed on November 23, 1915. Interestingly, Grampa indicated his birth date to be September 30, 1894 but other records indicate 1895.

In January 1917, one of the Barnado visitors reported that Grampa was training in Chatham where his Battalion was quartered for the winter and was a member of D Company, 186th Battalion No. 189438 holding the rank of Corporal.

Grampa married my Grandmother, Beatrice Mary Holmes on April 12, 1922 at Cedar Springs and worked on his father-in-law’s farm. They had 2 children: Audrey Louise who married Burton Caughy (my parents) and Lloyd Murray Ortelli.

The last news that Bernados received about my grandfather was in April, 1926 when he was working for Mr. Harold J. Huffman in the Blenheim area.

Two of his sisters, Nancy and Jemima died in childhood, I believe from pneumonia.

His brother Frank eventually moved to Canada but never married. He lived in the Hamilton area having died in 1952 and is buried in England.

Grampa maintained contact with Nellie and Rose through letters and pictures but never saw them again in person. Nellie and Rose’s children exchanged letters and pictures with my grandparents over the years and my parents and I travelled to England about 30 years ago to meet many of them and their families. Before his death Grampa was able to meet a nephew and his family and a niece and her family when they visited from England.

Grampa died on February 19, 1977 and is buried at Pardoville Union Cemetary.

I know that Grampa was wounded, having received shrapnel wounds to his head and leg and spent time in hospital in England. We have records of this as well as some pictures which I would be glad to share with you as soon as I locate them. Hopefully my brother and I will have time to look these up within the next few weeks. He served at Ypres and Vimy Ridge. I think he was also at the Battle of the Somme but will have to find more records to verify that.

During WWII Grampa was a Sergeant and trained soldiers at Camp Borden.

I will be in touch with you once we have more information and a picture.


Brenda Wiltenburg – 12/11/2013 via Gathering Our Heroes.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: