Kerr, Charles Herbert: Lieutenant

Digitized Service Record

Source: April 1916 War Diary

Blog post regarding this soldier.

Lieutenant with the 18th Battalion "A" Company, C.E.F. Enlisted at Welland, Ontario, in August 1914. Following the war, returned to Oakville to 'remarry' Grace Freestone, with whom he had secretly wed before going to war.
Lieutenant with the 18th Battalion “A” Company,
C.E.F. Enlisted at Welland, Ontario, in August 1914. Following the war, returned to Oakville to ‘remarry’ Grace Freestone, with whom he had secretly wed before going to war. Source: Oakville Public Library

Lieut. C.H. Kerr in Thick of the Fight.

Daily papers of April 24th gave the following particulars in which Lieut. C.H. Kerr, eldest son of Rev. W.E. Kerr, Vancouver, B.C.[i], and nephew to Mrs. J.J. Gilpin and W.H. Kerr, Brussels, played his part at St. Eloi, France [Belgium], on Sunday, April 16th[ii]:- In places even the hardest [soldiers] were baffled by the mud. At time even the most skilled mistook their bearings. Undaunted by difficulties of their surroundings, our officers and men face the situation with splendid courage and determination.

One night sections of the new German line were attacked and bombed by the men of our 18th (Western Ontario), 19th (Central Ontario) and 21st (Eastern Ontario) Battalions. On our left the bombing parties were under the command of Lieut. B.O. Hooper of the 19th Battalion and Lieut. C.H. Kerr of the 18th Battalion, and were accompanied by a working party under Lieut. Lawson[iii] of the 18th Battalion. The night was misty and progress over the broken ground was very slow. Lieut. Kerr acted as guide and eventually a position was reached close to the German line. A slight lifting of the fog revealed a number of the enemy, who at once hurled a shower of bombs in the direction of the men. Most of the bombs fell into the crater, on the edge of which our party was lying. Our men retaliated vigorously. The mist soon thickened and as there had been no opportunity to adequately reconnoiter the ground it was decided to abandon any further offensive action.

Meanwhile Lieut. Lawson had found the remains of an old trench a short distance to the rear and commenced to rebuilt it. Although our bombing parties were withdrawn at dawn, he remained in this advanced position with his party thought the following day, having been well supplied with bombs carried to him by Lieut. Hooper and Sergt. Jackson of the 19th Battalion.

During the fighting in the crater Lieut. Kerr was wounded in the face, but until he collapsed continued to assist Lieut. Hooper in controlling operations.[iv]

The first intimation of Lieut. Kerr’s injury to his parents was a cablegram from the Duchess of Westminister [sic] Hospital, at Lotonuguet [sic], France[v], with “Wounded slightly, don’t worry.” Next day a telegram from the Military Department at Ottawa told the story of his being wounded in the face and was suffering from shell shock. Lieut. Kerr had a promotion 3 weeks before his wounding to Battalion Grenade and Intelligence Officer. He has 100 specially trained men under him and has charge of the grenade section of the whole 18th line and must keep in tough with all the enemy’s movements. The work puts him right in the front line of trenches and in charge of “no man’s land,” with perils imminent every hour. If nothing unforeseen arises, of if the shell shock is not too severe, he will doubtless soon be back to his dangerous post. His old friends in Brussels hope so and trust a guardian angel my watch over him as he does his duty for Empire. Lieut. Kerr was moved to a hospital in England.[vi]

[i] Residing at 1598 Sixth Avenue, West Vancouver, B.C.

[ii] The correct date is the night of April 9/10, 1916 per the War Diary and after-action report.

[iii] Lieutenant Frank Lawson was wounded on April 10 and admitted to No. 10 Casualty Clearing Station with wounds to his ear and head. He would die of those wounds on the next day.

[iv] The war diary reports that action resulted in the deaths of 9 men, the wounding of 12, and 1 man missing.

[v] Duchess of Westminster’s Hospital, Le Touquet. Admitted on April 11, 1916. He would be discharged fit on June 2, 1916.

[vi] After he recuperated, he may have returned to Canada. He did continue his service with other units of the CEF.


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