Summary of War Service: William Robb Dewar

William Robb Dewar, was born in Leith, Scotland on December 7th, 1893. He came to Canada and resided in Galt, Ontario (now Cambridge) on 71 Ainslie Street with his Mother, Father and younger brother John (Jack) Taylor Dewar (d.o.b. October 28, 1897). He was a carpenter by trade and served in the militia.

The United Kingdom declared war on Germany and its allies on August 4, 1914 and W.R. Dewar signed his Attestation Papers on October 26, 1914. He was 20. At this time his brother was 17.

On April 29th, 1915 Pte. W.R. Dewar disembarked with the 18th Battalion Canadian Expeditionary Forces (C.E.F.) from the R.M.S. Grampian at Avonmouth and proceeded to West Sandling Camp, south east of London. There he and his fellow Canadians of the 18th Battalion trained for combat in France.

Their training lasted until September 14th, 1915 when they marched to Folkestone and embarked on a ship for the trip to Boulogne[i], France on the 15th. The trip was eventful as their ship was rammed by a British destroyer and they had to be towed to Boulogne. Some of the men ended up jumping on the destroyer and rejoined the battalion 4 days later.

From Boulogne they took a train to St. Omer and proceeded to their destination on foot from Renescure, France to Bailleul, Belgium a distance of 33 kilometers. During the march about 200 of the approximately 600 men dropped out of the march due to fatigue or sore feet. The average soldier’s kit weighed 25 kilograms and they walked in boots that had metal on the bottom of the soles. They then arrived in the Belgium town of Bailleul in the Flanders Sector.

This area was important because the German Army intention was to take the French seaports in the area, especially Dunkerque, to prevent the supply of troops and material to the British forces holding the left flank of the continuous line of trenches that ran 700 kilometers[ii] from the Swiss border to the Belgium coast.

On September 21st 1915 the following entry was made in the Battalion War Diary:

While marching to R. E. Farm[iii] no. 53902 Pte. Dewar was wounded by bullet through fleshy part of thigh. Was sent to hospital. Also –No. 53439 Pte. Bancroft[iv] – appendicitis acute

 “     53206    “  Bryson[v] – influenza

He was sent to hospital in London, England until 1916 and recuperated and rejoined the Battalion later to participate in the Battle of Vimy Ridge on April 9th, 1917. Sometime after this battle Pte. Dewar was wounded again by gas and was invalided home to Canada in March or April 1918.

From a review of the war diaries of the 18th Battalion Pte. Wm. Dewar may have the distinction of being the first war casualty of the battalion. Other soldiers required medical attention but his is the first that was of the result of enemy action.

On November 10th 1915 my Great Uncle J.T. Dewar joined the 4th Battalion, C.E.F. barely 2 months after learning about his brother being wounded. He had just turned 18.

Pte. J.T. Dewar having survived Vimy and almost one year after the famous Battle of Vimy Ridge on or about April 11th, 1918 the Dewar family was informed that Pte. John T. Dewar, while serving in the 4th Battalion, C.E.F. had died of wounds April 3rd, 1918 after being wounded April 1st at a small village in France called Beaurains. He suffered multiple gunshot wounds to the left arm, legs and chest. He was 21 and a miller by trade.

The 4th Battalion war diary entry was[vi]:

Battalion relieved 1st. Canadian Battalion in TELEGRAPH HILL AREA, ARRAS. Relief complete by 11.25 pm on 31st. inst. 

“D” Company suffered two killed and twenty one G.S. wounds while passing through BEAURAINS.

Battalion Headquarters located in a deserted Battery position in BEAURAINS.

Royal Flying Corps Pilots report that Stature of the Virgin on ALBERT CATHERDERAL had fallen down about March 26th. Popular French legend that the great War would end Victorious forty days later. Weather: cool and dry. Clean sky and moonlight.

The war was to last another 224 days. Over those 244 days approximately 3,042,389 men, women, and children on all sides were wounded or lost their lives. In other words, in 16 days of conflict during World War 1 the entire population of Kitchener would be either killed or wounded.

William Robb Dewar, upon returning to Canada, continued his trade as a carpenter living in Galt and London and working in the Honey Harbour area in the summer. Though he attended church regularly before the war he did not go to church after his experiences in the trenches of France and he would not talk of the war to his family. His health suffered because of his war wounds and he eventually ended in a veteran’s hospital in London and died April 18th, 1940 at the age of 45.

Veterans Death Cards: First World War for William Robb Dewar.

[i] This location is Boulongne-sur-Mer to the east of Calais.

[ii] Equivalent to the distance from Kitchener, Ontario to Sorel, Quebec.

[iii] R.E. Farm is near Wulvergem, Belgium and there is a Great War Cemetery located near there called the R.E. Farm Cemetery.

[iv] Harold Bancroft, originally of Derbyshire, England was to die at age 26 on January 1st, 1917.

[v] James William Bryson, originally of Bootle, Liverpool, England survived the war.

[vi] Note the difference in the war diary entries. At the beginning of the war casualties of other ranks (O.R.), those soldiers that were not officers, where included by serial number and name. As the war progressed and the casualties increased in frequency the war diaries only listed officers by name and gave mention, like the 4th Battalion diary entry. to non-commissioned officers (i.e. Sergeants and Corporals) and private soldiers in terms of raw numbers.

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