Ninety-five years since World War One ended for my great-uncle


An addition to this otherwise repeat tribute, the above photograph was taken in about 1900 when my paternal grandmother was an infant.  It’s now been over ninety-five years since her brother, Tom, (here with his foot up on a stool in the McIntyre Photo Studio in Perth) died on the World War One battlefields of France, roughly five weeks before the final  assault on Vimy.  By the time of his death, Grandma was acting as home-maker to her widowed father, her older sister Bea having pursued a secretarial career away from home.

Perth Courier accounts brought the war close to home.

My father, born ten years and one month after Thomas’ death, and who died in 2002, was given the first name of his late uncle.  As my genealogy project continues it is clear that there were many Thomas Butlers, before and after the young fellow from Harper, west of Perth.

Any memories of Grandma talking about him are filtered through the eyes of the child that I was when these stories were told – less interested than I am nowadays. How I would love to hear them again.  I can only imagine he went off to war because. at the very least,  it was the thing to do at the time.

This is how Tom’s death was reported, with a few more details, in the Perth Courier:

The Pte. Herbert Gibson mentioned as being with Pte. Tom appears in this subsequent article with vivid descriptions of the war:

 

 

My sister has a formal portrait of Uncle Tom, in his handsome uniform (different from the one in the press clipping), taken in Perth before his deployment, as well as a cloth belt which was sent home completely covered with various regimental pins from across Canada.

The newspaper clippings come from Veterans Affairs Canada, as do these copies of Uncle Tom’s ‘attestation papers’. (Looking at his signature, I can see an amazing resemblance to my grandmother’s penmanship, as well as my Dad’s!)


In the first part of “The Great War”, a film on CBC-TV by Brian McKenna, we learn that “Complexion: Fresh” was racist code used to distinguish caucasian from non-white soldiers, gladly accepted when county-by-county quotas were low, from their ‘fresh-faced’ comrades.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) web site provides these stark ‘Casualty Details’ (I have added links):

Name: BUTLER
Initials: T
Nationality: Canadian
Rank: Private
Regiment/Service: Canadian Infantry (Central Ontario Regiment)
Unit Text: 75th Bn.
Date of Death: 01/03/1917
Service No: 787151
Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
Grave/Memorial Reference: VII. D. 17.
Cemetery: VILLERS STATION CEMETERY, VILLERS-AU-BOIS

copy-of-vii-d-17.gif

There’s a bit more of an online tribute, however generic, here.

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Pte. Thomas Earl Butler: 17 March 1896 – 1 March 1917


It’s been over ninety-four years since my paternal grandmother’s brother, Tom, died on the World War One battlefields of France, roughly five weeks before the final  assault on Vimy.  It seemed to me that Grandma bore his death with pain right up until her own death in 1991.  She was already acting as home-maker to her widowed father and perhaps she thought he should have been staying home on the farm.

Perth newspaper accounts were quite limited, but brought the war home.

My father, who died in 2002, was given the first name of his late uncle (Thomas).

Any memories of Grandma talking about him are filtered through the eyes of the child that I was when these stories were told – less interested than I am nowadays. How I would love to hear them again.  I can only imagine he went off to war because. at the very least,  it was the thing to do at the time.

Though I’m sure there was at least an official telegram this is how Tom’s death was reported in the Perth Courier:

My sister has a formal portrait of Uncle Tom, in his handsome uniform (different from the one in the press clipping), taken in Perth before his deployment, as well as a cloth belt which was sent home completely covered with various regimental pins from across Canada.

The newspaper clippings come from Veterans Affairs Canada, as do these copies of Uncle Tom’s ‘attestation papers’. (Looking at his signature, I can see an amazing resemblance to my grandmother’s penmanship, as well as my Dad’s!)


Only tonight, watching the first part of “The Great War”, a film on CBC-TV by Brian McKenna, did I learn that “Complexion: Fresh” was racist code used to distinguish non-white soldiers, gladly accepted when county-by-county quotas were low, from their ‘fresh-faced’ comrades.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) web site provides these stark ‘Casualty Details’ (I have added links):

Name: BUTLER
Initials: T
Nationality: Canadian
Rank: Private
Regiment/Service: Canadian Infantry (Central Ontario Regiment)
Unit Text: 75th Bn.
Date of Death: 01/03/1917
Service No: 787151
Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
Grave/Memorial Reference: VII. D. 17.
Cemetery: VILLERS STATION CEMETERY, VILLERS-AU-BOIS

copy-of-vii-d-17.gif

There’s a bit more of an online tribute, however generic, here.

villers-station-cem.jpgmap_web_mapquest.gif

I remember how Grandma’s memories stung her


Although I have never been in Perth to mark Remembrance Day, my grandmother felt the loss of her brother deeply, year-round, decades after the fact when I was a kid.  My Great-Uncle Tom was killed in 1917 on the World War One battlefields of France roughly five weeks before the final assault on Vimy.

perth-courier-clipping-photo.jpg

My father, who died in 2002, was given the first name of his late uncle (Thomas), just as I was given the first name of my uncle, Dad’s brother Kenneth, who died suddenly in hospital in his thirties before I was born – Perth’s Great War Memorial Hospital, to be precise.

Thomas Earl Butler was my paternal grandmother’s brother. Any memories of Grandma talking about him are filtered through the eyes of the less interested child that I was when these stories were told. How I would love to hear them now.

Grandma was primary homemaker for her father, a widower, when news came by telegram of Tom’s death – as reported in the Perth Courier:

perth-courier-clipping.jpg

I remember Grandma had a commemorative plaque which paid tribute to Tom. I’m not sure but I believe it may now be at the Perth Legion’s museum.  The formal portrait of Uncle Tom, in his handsome uniform (different from the one in the press clipping), was taken in Perth before his deployment.  My sister is looking after a cloth belt which was sent home from the front completely covered with various regimental pins from across Canada.

The newspaper clippings come from Veterans Affairs Canada, as do these copies of Uncle Tom’s ‘attestation papers’. (Looking at his signature, I can see an amazing resemblance to my grandmother’s penmanship, as well as my Dad’s!)

attestation-paper.jpg
attestation-papers-back.jpg

With so many casualties, and burial taking place close to the battlefields, it was a different kind of war.  I don’t know what, if any, discussion there would have been in Harper, in the rural countryside outside Perth, about going to war.  I suspect, being the First/Great/War to End All Wars, there would have been a mixture of patriotism and excitement at the sheer novelty.  Twenty-year olds don’t die!  (They still think they don’t!)

“Complexion: Fresh” was racist code used to distinguish non-white soldiers, gladly accepted when county-by-county quotas were low, from their ‘fresh-faced’ comrades. That is sick!

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) website provides these stark ‘Casualty Details’ (I have added links):

Name: BUTLER
Initials: T
Nationality: Canadian
Rank: Private
Regiment/Service: Canadian Infantry (Central Ontario Regiment)
Unit Text: 75th Bn.
Date of Death: 01/03/1917
Service No: 787151
Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
Grave/Memorial Reference: VII. D. 17.
Cemetery: VILLERS STATION CEMETERY, VILLERS-AU-BOIS

copy-of-vii-d-17.gif

There’s a bit more of an online tribute, however generic, here.

villers-station-cem.jpgmap_web_mapquest.gif