“At the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them”
These were the words that came first to Laurence Binyon in mid-September 1914, as he sat on a cliff top looking out to sea in North Cornwall (UK) composing his best known poem, For the Fallen. The now famous phrase was adopted by the Royal British Legion (and our own Legion, in Prescott) to commemorate those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Prescott’s Cenotaph wasn’t always in the great spot it currently occupies – overlooking the St. Lawrence River, next to Fort Wellington and highly visible from King Street, one of two main thoroughfares in town. It was moved in 2001, as a joint project of Prescott’s Royal Canadian Legion Branch #97 and Fort Wellington. A poppy garden was added in 2015.
For their service in WW I, Prescott remembers “Arthur E. Baker, Howard Baker, Philip V. Blacklock, Cecil Bovaird, Ward W. Burke, John H. Davy, Jacob S. Doyle, G. Harvey Ewart, Ira H. Glasgow, Albert Hurlbert, Royal W. Kingston, E. William Lane, Roy Lindsay, John A. MacDonald, Harold P. MacGregor, Charles H. O’Leary, Guy C. O’Shea, George Patterson, Edward Patterson, James Peterson, William Robinson, William F. Sharpe, Harry J. Smith, John R.W. Tyner, Stanley W. Ward, Wilfred L. White.”
Who were these men? How old were they when they enlisted? How did they serve? By examining the online records of the Library and Archives Canada and the Canadian Virtual War Memorial, we can begin to put some faces and stories to the names.
A little more than 100 men and women from Prescott and area volunteered for active service in World War I. For the most part, the men served in the QUEBEC REGIMENT (14th and 73rd Battalions), the EASTERN ONTARIO REGIMENT (2nd, 21st, and 38th Battalions), and the CENTRAL CANADA REGIMENT (54th and 75th Battalions). Some belonged to special units such as the Canadian Machine Gun Corps (Private Howard Baker), the Canadian Railway Troops (Sapper Jacob Doyle), and the Royal Air Force (Cadet Roy Lindsay and Lieutenant William Sharpe).
While some of the men actually lived in Domville or Maynard or worked in Winnipeg, for example, their families were associated with the Legion in Prescott, and many were classmates at Prescott High School.
Many of us know a little about Lieutenant Sharpe because of a special plaque unveiled on Water Street, in 2015. Attracted at an early age to aviation, which was then in its infancy, Sharpe went to California to train as a pilot. When war broke out in August 1914, he returned to Canada to offer his services as an airman. Given the rank of lieutenant, Sharpe was one of three appointed to the newly established Canadian Aviation Corps. This was Canada’s first attempt to organize an air force to serve in Europe. He trained in England with the Royal Flying Corps and saw action in France. Returning to England to receive further training on a new aircraft, he was killed in a crash on February 4, 1915. Sharpe’s body was repatriated to Canada and he was laid to rest in Prescott’s Sandy Hill Cemetery.
Another prominent figure was Lieutenant Ira Glasgow, who served with the MANITOBA REGIMENT, 78th Battalion. At the time of his enlistment, Glasgow was working as a clerk in the Railway Mail Service and living in Winnipeg. His family was well-known to Prescottonians because his father and uncle operated a dry goods business in town known as “The London House”. He was killed in action at Vimy Ridge, and is buried at Givenchy-en-Goelle. It was reported in the Prescott Journal that he and his brother, William, had enjoyed a short reunion in the trenches a few weeks before his death. Glasgow’s memorial service was held on May 6, 1917 at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church.
The youngest to enlist was Stanley Ward (Bank Teller), born in 1898. Listed on RBC’s First World War Roll of Honour, Gunner Ward contracted pneumonia on his way to England and was seriously ill for many months at the Shorncliffe Hospital, in England. He returned home ill, died in April 1919, and was buried at the Blue Church Cemetery.
Not much older, were Privates Arthur Baker (Fireman), Ward Burke (Clerk), Harvey Ewart (Farmer), and George Patterson (Teamster), who were all born in 1897. At the time of their deaths, each of these young men was barely in his twenties.
Most of Prescott’s fallen from the First World War are buried in the many cemeteries that dot the countryside of northern France: Aubigny Communal, Boulogne Eastern, Bruay Communal, Cabaret Rouge British, Canadian Cemetery No. 2, Crucifix Corner, Drummond, Faubourg-d’Amiens, Givenchy-en-Gohelle Canadian, Maroc British, Ste-Marie, and Villiers Station.
A few are buried in the UK and locally, and some were among the 20,474 Canadians who have no known graves. The names of Privates Ewart, Harry Smith and John Tyner, and Lieutenant Harold MacGregor are inscribed on the Vimy Memorial, in France.
On April 8, 1917, the day before the big drive at Vimy Ridge, Private Smith wrote to his mother to tell her that it would probably be the last time she’d hear from him. Private Wilfred White was also killed in action at Vimy, and buried at Canadian Cemetery No. 2, near the French town of Neuville-Saint-Vaast. John 15:13 was the text chosen for his memorial service at Prescott’s Methodist Church: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends”.
Photo of Lieutenant Sharpe: Hometown Heroes (Fort Wellington National Historic Site – Parks Canada)