As we pause to remember the 1917 on Remembrance Day 2017, this blog posting recognizes seven men in the Fleming Family Tree who were soldiers in the Canadian Expeditionary Force during World War 1. The digitization by Library and Archives Canada (LAC) of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) personnel service files and the War Diaries in which are recorded the daily events of the battalions give us access to a great deal of information. Four Fleming members fought in France and survived; three were very lucky and never saw action. No lives were lost.
Two of James Fleming’s grandsons enlisted.
George Herbert Wyllie (Pte), son of Mary Ellen Fleming and George Wyllie. Eighteen years old, he joined the 147th Grey and Owen Sound Battalion on 13 May 1916. His record of service is not yet available from LAC.
Archibald Fleming McIntyre (Spr), son of Mary Jane Fleming and Archibald McIntyre. Still a student in Owen Sound, at age 20, Archibald enlisted 8 May 1918 with the Canadian Engineers unit to be a sapper (spr). He joined the 2nd Battalion Canadian Engineers 10 October 1918 in time to assist in constructing bridges over the Sensee River and Canal and tramway lines to Amiens. Over the next two months the battalion marched through Belgium and into Germany as victors. In April he sailed for Canada and was discharged 23 April 1919.
William’s eldest daughter Augusta (married Charles Mutart) must have been horrified to have two sons pulled into the army.
Reginald Francis Mutart (Gnr) was just eighteen years old, working as a clerk in Niagara Falls and helping his widowed mother, when he enlisted 22 May 1916 to be a gunner (gnr) in the 64th Depot Battery, Canadian Field Artillery. In December, Reginald was transferred to the 2nd Divisional Ammunition Column delivering ammunition to the batteries and other units. Part of this time he was assigned to the Trench Mortar Battery. The 2nd Division fought in most of the major actions from 1916 to 1918. He may have been at the Somme, Vimy, Passchendaele, Arras, and Cambrai. Venereal disease bought him some time in the hospital. Remarkably he made it through the war to his discharge in June 1919 without being wounded. During the war his mother received his separation allowance of $20 a month.
Leo Carl Mutart (Pte) was Augusta’s eldest son, older than Reginald by nearly two years. A student, age twenty-one, he was drafted 10 May 1918 to begin officer training at the University of Toronto. Mercifully, the war ended and he was demobilized 30 November 1918.
Two on this list were men who would later marry into the Fleming family.
William Lawrence McFaul (Lt) married Rita Mabel Fleming, William Fleming’s youngest daughter, in 1919. William McFaul, at the time a city engineer in Sault Ste Marie, was drafted 29 November 1917 to enter the Canadian Officers Training program at the University of Toronto. Discharged from that company with the rank of Lieutenant (16 April 1918), he was sent overseas to the Canadian Engineers Reserve Battalion in England. The war ended shortly after and he was discharged without seeing action.
David Russell Dobie (Maj) was a publisher in Owen Sound who later married Charles Fleming’s daughter Ruth Eliza Fleming. At age forty-five, he was not a young man when he enlisted in February 1916. He had been a captain in the 31st Grey Regiment in Owen Sound for nine years. Promoted to major he arrived in England in November 1916 and was transferred to the 8th Canadian Reserve Battalion W Ont whereupon he was appointed company commander. He was “on command conducting duty” for four months ending in October 1917. The meaning is not clear, but he might have been in command of instruction in musketry and equitation since those were his noted qualifications. This ended when he was deemed surplus and “struck off service” 31 October 1917. He and Ruth married in 1924.
William Melville Herald (Pte), the adopted son of Bella Finch and George Herald, and grandson of Isabella and Abraham Finch, was the first of the Fleming relations to enlist.
William enlisted with the CEF in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario – coincidentally his father’s home town – on August 5, 1915. Twenty-one years old, born in Owen Sound 24 October 1894, he was of medium height and weight – 5 ‘ 7 “ and 138 pounds – fit and having a good build. He was living in Sundridge, Parry Sound working as a grocery clerk. His mother Mrs. Isabell [sic] Herald in Sundridge was his next of kin. Surprisingly, considering the Finch family connection to Baptist and Disciples churches, his affiliation was to the Church of England. A scribble of “Deceased 2-3-61” on the Regimental Document tells us his date of death, previously unknown. This is confirmed On a Veterans Death Card.
William was assigned first to the 76th Battalion, and soon after arriving in England (4 May 1916), was transferred to the 24th Battalion (Victoria Rifles) (28 June 1916). He started the war with a bout of German Measles that sent him for 15 days to the Shorncliff hospital.
On 30 July 1916 he joined the 24th Battalion Canadian Infantry then fighting around St Eloi in Flanders, and moved with them to the Somme in Northern France. There he received a shrapnel wound to the left hand 16 September 1916 and was treated first in Le Treport on the English Channel, then Aberdeen, Scotland. Remarkably he recovered without surgery and re-joined the 24th Battalion in March 2017 in the trenches at Vimy and Lens. The 24th and 25th Battalions were in the attack on St Laurent near Lens on 15 August 1917 – according to the War Diaries. During these battles, William suffered another “gun shot wound” to the left hand that left it badly fractured and infected. Ultimately – and fortunately for him – not being able to use the hand rendered him medically unfit. After three months in a hospital in England, he was sent to the 4th Labour Battalion in December 2017 where he served for 13 months in the Vimy area partly working and partly sick with “pyrexia of unknown origin” – a kind of fever. Being in the Labour Battalion was only marginally safer than the trenches: The War Diaries describe the heavy work they had to do laying tramlines for railways and putting water pipes in the trenches while being bombed and shelled.
He arrived in Halifax on 1 March 1919 and was discharged 27 March 1919. Throughout his service, the separation allowance of $15 a month was sent to Isabel. He married Anne Lang in 1920 and returned to work as a clerk in spite of the injuries to his hand.
The CEF Personnel files can be a very productive source of information about the individuals. Once we know the service record and battalion we can use the War Diaries to find the field records of the battalion day by day. Other resources on the web provide even more detailed accounts of the conditions, battles and movements. Two excellent starting points are the Canadian Great War Project with information on abbreviations, wage scales, letters, newspapers, links into the war diaries and much else; and Official History of the Canadian Army in the First World War. CANADIAN EXPEDITIONARY FORCE 1914-1919
Lastly, MyGenealogyLife has an excellent posting on Tracing Your Canadian Military Ancestors (29 October 2017).