Private Thomas Coones – 195831 – ACTIVE SERVICE (World War I)
On March 18, 1916 Thomas Coones completed the Attestation Paper for the Canadian Army, Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF). He was 23 years and 7 months old when, as a single man, he enlisted for the duration of the War. Thomas indicated that he was born in Apsley, Ontario and gave his birth-date as August 23, 1892. On his Attestation Paper, he indicated; he did not presently belong to a Militia Force nor had any previous Military experience. There is nothing on his File to indicate where he was educated or to what level. As far as his Trade or Calling is concerned, he lists Barber. Thomas was 5′ 9½” inches tall, with a 37” chest (expanded) and weighed 150 pounds on enlistment. He had a fair complexion, with blue eyes and light brown hair. His Medical Examination was completed March 28, 1916 in Peterborough, Ontario. He had no medical issues or physical limitations and as such he was deemed fit for Overseas duty with the CEF. His next-of-kin was listed as his father; Mr. Benjamin Coones of Apsley, Ontario. Thomas Coones signed the Oath and Certificate of Attestation on March 18, 1916. The Certificate of Magistrate was signed March 18, 1916 in Peterborough, Ontario. Although the Attestation Paper is stamped 57th Bn, Thomas was taken-on-strength with the 93rd Battalion (Bn) CEF as a Private (Pte) and was assigned Service Number 195831.
The 93rd Bn was authorized and formed up December 22, 1915. After training through the winter and spring at 5 different area centres, Apsley being one, the Battalion departed by train from Peterborough, on May 29, 1916. The Bn made a short stop at Barriefield Camp located at Kingston, Ontario, before moving on to the main CEF Training Centre located at Valcartier, Québec so as to complete Basic Infantry Training, before being transported overseas, to the UK.
Pte Coones and the 93rd Bn embarked from Halifax, Nova Scotia aboard the SS Empress of Britain on July 15, 1916.
On August 7, 1916 Pte Coones was admitted to Hospital at Moore Barracks with what was diagnosed as German Measles. He was discharged on August 23, 1916 and rejoined the 93rd Bn. September 27, 1916 Pte Coones was struck-off-strength from the 93rd Bn when he was transferred to the 1st Canadian Infantry Battalion (Cdn Inf Bn) at Otterpool, England. On September 28, 1916 he was taken-on-strength with the 1st Cdn Inf Bn at the Canadian Base Depot at Le Havre. On October 7, 1916 Pte Coones left to join the 1st Cdn Inf Bn in the Field. He joined his Unit October 10, 1916.
The 1st Cdn Inf Bn (Western Ontario) was attached to the 1st Canadian Brigade – 1st Canadian Division.
There are no entries in Pte Coones’ Military File from October 10, 1916 to April 9, 1917.
To track the movements of Pte Coones through this period of time the War Diary of the 1st Cdn Inf Bn was used.
October 1916 – When Pte Coones joined his Unit, they were just in the process of being relieved on the Front. The Battalion marched to billets at Albert, France. On the 11th they marched to Bouzincourts, where they stayed until the 14th, when they marched with the 1st Canadian Infantry Brigade to Rubempre. On the 16th they marched with the 1st Cdn Inf Brigade to Bonneville. The 17th to 19th were spent in Company training. The 20th to 24th were spent in a series of marches with the 1st Cdn Inf Brigade through Bernaville, Bonnieres, Monts en Ternois, and Frevillers, ending in Divisional reserve in the area of La Haie. On the 25th the Battalion moved to Brigade support where it relieved the 3rd Battalion Rifle Brigade, a British Unit. ”A” & “B” Companies in trenches at Carency, and ”C” & “D” Companies in support trenches in Bajolle Line. On the 26th ”B” Company moved into close support, while the other Companies remained where they were. On the 29th the Battalion relieved the 4th Cdn Inf Bn in the Front-Line. ”A” Company holding the right sector from Gabron trench to Coburg Alley, ”B” Company remained in close support, ”C” Company, the centre sector from Coburg Alley to Brisson trench, and ”D” Company the left sector from Brisson trench. There was no change in Company disposition on the 30th or 31st. Trench mortars were active on both sides. Every available man was employed in improving trenches.
November 1916 – Battalion dispositions unchanged. Battalion trench and stokes mortars were very active. Weather was described as wet. On the 2nd the Battalion was relieved by the 8th Cdn Inf Bn. Following relief it marched to billets at Camblain L’Abbe, where it stayed until the 8th. The days were spent ”training per the syllabus”.
Training per the syllabus included: bayonet fighting, musketry (rifles), Lewis Gun, bombing, close order drills and anti-gas drills.
On the 9th the Battalion marched to the Gas School at Maisnil Bouche for the purpose of being fitted with new gas respirators. The 10th they marched to Brigade reserve in relief of the 13th Cdn Inf Bn. The weather was reported as fine. The situation was reported as quiet from the 11th to 14th, with the usual trench mortar activity. Based on the weather being right for a gas attack, a gas alert was put in place at noon on the 14th and remained in affect through to the 16th. On the 16th the Battalion moved to the Front and relieved the 4th Cdn Inf Bn. The gas alarm remained on through the 18th. On the 18th the 3rd Cdn Inf Bn took over the Battalion position, and it moved to the right sector and relieved the 4th Cdn Inf Bn. At noon on the 19th the gas alert was cancelled. During the day 6 rounds of high explosive shrapnel rounds were fired into Battalion position resulting in 3 casualties. On the 21st the enemy opened fire on the rear support dugouts in the Zouave Valley. No casualties were reported. Battalion patrols went out at night and came back with valuable information on German strength and trenches. The gas alert was put back on at 10:00 AM on the 22nd. Battalion trench mortars opened heavy fire on enemy positions. There was a lot of aerial activity on the 23rd. Overall the enemy were quiet, but the Battalion fired a heavy trench mortar bombardment on enemy trenches. The 24th opened with another heavy bombardment of enemy trenches by Battalion trench mortars, who responded with 4.2” fire. The great majority of these shells landing in the Zouave Valley were duds and
didn’t explode. Overall the situation was otherwise quiet. The 25th was reported as unusually quiet, except for the usual trench mortar fire on enemy trenches. The Battalion was relieved on the 26th, by the 7 Cdn Inf Bn and proceeded to billets at Chamblaigneul. The 27th was spent cleaning up and Company inspections. The 28th to 30th were spent in training rotations of 300 men at a time sent to the Divisional Training School. Those not at the Divisional Training School took training in accordance to standard syllabus. The gas alert was put on at 1:45 PM.
December 1916 – The 1st to 3rd were spent in rotations to the Divisional Training School. On the 3rd 149 other ranks from the 157th Battalion, in England, arrived and were absorbed into the four Battalion Companies. It was noted that these men had only been partially trained. On the 4th these draftees were sent to the Divisional Training School. There is no mention of the gas alert being removed. At 10:30 AM, the Battalion proceeded to billets at Camblaigneul, France, where it relieved the 14th Cdn Inf Bn in Brigade support. The weather on the 5th was described as misty. The situation from the 6th to 11th was reported as quiet. The weather through this period was described as showery. On the 12th the Battalion moved into the Right Sub Sector in relief of 4th Cdn Inf Bn. It snowed heavily on this day. The 13th was described as normal, with the Allied 18 pounders busy all day. An Officer was reported killed by a German sniper while he was out on reconnaissance. The situation on the 14th was reported normal, although there was considerable artillery activity on both sides. Another man was wounded by a sniper. The Battalion Stokes Guns were very active throughout the 15th. The enemy fired several ”Minnies” at the support lines.
”Minnies” was trench slang for a German trench mortar called a Minenwerfer. The shells made a moaning sound as they passed by.
The 16th to 17th were considered normal, although the artillery on both sides were fairly active. On the 18th one man was reported killed by a trench mortar. The Battalion was ordered to ”stand to” on information that the Germans may blow a mine by Kennedy Crater. On the 19th the Battalion was relieved by the 46th Cdn Inf Bn, they then moved over and took over positions held by the 25th Cdn Inf Bn. Several High Explosive shells hit in the rear killing one man and wounding two others. At 10:00 AM on the 20th the Battalion proceeded by road to the Village of Dieval, France, arriving at 2:30 PM being billeted for a period of training. The weather is now described as clear and cold. The men spent the 21st to 24th training in accordance with the syllabus as laid down by the Brigade. Christmas Day was a Holiday spent in football games between Companies and other sports activities. A Christmas Dinner was provided to all ranks and was most appreciated. The 26th to 31st were spent in training per the syllabus. A route march and church service was held and at 11:330 AM on the 31st, Major General A.W. Currie addressed the Battalion Officers and NCOs.
January 1917 – Opened with a Holiday for all ranks. Sports and games were indulged in. The weather was described as bright and cold. The 2nd to 6th was spent training in accordance with syllabus. On the 7th the Battalion paraded for Divine Service. The 8th was spent training with the 1st Cdn Inf Brigade while on a route march. The 9th to 16th were spent training per the syllabus. On the 16th the Battalion was inspected by Major General A.W. Currie during training hours. He expressed that he was very well satisfied with what he saw. Owing to heavy snow overnight and through the day of the 17th, no training took place. Instead the time was spent in lectures and cleaning up billets. The snow continued to fall on the 18th. Due to the weather no outdoor training took place. The weather was now described as frosty and cold and it would continue like that until the end of the month. On the 19th training took place in accordance with the syllabus. On the 20th the Battalion marched from Dieval to billets at Verdrel, France. On the 21st it marched to Bouvigny Huts in Brigade reserve. Owing to enemy areoplane activity no outdoor training was conducted on the 22nd. Areoplane activity continued on the 23rd. On the 24th the Battalion proceeded from Brigade support to Front-Line trenches in Souchez right sector and relieved the 4th Cdn Inf Bn. ”C” & “D” Companies in the Front-Line trenches with ”A” & “B” Companies in support. The situation from the 25th to 29th were described as quiet. One man was killed by sniper. On the 27th ”A” & “B” Companies and ”C & D” Companies switched places. On the 30th the Battalion was relieved by the 4th Cdn Inf Bn. Relief was completed without incident in the afternoon. The situation was described as extremely quiet. After the relief was complete, on the 31st the Battalion moved to Brigade support at Alba in St Nazarene. ”A” Company was assigned to Mainstream Line, ”B” Company to Dugout Line, ”C” Company to Sugar Factory, and ”D” Company to Albain Line. Areoplanes from both sides were very active throughout the day.
February 1917 – The weather for the month was described as generally clear and cold. There was slight enemy artillery activity on the 1st and 2nd, but no damage. On the 3rd, after a very heavy preparation artillery bombardment on enemy lines on the Battalion’s right, a raid on Vimy Ridge took place. The Operation was completed by 10:00 PM. By 11:30 PM everything was absolutely quiet. On the 4th Allied forces once again raided enemy trenches on Vimy Ridge. On the 5th the Battalion moved forward from Brigade Support and relieved the 4th Cdn Inf Bn in right sub section of Souchez section. Situation very quiet. The 6th to the 10st passed very quietly with no casualties. There was some enemy artillery activity on the 11th, but no damage was done. The Battalion was relieved by the 4th Cdn Inf Bn during the evening and proceeded to Brigade reserve at Bouvigny Huts. The men settled in by 2:00 AM. The 12th was spent cleaning and checking equipment. The 13th and 14th were spent carrying out training in accordance with syllabus. At 6:00 PM the Battalion moved into trenches at the Rendezvous. After an inspection by the Brigade Commander, the Battalion returned to billets. The 16th was spent training per the syllabus. On the 17th the Battalion relieved the 4th Cdn Inf Bn in Souchez 1 right section. The relief was completed by 11:20 PM without incident. The 18th and 19th were reported as situation quiet. The 20th to 23rd were also reported as quiet, but Battalion patrols were out every night gathering information for a planned raid on enemy trenches. On the 24th the Battalion was relieved by the 4th Cdn Inf Bn and proceeded to Brigade reserve at Albain St Nazaire. The 26th to 28th were reported as situation very quiet.
March 1917 – The weather for the month was described as generally clear and cold. The situation was reported as quiet. On the 1st the Battalion relieved the 4th Cdn Inf Bn in Souchez 1 sector. Relief was commenced at 8:00 PM and completed at 11:00 PM without incident. The situation was reported as quiet on the 2nd to 4th. During the evening the Battalion was relieved by the 2nd Battalion Leinester Regiment (British). The Battalion moved back to Bouvigny Huts. On the 5th the Battalion marched to Hesdigneul. Followed by a march to Lapugnoy on the 6th. On the 7th, a Muster parade was held. The balance of the day was spent reorganizing Platoons. On the 8th the Battalion marched to Ruitz, followed by another march on the 9th to Estree Cauchie. Following its arrival the Battalion was inspected by Sir Robert L Borden, Premier of Canada, and Major General A.W. Currie. The 10th was spent in general cleanup and completing reorganization of Platoons. On the 11th training was carried out in Platoon work practicing rapid extensions, etc, and Companies in attack. Bombers, Rifle grenadiers, and Lewis Gunners received separate training instructions in their duties. On the 12th training was carried out in Company work, practicing rapid deployment into artillery formation and advancing.
An artillery formation was an advancing formation that reduced the vulnerability of the Unit to enemy artillery shelling, shrapnel, and machine gun fire. The formation could be used in a Platoon, Company or Battalion configuration. In essence, the distance between each man was five yards.
Bombers, Rifle Grenadiers, and Lewis Gunners continued their training separately. The training from the 13th to 19th was a repeat of that on 12th. On the 20th and 21st the Battalion carried out training in assault in connection with Brigade Operations. The morning of the 22nd training was carried out by Companies and Units independently. In the afternoon the Battalion carried out practice in assault dealing with special situations; such as attack being held up by enemy Machine Gun fire and enemy strong points. The same training continued from the 23rd to 27th. On the 28th the Battalion moved from Estree Cauchie to billets at Bois aux Alleux and relieved the 13th Cdn Inf Bn. The 29th was spent resting. On the 30th the Battalion relived the 16th Cdn Inf Bn in Brigade support at Maison Blanche. The situation on the 31st was reported as quiet. The Battalion was employed in work parties.
April 1917 – The Battalion was still in Brigade support at Bois aux Alleux on the 1st and the men were employed in work parties. The Battalion relieved the 3rd Cdn Inf Bn in the forward areas of Labyrinthe, France section on the night of the 1st – 2nd. The weather for the 2nd to 4th was described as raining and windy. The Front-Line was reported as generally quiet. At 2:00 AM on the 5th, in order to secure identification of enemy Units facing the Battalion it was decided to make a raid on enemy trenches. Scouts were sent out at 2:00 AM to find ways through the wire. At 4:30 AM three raiding parties comprised of 30 men each and lead by a Lt would, following an Artillery barrage, make their way through the enemy wire and enter enemy trenches. The objectives of the raiding parties were to inflict on the enemy as any casualties as possible, while gathering Unit identification. The first raiding party entered its assigned trench and found it unoccupied, but with time short to the start of the barrage they withdrew. The Lt leading this raiding party was shot and killed by an enemy sniper. The second raiding party held up by opposition reached their objective just as the barrage started, but based on the fact that the barrage did not lift as planned they were forced to withdraw and make their way back to their lines through the shell holes. The third party had separated into 4 groups of seven men. Two of the groups withdrew based on the barrage not lifting. The other two groups made it into the trenches, but found them unoccupied, and as such withdrew. Other than the one Lt killed, there were no other casualties. Based on the fact that the identification required had not been secured, it was decided to repeat the effort in the daylight, this time without artillery assistance. At 2:00 PM, the three parties set out once again. Unable to enter their assigned trench, the first party withdrew. The second party had more success. They entered their trench encountered a group of Germans, killing five of them. Securing the required Unit identification, they withdrew. When the third party entered their assigned trench, they came upon two enemy bombing posts. A Lewis Gun was turned on these posts, and the enemy were forced to retire down the trench. One enemy, who tried to escape overland, was killed. After stiff fighting the party withdrew without casualties. The Battalion was relieved by the 7th Cdn Inf Bn during the afternoon and evening. Upon completion of the relief the Battalion marched to billets at Camblain L’Abbe. The 6th and 7th were spent resting, organizing, checking equipment and kits. At 12:15 PM, on the 8th the Battalion moved to an area near Ecoivres and formed up in mass with other Units of the 1st Canadian Brigade. At 8:45 PM the Battalion marched via Brunehaut Farm and Ariane Dump the forward assembly area.
At 5:30 AM, the 1st Cdn Inf Battalion advanced to the attack on enemy positions on Vimy Ridge.
The Battle for Vimy Ridge had started. This was the first time all four Canadian Divisions of the Canadian Corps came together in one Battle. Following a heavy artillery barrage of 1,000 guns; in the wind, sleet, and snow, 15,000 Canadian soldiers stormed the ridge and assaulted what was considered an impregnable position. By late afternoon – early evening, in-spite of heavy losses, most of the German positions had been captured. On the right of the line was the 1st Canadian Division. On the right of the 1st Canadian Division line was the 2nd Canadian Infantry Brigade with the 1st Canadian Infantry Brigade behind. On the right side of the 1st Cdn Inf Brigade Front was the 1st Cdn Inf Battalion. The Battle Plan was: at 5:30 AM following a 1,000 artillery gun creeping barrage the 2nd Cdn Inf Brig would move forward, followed by the 1st Cdn Inf Brig. When the 2nd Cdn Inf Brig captured the Red Line, the 1st Cdn Inf Brigade would move through it and continue to advance on an 1,800 yard wide Front. The 1st Cdn Inf Battalion on the right side of the Brigade Front moved forward in an artillery formation with a Front of 400 yards.
The first objective of the Battalion was to capture the Blue Line (Zwischen Stellung) and then continue on to the Brown Line (Farbus Wood).
The Military File indicates Private Thomas Coones was reported Killed-in-Action April 9th, 1917.
Unfortunately, research was unable to establish when, during the day, or under what circumstances Private Thomas Coones was killed.
Private Thomas Coones is buried in the Nine Elms Military Cemetery at Thelus, France. Thelus is a Village about 6.5 km north of the Village of Arras and 1 km east of the main road from Arras to Lens. The Cemetery is on the western side of the main road about 1.5 km south of the Village. He is commemorated on page 220 of the First World War Book of Remembrance in Ottawa.
There is no reference, in Private Thomas Coones’ Military File indicating what Military Medals he was awarded but based on his Military Service, he should have received:
British War Medal 1914 – 1920; and
He also qualified for War Service Badge CEF Class “A”.
The Medals and Decorations he was eligible to receive, would have been sent to his father, Mr. Benjamin Coones of Apsley. The Memorial Scroll was sent December 1, 1920, and the Memorial Plaque on July 21, 1922. The Memorial Cross was sent to his mother, Mrs. Emma L. Coones, also of Apsley on July 13, 1920.
Based on his Military File, Private Thomas Coones served a total of 1 year, 21 days with the Canadian Expeditionary Force: 3 months and 27 days in Canada, 2 months and 13 days in England, and 6 months and 12 days in France.
An excerpt from an article in Maclean’s Magazine by Barbara Ameil, September 1996:
”The Military is the single calling in the world with job specifications that include a commitment to die for your country. What could be more honourable”?
Thomas Coones was born in Apsley, Ontario, Peterborough County on August 23, son of Benjamin Coones and Emma “Lucy” Susan Wilson. He went by “Tom” and received his education in the Apsley Public Schools; prior to enlisting in WW I Tom was working as a Barber.
Twin boys, Thomas & John Coones both enlisted in the Canadian Army, Canadian Expeditionary Force to represent Canada in World War I.
Unfortunately Thomas Coones was killed in action in France while fighting alongside his brother, John Coones, on April 9, 1917. Thomas Coones is remembered with honour in the Nine Elms Military Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France.
THE THOMAS COONES FAMILY OF APSLEY, ONTARIO
Thomas’ paternal grandparents were John Coones and Hannah “Nancy” Blakely. His maternal grandparents were Thomas J. Wilson and Betty Ann Bedford.
Thomas Coones’ parents were Benjamin “Ben” Franklin Coones, born March 31, 1863 in Trenton, Ontario, and Emma Wilson, born January 23, 1865 in Burleigh Township. They were married in Apsley, Ontario on April 20, 1887. Benjamin was a farmer in Burleigh Township and operated the first hotel in the Apsley area known as the Union Hotel, later named the Marmonte Inn. Ben and Emma had seven children: Maud, born April 17, 1885; Clara, born January 20, 1888; David Henry, born October 29, 1890; twin boys, Thomas & John, born August 23, 1892, daughter Elizabeth Ann “Annie”, born December 17, 1894 and Hilda “Olive” Coones born January 13, 1899; died August 27, 1901 in Burleigh Township, 2½ years old, due to spinal disease from birth.
Benjamin Franklin Coones passed away in 1934 and his wife Emma “Lucy” Susan Wilson died in 1945; both are buried in the Union Cemetery in Apsley, Ontario.