Private William Bruce Edwards – 126746 – ACTIVE SERVICE (World War I)
On September 27, 1915 William Bruce Edwards completed the Attestation Paper for the Canadian Army, Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF). He was 24 years old when, as a single man, he enlisted for the duration of the War. William Bruce indicated that he was born in Peterborough, Ontario and gave his birth-date as September 12, 1891. He indicated that 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 Clerk. William Bruce was 5′ 10½” tall, with a 37” chest (expanded). He weighed 146 pounds on enlistment. He had a fair complexion with blue eyes and brown gray hair. His Medical Examination was completed September 7, 1915 in London, 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. William Edwards, of Lakefield, Ontario. William Bruce Edwards signed the Oath and Certificate of Attestation on September 27, 1915 in London, Ontario. He was taken-on-strength with the 71st Battalion (Bn) as a Private (Pte) and was assigned Service Number 126746.
There is nothing in his Military File to indicate where Pte Edwards and the 71st Bn trained, but based on the dates it was more than likely Valcartier, Québec. Valcartier was erected as a Military Training Base, in August 1914, as part of the mobilization of the CEF, at the outset of World War I. The Base was located approximately 16 miles north of Québec City, Québec. In the beginning, the facilities and training were pretty rudimentary. Training consisted of marching, rifle and bayonet drills. The Officers, among other things, practiced swordsmanship. The main goal was to form the men in Units and ship them off to England, as quickly as possible, where they would complete their training.
Pte Edwards and the 71st Bn embarked from Halifax on April 1, 1916 aboard the SS Olympic.
Pte Edwards and the 71st Battalion disembarked at Liverpool, England on April 11, 1916. There is no indication in his File as to where the 71st Battalion was stationed or trained between April 11, 1916 and June 11, 1916. On June 12, 1916 Pte Edwards was transferred to Base Company at Oxney Camp near Borden, Hampshire. On June 13, 1916 he was ”to be Acting Corporal without pay”. The 71st Bn, like many other Units formed in Canada, never went to France, but were used as feeder Units. On July 11, 1916 A/Cpl Edwards was transferred to the 102nd Canadian Infantry Battalion. On July 12, 1916 A/Cpl Edwards reverted to Private when he was taken-on-strength with the 102nd Battalion (Bn), at Bramshott, England.
The 102nd Bn was initially known as the 102nd Bn (Northern British Columbia). It was renamed in August 1917 to the 102nd Battalion (Central Ontario). It had a combat strength of 968 all ranks when it embarked for France. The 102nd Bn was attached to the 11th Canadian Infantry Brigade – 4th Canadian Division.
The 102nd Bn arrived at Le Havre Harbour, France at 2:00 AM on August 12, 1916, disembarking at 7:00 AM.
There are three lengthy gaps in Pte Edwards’ Military File with no entries. These are from: August 12, 1916 to November 7, 1916; December 24, 1916 to August 27, 1917; and January 9, 1918 to August 8, 1918. To trace the movements of Pte Edwards, during these periods, the War Diary of the 102nd Battalion was used.
On the August 12, 1916 after disembarking, the Battalion marched to Camp I to rest for the day. At 10:00 PM they marched to a train station. At 2:00 AM on the 13th the Battalion left Le Havre by train for Godewaersvelde, France. The trip was described as uneventful, except when they stopped for dinner at Abbyville, they discovered insufficient hot water for their tea. On the 14th they arrived at Godewaersvelde and marched to a campsite ½ mile North East of Abele, arriving at 12 noon. The rest of the day was spent cleaning equipment and setting camp. Troops were permitted to walk to Abele to witness the passage of His Majesty the King. On the 15th Canadian Corps Commander Lieutenant General H.G, Byng KCG, KCMG, MVO visited the Camp. A detail of No 1 Company was sent for 48 hours of instructional training in the Trenches at St. Eloi, center section. On the 16th the Battalion, less one Company, marched from Camp to Devonshire Lines arriving at 11:00 AM. Remainder of the day spent cleaning Camp, which was noted as the dirtiest Camp taken over. At 8:00 PM No 2 Company proceeded to St. Eloi Trenches for training. On the 17th No 3 Company proceeded to St. Eloi, followed by No 4 Company on the 18th. At about noon on the 19th the enemy commenced bombarding the Front-Line and Supports. Bombardment continued to 6:00 PM. Every type of gun and trench mortar was used. The bombardment was described as exceedingly heavy and sustained. There is no reference to casualties. At 9:00 PM No 4 Company was withdrawn from Reserve Trench and proceeded to Scottish Wood. For the rest of the Battalion, a voluntary Church Parade was held on August 20th. On the 21st all ranks of the 102nd remaining in trenches assembled at Cafe Belge and moved to Devonshire Lines. Battalion casualties reported to date: No 1 Company – 1 slightly wounded; No 2 Company – 2 slightly wounded; No 3 Company – 14 wounded and 5 killed; No 4 Company – 1 wounded; HQ – 1 wounded. The Battalion spent the 21st to 23rd in training. On the 24th the Battalion was ordered to duty as follows: No 1 Company – permanent duty for 1 week at Dickebusch; No 2 Company – Voormezeele Station – garrison duty; No 3 Company – Micmac Camp – in reserve; and No 4 Company – Scottish Wood – garrison duty. On the 25th Companies in quarters, during the day, to avoid enemy observation. Second-in-Command visited all Companies and found everything in order. Companies out in work parties. From the 26th to 29th they remained in assigned positions. On the 30th the Battalion relieved the 54th Battalion in the Front-Lines. The trenches were described in frightful condition. The 31st was spent in trench work improving the conditions.
September 1916 opened with 500 men involved in trench repair due to heavy rain and enemy bombardments. It was estimated that 50,000 sand bags would be required to repair the damage. Trenches, especially, 14 and 15, were described in horrible condition. With the enemy quiet, the 2nd to 5th was spent continuing work on trench repairs. On the 6th the 102nd Battalion was relieved by the 54th Battalion and proceeded to Micmac Camp. The 7th to 10th were spent in usual duties. The night of the 11th to 12th the 102nd was back to the Front-Lines relieving the 54th Bn. For the next several days, work continued on repairing trenches. Scouting parties being sent out during the night. Enemy reported as being quiet. On the 17th the Battalion was relieved by the 15th Battalion and proceeded back to Micmac Camp. On the 19th a bath parade was organized, but only two Companies made it through based on an insufficient supply of clean socks and underwear. On the 20th the Battalion moved to billets at Hazebrouck. On the 21st it marched to billets at Arques, repeated on the 22nd when it marched to Tournehem. The 23rd was spent cleaning the Camp and resting. The 24th to 30th were spent in hard training and marching 4 miles each way to and from the training area. Total casualties for the month: 102 men – 32 killed and 70 wounded.
October 1916 opens with the Battalion attending a Brigade Church Parade. On the 2nd Box Respirators were fitted and issued. The rest of the day was spent on the firing range. On the 3rd marched to Aupruicq, where it entrained at 5:30 PM. It arrived at Doullens at 5:00 AM on the 4th and marched to Gezaincourt, where it went into billets. The Battalion left Gezaincourt at 9:00 AM and marched to Val de Maison arriving at 1:30 PM, where it went under canvas. At 9:00 AM on the 6th it marched to Vadencourt arriving at midday where it was billeted in huts. From the 7th to the 9th the Battalion paraded for drill, attended a Church Parade, and practiced an attack scheme. On the 10th it marched to billets at Albert. While Battalion HQ remained at Albert, the four Companies moved to Tara Hill and went under canvas. On the 13th scouts were sent forward to the Front-Line. From the 13th to 17th the Battalion went through organization work and preparations for an attack carried out in accordance with Brigade Operational Order No 15. The 18th the 102nd Bn relieved the 87th Battalion in the Front-Line at Courcelette. It was reported on the 19th that the men were greatly fatigued owing to the rain and muddy conditions in the trenches. For whatever reason, the designation used for the Companies changed from numbers (1, 2, etc) to letters (A, B, etc). On the 20th ”B”, ”C” and ”D” Companies withdrew to Tara Hill for a short period, leaving ”A” Company to hold the Line. They returned in the afternoon, to the trenches, and took over from ”A” Company. At 12:06 PM on the 21st the Companies of the 102nd Bn attacked Regina Trench and took it with practically no opposition. Having said that, Battalion casualties were 20 killed and 70 wounded. ”B”, ”C”, and ”D” Companies consolidated their positions, while ”A” Company proceeded from Tara Hill, to Sugar Trench and then on to Cliff Trench. On the 23rd the Battalion was relieved by the 54th Bn, and it proceeded to dug-outs in the Chalk Pits. Men were very much exhausted. Weather very wet and lots of mud. From the 23rd to the 31st the Battalion was engaged in a muster parade, baths at Albert, the Companies were reorganized, Church Parades, and work parties. On the 31st ”A” Company proceeded to Bailey Woods, where it occupied dug-outs vacated by 87th Bn. Weather continuing very wet and muddy.
November 1916 on the 1st Major General Watson, Divisional Commander of the 11th Brigade, distributed Military Medals to five men of the 102nd Battalion for ”conspicuous bravery during the assault on Regina Trench”. From the 2nd to the 7th the Bn was involved in muster parades and the usual work parties. On the 7th ”A” Company returned from Bailey Woods and the entire Battalion moved to Albert.
November 7, 1916 Pte Edwards reported from Base – sick. He was first seen at the No 11 Canadian Field Ambulance. He was transferred to the Divisional Rest Station. He was admitted to the No 12 Canadian Field Ambulance. The diagnosis was Influenza. He returned to duty on November 14, 1916. From December 16 to December 24, 1916 Pte Edwards was on a Grenade Course. When Pte Edwards rejoined his Unit, they were in a Reserve position at Berthonval Wood. On the 27th they moved back to the Front-Line in the Zouave Valley relieving the 54th Bn. The 28th to 31st were spent in the Front-Line, where the trenches were described as almost impassable due to mud being knee deep and deeper.
January 1917; on the 2nd the Bn was relieved and marched to billets at Camblain L’Abbe. The billets were described as very good and comfortable. On the 3rd a bathing parade was held. It is reported this was the worst managed and insanitary baths yet encountered. Very little water, very thinly sprinkled, both water and time insufficient for the men to cleanse themselves. Supply of underclothing insufficient and not properly sterilized. The 4th to 7th was spent resting, pay parade and inspection. On the 8th the Battalion relieved the 54th Bn in Coliseum Trench, which was in poor shape. The 9th to 13th were spent in work parties. On the 14th it was relieved by the 75th and moved to Reserve at Berthonval Wood. The 15th to 19th spent in work parties. On the 20th it was back to the Front-Line in Zouave Valley. On the 27th it marched to billets at Coupigny. Here they underwent a Church parade, pay parade, and practiced an attack scheme in co-operation with an aeroplane. On the 31st all men were employed transporting munitions.
February 1917 on the 1st the Battalion proceeded by Companies to Brigade Support at Villers-au-Bois. The next few days were spent in work parties and taking courses. Reference is made that during this period aerial battles were intensifying overhead. On the 7th it moved to Brigade Reserve at Berthonval Wood. Once again work parties and courses occupied their time. On the 13th the 102nd Bn moved to the Front-Line relieving the 54th Battalion. The next few days everything was relatively quiet on the Line. On the 19th it was relieved by the 75th and the Battalion moved by Platoons back to Villers-au-Bois and then by Companies to Coupigny Huts. Upon arrival at Coupigny the Battalion was ordered to ”stand to” and be ready to move at an hours notice. While the Battalion participated in Company and Platoon Drills, until the end of the month, they remained in a state of readiness, which was canceled on the 28th.
March 1917 orders received for the Battalion to move to Brigade Reserve in Berthonval Wood on the 2nd and relieve the 87th Bn. On the 3rd 50 men from ”B” Company were sent to Tottenham Caves, on the 4th 75 men were dispatched to 182nd Tunneling Company. On the 7th relieved the 87th in the Front-Line. Fairly quiet. On the 11th moved to billets at Bouvigny Huts. Proved most uncomfortable, crowded huts and deep mud. On the 19th they moved cross country, by Companies, to Villiers-au-Bois and then by Platoons to Berthonval Wood. Principal object of the tour, dig a new Front-Line Trench as the existing ones were beyond maintenance and repair. The War Diary indicates “the Rum issue started again for Battalions in the Front-Line”. On the 27th the Bn was relieved and marched to St. Lawrence Camp, where it supplied working parties and held bath parades.
April 1917 opens with the Battalion training for the upcoming operation. Practicing attacking in waves. On the 3rd the Battalion Companies were posted to different trenches. On the 6th preparations underway for the move for the attack, which was delayed 24 hours. The Battalion Companies were still in place on the 7th, which was reported to be comparatively quiet. On the 8th, early in the morning, ”liquid fire” (Flamethrower) was discharged by the Battalion with good effect, but the use of gas shells was delayed due to unfavourable wind conditions. The Companies were warned out of the Front-Line due to Allied use of a new wire cutting shell with a heavy throw back. At 8:30 PM Companies of the 102nd moved forward to their jump off positions. At 5:30 AM on the 9th the men of the 102nd went over the top in a wave attacking German Lines. By 7:40 AM it was reported that they had gained the 3 objectives and were consolidating their positions. After this initial success, further forward progress stopped, with each side holding their positions. It was reported that Battalion casualties were very heavy in killed, wounded, and missing.
April 8, 1917 was the start of the Battle of Arras, a British offensive, involving Canadian Units, also known as the Second Battle of Arras. Good progress was made on the first day, but the Battle soon evolved into a month long stalemate.
On the 10th the casualties were counted: Officer killed-in-action 6, wounded 9; other ranks killed 119, wounded 180 and missing 27. It had been a costly day. The Battalion, upon relief, moved to St. Lawrence Camp on the 11th. It snowed heavily in the afternoon, making St. Lawrence more unpleasant than usual. April 12th instead of getting a day’s rest, which everyone hoped for, the 102nd was ordered to move up to Souchez Tunnel in the 10th Cdn Brigade area and support their position. At 2:00 PM after only being able to muster 360 effectives, the Bn moved forward. Not being familiar with the area, the men passed through the Souchez Valley in broad daylight. Although the Hun gunners plastered the valley with shells, the Bn suffered no casualties. This was because the mud was so deep the shells buried themselves in the mud before they exploded. On the 13th the Battalion received orders, that upon relief it was to move back to St. Lawrence Camp. In the afternoon the relief was complete and they started to move out by Platoons, but they were in such an exhausted state, the men were allowed to make their own way back. Upon arriving at St. Lawrence Camp, orders were received for them to move to billets at Cambligneul on the 14th. It was reported that the rations at this stop were the best the men had since leaving England. The 15th to 20th were spent resting and cleaning up, bath and pay parade, work parties and reorganizing the Battalion. On the 20th the Battalion moved to a new camp at La Tarquette on the Arras – Bethune Road. After five days of rest, the men went back to training. The 22nd and 23rd were spent in work parties building a new road at Neuvelle St. Vaast. On the 24th the Battalion moved to a new camp in Berthonval Wood, where it would stay until the end of the month. The days were spent in work parties. Every evening when the work parties returned the men were entertained by the Battalion Band.
May 1917 opens with the Battalion on a bath parade at a new bath house at Chateau de la Haie. It was reported: this was the best water and bath supplies since arriving in France. On the 2nd following the deactivation of the 67th Canadian Pioneer Battalion (Western Scots), the Battalion received 30 Officers and 260 other ranks. At 3:00 AM on the 3rd the Allied heavies began a continuous shelling of enemy positions, which lasted all day. The men were involved, during the day, in work parties and in the evening a football match. On the 7th they moved to Canada Camp, where they were engaged in a Parade, drills, and training. At 7:00 PM of the 10th the Battalion moved, by Companies, to the Vimy – Angres Line. On the 11th the position held by ”A” Company was heavily shelled by the enemy resulting in 11 killed and 35 wounded. During the evening it moved to the Front-Line. ”A” and “B” Companies were assigned to Front-Line Trenches, ”C” and “D” Companies in Reserve Support. The 102nd remained in their Front-Line positions until the 21st. As a result of enemy shelling of their positions casualties occurred each day. On the 21st the Battalion was relieved and marched by Companies to Vancouver Camp, where it remained until the 28th. During this time the Battalion engaged in training, a bath parade, pay parade, baseball and football matches and an open air concert by the 4th Division Concert Band. On the 28th the Battalion marched to Comox Camp at Berthonval Wood, where it stayed until the 31st. During this time the men engaged in strenuous training, bayonet drills, attack drills, football and baseball matches every evening.
June 1917 opens with the men practicing attack schemes and physical fitness training. On the 3rd the Battalion moved forward to a Support position North of Clucas Trench. On the 4th they moved to a position at S4 Central. Patrols were sent out in the evening of the 5th to get in touch with the enemy and see if they had reoccupied previously abandoned positions. The Patrols encountered a number of enemy strong points which were attacked. In some cases the attacks were successful, but in other cases they failed. The Patrols continued on the 6th and 7th. On the 8th a major assault was planned: Plan A – a Platoon from ”B” Company was to attack a position known as The Triangle. Plan B – the balance of the Battalion was to attack along the whole Front. Unfortunately, the jumping off point in front of the Generating Station was exposed, thus eliminating the possibility of surprise. A heavy Allied artillery bombardment preceded the attack, to which the enemy responded in kind. Zero hour for “A” was 8:30 PM. No 6 Platoon of ”B” Company attacked. They first had to cut and bomb their way through the enemy wire. This accomplished, they assaulted the strong points. Enemy resistance was fierce and hand to hand fighting occurred. The area was covered in thick smoke making coordination of the attack difficult, but the Platoon pushed forward and by 10:35 PM, took the objectives. Brigadier V. W. Odlum would state: ”the operation in the Triangle was as brilliant as anything I have seen in France”. Zero hour for “B” was 11:45 PM. Following an initial barrage, the Battalion advanced. Almost immediately, they encountered enemy wire that they couldn’t cut or bomb their way through. Forced to find a way around the wire they ran into heavy enemy resistance. After several hours of fighting the attack failed to take its objectives. Casualties were: killed – 2 Officers and 6 other ranks; wounded – 3 Officers and 67 other ranks. It was decided to make another attempt to take the objectives on the 10th. At 8:00 AM on the 10th a Platoon from ”A” Company set out towards its assigned objective. The party was successful in bombing up Candle Trench and establishing a block at the junction of Canada Trench, but found that the Trench was practically non-existent, being merely a series of shell holes. This exposed area was swept by enemy machine gun fire and whiz-bangs. What was left of the Trench was heavily manned by the enemy. Further advance was impossible. The element of success had lain in surprise and that had been lost, so the Platoon returned with slight casualties. At the same time, a bombing Section from ”B” Company left on a stealth raid. Upon approaching their objective, they crept down an embankment, but found the entrance to the position protected by wire. A Sergeant went forward and cut through 25 yards of heavy wire. He then led the Section forward. Unfortunately, a trip wire was touched which set off a small mine. Whereupon the enemy opened fire with bombs and machine guns. Again the element of surprise was lost. The Section now withdrew under the cover of rifle fire, rifle grenades, and rounds fired from Stokes Mortars. On the 11th relief was effected. Orders were received to prepare for another attack on the 12th. The 12th was another day of attacking enemy positions with the enemy counterattacking. Six times, the men of 102nd went over the top to capture and recapture what had been won and lost. At the end of the day, the Battalion casualty count was: killed – 2 Officers and 25 other ranks; wounded – 7 Officers and 145 other ranks; missing 6 other ranks. On the 13th they were relieved and moved to Vancouver Camp. From the 13th to the 19th the men had a bath parade and were engaged in training, sports, a Brigade Church Parade and a Ceremony where Service Medals and awards were bestowed. On the 20th they marched to Comox Camp, where they stayed to the end of the month. Other than an Inspection of the Battalion by the Commanding Officer, the rest of the time was spent in training.
July 1917 opened with the Battalion parading to the 75th Battalion Camp for a special Dominion Day Service. In the afternoon, it continued on to billets at Gouy Sevins. They would stay in this location until the 24th undergoing training. On the 25th they moved to billets at Coburg St. Zouave Valley, where they stayed until the end of the month. Here they engaged in training and tactical drills.
August 1917 on the 1st the Battalion received orders to move to the Front-Line on the 2nd. On the 2nd they marched to the Front-Line Trenches in the area of. The Trenches were reported to be in terrible condition, with knee deep mud. The 3rd was reported as Lievin quiet. On the 4th the enemy heavily shelled the area all day. Outposts were pushed forward to protect the Front-Line. The 5th saw fighting patrols operating all along the Front-Line. A daylight raid took place on an enemy strong point in a crater at the junction of Bell St. and Lens Lievin Road. The enemy were successfully kicked out. The 6th was another day of active Patrols. On the 7th the enemy attacked a Battalion outpost in strength, forcing the men back 50 yards. The enemy were counterattacked with Lewis Guns and the outpost was recaptured. The men in the outpost, later repelled a second enemy attack, inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy. The situation on the 8th was quiet all day, but 102nd Bn snipers were reported as active and having success. On the 9th enemy gas shells landed in the area, but due a fresh wind blowing, the fumes were quickly dissipated. A successful raid was carried out against an enemy strong point. The retreating Hun came directly under fire of Battalion Lewis Guns strategically positioned for that exact purpose. On the 10th, and in response to the previous day’s gas attack, gas shells were fired on enemy positions. With everything been quiet, the men spent the 11th to 14th in work parties. On the 15th as a result of the 87th Bn being badly cut up in an unsuccessful offensive, the 102nd Bn shifted position and reinforced the Line. The 16th was reported as quiet. On the 16th the Battalion was notified that it would be participating in a 4th Brigade offensive on the 17th. This offensive was plagued from the start with poor communication and co-ordination. Zero Hour was 4:32 AM, the 102nd started its advance and received word that a good start had been made. At 5:30 AM it was reported that the advance was held up by wire and very heavy machine gun fire. 5:55 AM word received that the 4th Brigade had not started its advance and that the 102nd should be careful. 6:45 AM the 4th Brigade was reported to be in Amulet and Cotton Trenches. This was a mistake, as they never reached Amulet. At 8:30 AM the 102nd were receiving very heavy shell fire. The rest of the day was spent maintaining original positions. As a result of the attack, casualties were: killed 4 Officers, 10 other ranks; wounded or gassed 1 Officer and 86 other ranks; and missing 2 other ranks. The Battalion was relieved and moved to Niagara Camp, arriving at 2:30 AM. A hot mail was provided, after which the men turned in and rested for the day. The 19th was spent cleaning up and checking kits. On the 20th the men prepared for a Canadian Corps Rifle Competition. Official notification was received that in the future the 102nd Bn would be posted to the 2nd Central Ontario Regiment. On the 21st, it moved to billets in the Zouave Valley. The 22nd and 23rd were spent in work parties repairing roads and trenches. During the evening of the 24th they moved to Lievin and relieved the 54th Bn. On the 25th the area was heavily bombarded by enemy, but the Battalion didn’t suffer any casualties. The 26th was reported as quiet.
On August 27, 1917 Pte Edwards was granted a 10-day Leave to Paris. He returned from Leave on September 7, 1917. On September 16, 1917 he was evacuated from the Line, as Sick. September 17, 1917 he reported to No 11 Canadian Field Ambulance with personal health issues. On the same day, he was admitted to the No 6 Canadian Casualty Clearing Station. On the September 20, 1917 he was admitted to No 51 General Hospital located in Étaples, France. September 27, 1917 he was awarded the Good Conduct Badge. From September 20, 1917 to December 15, 1917 ”forfeits Field Allowance and is placed under Stoppage of Pay while in Hospital at the rate of 50 cents per diem”.
On January 10, 1918 Pte Edwards was discharged from No 51 General Hospital. On January 11, 1918 he was taken-on-strength with the No 4 Canadian Infantry Base Detail (4 CIBD). January 15, 1918 he was struck-off-strength from the 4 CIBD and was taken-on-strength with the Canadian Corps Reinforcement Camp. January 19, 1918 Pte Edwards returned to duty.
On January 19, 1918, when Pte Edwards rejoined the 102nd, they were in billets at Lievin. At 4:30 PM they proceeded to relieve the PPCLI on the Front-Line. The 21st and 22nd were reported as quiet. On the 23rd the enemy used a new form of gas shell. It was a low velocity shell which exploded with the noise of a high explosive and emitted a gas not previously encountered. The 24th was uneventful. On the 25th the Battalion moved back to a Support position. The 26th to 29th were reported as quiet. On the 30th they moved to billets at Vancouver Camp. The 31st was spent in general cleanup.
February 1918 the 1st to 14th were spent in bath parades, recreation, church parade, musketry (rifle) practice, and defense scheme maneuvers. On the 15th the Battalion moved to Alberta Camp. The 16th and 17th spent in work parties. On the 18th the Battalion marched to Gouy Servins. On the 19th it marched off to Division and entered First Army Reserve, but had orders to be prepared to move with 12 hours notice. The 21st to 27th were spent in the usual routine of training, musketry (rifle) practice, etc. On the 28th they marched to Aoudain for a Brigade inspection, returning to Division.
March 1918 the 1st and 2nd were spent in the usual training. On the 3rd the Battalion moved to Bois des Froissart, just north of Hersin. From the 4th to 11th the men were involved in musketry (rifle) practice, and a baseball tournament. On the 12th they moved by Platoons to St. Emile Sector. From the 12th to the 22nd it was reported that the weather was glorious and warm, with both sides exchanging barrages. On the 23rd there was an increase in enemy activity. On the 24th as a result of a heavy barrage of the area, an attack was anticipated, but it didn’t materialize. On the 25th 25 enemy gas shells dropped in rear. ”Stand to” orders were issued in anticipation of an attack. On the 26th a ”stand down” order was issued. On the 27th the enemy fired a number of Mortar shells into the area. The 28th was filled with numerous conflicting orders with regards to where the Battalion was to move, resulting in part of the Battalion at Ecoivres and the rest at Ecurie. On the 29th marching through bitter squalls the Bn consolidated at Ecurie, which is due south of Nouvelle St. Vaast, where it stayed to the end of the month.
April 1918 opens with the 102nd still at Ecurie. On the 4th it received orders to move to the Front-Line, which was completed by 8:45 PM. The 5th was reported as quiet. On the 6th the Bn was ”standing to” anticipating an attack around 4:30 AM which didn’t materialize. The rest of the day and the 7th were reported as being exceptionally quiet. The 8th and 9th were spent on preparations made for a raid by ”B” Company, the morning of the 10th. The raid, on Enemy Trenches, began at 5:00 AM involving 4 Officers and 132 other ranks. The objective was to obtain enemy Unit identification, inflict casualties, and demoralize the enemy. The raid was successful resulting in over 50 enemy casualties, of which 28 were killed, plus 10 prisoners were brought back. ”B” Company only had 12 casualties. Orders received the first thing on the morning of the 11th for the Battalion to move that evening to the Acheville Sector and there to relieve the 1st CMR (Canadian Mounted Rifles) in Support. The 12th to 17th were reported as gloriously fine, very quiet, with the men engaged in work parties on trench maintenance. The evening of the 17th the Battalion moved to the Front-Line. Gas was projected on enemy positions. On the 18th work parties completed a new Trench named Paddy Passage. Except for a few aeroplanes overhead, the day was quiet. On the 20th another gas projection was released. Around midnight of the 21st a Patrol from “D” Company came upon a enemy Patrol in force heading for a gap in the Battalion’s wire. The enemy were engaged, but when a second enemy Patrol appeared ”D” Company took shelter in a crater and fought back. Eventually a third Patrol appeared, but after suffering very heavy casualties, the enemy withdrew. Casualties to ”D” Company – Nil. On the 22nd night patrols continued and a move order was received. On the 23rd moved to Cellar Camp at Neuville St. Vaast. The Battalion stayed in this position until the 29th when it relieved the 54th Battalion in the Front-Line, near Mericourt Sector. The 30th was reported as quiet.
May 1918 word was received through Brigade that five men from the 102nd would be awarded Military Medals for previous month’s raid. The 2nd was quiet. On the 3rd an enemy aeroplane was brought down at La Tarquette. When a crowd gathered round, someone carelessly threw a cigarette butt into a stream of gasoline leaking from the aeroplane, causing it and the bombs that it was carrying to explode. On the 4th an advance party from the Argyle and Sunderland Bn arrived. They were to relieve the 102nd in four days. This Bn had just arrived directly from Palestine, where they had been for 3 years. On the 5th 600 drums of gas was projected on enemy lines. This was followed up on the 6th with another 40 drums projected. The 7th was exceptionally quiet. On the 8th the 102nd was relieved and moved to Frevillers. The 9th was spent quietly. On the 10th the men were informed that their time away from the Front-Line would be spent in intensive training in open style warfare. The 11th to the 24th were spent in strenuous training, with a number of large attack schemes run. On the 25th the Battalion marched from Frevillers through Magnicourt, Rocourt, La Thieuloye to Valmoun; where it was distributed between 3 Villages: Huclaier, Conteville, and Bethonval Wood, in the area of Dieval. For the rest of the month, the men engaged in further training, Church Parades, sports events, and a bath parade.
June 1918 was spent at Conteville in the usual training, large scale open warfare schemes, Church Parades etc.
July 1918 opens with a Canadian Corps sports event at Tinques. HRH the Duke of Connaught, General Foch, Sir Douglas Haig, Sir Robert Borden, and members of the Canadian Government were in attendance. The 2nd to 9th were spent in the usual training, musketry (rifle) drills, and Brigade open warfare manoeuvres. On the 10th a move order was received for a night march to St. Eloi. St. Eloi was reached by 5:00 AM on the 11th and the men immediately marched to Brant and Cliff Camps at Ecoivres. After a hot breakfast and a brief sleep break, at 3:30 PM the men marched to Maison Blanche in pouring rain. The 12th to 16th in spite of heavy rain were spent in work parties laying cable and digging trenches, pay parade and lectures. On the 17th it moved to the Front-Line. The 18th passed quietly. For the next couple of days enemy artillery was quite active from midnight to 3:00 AM throwing light stuff at the Front-Line and heavy stuff in the rear. On the 22nd a long postponed gas attack was made on enemy positions. On the 23rd raiding parties went out against enemy positions. They successfully entered Enemy Trenches inflicting casualties before returning to their own Line. The night of the 23rd the Battalion was moved to a Support position. The 24th to 28th were spent relatively quietly. During this time, the Battalion was visited by a number of Officers from Tank and Cavalry Units. On the 29th they moved back to the Front-Line. On the 30th a warning notice was received that the entire Canadian Corps was to be relieved by Imperials. On the 31st the 102nd was relieved by 7th Battalion Royal Scots. Upon relief the men proceeded to Village Camp at Ecoivres.
August 1918 at 3:30 AM on the 1st the men fell in and marched to Bernville about 10 miles away. After the time spent in the trenches, the men found this march difficult with some 250 falling out due to swollen feet. The 2nd was spent in rest and cleanup. On the 3rd orders were received to move, but the destination was under enormous secrecy. As the men fell in, very strict orders issued with regards to march discipline. In the early hours of the 4th they reached Fresnes – Tillolvy. At 9:30 PM they once again fell in and marched to Metigny, which was reached by 2:00 AM of the 5th, where they rested for the day. At 10:00 PM they fell in for what was to be a 21 mile march. It actually turned out to be 25 miles. The destination was the small settlement of Creuse. This march took 11 hours and was completed on empty stomachs. At 8:45 PM they fell in again enroute to Boves Wood which was 10 miles away. Mud, darkness and dense woods made this march very difficult. The Battalion arrived and were ordered to camouflage for the day. It turns out there were 50,000 man and 25,000 horses lying in concealment. This position was approximately 9 miles from the Front-Line. At 10:00 PM they fell in and marched off to the Assembly position behind Gentelles Wood.
On August 8, 1918 Pte Edwards was reported missing after action, while attached to the 1st Tank Battalion. On the same day, he was classified ”now officially reported killed-in-action”. There is nothing in his Military File, indicating when or what the circumstances were that lead to Pte Edwards being attached to the 1st Tank Battalion. Unfortunately, the 1st Tank Battalion War Diary is not available on the Internet, so the War Diary of the 102nd Battalion from August 8, 1918 was used.
The War Diary for the 102nd Battalion states the following for August 8th, 1918: 12:20 AM we reached our first assembly point behind Gentelles Wood, where we found the other Brigade Units assembling. Here we remained for 5 hours, obtaining all the rest possible. The Canadian Corps was on the verge of the biggest Operation in which it had yet engaged and which figured as part of the most spectacular counter-offensive yet launched against the Hun. For the first time we were to engage in open warfare and the 11th Brigade was to put into actual practice the lessons learned in mimic warfare during the preceding May and June.
This was the start of the Battle of Ameins, also known as the Third Battle of Picardy. This was the opening phase of the Allied offensive, later to be known as the Hundred Days Offensive that ultimately led to the end of the First World War.
The War Diary continues: at 9:30 AM we reached our next assembly point and received an unexpected order to make a long halt. At 12:10 PM we moved forward to Red Line, and the attack began. The first objective the Sunken Road was assigned to ”B” and ”D” Companies, with ”A” and ”C” in support. This objective was taken by 3:00 PM without serious difficulty. ”A” and ”C” Companies now passed through ”B” and ”D” Companies and pressed the attack to the second objective, the forward edge of Beaucourt Wood. As the two Companies approached the Wood, we came under terrific machine gun and trench mortar fire. Owing to the fact that two tanks allotted to the Companies had been unable to keep up with the rapid advance, the two Companies paused. When the tanks arrived, the advance continued. Sections rushed forward under covering fire from supporting Sections. When they got within 50 yards of the Wood, the Companies charged and captured the edge of the Wood by storm. They captured numerous prisoners and machine guns. 102nd Battalion casualties, during the assault were: killed – 3 Officers and 14 other ranks; wounded – 2 Officers and 90 other ranks; and missing – 2 other ranks. At this point, Pte Edwards was one of the missing; he was declared killed-in-action on August 8, 1918. After consolidating the position, the Battalion found all sorts of supplies: beer, food, cake, and foot-ware, which they made good use of.
Private William Bruce Edwards’ name is memorialized on the Vimy Memorial Monument.
There is no reference, in Private William Bruce Edwards’ 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 Decorations and Medals he was entitled to were sent to his mother: Mrs. Rebecca Edwards of Peterborough. The Memorial Cross was sent to his mother July 17, 1920. The Memorial Plaque and Memorial Scroll were dispatched to his father Mr. William Edwards of Peterborough on March 4 and 9, 1922, respectively.
Based on his Military File, Private Edwards served a total of 2 year, 10 months, and 11 days with the Canadian Expeditionary Force: 6 months and 3 days in Canada, 4 months and 11 days in England, and 1 year, 9 months and 28 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”?
WILLIAM BRUCE EDWARDS
William Bruce Edwards was born in Peterborough on September 12, 1891, son of Rebecca Madill and William Edwards; he went by the name “Bruce”. After attending school, Bruce worked as a clerk. In 1915, Bruce was living in London, Ontario and working as a clerk. It was during this time that he enlisted in London on September 27, 1915 to serve Overseas; he was considered fit for the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force. Private Bruce Edwards joined the 102nd Battalion of the Canadian Infantry – Central Ontario Regiment and was killed in action on August 8, 1918. He is remembered with honour in the Vimy Memorial Cemetery in Pas De Calais, France.
WILLIAM BRUCE EDWARDS’ FAMILY OF LAKEFIELD
William Bruce’s paternal grandparents are Mathew and Ann Edwards, his maternal grand-parents are Isaiah and Ann Madill.
William Bruce’s parents; William Edwards, born November 29, 1852 and Rebecca Wilhelmina Madill, born September 23, 1860 were married in Lakefield, Ontario on October 6, 1886 by Reverend James McFarland. William and Rebecca had 4 children, two girls and two boys: Laura Ann, born August 3, 1887; Mina Margaret, August 17, 1889; William Bruce, born September 12, 1891 and Charles Perry, born September 12, 1899 Edwards. The family was living in Lakefield in 1901 and in Havelock, Ontario in 1911; by May 18, 1918 they were living at 472 Park St., Peterborough.
William Edwards was a labourer working at the Lakefield Cement factory and by 1911 he was working at a saw mill. William Edwards died on July 5, 1920 and his wife, Rebecca Wilhelmina Madill died on March 18, 1934; both are buried in Little Lake Cemetery in Peterborough, Ontario.