Private George Roper Strickland – 130072 – ACTIVE SERVICE (World War I)
On November 8, 1915, George Roper Strickland completed the Attestation Paper for the Canadian Army, Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF). He was 27 years, 11 months old when, as a married man, he enlisted for the duration of the War. George Roper indicated that he was born in Lakefield, Ontario and gave his birth-date as December 4, 1888. On his Attestation Paper, George Roper indicated that he did not presently belong to an Active Militia, but he had served 3 years with the 57th Peterborough Rangers. 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. George Roper was 5′ 10½” tall, with a 37” chest (expanded). There is no indication of his weight. He had a fair complexion, with blue eyes and fair hair. His Medical Examination was completed November 8, 1915, in Vancouver, British Columbia. 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 wife, Mrs. Emma Agnes Strickland of Vancouver, British Columbia. George Strickland signed the Oath and Certificate of Attestation on November 8, 1915, in Vancouver, British Columbia. The Certificate of Magistrate was signed by the Justice on November 8, 1915. George Roper Strickland was taken-on-strength as a Private (Pte) with the 72nd Canadian Infantry Battalion (Cdn Inf Bn) [Overseas] and was assigned Service Number 130072.
Pte Strickland embarked from Halifax on April 23, 1916 aboard the SS Empress of Britain.
Pte Strickland disembarked at Liverpool, England on May 7, 1916. On May 10, 1916 Pte Strickland was promoted to the Rank of Acting Sergeant (A/Sgt) and employed in the 72nd Battalion Pay Office. A/Sgt Strickland was detailed for duty at the Divisional Pay Office at Bramshott, England on May 15, 1916. On the same day, A/Sgt Strickland is shown as ”attached to Canadian Army Pay Corp (CAPC)”. July 14, 1916 he was taken-on-strength with the Canadian Payroll Office (CPO) in London. August 22, 1916 A/Sgt Strickland was shown On-Command with the No 1 Detachment CAPC, Payroll Office in London.
April 12, 1917 A/Sgt Strickland ceased to be attached to CAPC on being posted to the 24th Reserve Battalion (British Columbia) at Seaford, England from the CPO in London. April 13, 1917 he was taken-on
-strength with the 24th Res Bn. April 28, 1917 A/Sgt Strickland completed a Will bequeathing all his Real Estate and Personal Property to his wife Mrs. Emma Agnes Strickland of 1609 Broadway West, Vancouver, B.C. On May 2, 1917 he put in a request to revert to ranks for the purpose of proceeding Overseas with a draft being formed. On the same day, he was struck-off-strength from the 24th Res Bn on proceeding Overseas for Service with the 72nd Battalion.
The 72nd Canadian Infantry Battalion recruited throughout the Province of British Columbia was also known as the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada. They served in France as part of the 12th Canadian Infantry Brigade – 4th Canadian Division.
May 3, 1917 he was taken-on-strength with the 72nd Cdn Inf Bn, and reverted to the Rank of Private. Pte Strickland arrived at the Canadian Base Depot at La Havre, France on May 4, 1917. He left for and joined the 72nd Bn in the Field on June 4, 1917.
There are no entries in his Military File from June 4, 1917 to November 1, 1917 when it was reported that Pte Strickland died of wounds at the 44th Casualty Clearing Station (CCS).
To track his movements during this period of time the War Diary of the 72nd Cdn Inf Bn were used.
June 1917 – When Pte Strickland joined the 72nd Cdn Inf Bn in the Field, they were at Chateau de la Haie, in the area of Berthonval Wood. He was part of 55 other ranks received from the Canadian Base Depot, on that day. The 4th was spent in sports activities. From the 5th to 12th, the Battalion spent its time in training, with special attention paid to small schemes of attack and defense. The night of 12th/13th, the Bn moved forward to a Brigade Support position and relieved the 54th Cdn Inf Bn. After resting for the day, the night of 14th/15th, they moved to the Front-Line and relieved the 38th Cdn Inf Bn. “A”, “C”, and “D” Companies were on the Front-Line, while “B” Company was in support. Patrols were sent out every night from the 15th to 19th and were successful in locating and eliminating a number of enemy sniper posts. During the night of 19th/20th, the Bn was relieved by the 44th Cdn Inf Bn. During its stay on the Front the Bn incurred casualties of 2 killed, 2 died of wounds and 19 wounded. Upon relief it was back to billets at Chateau de la Haie. The 20th to 25th was spent in sports activities and practicing for the upcoming operation. The night of the 25th/26th the Bn moved back to the Front-Line and relieved the 44th Cdn Inf Bn. As a result of a partial withdrawal of the enemy, under the cover of an artillery barrage, the Bn moved forward and occupied previously held enemy trenches. On the 26th 88 reinforcements were received. On the 27th, the Bn once again moved forward and consolidated enemy trenches. At 2:30 AM, in accordance with orders, the Bn moved forward and were successful in reaching Avion Trench. The rest of the month was spent consolidating the gains. From the 26th to 30th, the Bn suffered 14 killed, 84 wounded, and 2 missing.
July 1917 – On the 1st of July, the Bn was relieved by the Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI) and moved to billets in the small village of Villers-au-Bois. From the 2nd to 25th, the Bn spent their time in: cleaning equipment, bath parades; as well as physical conditioning, bayonet fighting, musketry (rifle practice), rifle grenading, and bombing. They also held platoon and squad drills. They participated in Brigade route marches, and sports days. The night of 25th/26th, they relieved the 43rd Cdn Inf Bn (Cameron Highlanders) in the Front-Line. On the 28th, the enemy fired several new type gas shells (it smelled like garlic) on Bn positions. On the 31st, the Bn was relieved and moved back to support positions. Bn casualties during this period were: 1 other rank killed, 13 gassed, and 16 wounded.
August 1917 – from the 1st to 4th, the time was spent in reorganization and preparation for Front-Line work. The Bn also supplied men to work parties to improve the trenches and carrying parties, taking ammunition forward. At 9:15 PM, on the 4th, the Bn started to move forward to take up positions on the Front-Line, which was complete by 2:15 AM on the 5th. From the 5th to 9th, it was relatively quiet on the Front. Enemy artillery was decidedly quiet. Bn patrols were sent out every night. The night of the 9th, the Bn was relieved by the 38th Cdn Inf Bn. Bn Companies were withdrawn, one Company at a time, back to the Brigade Transport Lines for bath parades and rest. After 24 hours, the Bn was back on the Front-Line. On the 10th, patrols were sent out with Ammonal Tubes for the purpose of destroying enemy wire. Ammonal Tubes were 10 feet long and filled with and explosive mixture of Ammonium Nitrate and Aluminum Powder. The patrols were successful. The 11th/12th were spent in work parties improving the trenches. The 13th was the one year Anniversary of the 72nd Cdn Inf Bn being in France. It is reported nothing special happened. The night of the 13th/14th, the Bn relieved the 38th Cdn Inf Bn in the Front-Line, near the Village of Avion. On the 14th, a daylight patrol was sent into Avion to scout out enemy positions. One enemy was found asleep in a shallow trench, every effort was made to take him alive, but in the end he had to be shot, when he raised the alarm. Patrols, carrying Ammonal Tubes, were again sent out on the 15th for the purpose of cutting enemy wire in anticipation of a planned assault on enemy positions. It was reported that the patrols were a success. The 16th to 19th, were spent in work parties digging new trenches and improving the existing ones. The night of 19th/20th, a number of patrols were sent forward, which encountered enemy patrols. Shots were exchanged and although the enemy were pushed back, the Bn patrols took a number of casualties. The night of 20th/21st, the Bn was relieved and withdrew to a position in Brigade Support. On the 21st, one Bn Company, at a time, went to the Brigade Transport Lines, where bathes had been arranged. The 22nd to 28th, were spent in work parties improving conditions in Columbia and Beaver Communication Trenches. Work on the Trenches continued on the 29th. The Artillery on both sides were very active. At 10:30 PM, the enemy attempted a stealth raid on one of the Bn’s Outposts. They were detected, prior to entering the Outpost, and fired upon. The enemy patrol withdrew, but left behind two wounded, both of which were Iron Crossed. It is reported that considerable intelligence was gained through interrogation. It was reported that the weather improved greatly on the 30th, and as such conditions in the trenches. The month closed out relatively quietly. During the tour, the Bn suffered 24 killed or died of wounds, 100 wounded, and 2 missing.
September 1917 – The new month began particularly quiet. The sun came out in the early morning, and the birds whistled. There was some aerial activity overhead, and light exchanges of artillery. At 12:30 AM, on the 2nd, on completion of a 30 day tour, the Bn was relieved by the 50th Cdn Inf Bn. Although the number of casualties incurred was not excessive, after such a long tour the men were tired. When the men reached the Transport Lines, they were served a hot breakfast, which was most appreciated. For the better part of a week ”Tommy’s War” was forgotten, with the only conflict thought about was on the sports field. Later in the day, the men paraded to the bathes, where a hot shower was enjoyed. 99 other ranks were received as reinforcements. On the 2nd, the Bn was back in billets at the Chateau de la Haie. Awakening, in the early hours, to the sound of bagpipes, the men were soon engaged in cleaning equipment and clothes. The morning was spent in Squad and Platoon drills with and without arms and bayonet fighting. The afternoon was dedicated to conditioning and sports. This was the pattern for the 4th to 6th. On the 7th, the Bn moved to Albert Camp, newly constructed near Vimy. The Bn was accompanied, on its march, by the pipe band. A work party of 200 men went forward to work in the Front-Line trenches. The morning of the 8th was spent in a bath parade. A work party of 100 men went forward in the afternoon. The rest of the men, by Company, held a wire cutting competition. The competition was won by ”D” Company. The 9th, being Sunday, was spent in Divine Services being held in the morning and a football game in the afternoon. Training continued on the 10th, with Squad, Platoon, Company drills, and small tactical schemes. On the 11th, the Bn moved forward to Support position. ”B” & “D” Companies were in Red Line, ”C” Company in Irish trench and ”A” Company in Partridge trench. Work parties spent the day and night of the 12th; widening, and deepening the trenches, as well as digging sump holes, in preparation for the coming winter. The 13th was exceptionally quiet. As a result a football game was held in the rear. The 14th was once again quiet, and preparations were made for a move to the Front-Line; which occurred during the evening. ”B” & “D” Companies went to the Front-Line, with ”A” & “C” Companies in support. Throughout the day on the 15th, enemy Artillery increased its shelling of the Bn Front, giving indications that the enemy were planning something. Special precautions were taken in case of an attempted raid by the enemy. Bn Headquarters were located in the ”Piano Dugout” which got its name from the piano that was there. In the early morning of the 16th, the enemy fired 5 different barrages along the Bn Front, but nothing developed. At 4:15 AM, in retaliation, Bn guns fired 300 gas shells on enemy positions. In the afternoon, an enemy working party was spotted on the left side of the Bn Front. It was quickly dispersed by Bn guns. On the morning of the 17th enemy artillery was very active in rear of the Bn positions paying particular attention on the Red Line. Some gas shells landed in the area, but no casualties were reported. Throughout the day, both sides exchanged mortar shots. The 18th was very quiet. During the day of the 19th preparations were made for being relieved during the late evening, by the 75th Cdn Inf Bn. During its stay in the Front, significant improvement had been made in the condition of the trenches, particularly Beaver trench. Upon relief, the Bn returned to billets at Chateau de la Haie. Reveille sounded at 10:00 AM, on the 20th. The day was spent in kit inspections, cleaning up and bath parades, and an innoculation parade. The morning of the 21st was spent in general cleanup. The Officers spent the afternoon in special training. Baseball games were held in the evening. The 22nd was spent in training, re-checking equipment, specialist training, and a baseball game against the 12th Brigade. The 23rd, being Sunday, was spent participating in a 12th Brigade Church Service. Four Military Crosses were awarded, as well as 12 Military Medals. On the 24th, the Bn Officers and NCOs went over to the ”tapes” laid out in Berthonval Wood.
The reference to the ”tapes” was a designated laid out course where Units practiced attack schemes.
The remainder of the Bn carried on with special training. A football game was held in the evening. The morning of the 25th, the Bn went through their practice on the tapes. The balance of the day was spent in sports and rifle competitions. The 26th was given up to practice on the ”tapes”. On the 27th, the Bn again proceeded to the tapes where it carried out a strenuous day of training. The 28th was a repeat of the 27th, on the tapes. The morning of the 29th was spent carrying on with specialist training. In the afternoon, the Bn marched to Villiers aux Bois and engaged in a Cdn Corps sports day. A Church Parade was held in the morning of the 30th. In the afternoon, the box respirators of the Bn were tested with gas.
October 1917 – The month opened with the entire Bn employed in practicing the scheme laid out for the planned operation. Each Company, Platoon, and Squad had its allotted task, and every effort was make to make every man feel that he had an important part in the operation. Great effort had been made to replicate the obstacles and ground that would be encountered. On the 2nd, the whole Brigade was engaged in going through the tapes. Each Bn carrying out the task allotted to it. To add to the reality, blank ammunition, grenades, and ground flares were utilized. During this exercise, a contact aeroplane soared overhead and picked up messages sent by Bn signalers. The 3rd/4th were spent by the Bn in work parties and bath parades. The practice over the tapes was canceled indefinitely. On the 5th, the Brigade moved to new billets, but the Bn couldn’t move as Diphtheria had been detected in its Ranks.
Diphtheria is a serious bacterial infection affecting the mucous membranes of the nose and throat. It can be spread through the air, by person-to-person contact, or touching a contaminated surface. During World War 1, there were 1,701 reported cases in the Canadian Expeditionary Force, of which 18 died.
Once again, on October 6th, 1917 the planned move was canceled because of new cases of Diphtheria being reported. On the 7th, Bn Parade was held. Due to heavy rain, no training could be carried out. All other troops had moved on, except for the 72nd. The weather was still unsettled on the 8th and as such training was canceled. The Bn did go for a route march in the afternoon. Due to improving weather on the 9th, training resumed. Arrangements were made on the 10th to move the quarantined men to rear and receive treatment at the Field Ambulance. Bn was now given permission to move. Following, the newly formed Brass Band, the Bn marched off to new billets in the City of Bruay, France. The billet were described ”as the best”. The morning of the 11th began with a bath parade arranged through the kindness of the Proprietor of the Mine. During the evening, the Bn attended a Concert put on by the 14th Divisional Concert band. On the morning of the 12th, the Bn fell in and marched to Bruay Station where they entrained for the Town of Steenbecque, France. After arriving, they marched to new billets, near Thiennes, which were reported as unsatisfactory. On the 13th, they moved again, this time to Wallon Cappel, in the Maple area. Bn billets were spread over a large area and consisted mostly of farm houses. The morning of the 14th was spent in training per Company arrangements. In the afternoon, special attention was paid to Platoons in attack and defend schemes. The 15th was spent in Squad, Platoon, and Company drills. In the afternoon, Platoons practiced schemes. The 16th was a repeat of the 15th with Squads, Platoons,and Company drills. On the 16th a Pay Parade was held for all Companies. The balance of the day was spent in Sports activities. On the 17th, 50 Officers and other ranks went by bus to Poperinghe to see a model of the area on the Bn new Front. The rest of the Bn spent the day taping out an area representing the ground of the proposed attack. All activities were canceled on the 18th due to heavy rain. On the 19th, the usual training took place. The Transport Section was particularly busy with cleaning up horses and equipment for an Inspection. The 20th was spent in a Brigade Transport Section Competition. A Concert was held in the afternoon, which was much appreciated. On the 21st, training continued as usual, but a great deal of effort was put into being ready for a visit by His Royal Highness – the Duke of Connaught. On the 22nd, the entire 18th Cdn Brigade was inspected by HRH – the Duke of Connaught accompanied by General Sir A. W Currie, who were quite pleased with Brigade. On the 23rd, the Bn was moved, by bus, to the area of Brandhoek, Belgium and settled into Erie Camp. The area was quite familiar to the Bn as this was the area they had first came to, when they initially came from England. The 24th was spent in outdoor games, as Company Commanders went up to reconnoiter the new forward area, which is the Front of Passchendaele. On the 25th, 5 Officers went forward to look over the ground, while 100 other ranks went to look over the large relief map of the new battlefield at Poperinghe. A reconnoiter party went forward, on the 26th, to look over the dispositions and ground features. While in Camp, an area representing the ground to be traversed was taped out and a large of number practices took place over this course. A Bn Parade was held on the 27th, while an advance party left for the Potijze area. On the 28th, the Bn formed up and marched to the Brandhoek Station, where they boarded a train, which took them to Ypres. The journey was short and upon arrival they formed up and marched to Potijze, where a halt was called. The area was a mass of activity. After supper was taken, Companies commenced to move forward stopping at Abraham Heights, some distance from the Firing Line, where it spent the night before moving forward to the Front-Line. The Bn moved forward on the 29th, with the Companies taking up positions in the jumping off trenches. Everyone made ready for Zero Hour.
October 30th, 1917 was the 2nd Phase of the 2nd Battle of Passchendaele and the culminating Battle of the attack during the 3rd Battle of Ypres. This assault was intended to complete the capture of the positions the Cdn Corps had attacked on October 26th and gain a base for the final assault on Passchendaele.
At 5:30 AM, following a heavy Allied Artillery barrage the Bn attacked. The Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry was on the left and the 78th Cdn Inf Bn was on the right. The Bn objective was to capture and consolidate the Blue Line, which was along a road on the outskirts of Passchendaele. Two Platoons of ”D” Company advanced in one wave to the Purple Line. Two Platoons of ”D” Company remained at the Red Line (jump off point) consolidating the position and preparing to provide support. One Platoon from ”C” Company would advance in a wave formation and leap frog the two Platoons of ”D” Company on the Purple Line and proceed to capture Deck Wood and consolidate the Orange Line. At this point, the other three Platoons of ”C” Company would leap frog these Platoons and move forward to capture a portion of the Blue Line and consolidate the position. ”A” Company would now move forward on a three Platoon front in one wave formation and consolidate the Blue Line to the left of ”C” Company. One Platoon of ”A” would follow-up in support and protect the left flank of ”A” Company. ”B” Company moved forward in an artillery formation, following ”A” and “B” Companies. One Platoon was on the right and three Platoons were on the left. Two of the Platoons on the left would encircle Crest Farm and capture it. The remaining two Platoons would consolidate along the Orange line, ready to support either ”A” or “B” Companies as required.
It is recorded in the War Diary that this advance was successful due to the training the Bn had gone through in preparation for the assault and the effectiveness of the Creeping Artillery barrage. The men would fall on the enemy positions just as the barrage lifted, leaving no time for the enemy to regroup and put up an opposition.
On October 31st, it was reported that all Bn objectives had been taken and consolidated. Battle casualties for this attack were 50 killed, 220 wounded, and 6 missing. Private Strickland would have been one of these casualties.
It is reported in the File that Private George Roper Strickland died on November 1, 1917 of gunshot wounds to the abdomen and right arm received in action.
The Memorial Cross, Scroll and Plague were dispatched to Mrs. E.A. Strickland in Vancouver, British Columbia on September 2, 1921.
There is no reference, in Private George Roper Strickland’s 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”.
According to his Military File, Pte Strickland served a total of 1 year, 11 months and 22 days with the Canadian Expeditionary Force: 5 months and 13 days in Canada, 11 months and 26 days in England, 5 months and 28 days in France and 15 days Travel Time.
An excerpt from an article in Maclean’s 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 nation. What could be more honorable.
GEORGE ROPER STRICKLAND
George Roper Strickland was born in Lakefield on December 4, 1887, son of Roland Clement Strickland and Emma Agnes MacDonald. George received his education in Lakefield and later moved to British Columbia. There he married Emma Agnes MacDonald on October 9, 1915. George Roper Strickland enlisted in British Columbia to serve his King and country.
Unfortunately he was killed in action in Passchendale on November 1, 1917 and is remembered with honour in Nine Elms British Cemetery in Belgium.
THE GEORGE ROPER STRICKLAND FAMILY OF LAKEFIELD
George Roper Strickland’s paternal grandparents were Samuel Strickland and Mary Reid. His maternal grandparents were John Crickmore and Ann Mary Roper.
George Roper Strickland’s parents were Roland Clement Strickland born in Lakefield on January 1, 1844 and Eleanor Susanna Crickmore born May 7, 1854. They married in Toronto on June 7, 1876 and had a family of seven children – Edith Roper, Eleanor Firth, John Clement, Mary Stuart, Sylvia Agnes, George Roper and a daughter who died in infancy. Roland Strickland was a farmer and lumberman who owned a Lakefield sawmill.
Roland Clement Strickland was previously married to Mary Jane Boulton and they had a family of five children. George Roper Strickland’s step-siblings were D’Arcy Edward, Edith Julia, Clementine Katharine, Roland Hugh and Mary Strickland. Mary Jane died July 7, 1874 due to childbirth complications after the birth of Mary Strickland.
Roland Clement Strickland passed away in Peterborough on June 10, 1929 and Eleanor died August 5, 1909 at her residence; both are buried in Hillside Cemetery in Lakefield.