war dead


Learning to fly was a dangerous business in 1917 and 1918. More than 14,000 of the men who joined the Royal Flying Corps lost their lives and 8,000 of them died while they were in training. The Royal Flying Corps (which became the Royal Air Force on April 1st, 1918) ran two pilot training camps close to Deseronto: Camp Mohawk on the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory and Camp Rathbun to the north of Deseronto, either side of the Boundary Road. The camps opened in the Spring of 1917, with three training squadrons based at Camp Mohawk and two at Camp Rathbun. In the winter of 1917-1918 the Deseronto wing was transferred  to Camp Taliaferro in Texas to continue training in the warmer conditions there.

Fifty-five men associated with these camps lost their lives, bringing the First World War very close to home for people in Deseronto. Local doctors were called upon to register the deaths. The picture below is believed to show Deseronto doctor Elgin D. Vandervoort (1853-1939) at the site of one of the crashes.

Of the 55 deaths, 40 were caused by flying accidents, 10 by the 1918 influenza epidemic, three from other diseases and two by other accidents. We will be marking the 100th anniversaries of these deaths as part of our First World War commemorative project over the next two years.

The chart below shows a comparison between the number of deaths over the course of the war of the Deseronto and Tyendinaga men who joined the army (in green) and those men who died while attached to the Deseronto training squadrons of the Royal Flying Corps (in blue).

Royal Flying Corps and army deathsNot all the crashes were fatal, despite the flimsy nature of the aircraft of the time. A report from the Deseronto Post  on September 20th, 1917 describes one such event on September 13th:

1917 Sep 20 Deseronto Post report of water landing

On the same day that the Camp Mohawk fatality [the deaths of Cadets Domville and Kramer] occurred a cadet from Camp Rathbun was forced to come down, which he did in about ten feet of water, quite near the Iron Works. After the plunge he rose to the surface and climbing up the tail of the machine calmly smoked a cigarette until rescued from his perch.
On that day no less than thirteen machines were smashed up more or less and yet everybody seemed happy.

Phillip Maracle signature

On this day in 1917, Philip Maracle was reported wounded and missing and was later assumed to have died in the trenches west of La Coulotte (southwest of Lens), France. The war diary kept by the 44th Battalion for May 10th describes the situation he faced.

44th Battalion war diary entry for May 10th 1917, courtesy Library and Archives Canada

44th Battalion war diary entry for May 10th 1917, courtesy Library and Archives Canada

LA COULOTTE 10/5 Enemy shelled front and support areas during day and made extensive use of rifle grenades and gas shells. In spite of this our advanced posts and captured trenches known as the TRIANGLE were retained. Casualties 4 O.R. [Other Ranks] Killed. 44 O.R. Wounded

Maracle’s body was never found. He is commemorated on the memorial at Vimy and in Deseronto.

Deseronto memorial

Edmund Vincent McNeill signature

On this day in 1917, Edmund Vincent McNeill was killed in action in the trenches west of Fresnoy in France. German forces retook the village of Fresnoy on May 8th during the Battle of Arras. The war diary of the 19th Battalion describes the attack and the unit’s withdrawal (page 1, page 2, page 3). On the day following the attack, the men of the four companies of the 19th Battalion were re-formed into two companies.

McNeill’s body was never found. He is commemorated on the Vimy memorial and in Deseronto.

Deseronto memorial

William Pinn signatureWilliam Pinn was killed in the same attack on Fresnoy as Richard Brant.

William Pinn circumstances of casualty

War Graves Registers: Circumstances of Death, courtesy of Library and Archives Canada

As was the case with Richard Brant, William’s body was not recovered after the attack. He is commemorated at Vimy and on Deseronto’s war memorial (as William Penn).

Deseronto memorial

Richard Brant signature

Richard Brant was killed on this day in 1917 at the Third Battle of the Scarpe in France. The extract below from the 2nd Battalion’s war diary shows the orders issued to the Battalion on May 1st, planning the attack on the village of Fresnoy in which Brant died.

2nd Battalion plan of attack at Fresnoy

Extract from war diary of the 2nd Battalion: plan of attack at Fresnoy, courtesy of Library and Archives Canada

Brant’s body was not recovered after the attack. He is commemorated at Vimy and on Deseronto’s war memorial.

Deseronto memorial

George Mark Hill (Maracle) signature

George Mark Maracle (who enlisted under the name Hill) was killed on this day in 1917 in the trenches near Bois de la Ville during the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

His body was not recovered. He is remembered on the Vimy memorial and in Deseronto. A letter of condolence was sent to his mother, Annie Maracle, in Point Anne on June 14th, 1917.

Deseronto memorial

Photograph of David Green

Image courtesy of FindaGrave.com

On this day in 1917, David Green died of wounds received when he was serving with the 1st Battalion at the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

Green was buried in the Lapugnoy Military Cemetery in France.

Image courtesy of FindaGrave.com

He is also remembered on the Deseronto war memorial.

Deseronto memorial

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