World War I

Alexander Roderick Pye signature

Alexander Roderick Pye was conscripted under the Military Service Act in Toronto on this day in 1917. He was born in St. John’s, Newfoundland, the son of John Pye and Mary (née Stewart) on April 30th, 1889. When he was called up he was working as a bank clerk at the Bank of Montreal in Deseronto.

Bank of Montreal (now Deseronto Town Hall)

He gave his next of kin as his sister, Effie Pye, of Herne Bay, Kent, England. Pye had previously served for three years as a corporal in the 13th Royal Regiment. He was five feet five and a half inches tall, with a dark complexion, dark brown eyes and black hair. He joined the 69th Overseas Battery with the regimental number 340350. His service record shows that he arrived in Scotland on the SS Lapland on February 24th, 1918. He went overseas to join the Canadian Field Artillery in France on October 27th, 1918. He left England to return to Canada on March 19th, 1919 and was demobilized in Toronto on March 30th.

Alexander married Sophie May Jolley in Hamilton on July 3rd, 1923. He died on August 28th, 1958.

Intelligencer report of 1917 Nov 17 on James Power's death

Intelligencer report of November 17th, 1917 on James Power’s death, courtesy of Belleville Public Library

Aviator Killed
Fell From Train
James Powers, From Deseronto Camp Killed in Michigan

CHELSEA, Mich., Nov. 17. – The body of James Powers, of Deseronto, Ont., a member of the Royal Flying Corps, was found on the railroad tracks near here. It is believed that he fell from a passenger train. According to papers of the dead man, his wife, Mrs. Cathian Powers, lives at 418 Heim place, Chicago.

The special trains with the aviators of Mohawk and Rathbun training camps, left of Thursday for Fort Worth, Texas, where the winter training camp is located.

In November 1917 the Royal Flying Corps pilot training camps in Canada relocated to Texas to take advantage of the milder climate. This involved transporting men and equipment by railway from Ontario to Fort Worth, some 1,600 miles or 2,500 kilometres. It took three days to make the journey. The photograph below shows the size of the trains used in this exercise.


From the collection of Sergeant C.P. Devos (2009.20(36), courtesy of Denzil Devos

Cadet James Powers somehow fell from the train on the way. The Royal Flying Corps casualty card states “Believed to have fallen from train window”.  In 1914 Powers had married Kathleen Buckley in Chicago and the couple’s home was in that city. It is possible that he had been trying to get back home to Kathleen when he died.

James Powers signature

Powers was born in 1885. He had joined the Royal Flying Corps in Toronto on September 10th, 1917 with the regimental number 150021. He was five feet six and a quarter inches tall and had been attached to 80 Canadian Training Squadron.

He was buried at the Elmwood Cemetery at River Grove, Illinois.

Harold Clement Gracey signature

Harold Clement Gracey, a bank clerk, signed up in Kingston on this day in 1917. He was born in Deseronto on April 4th, 1891, the son of Albert Gracey and Mehetable (née Clement). At the time of the 1911 census he was working in Peterborough.

Gracey joined the 73rd Battery of the Canadian Field Artillery with the regimental number 344090. His attestation form notes “Enlisted under Military Service Act. Reg. No. 918385 P. C.”. He was five feet eight inches tall, with a dark complexion, brown eyes and dark brown hair. His service record shows that Gracey left Canada for England on February 22nd, 1918 on the SS Metagama. He served in England with the Reserve Brigade of the Canadian Field Artillery and in September 1918 was transferred to the 9th Brigade in France, where he stayed until February 1919. Between February and April 1919 he was treated in hospital in England for inflamed connective tissue of the right hand.

Harold left England for Canada on May 11th, 1919 on the SS Saturnia and was demobilized in Kingston on May 23rd. He married Norrine Victoria Schoales in Toronto on April 24th, 1929. He died in Goderich on July 11th, 1971.

Thomas Frederick Stevenson signature

Thomas Frederick Stevenson, an electrician, was drafted into the army in Toronto under the Military Service Act. He was born in Deseronto on December 13th, 1896, the son of John Stevenson and Emma Etta (née Luffman). The family were still in Deseronto in 1911, but by the time Thomas was conscripted they were living in Toronto, at 54 Hamilton Street.

Stevenson joined the 71st Battery of the Canadian Field Artillery with the regimental number 342265. He was five feet ten inches tall, with a fair complexion, blue-grey eyes and auburn hair. He survived the war and married Emma Adele Bowles in Toronto on June 20th, 1923. Information from an Ancestry family tree suggests that he died on July 5th, 1961.

Alexander Bey signature

On this day in 1917 Alexander Bey was drafted into the army in Vancouver under the Military Service Act. He was born in Shannonville on August 31st, 1892, the son of George Bey (or Bay) and Cynthia Lucinda (née Maracle), who were both Mohawks. Bey gave his home address as Fernie, British Columbia.

Alexander joined the 1st Depot Battalion of the British Columbia Regiment with the regimental number 2020341. He was five feet seven inches tall, with a medium complexion, brown eyes and brown hair.

Bey’s service record shows that he arrived in Scotland on December 31st, 1917. He served in the 16th and 1st Reserve Battalions before being transferred to France to fight with the 7th Battalion in April 1918. He survived the war and left England for Canada in April 1919 on board the RMS Olympic. He was demobilized in Kingston on April 24th. He later lived in Spokane, Washington.

Edward Louis Counihan signature

Edward Louis Counihan, a teamster, enlisted in Toronto on this day in 1917. He was born in Deseronto on November 15th, 1900, the son of Jeremiah Counihan and Johanah (née Hill). The family were in Deseronto in 1901 and had moved to Toronto by 1911. When Edward enlisted, his mother was living at 34 Jerome Street and his father’s whereabouts were unknown.

Counihan joined the York & Simcoe Foresters (part of the Canadian Forestry Corps) with the regimental number 2499309. He was five feet six inches tall, with a medium complexion, blue eyes and light brown hair. His service record shows that he was transferred to Number 2 Special Service Company on December 10th, 1917. On April 26th, 1918 a Medical Board was convened to discuss his case. He had a goitre and the army had discovered that he was under age and would not be eighteen until November that year. They recommended that he be discharged from the army.

Edward was discharged in Toronto on May 24th, 1918. On the previous day he had been on trial at the City of Toronto Police Court. There are two certified copies of his convictions for car theft on his service file. On May 8th he had stolen a car belonging to E. Hammel and on May 10th he stole a car belonging to T. H. Norman.

Edward Counihan conviction for car theft

He was sentenced to three months’ imprisonment at Toronto Municipal Farm (also known as Langstaff Jail Farm).

Counihan died on October 28th, 1957.

Reuben Sero signature

Reuben Sero died on this day in 1917 while serving with the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry at the Second Battle of Passchendaele.

Sero was buried in the Passchendaele New British Cemetery in Belgium.

Reuben Sero's grave

Reuben Sero’s grave, courtesy of (uploaded by the International Wargraves Photography Project)

He is also remembered on the Deseronto war memorial.

Deseronto memorial

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