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 FindaGrave.com (uploaded by the International Wargraves Photography Project)

He is also remembered on the Deseronto war memorial.

Deseronto memorial

Isaac Maracle signature
Isaac Maracle was killed in action on this day in 1917 at the Second Battle of Passchendaele. The extract from the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry’s war diary for the day shows that there were 38 men missing after the attack on enemy lines. Ninety-three were killed.

Casualties of PPCLI on 30th October (including Isaac Maracle)

Extract from war diary of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry for October 30th/31st, courtesy Library and Archives Canada

Isaac’s body was not recovered. He is remembered on the Menin Gate memorial at Ypres and on the Deseronto war memorial.

Deseronto memorial

George Albert Williams signature

On this day in 1917, George Williams was reported wounded and missing, later presumed killed in action, at Passchendaele.

A detailed war diary held at Library and Archives Canada describes the heavy losses of the 46th Battalion on the day of George’s death (page 1, page 2, page 3, page 4, page 5). Below is an extract:

…At 5.40 a.m. of the 26th the Barrage started and remained 8 minutes before the company started to advance. This barrage was very irregular in fact it was impossible to tell where it was supposed to be resting. Many casualties were caused by our shells falling short before the 8 minutes were up. The company started forward 13 platoon in the first wave 14 15 & 16 platoons forming the mopping up party. Owing to the puzzling inaccuracy of our Artillery a certain amount of confusion was caused by the first wave losing so many men… During the day there was considerable sniping & machine gun fire… & numerous casualties were caused

A month before this engagement, Williams was awarded the Military Medal for bravery:

Military Medal citation for George Albert Williams

Military Medal citation card, Library and Archives Canada 2004-01505-5

During the advance over “No Man’s Land” the N.C.O. in charge of Machine Gun, and part of crew having been wounded, he took charge of the Section, and despite flanking fire of enemy’s machine gun, he rallied the remaining men, and led them to correct objective, and he himself immediately got his gun into action, thereby allowing advance to continue.

Williams’s body was never found. He is commemorated on the Menin Gate memorial in Ypres, and here in Deseronto.

Deseronto memorial

William James Shatraw signature


On this day in 1917 William James Shatraw signed up in Kingston. He was born in Deseronto on July 18th, 1898, the son of Antoine Shatraw and Sarah Elizabeth (née Druce).

Shatraw joined the Canadian Field Artillery with the regimental number 344079. He was five feet five inches tall, with a dark complexion, hazel eyes and dark brown hair.

William survived the war and married Edith Olive Sager in Deseronto on October 20th, 1919. He died in September 1972 and was buried in Deseronto Cemetery.

On this day in 1917 Beniah Ridgwell died of shell wounds at the 3rd Australian Casualty Clearing Station near Ypres in Belgium during the Battle of Passchendaele. Ridgwell had enlisted in Saskatoon in 1915. At the time of his death he was serving in the 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles Battalion (which, despite the name, was an infantry unit). In relieving a New Zealand battalion at Capricorn Keep at Passchendaele on October 24th 1917, six men were injured, as recorded by the unit’s war diary.

Benjamin Ridgwell's unit's war diary for 24 October 1917

War diary for the 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles Battalion

Ridgwell was buried at the Nine Elms British Cemetery, southwest of Ypres. His name appears on the Deseronto war memorial. Beniah’s father, Charles, was living in Deseronto when his sons (Beniah and Sidney) enlisted.

Deseronto memorial

Lee J. Roebuck signature

On this day in 1917 Lee James Roebuck died in a flying accident at Camp Mohawk near Deseronto. He had enlisted in Toronto on August 16th, 1917, giving his home address as Bloomington, Illinois. He was born on April 2, 1884, the son of Lewis F. Roebuck and Anna (née Brigham). His regimental number was 74545 and he was five feet ten inches tall. He was attached to 87 Canadian Training Squadron.

The Intelligencer described the day of Roebuck’s crash in the following way:

Intelligencer 1917 Oct 22 Roebuck's death

Belleville Intelligencer report of Roebuck’s death, October 22nd, 1917, courtesy Belleville Public Library

Aviator Killed at Camp Mohawk
Series of Accidents at Camp Yesterday – One Killed One Injured

Yesterday was one of the bad days at Mohawk Aviation Camp, a number of accidents featuring the day, resulting in the death of one cadet and another receiving painful injuries.
Cadet Roebuck, of Chicago, who was making his first solo flight, ad ascended about 500 feet when his machine got out of control and plunged heavily to earth, the cadet being instantly killed, while the machine was a total wreck.
Another plane came down with a rush owing to engine trouble, and the cadet in charge was painfully injured. Other accidents of a minor nature are reported.

The official Royal Flying Corps record noted:

RFC casualty card for Lee James Roebuck

Casualty Card for Lee James Roebuck, courtesy of the Royal Air Force Museum

…Date of Casualty: 21.10.17
Where occurred: Canada Camp Mohawk
Type of Machine: Curtiss JN4a.
Nature and Cause of Accident: Machine half side slipped, half nose dived to earth from 300 ft. Loss of control by pilot thro’ stalling on a turn.
Result of Accident: Killed
Name of other Occupant of Machine: Nil…

Harry McBride, a rigger based at Camp Mohawk took photographs of the crashed plane. He estimated that the aircraft (C639) had fallen 800 feet. McBride stated that the aircraft belonged to 78th Canadian Training Squadron.

Photograph by Harry McBride of Lee Roebuck's crash

Detail of 2015.20 Album 2 (51)

Roebuck was buried at Bloomington (Scogin Hill) Cemetery, Illinois.

Lee James Roebuck headstone

Headstone for Lee James Roebuck, courtesy of Tony Cannon via Find a Grave