Remembering The Penfold Brothers – Three WWI Soldiers
On September 25th a gentleman approached me at my book launch and asked if I had heard of the Penfold brothers. I had. Some time ago, I’d read a posting on the Waterdown East Flamborough Heritage Society site that included these three boys in their listing of local Home Children. I searched for more information on the brothers and kept a file on a them. The man, David Koabel, is the nephew of the oldest brother, Sydney. David never met the other two brothers but has always had a strong interest in all three boys.
All three fought for Canada in WWI. Remembering them here is one way of honouring their service.
Three brothers, the sons of Jane (Wiltshire) and William Thomas Penfold were placed with Barnardo’s after their father’s death in 1898. In 1905, Sydney Cecil, aged 10, and Augustus George, age 8, arrived in Canada. Three years later, their younger brother, Arthur John, aged six, arrived. The boys were placed with families in the Hamilton area.
All three Penfold brothers enlisted in the Canadian military and served our country in WWI.
Sydney, the oldest of the brothers, enlisted in Toronto in July 1915. He was assigned to the Canadian Expeditionary Force 74th Battalion. He named his brother, George (Augustus George) who was working on a farm in Carlisle as his next of kin. On March 29, 1916, Sydney started his journey back to Great Britain, this time as a soldier. A machinist by trade, Sydney survived the war, returned to Canada and married Jean Hepworth on November 5, 1921.
August George Penfold went to work on the Wesley Harris farm in Lincoln County. At the time of his enlistment, October 19, 1917, he was living in Toronto and working as a shipper. He named Sydney, who was in England with his battalion by this time, as next of kin. George too survived the war, returned to Canada and married Vera Wellington on October 22, 1919.
Arthur John Penfold was listed as a lodger in the home of Joseph Bogle in West Flamborough Township in 1911. By the time he enlisted in 1916, before his 18th birthday, he was living in Carlisle with or near his brother George. Arthur was assigned to the 129th Wentworth Battalion, headquartered in Dundas, Ontario.
Arthur lists Joseph Marsh, his step-father, as next of kin. This shows that he was likely in touch with his mother who had re-married. This Mr. Marsh is the same person who provided foster care for Arthur before he came to Canada.
Arthur John also returned to Canada after the war. He married Elizabeth Smith in June 1923 and died on September 15, 1969 in Hamilton. He is buried in Woodland Cemetery.
On the 100th anniversary of the First World War, we remember the Penfold boys and the 10,000 other Home Boys who enlisted and fought for Canada.
To read of other Canadian soldiers who arrived in Canada as child immigrants see Arthur Clarkson, William Blay, Joseph McAuley, Arthur Burns Sculthorpe, William Henry Lamb, John Thomas Page, William Edwin Hunt, William Conabree, Charles Reaper, Jack Bean.
Promises of Home – Stories of Canada’s British Home Children is available for purchase here.
One hundred thousand child pilgrims in a mass exodus that spanned seventy years (1869-1939), arrived in Canada. Like seed, they were scattered from Atlantic to Pacific, not in handfuls as would have been appropriate for children, but in singles, one here, another there. Hampered by the derogatory label, Home Child, severed from their familial connections, afflicted with loneliness and homesickness, against the odds, they took root and became grounded and sturdy enough to change the landscape of our young Dominion.