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Remembering Home Boys of WWI

November 4, 2015

poppyIt’s estimated that as many as 10,000 men who arrived in Canada as child immigrants from Britain enlisted in WWI, almost all those of eligible age, and some who weren’t.

With Remembrance Day around the corner, let’s remember a few young immigrants who did more than their share to make Canada the great country it is today.

(It wasn’t until I finished putting this post together that I noticed that every single person has William either as a first or second name. Just goes to show how popular this name was during the times.) — Rose McCormick Brandon

William Francis Mason (Frank)William Francis Mason

Born April 1894 in England. Following the death of his mother, William and several brothers and sisters were placed at the National Children’s Home in London. On March 21 1908, William Francis Mason arrived in Canada with a party of 62 boys. Dr. Stephenson, founder of the National Children’s Home led this group to his transition home on Main St. E. in Hamilton, Ontario. From there, William was placed on a farm in West Flamborough. At age 21, William enlisted and was assigned to the 86th Machine Gun Battalion. He saw action at Ypres, Vimy Ridge, and Passchendaele where he suffered a major wound that led to amputation. After rehabilitation, William returned to Millgrove in West Flamborough township where he married Ellen Mitchell in 1926. William passed away on November 17, 1977 at Joseph Brant Hospital in Burlington at age 83. He is buried in the Millgrove Cemetery.

Corporal William MayburyWilliam Maybury

William Maybury, a Barnardo boy, was wounded on October 28, 1917. He never recovered from his wounds and died on Dec 1, 1917. He was 25. William is buried at No. 2 Stationary Cemetery in Abbeyville, France.

“It is hard for anyone today to imagine the horrors of the 25th year of his short life. He commanded a small group of men who fired mortars from the heart of battle. In the spring of 1917, he helped take Vimy Ridge. In summer, he fought in the Battle of Hill 70. In the fall it was Passchendaele. By then he would have known his luck was running thin, if not altogether out.” Roy MacGregor (read the rest of MacGregor’s story about Maybury here.

 

Jack Bean

Jack Bean

John (Jack) William Bean

Jack Bean was born January 1895. Nothing is known about his life before hecard from Jack Bean to Isadora Thompson 001 entered Barnardo’s. He arrived in Canada at age seven on May 25, 1902. He went to live with Sandy & Isadora Thompson in Franconia (near Dunnville, Ontario). Jack enlisted at age twenty in 1915. He sent this photo of himself in uniform to Mrs. Thompson with this inscription on the back: For dear mother from your loving boy, Jack. At the time of his enlistment, Jack’s birth mother – Mrs. E. J. McCallum – was still alive and living in Oberland Cottage in Guernsey. Jack must have corresponded with her because he named her as his next of kin. After the war, Jack returned to Canada and moved out west.

William Frances Conabree

William Francis ConabreeWilliam Frances Conabree arrived in Canada in 1904 at age fourteen. He was sent by the Catholic Emigration Association and accompanied by Mr. Tupper. William enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force and fought in WWI. He was a horn player and stretcher bearer for the 49th Loyal Edmonton Regiment. He lived through gas attacks and was a prisoner of war in the same camp as Con Smythe, the famed owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Read William’s stirring account of his early life in Canada here.

 

 

 

 

William Edwin Hunt

William Edwin Hunt

William Edwin Hunt

An Irish boy who immigrated through Smyly Homes for Children, William Edwin Hunt suffered wounds that resulted in the amputation of a leg. Undaunted, he pursued a career in government office, wrote poetry and made music. He spent his early years in Canada in the Hespeler/Guelph area and his adult years after the war in Sault Ste. Marie. (Smyly boys went to the Hespeler receiving home called The Coombes.) William wrote the poem, The Little V.A.D. (Volunteer Aid Nurse). Recently, a reader of my book, Promises of Home, contacted me to say that he found a copy of this poem, hand-written by William, in the archives at Trent University. The nurse the poem was written for left her letters and memoirs to the university. Read more about William Edwin Hunt here and here.

William Blay with niece

 William Blay

William’s father died when he was a baby and his mother, who had sold all her furniture to pay the rent, could no longer afford to keep him.  In September of 1903, she placed him in London, England’s Barnardo Home.

Upon arrival in Canada, he was put to work immediately on a farm where the culture shock was intense:  city-bred William, who had never seen a cow before, was whipped because he did not milk fast enough.  He ended up running away.  Such was the case for many home boys who worked as farm hands in a country that had a high demand for labour but a low population. Read William’s story, written by his great-niece, Linda Jonasson, here.


book coverPromises of Home – Stories of Canada’s British Home Children is a collection of 31 stories, including a few more about WWI veterans. To purchase a copy, visit http://writingfromtheheart.webs.com

 

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. hadenmaiden permalink
    November 4, 2015 8:07 am

    Thank you for a very timely reminder of the debt we owe these boys. May I add to your list, Pte Ernest Haden, who travelled on Carthaginian in 1909 and was KIA in spring 1917 at Vimy Ridge aged 18.
    So good to see so many stories retold here, thank you.

    • November 4, 2015 12:42 pm

      Thank you for adding the name of Ernest Haden. If you have a photo of him, I would love it if you emailed a copy to me at rosembrandon@yahoo.ca Readers of these stories are always happy to see the faces of British Home Children. Thanks, Rose

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