Pvt. Gordon Dickie and the Memorial Museum Passchendaele

By Jennifer Weymark, Archivist

Recently we received a letter from the Memorial Museum Passchendaele in Belgium.  The museum was looking for any additional information we may have in our holdings on a soldier whose sacrifice they were memorializing as part of their Names In The Landscape project.

This project is working to tell the stories of the almost 7000 Canadians who died in Flanders during the First World War. The Museum has been working to identify the wartime burial locations of those Canadians who were commemorated on the Menin Gate and share this information with surviving relatives, along with the greater public.

Colour photograph of a large brick and stone archway. There are four columns surrounding the arch, and there is a lion carved at the top.
Menin Gate; By Marc Ryckaert – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=72596911

The initial request was for our assistance in finding the modern address that matched the historic address as listed on the attestation forms for a Pvt. Gordon Dickie. Given that the address they were looking for was a P.O. Box, I was concerned that I may not be able to assist in any way. The project was also looking for anything further we may have on Pvt. Dickie, anything to help better understand this young man who lost his life so long ago.

The P.O. Box led nowhere, so I went to Library and Archives Canada’s (LAC) website to find the attestation record and file on Pvt. Dickie to gather further information and see how we could help. The files held by LAC turned out to be something I had never come across before. It turns out that Pvt. Dickie not only had more than one attestation papers, he actually had two regimental numbers associated with his name.

After determining that this was not a case of two men with the same name, I began to dig further into the tale of Pvt. Dickie and found a story of a very determined young man whose perseverance was not rewarded.

Gordon Dickie was born on November 2, 1898 in Greenrock, Scotland to parents Thomas and Anne Dickie. The passenger lists for Quebec show members of the family arriving there from Scotland in July 1907. By 1911 the family had made their way to Welland, Ontario and were documented in the Canadian census for that year.

The first of his three attestation papers dated on January 3, 1916.  That document states that he lived at 65 King Street West, in Oshawa.  He is listed as being a machinist with no previous military experience. This first form is officially signed on May 15, 1916, and Dickie had enlisted with the local regiment, the 116th Battalion. At this point, he has been assigned Regimental #745971.

Dickie began training at Camp Niagara with the 116th when he was discharged June 28, 1916 for being medically unfit.  According to the Medical History forms included in his file, he was deemed unfit due to being “under military standard of chest measurement.” The document further notes that Dickie will “overcome the disability in due course by normal growth.” He was only 17 and had not yet experienced that growth spurt that would allow him to serve. By July 5, 1916 Dickie was officially discharged and no longer serving with the 116th.

This discharge did not dissuade Dickie, and he promptly reenlisted.  His second attestation paper is dated July 12, 1916, just one week after being discharged for being medically unfit. This form once again lists his home address as Oshawa, his mother as his next of kin, and that he had worked as a machinist.  This new form shows both Regimental numbers associated with Dickie.  It seems he was assigned a new number before it was determined that he had already enlisted.  This new form also notes Dickie’s six months of service with the 116th Battalion.

Dickie headed up to Camp Borden to enlist this time, and he was placed with the 176th Overseas Battalion the day he signed the forms.  His time with the 176th was even shorter than the six months he spent with the 116th. By August 16, 1916 he was once again deemed medically unfit due to the size of his chest, as well as being underweight at 110lbs, and he was discharged on August 22.

The third and final attestation paper was signed at Camp Borden on October 6, 1916.  This attestation paper has his second Regimental #850943 associated with it and shows a change in address. Both Dickie and his mother are now listed as living 22 Carleton Street in Toronto. Once again, he enlisted with the 176th O.S. Battalion.

Apparently, Dickie had finally grown enough to be deemed medically fit, and he left Halifax on April 28, 1917 on route to Liverpool. He arrived in England on May 7, 1917, and by September he was in France with the 2nd Battalion.

Pvt. Gordon Dickie was Killed In Action on November 6, 1917 during the Battle of Passchendaele.

The grave for Dickie had been unknown, and so he was memorialized on the Menin Gate, along with so many other Canadian soldiers. The work of the Memorial Museum has determined that Dickie was buried near Goudberg, Passchendaele, and his updated information has become part of the NamesIn The Landscape project. For more information on the Museum and their project, check out their website.

Another Oshawa name memorialized on the Menin Gate is that of Pvt. William Garrow. Learn about his story by visiting our online exhibit, Letters from the Trenches.

Another solider with two regimental number is Oshawa’s Charles Bracey, buried in Union Cemetery.

You Asked, We Answered: The Bracey Headstones

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

While on tour, our Visitor Hosts are often asked questions that they may not be able to answer in that moment. However, we take note of the questions and try to find the answers afterwards. While on our Autumn Union Cemetery Tour, we were asked about the headstones for C.A. Bracey in the First World War Section.

The headstones in the World War sections of Union Cemetery all have a certain uniformity to them; when there is a stone or plot that deviates from those around it, it typically raises questions. This is what happened when we were asked about the headstone for C. A. Bracey. At the top of the plot, there is the headstone which is typical for soldiers, but in the middle of the plot, there is a separate marker.

Tour participant, Tom, was also curious about these markers and how similar the names were, so he undertook research about Bracey. We shared his write-up a few weeks ago. Thanks once again Tom for sharing what you found!

First, let’s answer one part of the question, why do some plots have more than one marker? At one point Union Cemetery allowed for two interments and four cremations in one plot (this has since changed to one interment and four cremations, as per the Cemetery’s website). When there are two markers seen on these veteran’s plots, more often than not, they are commemorating two individuals interred in the plot. A look at the names and dates helps to determine or assume the relationship. For example, just west of Bracey’s plot is a plot for the Brown family. There is a headstone for FW Brown (c. 1870 – 1932) and another marker for Leonard George Brown (1915-1997). By looking at the dates, it might be a safe assumption that there is a father and son buried in this plot.

Rows of headstones laying flat in the grass
First World War Soldier section of Union Cemetery; The headstones for Charles Bracey are near the bottom of the image; note, in the row above is another example of two markers for one plot

Looking at the Bracey plot raised some questions as the names on the two markers were very similar, served with the same regiment, but there was a five year discrepancy with the birth year. Having to make a quick assumption, I wondered if it was two brothers buried together, two brothers who served together and happened to die in the same year.

To learn more, and to confirm/disprove my suspicions, I started to research. I had some information to start my search, thanks to the headstones:

Large headstone:

  • Charles A Bracey
  • WWI Regimental Number: 814065
  • Served with the 139th Battalion of the CEF
  • Born 1867 (as per age of death), died December 22, 1933

Smaller Footstone:

  • C.A. Bracey
  • Served with the 5th Middlesex Regiment
  • Also served with the 139th Battalion of the CEF
  • Born 1872, died 1933

The regimental number provided what I needed to find his service file, made available through Library and Archives Canada. This is the information Tom used when he set out to research Bracey. You can also use this database to search by Surname and/or Given Name. There were 14 entries for Bracey; Charles was one result, and Cecil Bracey was another. A look at Cecil’s file seemed to indicate he wasn’t related to Charles. Nothing seemed to line up, so I very highly doubted the ‘C. A. Bracey’ was Cecil. I set him aside and looked at Charles’s service file.

Charles Bracey was born in Portsmouth, England, and when he enlisted in 1915, he was living in Cobourg, working as a Labourer, and his next of kin was ‘Mrs. Francis,’ his wife. When asked if he had ever served in any military force, his reply was ’11 years in Middlesex Reg’t.’

Interesting – remember, the footstone also indicated service with Middlesex. Also, his birth date, on the Attestation Paper, was September 21, 1871.

There are two attestation papers for Charles in his military file (one in September 1915 and one in November 1915) and therefore two Regimental numbers. He initially enlisted in September but was found medically unfit on November 5 and discharged. His second attestation papers were signed and dated three days later. A second casualty form appears in the file, dated August 25, 1916, and Charles was, once again, found medically unfit and discharged. On his medical papers, stating he was discharged due to a heart condition, it reads, “Man acknowledges 48 but looks older.”

After looking through the file, we’ve learned that Charles enlisted twice, was discharged twice due to being medically unfit, and there seems to be a discrepancy with his age, as per the medical papers. So, I went to ancestry.ca to see what else I could find.

Charles Augustus Bracey was born around 1868 (as per the 1871 and 1881 England Census). On November 16, 1891, Charles enlisted for the army – his British military service files were available for review on Ancestry.ca. He would serve 18 years with the Middlesex Regiment, where it appears he served for 12 years in India (recorded as ‘East Indies’ on the military records). He was discharged in 1909.

He was married to a woman named Frances, and together, they had eight children. By 1911, they immigrated to Canada and were living in Cobourg, later Oshawa. It was while in Cobourg that Charles tried twice to enlist for the First World War. By 1921, the family had moved to Oshawa and were residing in one of the Olive Avenue Rowhouses – these townhouses are still standing today.

Charles died in Oshawa in 1933 – by this time, the family was living on Nassau Street. His death certificate states he was born in 1867, and this is the date reflected on the large headstone. The smaller headstone, likely placed at some point by the family, has a different birth year and makes a point to commemorate his involvement with the Middlesex Regiment, a military career that lasted 18 years. Unlike other plots where two grave markers might commemorate two different people, with the plot for Bracey, there are two markers commemorating one person, Charles Augustus Bracey.

Finally, the last mystery we were left with was Charles’s birth year. If we’re looking at Censuses, the 1871 and 1881 England Census indicates a birth year of c. 1868/1869, while the 1921 Canadian Census reflects a birth year of 1869/1870. Military records give birth years of 1872 (as per enlistment with Middlesex Regiment in 1891) and 1871 (as per enlistment with the CEF, where it was later noted he looked older than his reported age). Finally, upon his death, the year of his birth is recorded as 1867, which is what appears on the military headstone. After sharing the Tom’s blog post a few weeks ago, one of Charles’s grandchildren left a comment, stating his birth year was 1868! It appears the Censuses taken closest to his birth were the most accurate for this information.

The Month That Was – November 1917

Canadian Statesman, 4 Nov 1917, p. 5
Local and Otherwise
A Grand Masquerade Carnival will be held at the Oshawa Roller Rink next Tuesday night, Nov. 6th, See large bills for list of prizes. Doors Open at 7pm. Admission 25c, skates 10c extra.

The Jubilee services of Simcoe-st Methodist Church, Oshawa, on Sunday Oct. 21 will long be remembered as an event of great importance and interest.

Newspaper ad for the Military Service Act
Port Perry Star, 8 Nov 1917, p. 8

North Ontario Observer, 22 Nov 1917, p. 2
Union Mass Meeting
Wm. Smith, Esq., ex-MP Unaniously Nominated
Meeting Large and Enthusiastic

Whitby, Nov. 17 –  Nomination as Union candidate to represent South Ontario in the Dominion Parliament was offered to an accepted by William Smith, ex-PM (sic) for the riding, at a meeting called to choose a Union candidate, held in Whitby this afternoon. There was a large attendance made up of adherence to both political parties, and on the platform were men who in the past have been lively and even better opponents. F.L. Mason, Warden of the County, was chairman. The names in first nomination comprised almost as many liberals as conservatives, and were: William Smith, ex-MP, Columbus; FL Fowke, ex-MP, Oshawa; Dr TE Kaiser, Oshawa; Dr. Captain James Moore, Brooklin; George McLaughlin, Oshawa; Robert M Holtby, Manchester; Col. JF Grierson, Oshawa; Peter Christie, Manchester. All withdrew except Wm. Smith, and on motion of Dr. TE Kaiser and Col. JE Grierson, the nomination was unanimously offered to Mr. Smith, amid prolonged and enthusiastic applause.

Mr. Smith, in a kindly and amiable address, accepted the nomination and put himself up on record as in hearty accord with the principles the motives of the motives of the Union Government. He sympathized with those who were called upon to give up the sons to this awful struggle for human liberty, but there was no other way to in victory. The Military Service Act was inevitable when voluntary recruitment failed. He pledged his loyalty and hearty support to the union government, if elected.

Black and white photo of W.E.N. Sinclair, who was nominated as the Liberal Party Candidate in 1917
Port Perry Star, 22 Nov 1917, p. 1

Canadian Statesman, 29 Nov 1917, p. 2
Oshawa Boy Pays Price
Mr. A.A. Crowle, Oshawa, has received the following telegram:

“Deeply regret to inform you 745947 Pte. Delbert Crowle, Infantry, officially reported died of wounds, 44th Clearing Station, November 3, 1917, gunshot wound head.” Pte. Crowle enlisted with the 116th Ontario County Battalion. He went overseas on July 20, and reached France on 20th October, 1916. He was on active service until the 4th of May, 1917, when he was wounded. He was in England until September 1st, when he again returned to the firing line. Delbert was well known in Oshawa being born there 22 years ago, attended school, and was his father’s able assistant in the Luke Burial Company’s office when he enlisted. Capt. Garbutt, of Simcoe Street Methodist Church, held a memorial service Sunday evening to the memory of the deceased soldier.

Page 5
Local and Otherwise
Ernest Drinkle, Oshawa, was fined $5 for allowing his son to remain out of school. We see boys of school age too often on streets during school hours.

The Ontario Reformer, November 30, 1917, p. 4
The Late JO Henry

There passes away at his home on King St. east, Inst. Thursday afternoon, a member of a well known family in this County, in the person of Mr. James Orrin Henry.

He was one of the first exporters from Canada of apples to the British market, where his brand of fruit remained popular for many years. He was in his 86th year. As one of the pioneers of this locality, he had a large circle of acquaintances and many relatives.

He was the first of the twelve sons of the late Elder Thomas Henry, who was a local preacher of reputation 50 years ago. Elder Henry, along with Barton stone, founded the Christian Connection Church of Canada. Mr. Henry retired from his business 26 years ago. He is survived by two sons, Mr. EN Henry, who is a member of the Oshawa Exemption Tribunal, and Dr. Frank Henry, of Oshawa. He was a life-long Liberal and a Methodist. He was twice married. His first wife was a daughter of Samuel Hill, a pioneer of the district, and his second wife, Miss Carrie Major of Port Perry.

The funeral took place Saturday afternoon at 3:30 and was largely attended, interment taking place in Union Cemetery.

Note: James was the sixth of eleven sons for Thomas Henry, not fifth of twelve as reported.

Newspaper ad for Henderson Bros., New Linens for Xmas
Ontario Reformer, November 30, 1917 Page 12

The Ontario Reformer, November 30, 1917, p. 9
Archie Law Killed in Action
Word was received Wednesday morning of last week that Lance Corpl. Archie Law, one of Oshawa’s brightest and best known young men was “killed in action” on Oct. 30th. He enlisted in Montreal with the late Will Garrow, Will Bowden, Walter Hobday and Will French, in the Princess Patricias, and they went overseas Sept. 4th, 1915. He had not been wounded before, although he was in the hospital for a short time with a throat disease incurred by drinking bad water. All of these boys have been put out of the fight. Two have paid the supreme sacrifice. Will Bowden is a prisoner in Germany, Will French was wounded, and not being able to go back to the trenches, is being used as a bombing instructor in England. Walter Hobday returned to Canada incapacitated for further service a couple of months ago, bringing with him a bride from England.

Archie Law lived with his sister, Mrs. McAndrews, and father, William St. He also has five young brothers. His mother died when he was three years old, and was working for Luke Bros. when he enlisted. He was a member of Simcoe St. Church and S.S., and a good living boy who made friends wherever he went. He was expecting a six weeks’ leave to visit friends to Ireland at Xmas time.

Page number not specified
“Tanks” Pass Through Oshawa

On Tuesday afternoon the armoured tank, three armoured cars and the armoured motor cycle, which are being used in Canada in promoting the sale of Victory Loan Bonds, passed through Oshawa on the C.P.R. The tank, which is in charge of its own crew from the front, is like a huge tractor, and travels by means of two endless chains, on the caterpillar style. It is about 25 ft. long and about 10 ft. high. On account of the short notice given of their arrival but few were at the station to see them go through.

The Multiple Grave Markers of Charles A. Bracey

By Tom Craven

*Tom was on our September Union Cemetery Tour and was as curious about the two grave markers on the plot for Charles A. Bracey as we were! Thank you to Tom for taking the time to research this soldier and sharing your research with us.

Two flat laying grave markers. One is long and rectangular, while the other is smaller. They are both for a man named Charles A Bracey
Grave markers for Charles A Bracey in Union Cemetery

After looking at the military records for Charles A. Bracey I can only conclude that the reason for the smaller marker directly below the large grave marker is possibly to attempt to correct an error that appears in the larger marker, although I’m not sure it accomplishes this goal if, in fact, that was the goal. 

According to the military records, Bracey has two military numbers.  The first was 220072, and in that document, he has stated a Date of Birth of September 21, 1871.  He is deemed fit to serve on September 29, 1915 and his attestation papers were signed on September 27, 1915.  In the papers he acknowledges having served for 11 years in the Middlesex Regiment.  His age is listed as 44 years which, based on his acknowledged date of birth, would be correct.

A Casualty Form for Active Service appears under the 220072 military number dated November 5, 1915 in which he is deemed medically unfit to serve.

Bracey’s second attestation paper has a military number of 814065.  This is the number that appears on the larger grave marker.  His date of declaration is November 8, 1915, three days after his initial Casualty Form was created.  On these attestation papers he does not list the 11 years of service with the Middlesex Regiment that he had mentioned in the previous attestation document (under military number 220072).  His date of birth is once again listed as September 21, 1871, and his age is now recorded as 44 years and 2 months. He was certified as medically fit on November 8, 1915.  He lists a wife, Frances, and four children, Frances (age 9), Muriel (age 6) Lily (age 2), and Benjamin (9 months). 

He is eventually assigned to the 139th Battalion and stationed at Valcartier, Quebec.  On August 25, 1916, he is, again, deemed medically unfit as he is diagnosed with mitral regurgitation (aka a heart murmur). He is also diagnosed with Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).  He is described as looking much older that the age of 46 and then 48 that he admits to being (when, in fact he is only 44, a month from his 45th birthday).

So, he is discharged having never left Canada and never serves again.  The large grave marker states that he died in 1933 at the age of 66 however, being born in 1871 this would make him only 62 years of age.  The smaller marker may be an attempt to correct this error however, it states that he was born in 1872 which, according to the two sets of attestation papers is also incorrect.

There was another C. A. Bracey (Cecil A. Bracey) that enlisted however he was much younger than Charles and was from Toronto with no ties to Oshawa.  He claimed to be born September 24, 1898 and enlisted on January 12, 1917 however, it was later discovered that he lied about his date of birth and was actually underage when he enlisted and therefore discharged.

Thank you Tom for sharing your research! On our September tour, we were asked why some plots had more than one grave marker, like Bracey’s did. In the following weeks, we will follow up on the story of Bracey, sharing about his life before the First World War and what steps we took to learn about this man.

Where The Streets Get Their Names: Kitchener Street

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

Just east of Ritson Road, between Olive and Highway 401, one can find Kitchener Street. This street bears the name of Horatio Herbert Kitchener, the 1st Earl Kitchener. Kitchener Street appears in directories as early as 1921.

Kitchener was born 24 June 24, 1850 in Ballylongford, County Kerry, Ireland, the son of an army officer. He was educated at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich. He first saw action in the Franco-Prussian War, in which he was an ambulance driver and faced reprimand for participating in a conflict in which England was neutral. He later commanded the British army in Egypt, the Sudan, India and in South Africa during the Boer War (1899-1902).

In 1914, at the start of World War I, Kitchener was appointed the Secretary of State for War, promoted to Field Marshal, and became the face of Britain’s recruitment campaign, ‘Your Country Needs You.’ Kitchener was onboard the HMS Hampshire on June 5, 1916 when it was sunk by German mines off the coast of Scotland.

This Oshawa street is just one of many namesakes for the Field Marshal. Perhaps the most notable is Kitchener, Ontario. Before 1916, the city was named Berlin, however, anti-German sentiments were on the rise during WWI, and by mid-1916 there was a controversial referendum to rename; Kitchener was the winner, beating out Adanac (Canada spelled backwards), Brock, Benton, Corona, and Keowana.

The topic of renaming the City of Kitchener arose again in the summer of 2020. In a statement by Kitchener City Hall:
“We acknowledge that the legacy of our namesake, Horatio Herbert Kitchener, a decorated British Earl who established concentration camps during the Boer War, is not one to be celebrated. While we in no way condone, diminish or forget his actions, we know that more than a century after our citizens chose this name for their community, Kitchener has become so much more than its historic connection to a British field marshal.”

As a knitter, I would be remiss to not bring up the Kitchener Stitch. This form of grafting is very common for finishing top-down socks – while he in no way ‘invented’ the stitch, the story goes that Kitchener was a promoter of knitting for the war effort, and this way of finishing the sock is very comfortable on toes, a relief to soldiers who were fighting a very hard, nasty war and whose feet were often in great discomfort.

Monash Avenue, Currie Avenue, and Montgomery Street are also found in this general area of Oshawa, and all of these streets were named after First World War officers.







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