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.
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.