The O'Leary Collection—Medals of The Royal Canadian Regiment

814431 Private Edward Beaver

The Royal Canadian Regiment

By: Capt (ret'd) Michael M. O'Leary, CD, The RCR

On completing his attestation form for the CEF, Edward Beaver of Alderville, Northumberland County, stated that his birth date was 6 Apr 1898. A review of the Canadian Census data for 1911 shows only one Edward Beaver living in "Alnwick Indian Reserve" in Northumberland [County] West. At eight years of age in 1911 (b. Aug. 1902), this Edward was living with his widowed grandmother Martha Comego and two of her daughters, Victoria (21) and Cecilia (17). As this is likely the same Edward Beaver, it would make his true age at attestation approximately 14 years, 8 months.

Edward Beaver attested for overseas service in the Canadian Expeditionary Force with the 139th Overseas Battalion on 1 Apr 1916 at Grafton, Ontario. The 139th (Northumberland) Battalion was headquartered in Cobourg, Ontario, and began recruiting in late 1915 in Northumberland County. The unit sailed for England in September 1916, where it was absorbed into the 3rd and 36th Reserve Battalions on 6 Oct 1916.

On his attestation form, Beaver gave his trade as labourer (his trade appears later in his service record as farmer). He was described as 18 years 11 months in apparent age, 5 feet 7 1/2 inches in height, weighing 140 pounds, with a 34 1/2-inch chest, dark complexion, brown eyes, and black hair. Under distinctive marks are noted a 5-inch scar on the right side of his neck, and a scar on the left side of his chest at the nipple line. His religious denomination was Methodist and Beaver identified his father, Frank Beaver, of Alderville, Ont., as his next of kin.

The 139th Battalion embarked at Halifax 26 Sep 1916 aboard the S.S. Southland and sailed for England the following day. While aboard ship, the administration of the unit continued. On 1 Oct 1916, Beaver started a pay assignment of $15 per month, about half his pay as a Private, to his father. The ship arrived in Liverpool, England, disembarking the unit on 6 Oct 1916. Beaver was immediately transferred to the 36th Reserve Battalion at West Sandling.

After nearly three months of training with the Reserve Battalion, a necessary period where the basis of training achieved in Canada was built upon with training based on recent experiences tat the front. On 28 Dec 1916, Beaver was transferred from the 36th Res. Bn. to The RCR. He landed in France on this date and taken on the strength of the Regiment.

Beaver would remain at the Canadian Base Depot for a month before proceeding to the 3rd Division. His next move, on 25 Jan 1917, took him forward to the 3rd Entrenching Battalion, arriving at that unit on 29 Jan 1917. The entrenching battalions were forward holding units which held a ready supply of reinforcements for the division's fighting battalions. They were also used as labour forces to maintain and build trenches or other work as needed. Beaver would not leave the 3rd Ent. Bn. until 5 Mar 1917, reporting to The RCR in the field the following day.

For his first two weeks in the Regiment, Beaver would have been engaged in the final training and preparations for the assault on Vimy Ridge. The RCR remained in Corps Reserve until returning to the front lines in late March 1917. He survived the actions at Vimy Ridge on 9-10 April and the busy weeks that followed as the Canadian Corps consolidated their gains and rebuilt defensive works along the new front lines.

On 18 May 1917, Beaver was attached to 7th Field Company, Canadian Engineers, for duty as Divisional Wirers. This important task would have required many extra men assigned to it as new belts of wire were needed for each new front line trench system. He remained with the Engineers until 24 Jul 1917 when he returned to the Regiment.

A month after getting back to regimental lines, Beaver was stricken with one of the common ailments of the war, "pyrexia of unknown origin," (P.U.O.), i.e., trench fever. Although his would be classified as a mild case, it was still sufficiently impairing that he was sent to the Casualty Clearing Station on 25 Aug 1917 for assessment.

Beaver's rearward movement in the medical evacuation system would be swift. He went to No. 22 General Hospital, Camiers, on 26 Aug 1917 and to No. 6 Convalescent Depot, Etaples, on 1 Sep 1917. A few days later, on 3 Sep 1917, he was discharged from the Convalescent Depot to Camp Details (to be locally employed until sent elsewhere).

On 16 Sep 1917, Beaver began moving back towards the Regiment. He departed the 3rd Canadian Infantry Base Depot (C.I.B.D.) and arrived back at the 3rd Ent. Bn. on 17 Sep 1917. A few weeks later, on 3 Oct 1917, he rejoined The RCR in the field.

Spending the month of October, 1917, the RCR would return to the trenches at the battle of Passchendaele on 29 Oct 1917. The Regiment's "Battle Bar Document" (prepared after the war by the Militia Department in anticipation of the possibility of clasps for the British War Medal) offers the following for that date: "A", "B" & "D" Coys to support position at ABRAHAM HEIGHTS. "C" Coy going in reserve to PPCLI and 49th Bn."

Beaver, however, would not be participating in the attack which followed. On 29 Oct 1917, he was wounded in action, gas shell (poisoning), and admitted to No. 64 Casualty Clearing Station (C.C.S.). Notes in his service record identify the type of gas poisoning as "Gas shell yellow," this would be from a German mustard gas shell. Beaver's file again notes rapid rearward evacuation, probably to keep the system cleared of any cases that could be moved in anticipation of mass casualties in the coming days ahead. Notes in his file were received from No. 11 and No. 3 Canadian Field Ambulances on 29 Oct, and from No. 2 Australian General Hospital at Boulogne on 31 Oct 1917.

By 7 Nov 1917, Beaver was at No. 1 Convalescent Depot, Boulogne. The following day he was moved to No. 3 Large Rest Camp, which was also located at Boulogne. Beaver would be under the administrative control of No. 3 C.I.B.D. and then the Canadian Corps Reinforcement Centre (C.C.R.C.) before once again returning to join The RCR in the field on 24 Nov 1917.

Beaver was granted 14 days Leave to England on 2 Dec 1917. He returned to the Regiment on 18 Dec 1917.

For the next few months, the Regiment's Battle bar document shows the steady rotation between front line trenches, support trenches and reserve positions that marked the ebb and flow of the infantry experience of the Great War:

On 17 Mar 1918, Beaver would again go out of the lines sick. He would be admitted to 10 Canadian Field Ambulance on 18 Mar 1918, with P.U.O. Moving back through the medical system, he would reach No. 10 Convalescent Depot, Aubengue, on 1 Apr 1918 and three days later be discharged to No. 3 Rest Camp at Boulogne.

Not yet recovered, Beaver would be admitted to No. 7 Canadian General Hospital at Etaples, on 11 Apr 1918, still suffering from P.U.O. On 14 Apr 1918, he was invalided and posted to the Nova Scotia Regimental Depot (N.S.R.D.), Bramshott, on being evacuated to England aboard the hospital ship H.S. Stad Antwerpen.

Admitted to the War Hospital, Exeter, with bronchitis and pleurisy on 15 Apr 1918, Beaver would remain here until 6 May (32 days). His case notes state: "On admission a few rales at bases, scar of empyema operation performed 4 years ago. P.S. cleared up in a few days. Trans Conv. Hosp. Mons Horton." On 6 May 1918, he was admitted to the Canadian Convalescent Hospital, Monks Horton, Kent. Beaver would remain here until 17 Jun 1918 (42 days) with P.U.O.

Notes on Beaver's Medical Case Sheet started at Monks Horton summarize his case: "Sick in trenches for about a week. Evacuated about two months ago. Passed through 6th CCS and No. 7 Can. Gen. In three weeks being in bed all the time. His chief complaint was lumbar pain and chest pains. Arrival at No. 1 VAD Exeter 15 Apr 1918. Was in bed one week. Since a week ago has been out of bed all day. At present has lumbar pain on exercising and occasional chest pains. P.T. "B" for a week, 1/2 hour twice daily then "A". Three weeks conval."

On 14 May 1918, his entry reads "Breathing exercises, improving expansion, etc." And on 22 May 1918: "Feels OK except for cough at night. On ordinary diet." By 3 Jun 1918, Beaver was assessed by a medical board and categorized "Di." This category was for men discharged from hospital who were considered able to return to full duty after completion of remedial training.

Beaver was discharged from hospital and attached to the 2nd Canadian Convalescent Depot (C.C.D.) on 19 Jun 1918. He ceased to be attached to 2nd C.C.D. on return to the 17th Res. Bn. on 2 Aug 1918. While in England and preparing to return to the front lines, the training received by Beaver and his fellow soldiers included Drill, Musketry, Bombing, Rifle Bombing, Bayonet Training, Anti-Gas, Lewis Gun, and Rapid Wiring. A record of tests in each of these subjects is recorded in Beaver's service record, showing he passed them all between 10 Sep and 5 Oct 1918.

Beaver would not, however, return to the Regiment at the front. At some point in late October or early November he found himself on the wrong side of the military justice system. As a result, on 11 Nov 1918, he was admitted to Wandsworth Detention Barracks, Bramshott, to serve a 28 day period of imprisonment. There are no details in his service record to show what his crime was, and he does not appear in the C.E.F. database of courts martial, so the punishment was the result of a summary trial by his unit Commanding Officer.

Beaver reported back to the 17th Res. Bn. from Detention on 3 Dec 1918. He had earned a remission of three days and was also entitled to a credit [of relinquished pay and allowances] for same. It was not long after that Beaver's journey back to Canada was to begin. On 11 Dec 1918, he was sent "On Command" (attached but not yet officially transferred) to Kinmel Park, North Wales from the 17th Res Bn.

On 21 Dec 1918, Edward Beaver was struck off the strength of the 17th Res. Bn. on transfer to the Casualty Clearing Centre (C.C.C.) at Kinmel Park. Sailing for Canada on that date, he ceased to be attached to the Overseas Military Forces of Canada (O.M.F.C.) on transfer to the C.E.F. establishment in Canada.

Effective his departure from the shores of England, Beaver was taken on the strength of No. 2 District Depot, Toronto, from 22 Dec 1918 and posted to the Casualty Company at Exhibition Camp. He received leave and and a subsistence allowance (to cover entitlements to rations while not able to eat in military messes on leave) from 2 Jan to 10 Jan 1919.

Beaver was medically examined on 23 Jan 1919 before his discharge and was found to be in good health with no service related disabilities.

On 28 Jan 1919, Edward Beaver was discharged from the C.E.F. at No. 2 District Depot (Toronto). As part of his release administration, Beaver submitted an Affidavit which would confirm his entitlement to "three months pay and allowances granted by Recent Order-in-Council to those who have been honourably Discharged from the Canadian Expeditionary Force, after six months' continuous service, part of which has been performed overseas." The form was filled out for Beaver and he made his mark upon it.

Beaver's Last Pay Certificate, besides showing his pay and field allowance up to this date of his discharge, also includes subsidies for the month of $13.60 and a Clothing Allowance of $35. He would also receive a War Service Gratuity of $350. This was paid to him in installments between January and April 1919.

For his overseas service during the First World War, Beaver was entitled to receive the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. These were despatched to him on 5 Dec 1925. Beaver was issued a War Service Badge at the time of his discharge. A replacement Class "A" War Service Badge (#352260) was issued for him on 24 Jun 1959, sent to him care of Alfred Loukes, R.R. #3, Cobourg, Ont.

Edward Beaver's service was recognized by his community with the unveiling of a new war monument in 1927. The Alderville War Monument was unveiled on Sunday 25 Sep 1927. Originally built to honour those who served in the Great War, it now honours veterans of later conflicts as well. "Ed Beaver" is listed with others who served during the First World War.

A listing of Alderville First Nation Veterans of the First and Second World War can be found in the November 1993 edition of the Anishinabek News. "Ed Beaver" is listed among those who served in the First World War. There is also a listing for "Edward Beaver" under those who served in the Second World War, possibly an indication that Beaver was back in uniform during the latter conflict.

Pro Patria


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