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

477212 Sgt Albert Cumberland

The Royal Canadian Regiment

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

Born in Loughborough, Leicestershire, England, Albert Cumberland came to Canada in 1909. He was already an experienced soldier, having served in the Northumberland Fusiliers for six years before emigrating. Cumberland was described as five foot seven inches in height, with a medium complexion, blue eyes and light brown hair.

Cumberland is recorded in an existing regimental ledger: Army Book 358. In the ledger he is recorded as first attesting for service with The RCR at Toronto, Ontario, on 23 November 1909. He is recorded as being 26 years, one month, old at the time and gave his civilian trade as 'joiner.' At the time of this attestation, Cumberland was given the regimental number 4884.

Private Cumberland was serving with The RCR at Halifax at the time of the 1911 Canadian census. He, like all of the other single soldiers of the Regiment are listed as "lodgers" in the census taker's records listing the men in barracks at the time. The census record shows his birth year as 1883, and noted that he be came a naturalized Canadian in 1910. All of the soldier's records note that they spent 70 hours per week at their principal occupation of "soldier."

Cumberland took his release at Halifax at the end of his three-year term of service, being discharged on 22 November 1912 at the rank of Private. The reason recorded for his discharge was "Time Expired" and his character was noted as "V[ery]. G[ood]."

By the end of 1912, it would appear that civilian life was either not agreeable to Cumberland, or at the least insufficiently profitable to survive the Canadian winter. He decided to return to service to the Colours and reattested with The RCR, again at Toronto, on 2 December 1912.

4884 Private Albert Cumberland was serving with The RCR in the fall of 1914 when the Regiment was despatched to Bermuda for garrison duties. The Regiment was despatched to the island to serve as a garrison battalion, relieving the 2nd Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment. The RCR returned to Halifax and, over a week between the 17th and 24th of August, every officer and soldier was required to reattest for overseas service before continuing to England, and then France.

Cumberland, with The RCR, disembarked at Boulonge on 1 November 1915 after about two months in England. His service record notes that on 12 December 1915 he fell afoul of the military justice system and was subject to summary punishment. Charged with "When on active service, Drunk" and with "Stealing Rum", he was sentenced to ten days Field Punishment No. 2.

Major E. W. Pope (The RCR), in his book The Canadian Officer's Guide To The Study Of Military Law (1916), presented the following description of Field Punishments:


1. For any offence committed on active service an offender may be sentenced, by his commanding officer, to twenty-eight days' Field Punishment, and by a Court Martial to three months' Field Punishment.

Field Punishment is of two kinds:

(a) Field Punishment No. 1.

(b) Field Punishment No. 2.

2. Where an offender is sentenced to Field Punishment No. I, he may, during the continuance of his sentence, unless the Court Martial or the commanding Officer otherwise directs, be punished as follows:

(a) He may be kept in irons, i.e. in fetters or handcuffs, or both fetters and handcuffs; and may be secured so as to prevent his escape.

(b) When in irons he may be attached for a period or periods not exceeding two hours in anyone day to a fixed object, but he must not be so attached during more than three out of any four consecutive days, nor during more than twenty-one days in all.

(c) Straps or ropes may be used for the purpose of these rules in lieu of irons.

(d) He may be subjected to the like labour, employment, and restraint, and dealt with in like manner, as if he were under a sentence of imprisonment with hard labour.

3. Where an offender is sentenced to Field Punishment No. 2, the foregoing rule with respect to Field Punishment No. 1 shall apply to him, except that he shall not be liable to be attached to a fixed object as provided by paragraph (b) of Rule 2.

4. Every portion of a Field Punishment shall be inflicted in such a manner as is calculated not to cause injury or to leave any permanent mark on the offender; and a portion of a Field Punishment must be discontinued upon a report by a responsible medical officer that the continuance of that portion would be prejudicial to the offender's health.

5. Field Punishment will be carried out regimentally when the unit to which the offender belongs or is attached is actually on the move, but when the unit is halted at any place where there is a provost marshal or an assistant provost marshal the punishment will be carried out under that officer.

On 28 Jan 1916, Cumberland was sent "on command" as an Orderly to the 7th Canadian Infantry Brigade Headquarters. The exact date he returned to the unit is unrecorded, but Cumberland went into the trenches with The RCR later that year.

On the night of 2 Oct 1916, The RCR moved back into the front lines near ZOLLERN GRABEN, relieving the 5th Canadian Mounted Rifles. This relief took place shortly after the 5th and 8th Canadian Infantry Brigades' failed attack on Regina Trench. Over the next two days of intermittently heavy rain, the enemy actively harassed the Canadian line with shelling, snipers, machine guns and bombing attacks all along the lines.

On 3 Oct 1916, Albert Cumberland was seriously wounded, suffering shrapnel wounds to his left arm and face while serving in the forward trenches with "C" Company. In the trenches, the Regiment's War Diary record for the 2nd and 3rd of October 1916 states:

"2 Oct 1916 - Trenches - Rained all day. Lieut. NICHOLLS took over charge of Bde. Pack Animal Co. Regiment relieved 5TH C.M.R. in trenches from R.23.a.3.0. to R.22.o.9.7. (Sheet 75d S.E.) "B" & "C" Cos. Took over front line. "C" Co. in support in ZOLLERN GRABEN. H.Q. at R.28.d.9.8. "A" Co. in reserve in ASSEMBLY trenches R.28 central (South of ZOLLERN GRABEN) (Relief complete about 2.20 a.m. 3-10-16)"

"3 Oct 1916 - Trenches - Showery, at times raining quite heavily. Enemy artillery fairly active, especially in afternoon, when about 4. p.m. they put down a barrage for about an hour. Their firing was not very accurate. After the barrage they kept up a fairly heavy fire, shrapnel and H.E. on the front line. In the afternoon Lieut. ROBINSON, Sergt. POPE, and two scouts tried to reconnoitre KENDAL SAP, with a view to establishing a bombing post. They were prevented by the heavy artillery fire and sniping. At night Lieut. BOLE and a party of bombers started out to bomb the sap, but although they divided into small parties and crossed and recrossed the area searching for the sap, they were unable to find any trace of it, so returned some short time after midnight."

Marching out of the lines on relief in the early morning hours of 5 October, the Regiment had suffered losses of 5 officers (1 missing, 1 fatally wounded, 3 wounded) and 84 other ranks (9 killed, 15 missing, 60 wounded). The Regiment would suffer further losses on the Somme, following its next tour in the lines, the Regiment's War Diary would state:

"On the 9th October, at 4 p.m. the Regiment, approximately 140 strong, moved back to bivouacs on TARA HILL."

But Albert Cumberland's war on the front lines was over.By 9 Oct 1916, Cumberland had been evacuated from the front and was admitted to No. 12 General Hospital Rouen. His condition was listed as 'seriously ill." On 18 Oct Cumberland was evacuated across the channel on the hospital transport "St George." He was then admitted to Queen Mary's Military Hospital, Whalley, on 19 Oct 1916, beginning a long period of convalescence.

Cumberland was discharged from Queen Mary's Military Hospital and transferred to the Canadian Convalescent Hospital, Woodcote Park, Epsom, on 11 Jan 1917. He was discharged from the C.C.H. on 22 Mar 1917 for the purpose of repatriation to Canada.

As he was being evacuated rearward through the medical system, the military bureaucracy was shipping responsibility for him to the rear as well. Effective 18 October, Cumberland was transferred from The RCR to the Canadian Casualty Assembly Centre and the following day was taken on the strength of the Nova Scotia Regimental Depot. Concurrent with his release from hospital, Cumberland would be struck off the strength of the NSRD on being invalided to Canada.

Albert Cumberland returned to Canada aboard the Royal Canadian Naval Medical Service hospital ship S.S. ESSEQUIBO, which sailed from Liverpool on the 22nd of March 1917. This vessel made a total of five trips to Canada under the Service's command, bringing 5,106 soldiers home to Canada. Back in Canada, Cumberland was taken on strength No. 2 District Depot in Canada effective 22 Mar 1917.

Cumberland underwent a medical examination in September 1918 for the purpose of assigning a medical category. His condition was described as:

His Medical History of an Invalid form, completed on 12 September 1918 at Davisville Military Hospital (Toronto, Ontario) gave his date of birth as 17 March 1885. His service was summarized as "Royal Can. Regt. (2 Dec 1915 to 8 Apr 1917); M.H.C.C. (10 Apr 1917 to 18 Apr 1917) and D.D. #2 (18 Apr 1918 to 12 Sep 1918)". Notes on his history of injury recorded that he had been originally wounded by shrapnel on 3 October followed by infection (emphysema). In September 1918, his condition was described as having "partial collapse of right lung with extensive pleural adhesions." His treatment history included 2 months in France, 3 1/2 months in England and 16 months in Canada. Cumberland's medical category was C iii. He was declared fit for home service in Canada only.

On 30 Sep 1918, Cumberland was transferred to the Army Medical Corps Training Depot, No. 2. He was later taken on strength of the Davisville Military Hospital on 22 Feb 1919. On the same date Cumberland was also promoted to the Provisional rank of Sergeant (with pay and allowances). Not long after his promotion, on 31 Mar 1919, Sergt. Cumberland was posted to the Dominion Orthopaedic Hospital, Toronto. By October 1919, Cumberland's service record shows that he was recorded as a member of the Canadian Army Medical Corps.

On 30 June 1920, Cumberland was struck off the strength of the Canadian Army Medical Corps Training Depot No. 2 for the purpose of demobilization as medically unfit for further service. On being discharged from the Canadian Expeditionary Force, Cumberland was entitled to receive a War Service Gratuity of $420. Albert Cumberland was entitled to a Class "A" War Service Badge.

Cumberland's place of residence after the war was recorded as 2258 Dundas St West, Toronto, Ontario, where he was still recorded as living by the Toronto City Directory of 1921.

Although Albert Cumberland was released from the army as medically unfit, and his later medical inspections rated him fit only for service in Canada, he could not have remained a civilian for long (if at all). While his record does not offer specifics of service after his demobilization, we know that he returned to the army and continued to serve at least long enough in the Corps of Military Staff Clerks (CMSC) to be awarded a long service medal.

Corps of Military Staff Clerks

This Corps, which is administered by the Adjutant General's department, was organized 1st September, 1905, previous to which time clerks were borne on the strength of the R.C.R. Only men of a high educational standard and character are accepted for service. No establishment has been published since 1914, when the Corps had a total effective strength of about 80. Numerous appointments have been made since then.

First appointments are made on probation to the rank of corporal, when candidates undergo a course of training in the work and routine of a military office. If the period of training is dispensed with, first appointments may be made to the rank of Sergeant. The succeeding steps, based on efficiency, character and length of service, are respectively Staff-Sergeant, Sergeant-Major, and are obtained only if recommended by the officer under whom the clerk is serving. - Organization, Administration and Equipment; of His Majesty's Land Forces in Peace and War, by Colonel W.R. Lang, m.s.c., General Staff (Temporary); 1916

(In September 1946, the Corps of Military Staff Clerks would be absorbed by the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps, who thereafter trained and provided all clerks for the Staff and Headquarters Organizations.)

While serving in the CMSC, Sergt. Albert Cumberland received the Permanent Overseas Forces Long Service and Good Conduct Medal. This medal was awarded for 18 years of service. There were 839 awards of this long service medal to the Canadian Army.

The date of Sergt. Cumberland's LSGC award has not yet been confirmed. The Permanent Overseas Forces LSGC medal was awarded between the years 1909 and 1932, making the latter year the latest that Sergt. Cumberland could have received his award. If Cumberland's service toward the medal had started when he first attested for The RCR in 1909, earliest year he could have received it would be 1926 (assuming double time for the (nearly) one year he spent in a theatre of war). Alternatively, if his time were calculated as starting after his charge parade in December 1915 to meet that pesky "Good Conduct" clause, he would have had to receive it in 1932, the final year the medal was presented.

Albert William Cumberland died on 11 May 1946 at Toronto. The following entry was published in the regimental journal The Connecting File, Vol. XVIII, No. 3; July, 1946.

"The funeral of the late Albert Cumberland (1914-18 and P.F.) took place on Tuesday 14 May 1946 in Toronto. A large number of the Toronto Branch of The Royal Canadian Regiment Old Comrades' Association attended in a body. Colonel, the Reverend Sidney Lambert, O.B.E., conducted the Service in McDougall and Brown's Funeral Home, St. Clair Avenue. Interment was made in the Soldiers' Plot at Prospect Cemetery, Toronto. Pallbearers were: Dr. Austin Evans, Lt.-Col. R.J.S. Langford, Wm. J. Rowbotham, M.S.M., Paul Gordon, Major A.S.A. Galloway, and Fred Death. The late comrade Cumberland will be remembered by many of the Regiment's "old hands" as "the Duke". Deceased was accorded semi-military rites, the casket being draped with the Union Jack and "last Post" and "reveille" being sounded at the graveside. Among those attending were uniformed members of the Canadian Army and Old Comrades of the 7th Brigade, C.E.F., as well as other ex-Servicemen."

Pro Patria

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