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

455751 A/Cpl Warren Merton Hartley

The Royal Canadian Regiment (C.E.F.)
Canadian Corps of Signals (N.P.A.M.)
Royal Canadian Air Force (T./F./Lieut., C7079)

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

Warren Merton Hartley was born in Battersea, Ont., on 2 May 1900. Hartley's family, led by parents Wesley and Elizabeth, can be found in the 1901 and 1911 Canadian Censuses, although there are not unexpected differences in the recording and transcription of names. In the 1901 census Wesley (50) and Eliza (sic) (41) have five children: Leroy (9), James R. (8), Herbert (6), Lisle G. (4), and Warren M. (11 months). By the time of the 1911 census, the two older sons have moved out and the children living in the family home are Bert (17), Lisle (15), Warren (11), Ethel (9), and Carmon (7).

Claiming a birthdate of 2 May 1887, Hartley attested for service in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (C.E.F.) with the 59th Overseas Battalion at Kingston, Ont., on 27 Nov 1915. Appearing to be 18 years old and declaring his trade as farmer, Hartley was described on his attestation paper as 5 feet 7 inches tall, weighing 118 pounds, with a 33-inch chest, a fair complexion, blue eyes, and brown hair. His religious denomination was Methodist. Hartley identified his father, Wesley Hartley, P.O. Battersea, Ont., as his next of kin. On attesting with the 59th Battalion, Hartley was given the regimental number 455751.

The 59th Battalion (Ontario), C.E.F., was authorized on 20 Apr 1915 and recruited in Eastern Ontario and Hull, Quebec and was mobilized at Barriefield (now CFB Kingston), Ontario. The unit embarked for Britain on 5 Apr 1916, where it provided reinforcements for the Canadian Corps in the field until 6 Jul 1916, when its personnel were absorbed by the 39th Battalion.

Sailing from Halifax, N.S., on 5 Apr 1916, Hartley and the 59th Bn. disembarked at Liverpool, Eng., on 11 Apr 1916. He remained with the unit until 28 Jun 1916 when he was drafted to The RCR in France.

Hartley landed in France and was taken on strength at the Canadian Base Depot at Harve on 29 Jun 1916. Although already belonging to the Regiment, it would not be until 20 Sep 1916 that he would join the unit in the Field.

The RCR was in action on 15-17 Sep 1916, an action for which the Regiment was awarded the Battle Honour "Flers-Courcenlette." The cost was over 260 killed, wounded and missing. In the days immediately afterward, the Regiment recovered at Tara Hill and continued to provide working parties in support of the ongoing operation. During these days, the War Diary also reported the arrival of 110 soldiers on 17 Sep 1916 and a further 145 soldiers on 23 Sep 1916. More would come later to refill the Regiment's ranks.

Spending the last five days of September on the march, Hartley and The RCR returned to the front lines in early October, 1916. After a tour in the forward trenches from 2 to 5 Oct 1916, the Regiment was in jumping off tranches for an assault early on the morning of 8 Oct 1916. The Regiments Battle bar document succinctly described the day:

The War Diary entry for 9 Oct 1916 summarizes the cost:

"Cloudy, not quite so cool. See Appendix No. 4. Total casualties reported to date are Captain SAPTE, Lieuts. SIMPSON, WALSH, SUTTON and PENNIMAN, Missing 8-10-16. Major HODSON, Major WOOD, Lieuts. DICKSON, DWYER, BELL and MURRAY, WOUNDED 8-10-16. Killed 7 other ranks. Missing 207 other ranks. Wounded 68 other ranks. It is expected that most of those reported missing will be located through slips from Casualty Clearing Stations as having passed through dressing stations of other regiments on our flanks." [37 other ranks are noted as rejoining, most from medical facilities, the following day.]

For most of the remainder of October, the Regiment was on the move. Between 11 and 24 Oct, the battalion's location changed eight times.

With a return to Brigade Reserve on 24 Oct 1916, the Regiment followed a cycle of rotations in forward trenches and reserve positions that would characterize the infantry experience of the Great War. Between late October and early December, the Regiment would cycle through the forward line of trenches four times, each rotation being about four days between relief operations.

On 6 Dec 1916, Hartley reported sick at the unit and was sent to the Field Ambulance suffering from chilblains in his feet (painful inflammation of small blood vessels in the skin, occurring in response to long exposure to cold, but not freezing). Hartley was admitted to No. 10 Canadian Field Ambulance (C.F.A.) and then transferred to No. 4 C.F.A. He would remain hospitalized until 21 Jan 1917 when he was discharged and rejoined the Regiment.

Hartley returned to the infantry soldier's life of front line trenches, support trenches, and reserve positions. Occasionally, that cycle was interrupted by major battlefield events, as it was in April 1917 with the Battle of Vimy Ridge and October 1917 with the Battle of Passchendaele Ridge.

With a service record that has few events of note through 1917, on 1 May 1917, Hartley established a monthly Pay Assignment of $20 to be sent to his mother. As a Private in the C.E.F. paid $1.00 per day plus an additional ten cents daily field allowance, his pay assignment represented about two-thirds of his monthly pay.

In November 1917, Hartley was granted 14 days leave in the UK. He departed the unit on 4 Nov and returned on 23 Nov 1917.

Hartley's experiences as a front line infantry soldier of the CEF came to an end in January, 1918. Sixteen months after he joined the RCR, on 28 Jan 1918, he was taken out of the trenches. The Part II Daily Orders of the Regiment record the circumstances of his removal from the battalion's roll, effective 1 Feb 1918: "Transferred to England and posted to Nova Scotia Regimental Depot, Bramshott as a MINOR." In September, 1916, when he joined the Regiment in the field, he was 16 years 4 months old. When he was removed from the trenches, he was still underage at 17 years 9 months.

First sent to No. 3 Canadian Infantry Base Depot (C.I.B.D.), Hartley was very quickly transferred to England and posted to the Nova Scotia Regimental Depot (N.S.R.D.). The N.S.R.D. was part of a regionally based reinforcement system established in early 1917, with named Depots taking in troops from battalions raised in those areas in Canada and providing reinforcement drafts to similarly designated fighting units. The RCR, having been headquartered in Halifax in the decade before the War, was associated with the N.S.R.D. These Depots also became the parent unit for any soldiers returned to England from their affiliated battalions in France and Flanders.

On arrival at the N.S.R.D., Hartley was detached to the 17th Res. Bn. for Q., R., C. & Pay (quarters, rations, clothing and pay). He would remain only a few days and move again on 5 Feb 1918 when he was struck off the strength of the N.S.R.D. on transfer to the Young Soldiers Battalion (Y.S.B.) at Bramshott. The Y.S.B. was a holding unit for under-aged soldiers who were expected to be of age to go to, or return to, France with a reasonable time. Its ranks held both soldiers who came overseas from Canada before being identified as a minor as well as those who had made it into the trenches bfore a return to England. Those who were too young for the unit were returned to their parents in Canada.

Hartley remained with the Y.S.B. for the remainder of the war. On 13 Sep 1918 he was appointed to the rank of Acting Lance Corporal (with pay) and a week later, on 20 Sep 1918, promoted to Acting Corporal (with pay).

On 22 Nov 1918, Warren Hartley sailed from England and arrived back on Canadian soil on 29 Nov 1918. On embarkation, he was taken of the strength of Casualty Company, No. 3 District Depot, at Kingston, Ont. Reporting to the casualty Company, which would coordinate his discharge, Hartley was sent on leave, with subsidies in lieu of rations, from 2 to 15 Dec 1918.

A Medical History of an Invalid form was completed on Hartley in preparation for his discharge. The form noted his contracting of chilblains in December, 1916, while serving in France. His condition at the time of his examination in 1918 was recorded as follows:

"Subjective:— Soldier complains of swelling of toes and forepart of foot with pain and inability to walk, attacks occur according to weather conditions, always some pain present, worse wet damp or cold weather.

"Objective:— Inspection shows slight redness and swelling of toes, swelling almost negligible at present, slight soreness on pressure."

Hartley's condition was assessed as "Permanent except climate may improve" and "Slight disability due to service." He was given a medical category of "C-1."

On 6 Jan 1919, Hartley was discharged from the C.E.F. on demobilization. He was 18 years 8 months in age. During his service he had grown four inches and his height was noted on his Discharge Certificate as 5 feet 11 inches tall. On discharge, Hartley was entitled to a War Service Gratuity of $420. This was paid to him in installments between January and June, 1919.

Warren Hartley married Mary Agnes Hazel Bujold at Winnipeg, Man., on 20 Sep 1922. The couple would have two sons, Roy Kenneth Charles (1923-1954) and George Wesley (1927-1999).

For his service in the C.E.F., Hartley was entitled to receive the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. These were despatched to him at 56 Smith St., Winnipeg, Man., on 21 Oct 1922.

Between the World Wars, Hartley returned to military service with the Canadian Militia. In 1935 he enlisted with the Canadian Corps of Signals. By the summer of 1936, he held the rank of Acting Sergeant and his home unit was 10th Divisional Signals in Military District No. 10, Winnipeg, Man.

In August of 1936, Hartley attended training at the Canadian Signal Training Centre, Camp Borden. The unit's Part II Orders, dated 5 Aug 1936, note that he was attached while attending the Royal Canadian School of Signals. For his travel time and training, he was entitled to pay and allowance from Left home and entitled to pay from 1 to 29 Aug 1936. Hartley also spent time in hospital while at camp Borden, from 12 to 18 Aug but the reasons is not recorded.

On enlisting for the Second World War, Hartley reported his prior service in the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals (Non-Permanent Militia), from 1935 until 8 Apr 1938.

Mary Hartley died at St. Boniface Hospital, St. Boniface, Man., on 21 Jul 1938. She was 39 years of age.

Hartley, a widower with two young sons, did not remain single for long. On 17 Oct 1938, he married Isabelle Cameron Sutherland at St Boniface, Man. Notes written by her brother, Thomas Mathieson Sutherland, give a general overview of their time together (Source:

"Isabel came to Moose Jaw and stayed with us for some months before returning to Winnipeg, where shortly afterward she married Warren Hartley in a civil ceremony at the office of Mayor George McLean of St. Boniface. Warren was with a photograph company, and they later moved to Carman where Warren continued in that business, while Isabel went nursing. With the outbreak of war, Warren became an instructor in a trade school at Logan & Sherbrook, later serving with the R.C.A.F. at various points, finally settling in B.C. after the war. Isabel became a nurse in North Vancouver General Hospital, and one stormy evening she was driving home in the rain, and on coming around the shoulder of a mountain she met a transport truck head-on with fatal consequences. I went to Vancouver and found that the inquest had been completed that morning in North Vancouver. I attended at the funeral parlor and was present at the service, Warren having arranged for cremation. He gave me Isabel's watch to give to Jessie."

A letter to the Editor published in The Winnipeg Tribune on 6 Jun 1941 offers an indication of Hartley's next career change. Titled "Dismissals at Henry Ave. School," the letter speaks of the dismissal of sour instructors as a symptom of serious issues with the management of the school and its governing body. The letter, coincidentally, has four signatories, one of which is Warren M. Hartley.

On 5 Sep 1941, Hartley enlisted for service in the Second World War at Winnipeg, Man., and was appointed to the rank of Temporary (i.e. wartime) Pilot Officer (a rank equivalent to an army Second Lieutenant) For this enlistment, he reported his correct birthdate of 2 May 1900. Hartley received the service number C7179 for his second wartime service. Less than two months after enlisting, on 23 Oct 1941, Warren Hartley embarked for overseas service.

[Although Hartley's Second World War service record was not available at the time of this writing, the following notes on his service have been pieced together. His new service number and dates of service are recorded in his CEF service record.]

Hartley's name appears in the volume "Radar Officers of the Royal Canadian Air Force, 1940 -1946," by J. R. Robinson and F. B. Grahame. Along with the dates of his promotions, they offer this single line of data: "HARTLEY, W.M. — 172 — RADIO — CAN C7179 — Direct Entry." The first direct entry officers enlisted for the RCAF were recorded in the Canada gazette without service numbers, in Hartley's case "172" is his placement in the list of names as transcribed by Robinson and Grahame. Their notes on the early officers of the Radar Branch offer a look at Hartley's method of entry into the RCAF:

"First RDF-Officer Recruitment: "Direct Entries" (D.E.'s)

"The initial intake of men with some experience in radio (professional radio operators, "Hams, radio repairmen, etc.) were selected for suitability as officer material" and approved candidates were appointed directly as Pilot Officers with simultaneous promotion to "Temporary Flying Officer". These were recruited specifically for work in the (then) new and ultra-secret field of "radiolocation", as distinguished from conventional signals-communications activities, and they were dispatched overseas as quickly as possible for further training. For security, the terms "radiolocation" and "radio direction finding" (RDF) were at first avoided and the initial group (October, 1940 – January, 1941, appointment Sequence No.'s (SN) 1 to 71, were categorized as the SIGNALS BRANCH (R). …

"The SIGNALS(R) designation gave way by February 1941 to a new and independent "RADIO BRANCH", the first 71 officers were, retroactively, transferred to RADIO and the "(R)" which had been a part of their personal numbers was eliminated. …

"The first wave of D.E.'s overlapped into the RADAR BRANCH (SN 72 to 175). It included 128 officers who received P/O and simultaneous F/O (Oct. 40 ~ May '41) followed by 49 (May to Sept.'41) who received P/O only and waited the customary six months for their first promotion. (The totals must be adjusted to include SN's 146-B and 162-B who were later transferred from SIGNALS). About 27 more D.E.'s (special cases) were appointed at irregular intervals during the war but SN-175 marked the end of this as a general intervals procedure. …"

As a radar officer in the RCAF, Hartley's wartime role is also alluded to in "Canadians on Radar in South East Asia 1941-1945" by Angus Hamilton. In this work, Hartley's name is identified as included in a March, 1943, document listing radar officers, providing only the identification of "227" under "Canadians on AMEs and Signal Wings." The source notes the incompleteness of their data based on the limited sources they were able to access. "227" refers to the Signals Group at Bombay (now Mumbai), and "AME" is the abbreviation for Air Ministry Experimental Stations (i.e., Ground radar stations).

"Canadians on Radar in South East Asia 1941-1945" also provides the following on the work of the early radar personnel in the RCAF:

"Most of us who went to South East Asia were trained at one of the three RAF Radio Schools: Cranwell or Yatesbury in the UK, or Clinton in Ontario. A few were trained at a temporary facility in Prestwick, Scotland. To be eligible for this training everyone had to qualify either by passing a "Trade test" or by successfully completing a thirteen-week "ab initio" course in basic physics and radio fundamentals at a Canadian university, or, later on, by successfully completing a six-month course at a vocational high school.

"Those who were admitted by test were called the Direct Entry group. Many of this group had been Amateur Radio Operatorsthe people known as Hamsand some had been radio repairmen. This group was the first to respond to the Air Force's recruitment for radio mechanics; most of these joined up in late 1940 or early 1941. Those with a degree in science or engineering, or who had been installing or maintaining telephone exchanges, were usually offered a commission. Whether commissioned or not, those who were admitted by Direct Entry inevitably became pioneers. They were the first Canadians to work side by side with the British servicemen. They had some daunting experiences."

The work of these early radar personnel in India and the surrounding theatre of operations is noted in "Canadians in South East Asia 1941-1945", an article on the Veterans Affairs Canada website:

"Canadian airmen were in the South East Asia theatre even before the initial Japanese attacks of December 1941. When war broke out in 1939, few skills had been in greater demand among the Allied armed forces than those associated with radio operation and maintenance skills which were valuable not only for their own sake, but which could be readily be applied to the new and still mysterious arts of Radio Detection Finding, or radar as it was subsequently called. By the end of 1940, Canada had added several hundred trained radiomen to the strength of the Royal Air Force (RAF). These men had been hurriedly enlisted in the RCAF and sent to England for courses which qualified them as radar operators and mechanics. A number of graduates in electrical engineering had also been commissioned and loaned to the RAF to command or administer the stream of radar and signals units that were constantly being formed.

"Many of these radio personnel were then posted overseas, to the Middle East or South East Asia. By December 1941, about 350 RCAF other ranks and 50 officers were serving in the RAF's Far East Command. A month later, at least 35 Canadian aircrew, early graduates of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, were also serving in RAF squadrons in South East Asia. By April 1942, this number had more than doubled as the British and Dutch were driven out of Malaya, Singapore, the Netherlands' East Indies (now Indonesia), and much of Burma."

The Canada Gazette published Hartley's promotion to Temporary Flying Officer (equivalent to an army Lieutenant), effective 5 Mar 1942. He was promoted again on 5 Sep 1943, to Temp. Flight Lieutenant (equivalent to an army Capt).

Hartley returned to Canada by early 1945, when he begins to appear in the Daily Diaries of Signals installations in Canada (available on line at Stationed at No. 2 Technical Signals Unit (T.S.U.), Penhold, Alta, which operated between September, 1944, and October, 1945, he had technical responsibilities for the inspection and maintenance of radar installations.

10 Feb 45 (2 Filter Detachment – Victoria, BC.)
Normal Routine. F/L AH Turner, (CAN) C15125, and F/L WH Hartley (CAN) C7179, on attachment to Western Air Command, from No 2 TSU, Penhold, Alta., on temporary duty this Detachment for purpose of visiting Filter and Coastal Radio Units to determine technical requirements and difficulties.

12 Feb 45 (2 Filter Detachment – Victoria, BC.)
F/O AD Solomon (CAN) C7181, Signals-Radar Officer, accompanied by F/L AH Turner (CAN) C15125 and F/L WH Hartley (CAN) C7179, Radar Officers of No 2 TSU Penhold, Alta., visited X-1 Detachment, Jordan River, for purpose of technical inspection of site, equipment and antenna.

13 Feb 45 (2 Filter Detachment – Victoria, BC.)
F/O AD Solomon (CAN) C7181, Signals-Radar Officer, accompanied by F/L WH Hartley (CAN) C7179 of No. 2 TSU visited No 7 Radio Unit for purpose of familiarization. F/l JJ McGarry, C11886, RC Padre visited this unit for interview of RC personnel.

18 Feb 45 (2 Filter Detachment – Victoria, BC.)
F/L WH Hartley checked on performance of X-1 Detachment during night shifts, over week-end.

20 Feb 45 (2 Filter Detachment – Victoria, BC.)
F/L WH Hartley carried out observations at Radar Detachment.

21 Feb 45 (2 Filter Detachment – Victoria, BC.)
F/L WH Hartley (C7179) ceased temporary duty and returned to Western Air Command Vancouver at 2359 hour.

13 Apr 45 (9 Radio Unit – Spider Island, BC)
Weather poor, wet and windy. F/L Hartley & WO Michael of No 2 TSU arrived from Namu aboard M/V Nimpkish. F/L Hartley was suffering from a broken ankle, which had occurred when boarding boat at Namu. Fortunately an aircraft arrived from Bella Bella with F/L Earle, Medical Officer from Coal Harbour, who was coming on a monthly inspection. F/L Hartley was loaded aboard the plane and sent to Coal Harbour. F/L Earle, inspected the unit and expressed his satisfaction at its cleanliness.

3 May 45 (2 Filter Detachment – Victoria, BC.)
F/L WM Hartley (C7179) reported on TD from No 2 TSU, Penhold, Alta.

30 Jul 45 (9 Radio Unit – Spider Island, BC)
Arrival of F/L Hartley and F/O Stroud with No 2 TSU field parties 8 and 9 for quarterly overhaul. Operations closed at 18:00 hrs.

1 Aug 45 (9 Radio Unit – Spider Island, BC)
Weather fine and warm. Work proceeding on Quarterly overhaul by Field Parties 8 and 9. Officer in charge F/L Hartley.

On 14 Dec 1945, Warren Hartley was discharged from active service on demobilization. The Canada Gazette recorded him as transferred to the RCAF (Reserve), General Section, Class E.

After the Second World War, Warren and Isabel moved to British Columbia. The Coast News (Gibson, B.C.), in its edition of 5 Aug 1954, carried a mention of Hartley's latest employment under items for Sechelt, B.C.:

"Warren Hartley Joins Fisheries Patrol

"Warren Hartley of Garden Bay, Pender Harbour, started patrol duty with the Federal Fisheries Department this week. His district will be from Vancouver Bay to the head of Jervis Inlet. Mr. Hartley has seen active service in both World Wars. In World War II, he was a Flight Lieutenant in charge of radar installations in Burma and he has the distinction of being the only Canadian (sic) to receive the Burma Star."

Isabel Hartley died in an automobile accident on 21 Feb 1961. Her car, which was later determined to have faulty brakes which had failed inspections, crossed the line and struck a truck near Eagle Harbor, B.C. The truck driver had seen her car's erratic movements and had pulled to the shoulder and stopped, but it was not enough to avoid the collision. Isabel died of her injuries soon after the accident. She was 52.

On 1 Nov 1972, The Peninsula Times, a paper serving the Sunshine Coast (Howe Sound to Jervis Inlet, B.C.), published an article on the New Horizons Vocational Assistance Group. This group, which included Warren Hartley, was seeking federal funding under an Opportunities for Youth project to share their experience, skills, and knowledge with a new generation. Hartley's background is described in the article as "electronics engineer in charge of installing the first radar station in India during World War II … At 72, he is the 'old man' of the group."

The Peninsula Times edition of 12 May 1976 noted the celebration of Hartley's birthday:

"Happy Birthday Warren

"First world war veteran Warren Hartley celebrated his 76th birthday at the Royal Canadian Legion Br 112 on Saturday. He was born in Kingston, Ontario on May 2nd. 1900. When he was 15 1/2 years old he was in the trenches at the Battle of the Somme. Sept. 15th, 1916. During the Second World War he was in the Air Force and stationed in England, S. Africa and on the Burma Front. They built radar stations. He was Flight Lieutenant in the Canadian Armed Forces.

"Warren came to Pender Harbour in 1952. His wife, Isabel, was the matron of St. Marys Hospital in Pender Harbour in 1953, and was killed in a car accident over 20 years ago. Visiting him for his birthday from Victoria were his only son, George, and his nephew, Rick Hartley and wife, Ilsa.

"They presented him with a cake with Old Style written on the icing and his nephew dressed as Father Time, gave him a bottle of brandy which had been covered with hard icing and Warrens Brand decorated on it."

"The members and friends in the club sang Happy Birthday."

Warren Hartley died at Sechelt, B.C., on 17 Feb 1982. he was 81 years old.

Pro Patria

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