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

127075 Acting Corporal George Wesley Himes

71st Canadian Overseas Battalion, C.E.F.
Royal Canadian Horse Artillery

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

George Wesley Himes was born in Galt, Ontario, on 14 Aug 1897. Himes' family, led by parents John and Nellie, can be found in the 1901 Canadian Censuses. George (3) is the middle child of three, with older sister Alva (7) and younger brother Norman (1).

Himes attested for service in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (C.E.F.) with the 71st Overseas Battalion at Galt, Ontario, on 11 Oct 1915. An 18-year-old clerk, Himes was described on his attestation paper as 5 feet 9 inches tall, weighing 145 pounds, with good physical development, a 36 1/2-inch chest, a fresh complexion, blue eyes, and light brown hair. His religious denomination was Methodist. Himes identified his mother, Nellie Himes, as his next of kin. On attesting with the 71st Battalion, Himes was given the regimental number 127075.

On his attestation form, Himes declared prior service of three months in the Signal Section of the 29th Regiment, Highland Light Infantry. Starting in October, 1915, Himes assigned $15 of his monthly pay to go to his mother. He continued this pay assignment until May of 1919.

In a common trend for the era, area newspapers would often carry the news of local men enlisting for wartime service. On 13 Oct 1915, the London Advertiser included an brief item announcing that Galt had provided ten more recruits for the C.E.F.. Of the ten, four were recruited for the 71st Battalion, four for a Pioneer Battalion being formed, one for the Mounted Rifles, and one for the 34th Battalion. The ten names listed included George W. Himes.

Although no reason for the change is recorded,after only three months with the 71st Battalion, Himes was transferred to the 111th Overseas Battalion on 12 Jan 1916. The 111th Battalion (South Waterloo), C.E.F., was recruited in Waterloo County, Ontario, and was mobilized at Galt. The battalion was authorized on 22 Dec 1915 and embarked for Britain on 25 Sep 1916, where, on 13 Oct 1916, its personnel were absorbed by the 35th Battalion, C.E.F., to provide reinforcements for the Canadian Corps in the field.

Himes was promoted to Lance Corporal on 25 Feb 1916. Shrtly before the unit left Canada, on 12 Sep 1916, he received a promotion to the rank of Corporal.

The 111th Battalion sailed from Halifax aboard the S.S. Luscania on 25 Sep 1916 and arrived in England on 6 Oct 1916. The unit was quickly absorbed into the reinforcement system and on 13 Oct 1916, Himes was transferred from the 111th Battalion. to the 35th Battalion. A few days later, on 17 Oct 1916, he changed units again on posting to the 39th Battalion's Signal Section. He would spend three months with the 39th Battalion. before moving to another reserve unit when he was transferred on 4 Jan 1917 to the 6th Reserve Battalion. at West Sandling.

The 6th Res. Bn. would not be Himes final unit in the reserve unit structure supporting the C.E.F. in France and Flanders. Almost a year and a half after he enlisted, he was again transferred, changing Corps this time, when he transferred to the Canadian Field Artillery (C.F.A.) and joined the Reserve Brigade, C.F.A. at East Sandling on 15 Jan 1917.

Once he was with the artillery, there was undoubtedly a retraining requirement to prepare Himes for service overseas. The pace at which he received his retraining was no doubt altered on 31 Jan 1917 when he was admitted to Moore Barracks Canadian Hospital, Shorncliffe, with a fracture of the right wrist. Luckily not suffering a particularly bad break, Himes was transferred to the Canadian Convalescent Hospital at Woodcote Park, Epsom, on 9 Feb 1917 and would be discharged to duty on 16 Apr 1917.

While in hospital, Himes was taken on the strength of the Reserve Brigade, C.F.A., at Shorncliffe, with rank of Lance Corporal on 21 Feb 1917. After a further four months at Sandling, he reverted to Permanent Grade of Gunner at his own request on 22 Jun 1917 and was struck off the strength of the Reserve Brigade to the 2nd Reserve Artillery. Reversion to the rank of Gunner (or private for other Corps) was an essential step in order to join a draft of soldiers proceeding overseas to France. While a man may have gained and held rank in Canada or England, the units at the front wanted to be reinforced with private soldiers, preferring to promote from within their own ranks from men with proven experience at the front.

On 9 Aug 1917, Himes was placed in a draft of men intended to join the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery (R.C.H.A.) in France. The lineage documents produced by the Directorate of History and Heritage of National Defence Headquarters provides the following synopsis history of the R.C.H.A. in the Great War: "The Royal Canadian Horse Artillery was placed on active service on 6 August 1914 for instructional and camp administration duties. On 26 August 1914 it mobilized the 'Royal Canadian Horse Artillery Brigade, C.E.F.', which embarked for England on 30 September 1914. The regiment disembarked in France on 20 July 1915, where it provided mobile field artillery support as part of the 'Canadian Cavalry Brigade, C.E.F.' in France and Flanders until the end of the war. The brigade was disbanded on 23 October 1920."

Himes arrived at the Canadian General Base Depot (C.G.B.D.) in France on 10 Aug 1917 and was taken on the strength of the R.C.H.A. On 14 Aug 1917, he left the Depot, arriving at his unit the following day. Less than two weeks later, on 23 Aug 1918, Himes was granted 14 days leave in England, on which he proceeded, rejoining the unit on 8 Sep 1918.

Himes apparently enjoyed his leave in England, and brought back to France a souvenir that would define the rest of his war experience. On 10 Sep 1918, he was admitted to No. 7 Canadian Field Ambulance and the same day transferred to No. 12 Stationary Hospital, diagnosed with "V.D.G." [venereal disease, gonorrhea].

Transferred to No. 14 Ambulance Train on 12 Sep 1918, Himes was admitted to No. 7 General Hospital, Wimereux, on 13 Sep 1918. He would remain here for treatment until discharge on 19 Oct 1918. While in treatment for gonorrhea at No. 7 General Hospital, Himes forfeited his field allowance and 50 cents of his daily pay while he was in hospital from 13 Sep to 19 Oct 1918. This loss of half his private's rate of pay plus his field allowance was a standard administrative procedure which appears to have done little to curb the incident rate of sexually transmitted diseases.

Himes was discharged from No. 7 Gen. Hospital to Base Details on 19 Oct 1918. Three days later, on 21 Oct 1918, he was taken on the strength of the C.G.B.D. as a soldier fit to return to front line service. Leaving the Base for his unit once again on 7 Nov 1918, Himes would only be out to the front for a week this time.

On 14 Nov 1918, Himes was returning to the rear areas on No. 9 Ambulance Train. The following day, on 15 Nov 1918, he was admitted to No. 1 Stationary Hospital at Rouen, again diagnosed with V.D.G. He would be discharged four days later on 19 Nov 1918 to Base Details at Boulogne. Himes returned to the Base Depot on 22 Nov 1918 and left for his unit on 9 Dec 1918, rejoining the R.C.H.A. in the field on 13 Dec 1918.

George Himes was struck off the strength of the Canadian Concentration Centre on 21 May 1919 on embarking for Canada at Liverpool. He would arrive at Halifax, N.S., on 28 May 1919. His progress through the release process would be rapid. Three days after his return to Canada, on 31 May 1919, Himes was discharged from the C.E.F. at No. 3 District Depot, Kingston, Ont.

On discharge from the C.E.F., Himes was issued the Class "A" War Service badge, number 277988. He was also entitled to receive a War Service Gratuity of $420. This was paid to him in installments between May and October, 1919.

In the post-war years, Himes was a well-known Galt athlete, and his sports career can be followed in area papers that followed the leagues he played in. George and his brother Norman (Normie) were both active in athletic circles and both were on the Galt Intermediate Ontario Hockey Association championship team in 1920. George was the team's left defenceman, and Normie was the centre.

On 1 Sep 1920, 23-year old George married Ethel Marion Andres, a 22-year-old stenographer from Hespeler, Ontario. The ceremony took place at Hespeler. The couple's marriage certificate shows that Himes was employed as a weaver at the time of their marriage.

For his service in the C.E.F., Himes was entitled to receive the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. These were despatched to him at 91 Shades St., Galt, Ont., on 17 Jul 1922.

George and Norman Himes demonstrated that their sports prowess was not limited to a single sport. On 3 Nov 1922, The London Advertiser announced a banquet and presentation to be made to the Galt Terriers, Ontario's (Intercounty Seniors) baseball champions for that year. Both brothers were members of the team, with George at 3rd base and Norman the short stop.

The Free Press of London, Ont, published 2 Aug 1923, noted some changes to the roster of the Galt Terrier hockey team. The article noted that "George Himes is another local hockey player who is missing, he having gone with the exodus to Detroit in the spring and is now permanently located in a suburb of that city." Himes' move to Detroit did not keep him from returning to play hockey. By February, 1924, he was again being mentioned in local papers as a member of the Galt Terriers hockey team roster. The 13 Feb 1924 edition of The London Free Press notes that, in a victory over the Kitchener Green Shirts in an exhibition game, "George Himes scored the odd goal."

On 27 Mar 1924 the London Free Press shared a number of Galt news items, including the following: "George Himes, former Terrier in baseball and hockey, now the manager of a grocery store in Detroit, was the victim of a hold-up in his store, $225 being taken from the cash drawer." Later the same year, on 6 Nov 1924, a London Free Press article identified Himes as a member of the Terrier's Senior Ontario Hockey Association team. It noted Himes' place on the team and his return to his home town with "George Himes, the latter having returned here early this summer after a year's sojourn in Detroit."

The Himes brothers' hockey careers continued, George played with the New Haven Eagles from 1928 to 1931 and Normie was with the team for the 1935-36 season. Norman would later be inducted into the Cambridge Sports hall of Fame while both brothers were represented by teams that were awarded the same honour.

George Himes died on 20 Jul 1962. He is buried in Trinity Anglican Cemetery, Cambridge, Ontario.

127075 Acting Corporal George Wesley Himes
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