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

477661 Pte William Foy McQueen

The Royal Canadian Regiment

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

William Foy McQueen was born in Glasgow, Scotland, on 15 Oct 1891.

On 23 Mar 1913, McQueen arrived in Canada at Halifax N.S. He sailed from Liverpool aboard the S.S. Teutonic, a ship that had begun her service as a White Star liner in 1889 and by 1913 was carrying second and third class passengers to and from Canada under the Dominion Line flag.

How McQueen spent much of his first year in Canada in unknown, but he was in Toronto, Ont., by late 1913. On 4 Dec 1913, he enlisted in the Canadian Permanent Force with The Royal Canadian Regiment. On enlisting, he gave his age as 22 years, 2 months, and his trade as labourer. McQueen's first appearance in the pay lists of The RCR is with "I" Company in Toronto where he received eight days' pay at 50 cents per day before his transfer to the Regiment's home station at Halifax, N.S. McQueen's regimental number was 12238.

McQueen next appears in the December, 1913, monthly pay lists for the The RCR at Halifax in "D" Company. The pay list for January, 1914, shows that he was absent on 3 Jan 1914, for which he was fined a day's pay (Mulct Pay).

On 11 Sep 1914, The Royal Canadian Regiment sailed for Bermuda where they would serve for a year on garrison duty. On arriving in Bermuda, the Regiment relieved the 2nd Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment, which sailed immediately for England.

Having reached Bermuda as a battalion of ten companies, and adding four more provisional companies of reinforcements from Camp Valcartier to reach war establishment numbers, The RCR was reorganized in October, 1914. As part of this reorganization, the soldiers of the original "B" and "D" Companies were reconstituted as the new "B" Company in an eight-company battalion. The Regiment would reorganize again before sailing for Europe in a four-company organization.

McQueen, who had begun his regimental service in Halifax with "D" Company, was transferred to the new "B" Company. Also beginning 1 Oct 1914, The RCR was placed on Canadian Expeditionary Force (C.E.F.) rates of pay and McQueen's pay doubled to $1.00 per day.

On 12 Aug 1915, The RCR was relieved in turn by the arrival of the 38th Overseas Battalion from Canada. The RCR returned to Halifax for a stay of only a week. During this time, the Regiment was re-attested for overseas service. Although The RCR had just spent a year in Bermuda, there were concerns regarding the applicability of the soldiers' Permanent Force enlistments for wartime deployments. This was, perhaps, prompted by the idea that a man on a P.F. three-year engagement could choose not to re-engage and the Government would be obligated to bring him home. Enlistment in the C.E.F., on the other hand, was for the "Duration of War." Accordingly, the soldiers of The RCR were re-attested, signing C.E.F. attestation papers in August 1915 before sailing for Europe.

William McQueen attested for service in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (C.E.F.) with The RCR at Halifax, N.S., on 23 Aug 1915. A 23-year-old labourer, McQueen was described on his attestation paper as 5 feet 4 3/4 inches tall, weighing 123 pounds, with a 36 1/2-inch chest, a fair complexion, grey eyes, and dark brown hair. His religious denomination was Presbyterian. McQueen identified his mother, Mrs. Jeannie McQueen, No. 2a Wellcroft Place (off Eglinton St.), Glasgow, Scotland, as his next of kin.

On 26 Aug 1915, The RCR sailed from Halifax aboard the S.S. Caledonian, the same ship that had brought them home from Bermuda. Disembarked at Plymouth, England, on 6 Sep 1915, the Regiment went to Shorncliffe for training.

McQueen received a new C.E.F. service number on 28 Sep 1915 to replace the regimental number he was assigned on enlisting with The RCR. While serving in the C.E.F., his service number would be 477661. Since the Regiment received its C.E.F. numbers while at full strength and not as they were recruited, it had the interesting effect that the soldiers of the Regiment at the time were renumbered in alphabetical order. (Immediately following 477661 William Foy McQueen on the nominal roll was 477662 William James McQueen. The consecutive service numbers and almost identical names have left some confusing traces of erroneously transcribed data and misfiled service record pages. Other instances of similar numbers and names can also be found.)

Soon after arriving in England, on 6 Oct 1915, McQueen was charged and fined two days' pay for "absence from 6.00 a.m. 4 Oct 1915 to 11.00 p.m. 5 Oct 1915."

The RCR crossed the English Channel on 1 Nov 1915, entering the theatre of war at Boulogne, France. During November and December of 1915 the Regiment prepared for service in the trenches, with companies rotating in the lines for training and a period of providing working parties before entering the line as a battalion at the end of December. The first months of 1916 saw the Regiment in the steady rotation through front line trenches, support trenches, and reserve positions that was the fundamental experience of the infantry in the Great War.

On 14 Mar 1916, McQueen was again charged for absence. This time he was sentenced to five days Field Punishment (F.P.) No. 1 for "Absent from Billets from 8.30 p.m. to 9.05 p.m. 13 Mar 1916." F.P. No. 1 is described in The Canadian Officer's Guide to the Study of Military Law, by Major E. W. Pope, The RCR (Methuen & Co. Ltd., 1916):

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 for periods not exceeding two hours in any one 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.

Major Pope's guidance for officers reading his Guide also included the following advice regarding the administering of Field Punishment:

"Many officers have an idea that Field Punishment No. I consists in merely tying a prisoner to a fixed object for a certain length of time each day. This is quite wrong. The proper system is to make a man sentenced to this punishment do all the fatigues and sanitary work possible in the vicinity of the billets which his unit is occupying, with a view to relieving well-conducted men there-from. Then when there is nothing left for him to do of that nature, he can be tied to a fixed object for a period not exceeding two hours daily. When it is decided to tie a prisoner to a fixed object, it has been found advisable to carry out this punishment in as public a place as possible."

Every fighting unit can have bad days in wartime. Sometimes in operations against a determined enemy, the casualty list will be extensive. On other days, tragedy can strike without warning or expectation. For The RCR, 24 Apr 1916 was one of those latter days.

The regimental War Diary of The Royal Canadian Regiment for 24 Apr 1916 succinctly describes the event:

"24-4-16 - Camp "E"
"At about 4.00 a.m. a Hostile aircraft drops 3 Bombs on Camp "E" occupied by R.C.R. One Bomb making a direct hit on one of the huts inflicting casualties to the extent of Killed 3 O.R. Wounded 31 O.R."

Among the wounded, six more of whom would die within the next two days, was "477661 Pte McQUEEN, J.F."

McQueen was evacuated from Camp "E" and admitted to No. 17 Casualty Clearing Station (C.C.S.) with a gun shot wound (G.S.W.) of the head. "G.S.W." was a general term which could apply to wounds cause by bullets, shrapnel balls, or shell splinters. He remained in hospital until 2 May 1916 when he was discharged to duty.

Over the next five months, The RCR would be in the forward trenches six times on tours of 5 to 7 days each, and spend much of the remaining time in brigade, division and corps reserve positions. Major actions for the Regiment would include the fighting at Mount Sorrel in June and Flers-Courcellette in September. In October, 1916, just before the attack on Regina Trench, McQueen was wounded in action.

On 7 Oct 1916, McQueen received a G.S.W. of the right thigh and was swiftly evacuated through the medical system. The same day he crossed the Channel on the hospital ship H.S. Stad Antwerpen and was transferred to the Canadian Casualty Assembly Centre (C.C.A.C.) at Folkestone. This centre assessed wounded soldiers for further treatment or a return to duty.

The C.C.A.C. passed the responsibility for McQueen's care while in England to the 2nd Canadian Convalescent Depot (C.C.D.). This facility provided a place where soldiers could recover from their wounds and regain the strength necessary to return to their units.

As he recovered from his wound, McQueen progressed through the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, Norwich on 17 Oct 1916 and to the Red Cross Hospital, Dereham, Norfolk, on 23 Oct 1916. He remained here until 8 Dec 1916 when he was transferred to the Canadian Convalescent Hospital (C.C.H.) at Woodcote Park, Epsom.

On 19 Dec 1916, McQueen was discharged from hospital to the C.C.A.C. Four days later, on 23 Dec 1916, he was sent "On Command" (i.e., a temporary duty assignment without changing parent unit) to 2nd C.C.D. for Physical Training. It would be almost three months later before McQueen was transferred to 26th Res. Bn. at Bramshott on 3 Mar 1917.

McQueen remained with the 26th Res. Bn. for nearly three months. While there, on 16 May 1917, he completed the Military Will form in his paybook. This document was transcribed for his service record, the brief statement comprising the will reading: "In the event of my death I give the whole of my property and effects to my Mother, Mrs. Jeannie McQueen, 2a Wellcroft Place, Glasgow."

Six days after completing his will, on 22 May 1917, McQueen proceeded overseas for service with The RCR. On landing in France, he arrived at the Canadian Base Depot (C.B.D.) and was taken on the strength of the Regiment.

McQueen stayed at the Base Depot until 14 Jun 1917, when he was sent forward to the 3rd Entrenching Battalion. This Divisional troops unit was employed as a ready labour force and by design its troops were a forward reserve of reinforcements for the division's fighting battalions. They were used as labour forces to maintain and build trenches or other work as needed.

After ten days with the Ent. Bn., McQueen rejoined The RCR on 24 Jun 1917. The Regiment at this time was in the Quarries Area behind the Vimy defences for a period of training from 14 Jun to 2 Jul 1917. The Regiment went back into Local Support trenches on 3 Jul and into Brigade Reserve on 10 Jul 1917.

On 10 Jul 1917, William McQueen was Killed in Action.

Events for the three days around McQueen's death were recorded in the Regiment's War Diary as follows:

"9-7-17. - AVION.
Fine and warm. Battalions of the C.M.R's relieved the P.P.C.L.I. and the 49th Battalion. 6 Officers and 450 other ranks on working parties during night and day. We are to be relieved tomorrow night by the 5th C.M.R. and we are to proceed to the SOUCHEZ VALLEY. Our advance parties went out tonight and are to return tomorrow to guide out their respective Companies.

"Lieut. G.L.P. GRANT-SUTTIE granted 10 days leave to England.
Lieut. R.N. GILMOUR invalided to England.
2 other ranks invalided to England.
1 other rank struck off strength on attachment to Trench Mortar Battery.
2 other ranks joined from C.C.S.

"10-7-17. - AVION.
Fine and warm. Forty other ranks on working parties during the day. The relief was an excellent one and was complete at 11.50 p.m. The Companies moved back to the SOUCHEZ VALLEY Area. A hot meal was waiting for the men there. We are to move to the CHATEAU de la HAIE area tomorrow.

"Lieut. L.E. LONGLEY, wounded in action.
Lieut. M.F. GREGG, awarded the MILITARY CROSS.
2 other ranks killed in action.
3 other ranks wounded in action.

Fine and warm. At 2.30 p.m. we moved off and were to pass HOSPITAL CORNER at 3.20 p.m. the re the band and Drums met the Regiment and played it to the CHATUEAU de le HAIE Area. The Camp was left in a filthy condition and a considerable amount of work was required to clean it up.

"4 other ranks reported as reinforcements from the C.B.D.
1 other rank killed in action.
1 other ranks wounded in action.

The War Diary records 2 other ranks KIA on 10 July and 1 KIA on 11 July. Comparing this to the Regiment's Roll of Honour and to relevant service records shows that these numbers are misplaced by one day. The three men who died during this period are:

The circumstances of death registers for all three men simply note "Killed in Action." The grave registration forms for Knight and Lockhart show that they were buried at the same location on the battlefield and neither of their bodies were later recovered. They are commemorated on the Vimy Memorial; Pas de Calais, France.

William McQueen is buried at Petit-Vimy British Cemetery; Pas de Calais, France. He is one of four Royal Canadians among the 94 Great War soldiers buried in this cemetery (23 remain unidentified).

For his service in the C.E.F., McQueen was entitled to receive the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal, and the Victory Medal. These were despatched to his parents at 2a Wellcroft Place, Glasgow, on 2 Mar 1920 and 26 Jan 1921. His father, James McQueen, received the Memorial Plaque and Scroll and Jeannie McQueen's mother received a silver Memorial Cross. The plaque and crosses would be despatched in 1920 and 1922.

Pro Patria

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