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

6056 Private David Henry Stayte

22nd Regiment, "The Oxford Rifles"
1st Canadian Infantry Battalion

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

David Henry Stayte was born in Charlbury, Oxfordshire, England, on 29 Dec 1892. He was the second of five children of John William and Rachel Lavinia (née Chapman) Stayte.

Travelling alone, Stayte arrived in Canada at the age of 18 on 13 Mar 1911. Landing at St. John, N.B., from the Canadian Pacific liner S.S. Lake Champlain, the ship's passenger list recorded his destination as Woodstock, Ont., and his trade as shoemaker.

By 1913, Stayte was a soldier in the Canadian Militia, serving with the 22nd Regiment "The Oxford Rifles" of Woodstock, Ont. In 1913, the Annual Militia Camp for the units of the First Divisional Area was conducted at Carling's Heights (Wolseley Barracks), London, Ont., from 16 to 27 Jun 1913. The First Divisional Area replaced Military District No. 1 in 1911, and consisted of units from the counties of Essex, Kent, Lambton, Elgin, Middlesex, Oxford, Waterloo, Wellington, Perth, Huron and Bruce, with its Headquarters at London, Ontario. (The "Military District" designations would return in 1916.) The 1913 Camp was expected to have 2800 soldiers and 700 horses that year.

Country regiments attended the full camp, while city regiments attended for five days of drills to complement the regular parades they conducted at home armouries through the remainder of the year. Stayte attended the camp as a soldier of "B" Company of the 22nd Regiment "The Oxford Rifles." He is noted on the unit pay list as a soldier of the Advance Party and was paid for six days (20-21 Jun), one more day than most soldiers in the unit. Earning 85 cents per day, Stayte received $5.10 for his time at the camp.

Stayte attested for service in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (C.E.F.) with the 1st Canadian Infantry Battalion at Camp Valcartier, P.Q., on 15 Sep 1914. A 21-year-old machinist, Stayte was described on his attestation paper as 5 feet 6 inches tall, with a 37 1/2-inch chest, a fair complexion, blue eyes, and dark hair. His religious denomination was Presbyterian. Stayte identified his mother, Lavinia Stayte, Main St., Birmingham, Eng., as his next of kin. On attesting with the 1st Battalion, Stayte was given the regimental number 6506.

On 7 Jan 1915, Stayte was admitted to No. 1 General Hospital, afflicted with gonorrhea (V.D.G.). Unable to travel to France with the 1st Battalion in early February, he was taken on the strength of the 9th Battalion on 1 Feb 1915.

The 9th Battalion was originally organized as an infantry battalion of the C.E.F. The unit embarked for Britain on 1 Oct 1914, where it was redesignated the 9th Reserve Infantry Battalion, CEF, on 29 Apr 1915. The unit provided reinforcements for the Canadian Corps in the field until it was disbanded in 1917.

Stayte remained in hospital until he was discharged on 23 Mar 1915. He remained attached to 9th Battalion pending the decision of a Permanent Court of Inquiry. This was likely the reason for his appearance on 23 Apr 1915 before a Medical Board at Shorncliffe for defective vision. With the vision in his right eye only one third as strong as his left (RV = 6/18, LV = 6/6), Stayte was saved by the accompanying note reading "This man shoots from left shoulder." His case was referred to the staff for a ruling, and he was accepted as fit.

On 30 Apr 1915, Stayte was transferred to the 3rd Battalion. The 3rd Battalion (Toronto Regiment), C.E.F. was authorized on 2 Sep 1914 and formed from soldiers from Toronto. The battalion was organized and trained at Camp Valcartier before sailing for England in September 1914 and became part of the 1st Canadian Division, 1st Canadian Infantry Brigade.

Stayte embarked for France on 2 May 1915 and was taken on the strength of the 3rd Battalion the following day. He remained with the 3rd Battalion for a little more than a week, transferring to the 1st Battalion on 10 May 1915.

The 1st Battalion would execute 11 tours of the front line trenches between May and the end of October 1915. Some tours consisted of a single day in support of operations or conducting attacks, while most tours were the usual four to six days of trench routine between reliefs. Like many soldiers of the war, Stayte's experience was one of the steady cycle between trenches and reserve, without major incidents that necessitated entries in his service record.

On 1 Nov 1915, Stayte was granted seven days leave to England from 1 to 7 Nov 1915. After his return, the 1st Battalion was back in the front trenches from 5 to 9 Dec and, after three days in Brigade Reserve, returned to the front lines on 12 Dec 1915.

The 1st Canadian Infantry Battalion's War Diary describes a relatively quiet tour of duty beginning on 12 Dec 1915. The entries for 12 to 14 Dec read:

"12 Dec 1915 – Showery. Bn in billets as above (Tea Farm, Wood Camp, and Anti-Aircraft Farm). 1st Bn. Relieved 4th Bn. In front line trenches C.3, C.4, D.1, D.2, etc. As before. Relief completed 6.20 p.m.

"13 Dec 1915 – Fine. Bn holding trenches as above, artillery active on both sides.

"14 Dec 1915 – Fine. Bn holding trenches as above, situation normal."

"15 Dec 1915 – Fine. Bn holding trenches as above, situation unchanged."

In an Intelligence Report submitted as an appendix to the month's War Diary, the 1st Battalion also recorded the following:

"13 Dec 1915 – "Enemy very quiet. Very little sniping and few flares. Our patrols report no movement in enemy's lines."

"14 Dec 1915 – "At 4.30 p.m. enemy sent over 4 grenades opposite D.1 and 4 more at 8.45 p.m. We replied with 6 grenades each time. Patrol and listening posts report all quiet. A new enemy M.G. emplacement observed opposite C.3."

"15 Dec 1915 – "Enemy artillery active yesterday. Sniping. Enemy did not show much activity. Our patrol of Trench C.3 at 8 p.m. found wire in good condition. Patrol went out again at 11.30 p.m. Report enemy wire in front of C.3 in bad condition, presenting no obstacle whatever in many places, men were heard talking in enemy trenches. A canvas screen has been observed, erected in front of Railway line running diagonally left from left of Messines hill. Location of supposed new enemy M.G. emplacement mentioned in our report of Dec 14th is 36.d.5 1/2.1."

For the month of December 1915, the 1st Canadian Infantry Brigade War Diary recorded that the 1st Battalion reported casualties of 3 soldiers killed and 1 officer and 20 soldiers wounded. Neither the Battalion nor the Brigade War Diaries provide detail that may help to understand Stayte's wounding. It is likely that he was an unfortunate victim of the exchange of grenades on 14 December.

Henry Staye was admitted to No. 2 Casualty Clearing Station (C.C.S.) on 14 Dec 1915 suffering from "G.S.W. Chest." G.S.W., gun shot wound, could be applied to wounds cause by bullets, shrapnel, or splinter. Despite making it to a treatment facility, Stayte died of wounds at No. 2 C.C.S. on 14 Dec 1915.

The will in Stayte's Pay Book was extracted after his death to determine the handling of his estate. The will read: "In the event of my death I give the whole of my property to Corp. John Stayte, 3rd Hussars."

On 24 Dec 1915, The London Advertiser carried the news of Stayte's death:

"Woodstock Private Killed In Action Givenchy Survivor Falls [Special to The Advertiser.]

"Woodstock, Dec. 23.—Woodstock citizens learned with regret this morning of the death on the field of honor, of another of her noble sons, in the person of Pte. Edward (sic) Stayte, who has been reported killed in France. Pte. Stayte was a young Englishman well known in this city, where he was employed at the Wind Motor Company prior to his enlistment, being among the first to answer the call at the out-break of hostilities.

"Pte. Stayte was one of thirteen Woodstock boys to escape at the battle of Givenchy. He was only 23 years of age. His parents and relatives all reside in the old country."

Stayte is buried in the Bailleul Communal Cemetery Extension. The Register for the Cemetery contains an entry for his grave, which reads: "STAYTE, Pte. H. D., 6506. 1st Bn. Canadian Inf. (Western Ontario Regt.). Killed in action 14th Dec., 1915. Age 23. Son of Rachel Lavinia Bond (formerly Stayte), of 36, Griffin's Brook Lane, Selly Oak, Birmingham, England, and the late John William Stayte. Native of Charlbury, Oxon. I. D. 126."

For his service in the C.E.F., Stayte was entitled to receive the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal, and the Victory Medal. These were despatched to his elder brother John W. Stayte, Esq., at Aero Cottages, Burton Rd., Kennington, Ashford, Kent, Eng., in March and July, 1921. John Stayte also received the Memorial Plaque and Scroll. Stayte's mother, Mrs. Rachel Lavina Bond, Griffin Brook Lane, Selly Oak, Birmingham, Eng., received a silver Memorial Cross. The plaque and crosses would be despatched in 1920 and 1921.

Pro Patria


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