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

733849 Private Norman Parker Thompson

112th Overseas Battalion
The Royal Canadian Regiment

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

Norman Parker Thompson was born in New Cornwall, Lunenburg County, Nova Scotia, on 12 Mar 1897. The Thompson family can be found in the 1901 Canadian Census. Parents Parker "Wedall" (Absalom) (30) and Laura (nee Ernst, 27) have three children, Alberta Mae (7), Clark D. (6), and Norman Parker (2). Father Weddal's trade is shown in the census records as Farmer.

By the time of the 1911 Canadian Census, the family had grown. Wedall (30) and Laura (27) have five children at home; Alberta (18), Clark D. (16), Norman (12), Elsie (3) and Ray Theodore (1). (One sibling died in early childhood in 1905, and two more would join the family, born in 1912 and 1914.)

Norman Thompson attested for service in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (C.E.F.) with the 112th Overseas Battalion at Bridgewater, Nova Scotia, on 4 Mar 1916. An 18-year-old fisherman, Thompson was described on his attestation paper as 5 feet 5 inches tall, weighing 150 pounds, with a 38-inch chest, a dark complexion, brown eyes, and black hair. His religious denomination was Lutheran. Thompson identified his father, Weddal P. Thompson, as his next of kin. On attesting with the 112th Battalion, Thompson was given the regimental number 733849.

The 112th Battalion (Nova Scotia), C.E.F., was recruited throughout Nova Scotia and was mobilized at Windsor, N.S. The battalion was authorized on 22 Dec 1915 and embarked for Great Britain on 23 Jul 1916. It provided reinforcements for the Canadian Corps in the field until 7 Jan 1917, at which time its remaining personnel were absorbed by the 26th Reserve Battalion, C.E.F.

Norman Thompson's older brother, Clark D. Thompson (#734231), also enlisted for service with the 112th Battalion. The two men would reach France together and both be posted to The Royal Canadian Regiment as reinforcements.

With the 112th Battalion, Thompson sailed from Halifax aboard the S.S. Olympic on 23 Jul 1916. The unit disembarked England at Liverpool on 31 Jul 1916.

Commencing August, 1916, Thompson established a monthly Pay Assignment of $15 to be sent to his wife. As a Private in the C.E.F., Thompson was paid $1.00 per day plus an additional ten cents daily field allowance. His pay assignment represented about one-half of his monthly pay.

On 2 Feb 1917, Thompson was struck off strength of the 112th Bn to the 26th Reserve Battalion at Bramshott. This unit was part of the reinforcement system which was starting to reorganize on regional lines. Designated the 26th Canadian Reserve Battalion (Nova Scotia), it was initially formed with soldiers from the 40th, 112th, and 218th Battalions, and RCR designated reinforcements from the RCR & PPCLI Depot. The 26th Res. Bn. existed at Shorncliffe from 4 Jan 1917 to 15 Oct 1917.

Thompson was struck off strength of the 26th Res. Bn. to The RCR on 5 Mar 1917. The following day he landed in France and was taken on the strength of the Regiment. He remained at the Canadian Base Depot at Le Havre until sent forward with a reinforcement draft. While at Le Havre, Thompson was hospitalized at No. 7 Canadian Stationary Hosptal, N.Y.D. with jaundice from 13 to 25 Mar 1917.

In the same reinforcing draft as his brother, Thompson's forward movement to join the Regiment in the field began on 31 Mar 1917 when he left the C.B.D. for 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. The 3rd Canadian Entr. Bn. was organized at the Canadian Base Depot in July 1916 and was disbanded in September 1917 on formation of Canadian Corps Reinforcement Camp.

Both Thompsons arrived at the 3rd Entr. Bn. on 3 Apr 1917 where they would wait until 12 Apr 1917 before joining The RCR in the field. The Regiment's War Diary describes the Regiment's activities on the day Thompson arrived as part of a large draft of reinforcements making up some of the losses from the recent battle of Vimy Ridge:

"12.4.17. – VILLERS CAMP.

"Cloudy with heavy snow fall in early morning. Brighter in afternoon. Regiment spent day resting. Check Roll Call at 2 p.m. Party sent up to Salvage Greatcoats which were brought down by Transport. Draft of 168 O.R. arrive as reinforcements."

Following a month in billets, on working parties, and at rest, Thompson's first introduction to the front line trenches would come late on the night of 12/13 May 1917 when The RCR relieved the 4th Battalion, Canadian Mounted Rifles (C.M.R.) in the front line southeast of Neuve Chapelle. On occupying their new positions, all available men were put to work deepening and improving trenches.

The day after arriving at the Regiment, Norman Thompson lost his brother. Clark Thompson was killed in action on 13 May 1917. he was given a battlefield burial and after the war his body was removed to Bois-Carre British Military Cemetery at Thelus, France.

After his brother's death, Norman Thompson continued to serve with The RCR. The Regiment followed the cycle of rotations in forward trenches, support trenches, and reserve positions that would characterize the infantry experience of the Great War.

On 28 Jul 1917, Thompson was the subject of a summary trial and found guilty. He forfeited 5 days pay for "(1) Whilst on Active Service not complying with G.R.O. 1247 d/6/11/15, re: absent from billets after 9 p.m., (2) Stating a falsehood to Military Police."

In early November, 1917, during the Battle of Passchendaele Ridge, Thompson was wounded in action. On 4 Nov 1917, he was admitted No. 6 Canadian Field Ambulance suffering a "shot wound" and contusion of the neck. ("Shot wound," more often presented as "gun shot wound" (G.S.W.), was an injury caused by bullet, shrapnel ball, or shell splinter.) The same day, Thompson was transferred to No. 3 Australian Casualty Clearing Station. A document recorded later that appears in his service record states "Buried at Passchendaele, 1917 — Hosp 3 months (soldier statement only med forms not available)."

On 5 Nov 1917, Thompson was transported by No. 36 Ambulance Train and the following day admitted to No. 3 Canadian General Hospital at Boulogne. Six weeks later, on 18 Dec 1917, he was discharged to No. 7 Convalescent Depot, Boulogne.

Thompson began his return to duty on 3 Feb 1918 when he was taken on the strength of No. 3 Canadian Infantry Base Depot. At this time he was also given a medical category of "B2" which was for "men who were fit for base units of the medical service, garrison, or regimental outdoor duty."

While remaining in France, though hospitalized, Thompson had remained on the strength of the RCR. With a medical category that precluded a return to front line service, he was struck off strength of The RCR to the Canadian Labour Pool on 9 Feb 1918. His records also note that his change of medical category was based on "D.A.H. concussion." The abbreviation "D.A.H." stood for disordered action of the heart, one of the euphemisms employed by the medical system to avoid labelling soldiers as "shell shocked."

On 4 May 1918, Thompson was struck off the strength of the Cdn Labour Pool on transfer to the Canadian General Base Depot. he remained with the Base Depot until 23 Jun 1919, when he proceeded to England for Demobilization and was posted to the Canadian General Base Depot at Witley. Posted to the Depot's Casualty Company, Thompson did not remain in England very long.

Posted to "J" Wing of the Casualty Clearing Centre on 26 Jun 1919, Thompson sailed for Canada aboard the S.S. Empress of Britain on 2 Jul 1919. Once departed from England's shores, he was tken on the strength of No. 6 District Depot at Halifax, N.S. On arrival at Halifax on 10 Jul 1919, Thompson was posted to Dispersal Station B and eight days later was discharged from the C.E.F. on 18 Jul 1919.

Norman Thompson returned to military service on 1 Nov 1919 when he attested at Halifax, N.S., for the Canadian Military Police Corps (C.M.P.C.) Special Guard. On his attestation form, he summarized his previous service in the C.E.F. as 112th Battalion (1 year) and R.C.R. (2 1/2 years). On reenlisting he was appointed Lance Corporal (with pay). His service number while with the Special Guard was 2779971.

From November, 1919, until March, 1920, Thompson was employed with the Special Guard:

"In September 1919 the Department of Militia and Defence was asked by the British Government to furnish a unit to process, handle and transport Chinese Coolies from Halifax to Vancouver. It was also requested to staff a Transit Camp at William Head, B.C. These Coolies were members of The Chinese Labour Corps, a unit that served under British Command in France and Flanders during World War I. .... It was projected that some 25 to 30 thousand Coolies would be returned to China via Canada. The plan was to transport them by ship to Halifax, load them on special trains and transport them under guard to William Head and Vancouver B.C. At Vancouver they were to be put aboard ships for passage to China. ... The Department of Militia accepted this distasteful task and decided that a Special Guard of the Canadian Military Police Corps be formed to handle this duty. As a result the Special Guard CMPC was authorized with an establishment of 542 all ranks. ... It was originally estimated that 20 to 30 thousand Coolies would be processed. It appears that some 70,000 were transported across Canada. Incomplete CMPC records account for 48,726 Coolies. The Special Guard CMPC establishment of 542 all ranks simply was not large enough, so its members had to work double and sometimes triple time between September 1919 and April 1920. ... The last Coolie sailed for China on 4 April 1920. Guards at Halifax and William's Head were immediately demobilized with the exception of a small rear party to clear out each of the units." – (extracts from Special Guard of the Canadian Military Police Corps,

Norman Thompson was struck off the strength of the Special Guard on 17 Mar 1920.

For his service in the C.E.F., Thompson was entitled to receive the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. These were despatched to him at New Cornwall, N.S., on 26 Apr 1922.

In the years after the First World War, Thompson made the decision to move to the United States. In the 1930 United States Federal Census, Thompson is shown living in Malden, Middlesex Co., Massachusetts. Identified as a Canadian-born "alien," he is living with his sister Alberta and her family while working as a machinist. Thompson is still living with Alberta and family in the 1940 US Federal Census by which time he is a naturalized citizen and working as a clerk.

On 15 Feb 1942, Thompson registered for the Draft in the United States. He gave his birth date as 12 Mar 1899, shaving two years off his age to be eligible for military service.

Thompson was enlisted in the US Armed Forces on 28 Sep 1942 and his unit is identified as the 92nd General Hospital. He was discharged from service on 8 Jun 1943.

Norman Parker Thompson died on 15 Jan 1945. He is buried in the Veterans' Plot in the Forest Dale Cemetery at Malden, Massachusetts, USA.

Pro Patria

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