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

823504 Private Frank Webster

142nd Overseas Battalion, "London's Own"
1st Canadian Infantry Battalion

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

Frank Webster was born in Dorchester, Ontario, on 6 Jul 1892. Webster's family, led by parents Fred and Elizabeth, can be found in the 1901 Canadian Censuses. Frank is the middle child of three, with an older brother, William, and a younger sister, Minnie. Frank's mother, Elizabeth, would die in 1911.

Webster attested for service in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (C.E.F.) with the 142nd Overseas Battalion at London, Ont., on 10 Jan 1916. A 23-year-old teamster, Webster was described on his attestation paper as 5 feet 9 inches tall, weighing 170 pounds, with a 37-inch chest, a ruddy complexion, brown eyes, and brown hair. His religious denomination was Church of England. Webster identified his wife, Ellen, as his next of kin with an address of 220 Clarence St., London, Ont. By October, 1916, her address would change to 419 Ridout St, London, Ont. On attesting with the 142nd Battalion, Webster was given the regimental number 823504.

The 142nd (London's Own) Battalion was based in London, Ontario, and the unit began recruiting in late 1915 in that city. After sailing to England, the battalion was absorbed into the 23rd Reserve Battalion on 11 Nov 1916.

On 1 Feb 1916, while his unit was training at Wolseley Barracks in London, Ont., Frank Webster married Ellen James. Ellen was 23 years old and came from the town of Strathroy, Ont. The marriage was conducted at London, Ont.

A note in Webster's service record shows that he was away without leave from 19 to 27 Mar 1916. It does not, however, note what punishment he received. That punishment, however, apparently did not completely convince Webster to behave. In June 1916 he received 96 hours detention for breaking camp.

The 142nd Battalion sailed from Halifax on 31 Oct 1916 aboard the S.S. Southland. The unit arrived in England on 11 Nov 1916. Immediately on disembarkation, the unit was absorbed into the existing reinforcement system. Effective 12 Nov 1916, Webster was taken on strength of the 23rd Reserve Battalion at Dibgate.

Webster was admitted to the Military Hospital at Shornecliffe on 1 Dec 1916, diagnosed with "V.D.G.," i.e., venereal disease, gonorrhea. He was transferred to the Canadian Hospital at Etchinghill on 4 Dec 1916 and discharged from hospital on 19 Dec 1916. After 19 days for treatment of venereal disease, Webster's pay account would be debited $11.40, this was the loss of half his pay, 50 cents per day, and his 10 cents daily field allowance for the period he was in hospital.

Soon after the new year, on 4 Jan 1917, Webster was struck off the strength of the 23rd Res. Bn. And taken on the strength of the 4th Res. Bn. At West Sandling. He would remain here for two months before being struck off the strength of the 4th Res. Bn. to the 1st Canadian Infantry Battalion, overseas, on 6 Mar 1917.

Webster was taken on the strength of the 1st Cdn. Inf Bn. on 7 Mar 1917 when he landed in France. He arrived at the Canadian Base Depot (C.B.D.) in France on 9 Mar 1917 and would wait until 31 Mar 1917 before leaving the C.B.D. for the 1st Canadian Entrenching Battalion. The 1st Entr. Bn. was a divisional troops unit 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.

Arriving at the 1st Can. Ent. Bn. In the field on 2 Apr 1917, Webster would not be with this unit long, leaving on 13 Apr 1917 to join the 1st Canadian Infantry Battalion in the field. After 15 months of service, Frank Webster had reached the forward trenches of the Western Front just after the Canadian Corps' assault on Vimy Ridge. For the next few weeks, the 1st Bn's activities are summarized in the unit's "Battle Bar Document" (prepared after the war by the Militia Department in anticipation of the possibility of clasps for the British War Medal):