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

6978 Private John Henry "Harry" Whitworth

The Royal Canadian Regiment
1st Canadian Infantry Battalion

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

John Henry "Harry" Whitworth was born on March 26, 1881 in St. Mary's, Ontario. Whitworth family, led by parents Charles (35) and Eliza (31), can be found in the 1891 Canadian Censuses. There are four children at home John Henry (10), George (8), Gertrude (6), and Percy (3). By the time of the 1901 Census, there are four children shown again: George (18), Gertrude (16), and Percy (14), and a new younger sister, Irene (2). In 1901, Henry is no longer shown in the family home, but he does appear in the census records for No. 4 Company of the Royal Canadian Regiment of Infantry at Wolseley Barracks, London, Ont.

Whitworth enlisted in the Canadian Permanent Force with The RCR at London, Ont., on 15 Jun 1900, committing to the usual three-year engagement. He spent nearly a year in London at the infantry barracks and then, on 6 May 1901, was transferred to No. 2 Regimental Depot at Toronto. Whitworth took his discharge after completing his term of service.

By 1907, a few years after his Permanent Force service, Whitworth was back in St Mary's, Ont. He was working as a railroad fireman when he married Eva Viola Simpson on 16 Jan 1907. Eva (22) was the youngest daughter of Joseph and Sarah Simpson of London, Ont. The wedding took place in St Mary's and was conducted by Methodist minister J.W. Graham.

On 12 Aug 1914, Whitworth enlisted with his local Militia regiment, the 27th Lambton Regiment (St. Clair Borderers). He was employed with the unit's "Active Service Mobilization Detachment" until he went with the unit's draft of soldiers to Valcartier for the forming of the First Canadian Contingent. The Guide-Advocate of Watford, Ont., in its 21 Aug 1914 edition, informed its readers that the St Clair Borderers had sent 138 officers and men to Valcartier. Men from the 27th Regiment draft, and those from fifteen other south-western Ontario regiments, contributed to the formation of the 1st Canadian Infantry Battalion.

The 21 Aug 1914 edition of the Guide-Advocate of Watford, Ont., described the St Clair Borderers' departure for Camp Valcartier on 19 Aug 1914.

"On Wednesday at, 11 o'clock the Sarnia and Petrolea men arrived by train and were escorted to the armory by the Watford band. Sarnia section was composed of 86 men and two officers, and Petrolea sent 18 men, which with the 32 from Watford compose the 27th unit. One hundred and twenty-five man were asked for and 138 have offered their services. The Company will be commanded by Capt. J. E. Hahn, of Sarnia, with Capt. Swift, of Watford and Lieut. Lucas, of Sarnia, as subalterns. Fifteen of the 27th regt. have offered their services and are in training for wireless service.

"The equipment of each of the men while on march weighs eighty pounds. It consist of rifle, cartridges, 2 blankets and rubber sheet, water-bottle, overcoat of Irish frieze and what is known as the Oliver equipment. Carrying a total weight of 80lbs. the average march when on active service is from twelve to eighteen miles, with forced marches half as far again when necessary.

"On Thursday morning at 7.43, the company entrained for the east. Notwithstanding the early hour and a heavy rain shower, a large number of people went to tho depot to see them off.

"The train pulled out amid cheers from the spectators, and the band playing God Save The King."

Whitworth attested for service in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (C.E.F.) with the 1st Canadian Infantry Battalion at Valcartier, Quebec, on 22 Sep 1914. A 32-year-old railroad fireman, Whitworth was described on his attestation paper as 5 feet 10 1/2-inches tall, weighing 170 pounds, with a 38-inch chest, good physical development, a dark complexion, dark grey eyes, and black, slightly grizzled, hair. For distinguishing marks, Whitworth had a tattoo of an anchor of his initials, "J.H.W.", on his right forearm. His religious denomination was Wesleyan. Whitworth identified his wife, Eva Viola Whitworth, R.R. No. 1 Clandeboye, Ont., as his next of kin. On attesting with the 1st Battalion, Whitworth was given the regimental number 6978.

The 1st Cdn Inf Bn sailed for England from Quebec aboard the S.S. Laurentic on 3 Oct 1914. The unit arrived in England on 14 Oct 1915 with 45 officers and 1121 men. When the 1st Canadian Division went to France in early February, 1915, it soon followed the cycle of rotations in forward trenches, support trenches, and reserve positions that would characterize the infantry experience of the Great War. Like many soldiers of the war, Whitworth's experience was one of the steady cycle between trenches and reserve positions, without major incidents that necessitated entries in his service record.

Whitworth completed the military will in his soldier's Pay Book (undated) while serving with the 1st Battalion. In this will, he stated that in the event of his death, everything would be left to his wife who was then living at 16 1/2 Christina St., Sarnia, Oct.

Beginning in April, 1915, Whitworth started a Pay Assignment of $15.00 per month. This money would be sent home to his wife, at first to Sarnia, and late to Flint, Mich. As a soldier earning $1.00 per day plus ten cents daily field allowance, the Pay Assignment was about half his monthly pay. Eva Whitworth, would also receive $20 per month Separation Allowance.

Whitworth was granted 7 days leave from 25 Oct to 1 Nov 1915. A month later, on 9 Dec 1915, he paraded sick, as a result of which he was sent to No. 8 Casualty Clearing Station. A few days later, on 12 Dec 1915, he was transferred to No. 22 Ambulance Train, suffering from a varicose ulcer. On 13 Dec 1915, Whitworth was admitted to No. 23 General Hospital, Etaples. His complaint was recorded as inflammation of the connective tissues (I.C.T.) of his legs. After another five days in hospital, on 18 Dec 1915, he was invalided to England.

Evacuated to England aboard the hospital ship H.S. Newhaven on 19 Dec 1915, Whitworth was admitted to Queen's Canadian Military Hospital at Beachborough with Impetigo (diagnosis later corrected to "Cont. Skin Disease"). Concurrent with his return to England, he was struck off the strength of the 1st Battalion and posted to the 36th Battalion at West Sandling.

Whitworth would remain in England until the spring of 1917. In February 1917, his parent unit for administrative purposes would change from the 36th Bn. to the Canadian Casualty Assembly Centre (C.C.A.C.). He would be given employment suitable for a man in his condition as he regained a suitable level of fitness to return to active service. On 13 Apr 1916, Whitworth was examined by a Standing Medical Board at Shornecliffe. His disability was identified as impetigo (a highly contagious skin infection). Whitworth's condition was described in the Board's report as: "Returned from Bath after 6 weeks. Only surface marks remaining. Complains of pain in back of left thigh muscle. No evidence of disability. No involvement of Sciatic." Three days later, Whitworth was taken on the strength of the 36th Bn. from the C.C.A.C. and immediately struck back off strength on transfer to the 1st Cdn. Inf. Bn. overseas.

Whitworth proceeded towards the front on 4 Jun 1916 to join the 1st Battalion and reached the unit two days later. The activities of the 1st Battalion in June, 1916, 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).

On 3 Jul 1916, Whitworth sprained his left ankle at Zillebeke and reported to the battalion Medical Officer. He was admitted to No. 1 Canadian Field Ambulance where his ankle was bandaged and he was sent to the Divisional Rest Station where he remained until 14 Jul 1916. Whitworth's sprained ankle would result in further months in and out of hospital and a return to England. He passed through No. 1 Convalescent Depot, Boulogne, (16 Jul 1916) and No. 32 Stationary Hospital, Wimereux (23 Jul 1916). After this he was discharged to the Canadian Base Depot on 26 Jul 1916 and then to No. 1 Convalescent Depot, Boulogne (29 Aug 1916), followed by No. 14 Stationary Hospital, Wimereux (4 Sep 1916).

By 12 Sep 1916, Whitworth was being evacuated back to England by the hospital ship H.S. Jan Breydel. With his return to the U.K., he was posted back to the C.C.A.C. at Folkestone.

Whitworth was admitted to the Ontario Military Hospital, Orpington, Kent, on 15 Sep 1916. he was transferred on 4 Oct 1916 to the Canadian Convalescent Hospital, Bromley, Kent. Notes recorded on admission stated, "Sprained ankle. On the night of 10 Sept at Ypres. Ankle sprained. Has had a lot of trouble with same lately turning over outwards. Ramsgate for diagnosis and treatment." He went to the Granville Canadian Special Hospital at Ramsgate on 6 Oct 1916 and six days later, on 12 Oct 1916, was discharged from hospital to the C.C.A.C. and reported there as an overseas casualty. Whitworth would not remain here long, on 14 Oct 1916 he was taken on the strength of the 36th Battalion and two weeks later, on 27 Oct 1916, he was transferred to the 1st Cdn. Inf. Bn.

Returned to France, it does not appear that Whitworth made it back to the unit before he went sick again. On 4 Nov 1916, he was admitted to No. 7 Stationary Hospital, Havre, with influenza. Ten days later he was discharged to duty and taken on strength of the C.B.D.

From the Base Depot, Whitworth would move forward on 1 Dec 1916, when he arrived at the 1st Canadian Entrenching Battalion in the field. 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 also used as labour forces to maintain and build trenches or other work as needed. Whitworth would not leave the Entrenching Battalion until he rejoined the 1st Cdn. Inf. Bn. on 13 Apr 1917.

On 28 Jul 1917, Whitworth changed the address of his next of kin to 1542 North Saginau St., Flint, Michigan, U.S.A. Eva appears on a list of Alien Passengers Applying for Admission to the United States. Her entry in the ledger notes that her next of kin is her husband "Harry," serving in France.

Back with the 1st Battalion at the front, Whitworth returned to the rotation of front line trenches, support trenches, reserves, marching, and training which were the perpetual cycle of the infantry battalions on the Western Front. Few tours of the front lines were without casualties, and even when out of the most forward trenches, the reach of enemy artillery could take its toll. He got his next break from the routine of infantry soldiering on 13 Dec 1917 when he was granted 14 days leave until 31 Dec 1917.

Whitworth returned to the unit and after another six weeks received a rare opportunity. On 18 Feb 1918, he was transferred to England for for a 12-week furlough back to Canada and posted to the Western Ontario Regimental Depot (W.O.R.D.), Bramshott. The W.O.R.D. was part of the new regionally based reinforcement system, with named Depots taking in troops from battalions raised in those areas in Canada and providing reinforcement drafts to similarly designated fighting units. The 1st Cdn. Inf. Bn., having been originally formed from drafts of soldiers from south-western Ontario Militia units, was associated with the W.O.R.D. These Depots also became the parent unit for any soldiers returned to England from their affiliated battalions in France and Flanders.

On 26 Feb 1918, Whitworth was sent On Command, i.e., a temporary duty assignment without changing parent units, to the Canadian Discharge Depot at Buxton pending furlough to Canada. Despite the name, Whitworth was not being discharged at this time. The Depot did, however, manage the movement of troops to Canada. On 12 Mar 1918, Whitworth ceased being On Command to C.D.D. Buxton and was recorded as "on furlough to Canada for 12 weeks, will report to [W.O.R.] Depot H.Q. on return by 4 Jun 1918."

Whitworth sailed for Canada aboard the S.S. Olympic on 12 Mar 1918, reaching Canadian shores on 20 Mar 1918. He was attached to No. 1 District Depot at London, Ont., while on furlough from Overseas. On 3 Jun 1918, he ceased to be attached to the Leave and Furlough Section, No. 1 D.D., and reported at Montreal for embarkation for overseas.

By 22 Jul 1918, Whitworth was back in England and reported to the W.O.R.D. where he was attached to Depot Company. On 29 Jul 1918, Whitworth completed a military Form of Will to update his administrative paperwork. In this will, he stated that in the event of his death, everything would be left to his wife in Flint, Michigan.

Whitworth would be struck off the strength of the W.O.R.D. on 7 Aug 1918 and posted to the 4th Reserve Battalion. He would not return to France but stayed with the 4th Res. Bn. until 26 Oct 1918 when he was returned to the W.O.R.D., having been boarded Category Bii. This category included men who were "fit for base units of the medical service, garrison, or regimental outdoor duty."

It was no doubt clear that with the war winding down, emphasis would soon be placed on the return of C.E.F. soldiers to Canada. We can find, at this time, many examples of men in reserve, medical, and training establishments in England returning to Canada, clearing space for men to be brought from France and Belgium in preparation for their own repatriation. Whitworth soon joined this flow of troops homeward. On 15 Nov 1918, he was sent to C.C.D. Buxton for return to Canada.

On 7 Dec 1918, Whitworth ceased to be attached to C.C.D. Buxton on sailing for Canada and was taken on the strength of No. 1 District Depot, London, Ont. Sailing on the S.S. Olympic, Whitworth was back in Canada on 14 Dec 1918 and posted to the Depot Casualty Company.

Whitworth was medically examined prior to his discharge on 19 Dec 1918 at London, Ont. The reporting medical board noted that he had "Deformity, toes, left foot, and callosities ball of each foot and top of toes left foot." He was also recommended for orthopedic boots at this time. Under history of the condition, the following was recorded:

"Patient Says he had no deformity of toes or callosities of feet prior to enlistment. Original Medical History Sheet not on file. English Board 9-11-19 gives date of origin prior to enlistment. Did 31 months in France in infantry. Feet began to trouble him after about 14 months service in France and states they gradually got worse. Says heavy boots aggravate condition."

The Board classified Whitworth as category Ciii and stated the opinion that his condition would "much improve in civil life with properly fitting boots." The Board recommended that Whitworth be "turned over to the Department of Soldiers' Civil Re-establishment for fitting of orthopedic shoes."

Whitworth went to the Carling Heights Military Hospital at London, Ont., on 19 Dec 1918 to follow up the recommendations of his final medical examination. A note in his service record states "Orthopedic boots ordered for this man today from the I.S.C. Transportation will come for him to go to Toronto for measuring, etc."

On 23 Dec 1918, Harry Whitworth was discharged from His Majesty's Service, medically unfit. As a Private in the C.E.F., Whitworth was paid $1.00 per day plus an additional ten cents daily field allowance. When his Last Pay Certificate was prepared for 23 Dec 1918, it included the pay owed to him for that month and $35 clothing allowance. On discharge, Whitworth was eligible to receive a War Service Gratuity of $420. Eva also received a spousal amount of $180. Cheques were issued to both of them in five installments between December, 1918, and September 1919.

In July 1919, Whitworth's name appeared in the Canadian Official Record, an official newssheet published weekly by the Director of Public Information to record the activities of Government departments and committees organized for War Purposes and Reconstruction. In the 10 Jul 1919 edition (Vol. 1, No. 39), the Board of Pension Commissioners, Ottawa, provided a list of persons with unknown addresses they were seeking to contact. Included in the list was "Pte. Harry Whitworth, 1st Battalion, C.O.M.F., and No. 1 D.D."

For his service in the C.E.F., Whitworth was entitled to receive the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal and the Victory Medal. These were despatched to him at 1542 North Saginau St., Flint, Michigan, U.S.A., on 7 Mar 1921.

Whitworth died on 10 Dec 1959 at Sunnybrook Hospital, Toronto, Ont. The veteran's death card held by Library and Archives Canada shows his next of kin at the time of his death was his sister-in-law, Mrs. Bessie Simpson, 394 1/2 Rideout St., London, Ont. Bessie had been married to his brother, George. George has also served overseas with the C.E.F., and had died in 1923.

Pro Patria

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