Grand Manan and the Great War(Part 15)



Part 15- A Tale of Two Families

As 1916 unfolded on Grand Manan the forecast for the local economy didn’t seem that bright based on the previous fishing season. So it was not surprising to see a large number of young islanders come forward to volunteer for the Canadian Expeditionary Force. Everyone realized by the spring that the war would not be over soon and more soldiers would be needed to fill the depleting ranks of battalions like the “Fighting 26th”in France after devastating battles like Ypres, Festubert and Givenchy.

One of those who came forward was Carl Daniel Ingalls, second son of Turner and Clarinda (McLaughlin) Ingalls of Seal Cove. Born March 3, 1896, he was just short of his twentieth birthday when he enlisted in January, 1916. Initially, Carl trained up in the 115th Battalion which served as a reserve unit for operating battalions on the war front. (Details about the role of the 115th were discussed in a previous article in the Island Times for July, 2014). Apparently, after its arrival in England where troops received more intensive training at locations like Camp Bramshott, Carl found himself among reinforcements for the 1st Quebec Regiment. Within months he was transferred to an active infantry unit, the 24th Battalion, Victoria Rifles of Canada, and on his way to France in early 1917.

Perhaps it was the news of Carl’s enlistment that inspired his uncle Medley to also step up in August, 1916. However, his uncle Robert Medley, born May 8, 1885, to Turner Ingalls Sr. and his wife, Annie Guptill, had ventured to the west coast with his brother, Alton Howard, and settled in New Westminster, British Columbia, by 1915. Both of them pursued their experience around the water by getting positions as crew members on various shipping vessels sailing between Vancouver and Seattle, Washington.

Medley appears to have enlisted in the 131st Battalion (Westminster) after spending some training time in the 104th Westminster Fusiliers. After further training efforts, the battalion made its way to Valcartier and sailed for England in November, 1916, arriving at Camp Shorncliffe. The unit eventually provided reinforcements principally for the 30th Infantry Battalion that faced action in France.

It is not known if Medley and Carl ever made contact while in the trenches but the major offensive by the Canadian Corps against Vimy Ridge in April, 1917, marked a turning point in the war and for the Ingalls family. At this time we know that Carl must have made it through the initial assault on this terrain as part of the Battle of Arras. Heavily defended by the Germans, it was considered impregnable by the British and French. For a week before zero hour for the assault on Vimy, Canadian artillery undertook a continuous bombardment of the German lines, known to them as the “Week of Suffering”; a barrage amounting to over one million shells. It was reported that the sound given off by the barrage of 863 heavy artillery guns on April 7th was more overwhelming up to that time than the great volcanic explosion of Krakatoa in 1883.

This marked the first British victory in thirty-months of nearly stalemated warfare. For the Canadian Corps the human cost was high. In three days of intense fighting the Canadian Divisions cleared the ridge in driving sleet but at an overall loss of nearly 3600 dead and over 7,000 wounded. This did not include further casualties east of Vimy suffered by Canadians in battles for Arleux and Fresnoy. The CEF Commonwealth War Graves Register confirms that Carl was killed in action north of Arleux on the 5th of May, 1917 as a member of the 24th Battalion.

Not much is revealed about the official events surrounding his death but the St. Croix Courier reported that his parents, Turner and Clarinda, received word about a month after the action.  The reporter for Grand Manan wrote on July 12th that Carl “paid the great price for his country. In the memorable battle of Vimy Ridge where so many gallant Canadians won distinction and gave to the Germans so severe a defeat, he fell carrying dispatches. Somewhere in France a small spot will be held as sacred by his many friends.”

On June 17th a memorial service was held at the Seal Cove Baptist Church conducted by Pastor J.E. Gosline. In spite of a severe Spring storm, the church was filled to overflowing. In front of the pulpit British and Canadian flags were draped over a memorial plaque surrounded by purple violets. The memoriam probably reflected what the family heard from friends and comrades who often wrote from the front surrounding such a tragedy. “He was buried inside the British lines and his grave marked by a cross of wood on which was inscribed his name, the date of his death and the legend ‘at rest’. Thus all that loving comrades could do for him was done , and he sleeps in that far off land the last sleep of a brave soldier and a generous and patriotic youth who has made the supreme sacrifice for king, country and loved ones at home in Canada, our Canada…”

In the memorial presentation, it did not go unnoticed by the speaker that Carl came from a long tradition of military service including his great grandfather, Daniel McLaughlin, a native of Londonderry, who took part in the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 as an artillery man in Lord Wellington’s army at the age of sixteen. Carl’s memorial resting place would join his ancestor’s in the Seal Cove Cemetery.

The family must have been very pleased and proud to learn in November that their son had won a Military Medal during the Vimy engagement. According to official report, the honour was presented for “bravery and courage at Vimy Ridge on April 9, 1917, when all the other Company Runners had become casualties he delivered messages under heavy shellfire. He located several isolated parties and led them to their proper places, thus materially assisting his Company Commander in reorganising his Company and rendered most valuable assistance. He showed conspicuous courage and bravery throughout the whole operation.”

Carl’s cousin, Medley, who was also participating in a similar advance with the 30th Battalion, fared much better. We know that he eventually made it through the conflict and returned to New Westminster, B. C. and employed by 1920 on the coastal waters as a tugboat captain. A year earlier he met and married Edith Elizabeth Deffett in Vancouver on June 18, 1919. Edith had migrated from Surrey, England, in 1904, and was employed as a domestic with a local Victoria family in 1911. By 1921 they had their first of at least three children, Rexford Wallace. Medley continued his seafaring ways throughout the rest of his life until his death on Nov. 16, 1961; Edith lived on until Sept. 27, 1979.

Within a year of Carl’s death, the Turner Ingalls family faced another shock when Sird (Sirdar Kitchner), their third oldest son was conscripted in May, 1918 at the age of nineteen. It is unlikely he made it through training in Saint John before war was over. He returned to Grand Manan to pursue lobster fishing and on Nov. 9, 1920 married Florence Maude Foster, daughter of Charles Jackson and Miranda Newton (Dakin) Foster. They had four children including Lois Vida “Posie”, Theda Rosalie, Wayne L. Ingalls, and, perpetuated his brother’s memory through another son, Carl Turner.