Grand Manan and the Great War (Part 28)

Part 28- The Fraser Brothers

            Now having access to the service record of Frank Fraser who was covered in the last issue, it reveals many more details about his activities after enlistment. Many incidents in his life overseas and in the trenches are representative of a lot of soldiers on the war front.

After being taken on strength with the 1st Grenadiers Guards of Canada in Montreal on 13 August 1914, Frank was attested at Valcartier, Que. on the 21st where he was absorbed into the 14th Battalion, No. 2 Company. His unit sailed for England on 3 October aboard the SS Andania landing in Liverpool.

Not much is revealed about his movements until August, 1915, when he was hospitalized at No. 7 General Base Hospital at St. Omer, France, for German measles. Likely, following further training in England, his battalion had received orders to move to the western front. We know that by November he had been promoted in the field to the rank of Sergeant. Not until 3 June, 1916, does Frank appear at No. 8 Stationary Hospital at Wimereux, France with a gunshot wound to the left thigh. He became a casualty during the Battle of Ypres at the capture of Maple Copse, a strategic wooded location to defend the town.

Hospital staff reported on the 4th that he was seriously ill owing to shrapnel still embedded in his femur. With the removal of metal fragments after a second operation, Frank was transferred from the coastal region of France to the No. 2 Southern General Hospital at Bristol, England, on the 27th, and then for extended care at Canadian “Bearwood” Convalescent Hospital at Wokingham, England, about 65 km. (40 miles) southeast of London. Following a slow recovery, for this was before the days of antibiotics; he was put on light duty and discharged on 5 July 1917 as medically unfit to return to the front. Subsequently, he became part of No. 6 Special Service Company.

On 23 March 1917 Frank finally sailed from Liverpool aboard the SS Grampian for Halifax. After three months spent in that port he eventually reached Saint John for formal discharge on July 5th but had been able to spend time with his mother, Florence, who now lived in North Head after she re-married Capt. Frank Ingersoll in August 1916. The paymaster’s office showed that Sgt. Fraser intended to make his place of residence at 700 University St., Montreal, where he eventually returned to his old employer, Forest Products Laboratories.

John Moore Fraser

Frank’s older brother, John (Jack) Moore Fraser, had not immediately enlisted like his other siblings. Instead, he seems to have stayed with his widowed mother, Florence, taking over his father’s mercantile business in St. Stephen after the latter’s death in 1907. Uncles Henry and William continued to run merchant and fishing operations in Woodwards Cove.

However, by the summer of 1911, Jack had struck out for Portland, Oregon, with his new bride, Ethel McAllister, formerly of Calais, the daughter of a local druggist. What drew them to the west is not certain, but it may have been the presence of his brother, Arthur, who had ventured to Utah in 1909, then Seattle and eventually established in Vancouver by this time. Nevertheless, Jack tried for the next five years to make a new start in the Portland area where he was employed as a salesman and clerk with an insurance company.

With news of war being declared in Canada, Jack gave into the call to arms and returned to St. Stephen by Dec. 1916 with Ethel and two young children, Melva and Dorothy. Then on 10 March 1917, he came forward for attestation and enlistment at Saint John signing up with the 16th Field Ambulance unit in the Canadian Army Medical Corps (CAMC). By the 26st of April he embarked from Halifax on the SS Saxonia for Liverpool. Following a spell at the CMAC Depot in Witley Camp as a private, Jack was ordered on 6 March 1918 to report to No. 2 Cadet Wing of the Royal Flying Corps at Hastings, East Sussex. Following his official transfer he proceeded May 3rd to the School of Aeronautics, RAF, at Oxford for training. By July 19th he had received his appointment as a Flight Cadet and placed in the Special Air Force Roll until discharged on 28 February 1919.

By the summer of 1919 Jack was back with Ethel and their two daughters, first in St. Stephen and then living in Calais, his wife’s hometown. Within a year he had opened an optometry practice on the Canadian side.

Frederick Aldice Fraser

In the fall of 1917, Jack had received a furlough from Whitley to spend a few days in London. The occasion, he recounted in a letter to his mother dated 8 Sept. 1917, describes his meeting with his brother, Lieutenant Frederick Aldice Fraser, who was slated to receive the Military Cross for gallant conduct on the field of battle. Jack accompanied his little brother “up to Buckingham Palace, where Fred received his decoration from the hands of the King. He was especially honoured in the ceremony, as the King stopped and talked with him a few minutes.” (St. C.C. 27 Sept. 1917)

When cited for his military honour, the official record said demonstrated “conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. When leading a patrol against the retreating enemy, he got in touch with two R.F.C. (Royal Flying Corps) Officers who had been brought down in their machine, and drove off the enemy, who were moving forward to capture these officers.” The St. Croix Courier for July 12th put it more dramatically. Informed sources said the British airplane went down in “No Man’s Land” and Fraser grabbed a Lewis machine gun to fight off advancing Germans. His rescue of the crew also prevented the capture of vital maps and guns by the enemy. This earned him a commission as reconnaissance officer and captain in the 7th Battalion, a western regiment of scouts and snipers.

After nearly two and half years on the Western Front in the 7th Battalion, Fred had advanced through the ranks from his enlistment on 19 March 1915 at New Westminster, B.C. where he was a bank clerk in civilian life. He had previous experience in the 72nd Regiment Seaforth Highlanders and then transferred to the 47th Battalion as a private and later as part of the 30th Reserve Battalion. By 16 August 1916 he had earned a commission as Lieutenant in the 7th Battalion. His movements demonstrate how the cost of the war in casualties -both killed and wounded- saw soldiers regularly transferred to other units to reinforce active battalions on the front lines. Following his military award, although he returned to his unit, he soon was groomed for command leadership. He received orders to attend the 2nd Brigade HQ Intelligence course and then followed up at the Canadian Corps School of Instruction. Fred received both a promotion to Captain status and a final transfer to 8th Infantry Battalion Headquarters in France as a Staff Learner in the Operations Branch. Eventually he was attached to the 3rd Canadian Divisional Artillery Headquarters, 1st Echelon at the close of the war on 31 January 1919.

Upon his return to Canada, Fred was demobilized in Saint John on 19 Sept 1919 probably visiting his mother, now Mrs. Florence Ingersoll in North Head, before heading to Vancouver where he rejoined the Bank of Nova Scotia. Within the year he was on the staff of a bank branch in Calgary.

Arthur McClellan Fraser

Arthur Fraser’s movements during the war remain a mystery. Prior to his father’s death in 1907, Arthur was drawn to the western states. By 1909 at age twenty-one he met Florence Yeager from Ogden, Utah, whom he married, and moved within the year to the logging region of Oceans Falls, British Columbia. Here he was employed as a carpenter in a saw mill and likely enlisted from that area at the beginning of the war. While we know that he signed up with a local battalion, his attestation records are missing. His brothers mention him in letters to their mother in North Head but nothing is known about his war activities. He did return alive to British Columbia and settled in Vancouver with Dorothy and two sons, John and Gordon. He died in North Vancouver on 6 April 1925.