Genealogy story #4 features my Great Grand Father, Émile Lamothe, whom I called Grand-Pépère Lamothe. I figured since my last two blogs featured the other Veterans in my family, that I’d continue on that note.
Cleophas Émile Lamothe was born on June 10, 1897, in Bonfield, Ontario to Marie Louise Charron, age 38, and Joseph Magloire Lamothe, age 42. For those of you who don’t know where Bonfield is (and I don’t blame you, I’d actually be more surprised if you actually knew where it was), it’s a small township in Northeastern Ontario, located on the north shore of Lake Nosbonsing in Nipissing District.
Émile enlisted on May 13 1918 to the 1st Depot Batallion, 1st Central Ontario Regiment. Regimental #3037591.
There was some question as to whether he volunteered or whether he was drafted. So, I did some research, turns out volunteers for the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) were questioned at the place of enlistment to complete the two-sided Attestation papers which included the recruit’s name and address, next-of-kin, date and place of birth, occupation, previous military service, and distinguishing physical characteristics. Recruits were asked to sign their Attestation papers, indicating their willingness to serve overseas. By contrast, men who were drafted into the CEF under the provisions of the Military Service Act (1917) completed a far simpler one-sided form which included their name, date of recruitment, and compliance with requirements for registration. Having reviewed his Attestation Papers/Particulars of Recruit – I was able to deduct that grand-pépère was drafted.
Émile was short in stature, only 5’2.5″ and was 20 years and 11 months old when he enlisted. He was noted as being single and a Farmer. He was listed a Class One, Category A2.
Assessments were made by medical officers as to the suitability of men to perform military duties. A system of lettering and numbering was devised to enable a mans abilities to be quickly noted. Class One meant he was single and Category A meant that he was able to march, see to shoot, hear well and stand active service conditions. The 2 meant that he was fit for dispatching overseas as regards to physical and mental health but required training.
The other thing I wanted to investigate further was the Depot Battalion. At first I had no idea what a Depot Battalion even was. It turns out that in 1917-1918, when it was no longer possible to recruit enough men for infantry battalions, depot battalions were organized in Canada to obtain personnel who would then be sent to the Canadian Reserve Battalions in England.
Émile was initially part of the 1st Depot Battalion, 1st Central Ontario Regiment. What I have been able to find out so far is that it was authorized by General Order 89 of September 1 1917 (see below) and by General Order 57 of 15 April 1918. They were to reinforce the 4th, 19th, 123rd and 208th Battalions through the 3rd Canadian Reserve Battalion. They were commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel B. H. Belson.
His military records are quite scant to be honest and contain only about 15 pages in total. So, I’m not able to get a really good idea of what he did in The Great War. All I know thus far is that on August 20 1918 he TOS (took on strength) at Bramshott Military Camp.
I don’t have his regiment’s war diaries and mobilization accounts, I will have to request them in person, but, I believe I have found the reference to them and can find them at the Canadian National Archives when I go to Ottawa later this month. However, there’s a snag – I see from his personal file that he’s noted under 3 separate regiments – 1st Depot Battalion, 1st Central Regiment, then the 1st Depot Battalion, 2nd Quebec Regiment and 1st Depot Battalion 10th Canadian Reserve Battalion. But, I cannot decipher when he was SOS from one and TOS (took on strength) with another. This is important for tracking his movement in the war diaries.
June 20 2017 Update: Spent the day at the National Archives of Canada today. The assistant working at the genealogy desk provided me with some information I had been seeking. She said that as part of a depot battalion and because we can only find him in England – that he likely did not see “action”. He would have been training and keeping in shape over his time in one of the military camps, in the event that he was called up to infantry for one of the battalions they were backing up. She further added that there are not likely war diaries for depot battalions, but if there was they would not be very interesting, but that I could check the records anyway.
All WWI military records are available online, so I was able to access his WWI Canadian Expeditionary Force Personnel File via Ancestry.ca (the site I am doing my family tree on). You can also access them through the archives website.
I am just now taking in that these documents are 100 years old, I am going to post as many documents as I possibly can!
Military Records Summary
May 13 1918: Attested at North Bay, Ontario
July 21 1918: Embarked at Québec
August 8 1918: Arrived London, England via the S.S. Somali – she was built in 1901 by Caird & Company Greenock and served as a troop carrier in WWI
August 20 1918: TOS at Bramshott a.k.a. Bramshott Military Camp, which was a temporary army camp set up on Bramshott Common, Hampshire, England during WWI. Bramshott was one of three facilities in the Aldershot Command area established by the Canadian Army. The permanent facility on both occasions was at the British Army’s Bordon Military Camp. Bramshott was one of two temporary camps set-up for additional accommodation in the lead-up to D-Day, along with Witley Camp.
November 11, 1918 – WWI ends – Armistice
Feb 19 1919: In Ripon he was admonished and condemned to pay 1/9.5 (confirmed as 1 pound, 9 schillings, 5 pence) for losing 1 scrubber (??? What kind of post did he after the war ended that he would have that he lost a scrubber? Did he work in a mess hall? Did he work in a medical unit? Was it for scrubbing his boots?) The only notation I’ve found that can be somewhat related to war is a breathing apparatus that absorbs the carbon dioxide . But I don’t think that would be it because this has specifically to do with diving.
June 20 2017 Update: Genealogy Assistant at National Archives advised that he literally lost a “scrubber” for cleaning. The reason she believes this is that he was there well after the war ended and was likely involved in clean up tasks. Given the price he was penalized to pay, she thinks it was likely a long handled scrubber.
June 14 1919: SOS (struck off strength) at Ripon – was now a part of the 10th Reserve Battalion. He was likely transferred to this Battalion as the other battalions he was part of demobilized and returned home.
June 23 1919: Embarked at Liverpool on the SS Belgic. The White Star Line vessel was to be named Ceric & intended to replace Titanic in 1914. The outbreak of WWI changed all of that. During construction, White Star decided to go with the name of Belgic IV. She was launched in Jan 1914, but was not yet completed when WWI began later that year and the work was stopped. Belgic IV was eventually completed in 1917, but as a troop transport and freighter rather than the passenger liner she was designed to be.
July 1 1919: Disembarked in Halifax, NS
July 3 1919: Discharged due to Demobilization
Here’s a map of of where I’ve been able to locate Émile while in the UK (pinned are: Ripon, London, Liverpool and Bramshott)
QUESTION: DOES ANYONE KNOW WHY HE WOULD HAVE STAYED IN ENGLAND AS LONG AS HE DID AFTER THE WAR HAD ENDED?
June 20 2017 Update: While at the Canadian Archives, the genealogy assistant informed me that some of the troops had to stay overseas longer to clean and pack up. Not everyone was able to go home right after Armistice, and there were only a limited supply of troop ships, so everyone had to take turns to return. The sick, injured, infirmed were sent home first. The abled bodied men, were left to clean.
After being discharged from the military he returned to Bonfield. He married Marcella Houle on September 27, 1927. They had three children (Thelma, Clifford and Edward) during their marriage.
When I was young we’d drive up to visit them from Kitchener, it was about a 5-6 hour drive. They lived at 217 Yonge Street. I haven’t been there since 1993 (the day of grand-mémère Lamothe’s funeral) and the house has long been sold. I remember it was a white and light green house, with a large wrap around veranda. I always thought the house was cool and creepy at the same time, because it was so old. It was grand-mémère Lamothe’s parents place – she was born there. When you’d walk in, you’d immediately walk into the living room (to the left) and the stair case to go upstairs was to your right, it had a white railing. I remember grand-mémère rocking away in her chrome glider , by the window, watching her shows.
The room immediately to the right when you walked in the front door used to be a parlour and as a child that totally creeped me when out they told me what it had been used for, but, that was in the days well before funeral parlours. Nonetheless, I could always envision dead people in there. I remember they’d put their Christmas tree up in there and that’s where the whole lot of us would open gifts before/after midnight mass at St. Bernadette’s.
When you walked toward the back of the house from the entrance, I recall there being a long dining table before you stepped through a single door to the kitchen. Just before you entered the kitchen (on the right hand side) there was a cabinet, that’s where Grand-Mémère would hide all of the goodies – and where I may or may not have snuck a few extra pieces of licorice. The kitchen must have been to be an addition, I’m sure of it. It was big (or seemed big for a 12 year old) and filled with white cabinets. There was a kitchen table in there with a bench, and on the back wall was a picture of The Last Supper. They never had a bath tub or shower in the house, we’d have to bathe in the kitchen sink.
Grand-mémère would get up very early in the mornings – and when we’d come down she’d make us peach or maple soupan (French slang for porridge) and the best Map-O-Spread toasts.
- Left – “The cousins” (Mona, Darlene and Doreen) and their children (Mona: Tina & Darryl), (Darlene: Lisa, Francine & Stephanie), (Doreen: Sylvie, Ginette and Stephanie). Note the green colour of the house and the laundry station.
- Top Right – “June 1984” – Mom Mona, Me, Darryl, Grand-Pépère and Grand-Mémère and Pépère. Note the white cabinets!
- Bottom Right – “Grand-Pépère’s 87th Birthday” at Ma Tante Thelma and Uncle Rene’s in Bonfield.
There were two doors in the kitchen – one exiting to the veranda toward the front and the other going out the the old step up laundry washing area/ line they had (see photo above). They never owned a dryer. Grand-mémère did all of the laundry by hand and hung it out back on the line to dry. Now by hand I mean, she had an old fashioned washing machine where you would wash it and then you had to take the piece of clothes and put it in a wringer and it would fall in a big bucket of clean cool water to rinse, then she would take it out of the rinse water and wring it again – so to me that is still by hand!
Coming from a generation that they did, and the house sourcing from a well, I’m sure they were afraid of the well running dry – at night time we had a large marmite (pot) at the top of the stairs to pee in, if we had to go. Grand-mémère would empty it when she got up in the morning. I also remember that the rooms didn’t have doors, they had curtains – and that there were 3 bedrooms plus theirs which was at the front of the house. Come to think of it, I don’t think I was ever in their room.
I remember Grand-pépère fiddling around in the back tool shed. I remember going in there as a child and thinking “wow this place is filled with really cool old junk”.
They had a garden out back and had a rain barrel that they’d collect water in to water their garden.
I remember the house wasn’t too far from the train tracks cause I would hear it whistling at night time.
It’s when you sit here and reminisce on your life that you wish you had the thirst for knowledge then like you do now. The things I would love to have asked Grand-pépère; from 1897 to 1992 he must have seen soooo many crazy things! He went from a seeing the first Ford Model T to a Lamborghini. He went from coal and wood fires to electricity, telephones and tv’s all during HIS LIFETIME. He saw two World Wars and was at one of them. Oh the stories Grand-pépère would have told me as he puffed on his pipe and sat on the front veranda.
Émile Lamothe died on April 17, 1992, in his hometown at the age of 94.
I Googled what their house at 217 Yonge Street looks like today … disappointing – it hardly looks at all like the house in my memories. It looks run down and dilapidated 😦