Britannia at War: Sons of Britannia in the Great War

I recently came across the Canadian Expeditionary Force Attestation Papers which is to say, the WWI recruitment papers for:

Name: Robert Raphael Lahaise

Joined: July 8, 1916

Relative: Mr L Lahaise

Birth : 23/05/1898 Britannia, Ontario

Residence: Britannia, Ontario

Occupation: Teamster

Yes, eighteen year old Roman Catholic teamster, son of Louis Lahaise, the ice merchant, carthage operator, and long time resident on Main St (Britannia Rd), had joined up on July 8, 1916.

This led me to his full  Personnel Records where I learned much, much more, from the state of his teeth at enlistment and discharge, that he had blue eyes and blond hair, to the fact that he was assigned to be a Gunner with the 73rd Battery, Canadian Field Artillery.

Robert was discharged Oct 21st, 1916 from training in Petawawa with back pay of $33.10.

His conduct is documented as “good”, and the reason for discharge is vaguely described as “Special Case.” As I understand it this could mean almost anything, but is most usually understood that some sort of family situation required the enlistee to be a primary income earner, at least earlier in the war.

Certainly there is nothing from either his medical or other documents to suggest any reason for discharge related to his physical or mental health, or to his conduct as a recruit.

Featured photo (at top): 1917 Neapole & Harding (Pembroke) WWI Postcard – “The Band” 73rd Battery at Military Camp Petawawa, Ontario

Lahaise was the only recruit I could find who had actually been born in Britannia. We will be hearing more about him again as the Lehaises are an important family in Britannia’s history.

Other residents who signed up that I was able to identify (see their linked service records for more information, a LOT more information. Note state of dental health around 1900 is generally appalling):

Name: Dalton Edmund McCarthy

Joined 22 June 1918

Relative Mrs Emma McCarthy (wife)

Birth: 02/07/1888 Ottawa, Carleton, Ontario

Occupation: Clerk

Residence: Britannia, Ontario

According to the 1916 Might Directory for Britannia Dalton Edmund McCarthy was resident on the east side of Zephyr, which in 1916 would have been the section between Don and Howe. His records indicate that he was assigned to the Canadian Ordinance Corps, rose to become a Staff Sergeant, and was discharged in 21 Oct, 1919.

Name: John Francis Maloney

Joined: Aug 5th, 1916

Relative : Mrs Ellen Maloney (mother)

Birth 22/12/1895 Calgary, Alberta

Occupation: Bank Clerk

Residence: Britannia

According to the 1915 Might Directory for Britannia there is a Wm McCarthy on Violet St. His records indicate that he was assigned to the 21st Bn, Depot Batteries, rose to become a Lieutenant, and was killed in action at Rouen in Nov 9, 1917, Citation(s): British War Medal, Victory Medal.

By 1921 Maloney’s parents had moved back downtown to 300 Cooper St

Names: Charles William Taylor

Joined: June 22nd, 1918

Relative: Emily Taylor (Wife)

Birth: 30/01/1885 Byfleet, Surrey, England

Occupation: Surveyor

Residence: Buckeye, Main St, Britannia

According to the 1915 Might Directory for Britannia there are a couple of Taylors in Britannia. However, William J. Taylor was the father of Eva Taylor and older than this Taylor, Robert Taylor was his brother. The William Taylor referenced as John McAmmond’s brother inlaw was also likely too old. The Charles Taylor, policeman discussed in Ottawa’s Britannis would have been too young.

Of course at the time “Britannia” could be understood to cover a large area, as far west as Bell’s Corners or beyond. A recruit from any farm in the region might list “Britannia” as their address as it was the postal district, and hence technically “the address.” In contrast the Might Directories cover only Britannia Village, Loma Park and Britannia Heights.

However it is rather odd not to be able to find Charles William Taylor as this is one of the only recruits to name a street, and not only that, but “Buckeye” is probably a specific residence as many of them had unique names in lieu of street numbers. So he was definitely in the village proper.

His records indicate that he was assigned to the Headquarters Engineer Services serving in Ottawa, rose to become a Staff Sergeant, and was discharged Sept 19, 1919.

Name: Rupert Burke

Joined: May 4, 1917

Relative: Mrs Agnes Tunicliff (Aunt)

Birth: 17/04/1895 Dublin, Ireland

Occupation: Farmer

Residence: Britannia, Ontario

As a farmer Burke is a perfect example of someone we do not really expect to find in the Directories, and indeed we don’t. His records indicate that he was assigned to the Canadian Railway Troops, Royal Construction and Forestry Corps, serving as a Sapper (Pvt), and was discharged Mar 27th, 1919.

Name: Louis Lucien Depocas

Joined: July 25th, 1917

Relative: Edward Depocas (father)

Birth: 11/12/1896 Montreal, Quebec

Occupation: Repairman in garage

Residence: Britannia, Ontario

Depocas is an odd ball in that the “card written duplicate” of his recruitment papers has him as being from Britannia, yet the original lists his address as 188 Guiges St (ie in the Market area downtown). The latter lists prior military service as 2 months with the 73rd Battery (see above), where as the latter states 1 1/2 years with the 65th Regiment in Montreal. Finally the one states he is joining Aug 19th, 1916, the other July 25th, 1917.

It get’s stranger. Louis Lucien Depocas is discharged from the 73rd Battery Oct 26th, 1916 (a year before he enlisted) as “medically unfit”, and “too small.” Louis Lahais was discharged Oct 21st, 1916, but Lahaise was 5’9″, and Depocas 5’3″, so if anyone is discharged for size it’s Depocas.

Otherwise the two Depocas certificates have the same day and month of birth (1 yr difference), same father, same street address for his birth in Montreal, etc. So it is tempting to think that the army somehow got a couple of details on the duplicate for Louis Depocas (specifically Residence and Previous Service) mixed up with those of Louis Lahaise, but perhaps not.

Depocas’s papers also include a will in which he leaves everything to his brother Henry Depocas of Britannia. Further, despite having been discharged in Oct 1916, he is assigned to the Signal Training Depot in Sept of 1917.

So it starts to look like Depocas of Guiges St signs up in 1916, and winds up in Petawawa with Louis Lahaise. Coincidently the two are discharged within a week of one another, Depocas for being too small.

In 1917 Depocas who is now staying with his brother in Britannia tries to re-enlist, and since the trenches of France have been slaughtering men in their millions the Army is less picky than it had been a year before. The too small Depocas is accepted this time as fit for clerical type work with the Signal Training Depot, but is once again discharged as too small, Jan 30, 1918.

Of course we already know about:

Signaller Victor Albert Hare, [Service Record]
13th Bde, Canadian Field Artillery
KIA: November 4, 1918, Age: 21
Son of Albert Edward and Mary Jane Hare, of Britannia Heights, Ontario.


Stewart Augustus Clarke

Pvt Stewart Augustus Clarke [Service Record]
Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (Eastern Ontario Regt.)
Citation(s): British War Medal, Victory Medal
KIA: October 30, 1917, Age 37
Spouse of Bridget Clarke, father of Roderick, Margaret, Stewart and Richard of 35a Henderson and 142 Britannia Rd.

from previous blog posts, specifically Britannia at War: WWI & the Fighting 207th, and The Ryan / Clarke Saga II : The War Years.

For WWI you can search for individual service records here: Personnel Records

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