George Franklin Dracup: Observer, Royal Flying Corps

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This is the story of just one of the Dracups who laid down their lives during the First World War.

Canadian George Franklin Dracup was a member of the Canadian Expeditionary Force.

He had moved westward from Ontario to the prairies of Saskatchewan at the turn of the Twentieth Century and, after a few lean years as a pioneering homesteader, converted himself into a prosperous land agent and budding entrepreneur.

Newly married to the daughter of an American farmer who had relocated northwards in the 1890s to establish a thriving livery stable, he joined his local cavalry militia in 1914, eventually shipping to England as an infantry private in the summer of 1916.

Within a year – spent entirely in England at various training camps – he was a newly-promoted lieutenant, an observer attached to the Royal Flying Corps, posted close to Ypres at the launch of the 1917 Flanders Offensive.

But his flying career at the front was all too brief. Killed by shellfire on the morning of Saturday 28 July, his remains lie buried in the cemetery over which he must have climbed when embarking on many daily patrol flights, often directly above the German lines.

Back in Yorkton, Canada, his hometown street had been renamed in his honour, and is called Dracup Avenue to this day. After a while his widow Hattie returned to live with her parents, staying with them until their deaths, never remarrying and living on into the 1960s.    

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George’s Antecedents

George was born into the Canadian arm of the Dracup family, whose origins I described in Dracups emigrate to…Canada (April 2016).

His grandfather and grandmother were Robert (1794-1866) and Amelia, nee Crosby (1799-1855), who were together responsible for establishing the Canadian branch of the Dracup family tree.

Robert was born into a small branch of the English Dracups based in Bolton, Lancashire and, unusually, we cannot reliably trace his ancestry.

We know he was christened at the Steep Lane Baptist Church in Sowerby, near Halifax in Yorkshire – some 25 miles from Bolton – where John Dracup (1722-95) would still have been the officiating minister.

I sketched out John’s life in this earlier post about Nathaniel (1728-1798), his rather better-known brother, who helped to introduce Methodism into the West Riding.

It is tempting to speculate on the relationship between John and Robert. It is possible that Robert might even have been John’s grandson, but we have no genealogical evidence to substantiate that theory.

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John Dracup’s Headstone

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Robert had arrived in Canada by February 1818, when he married Amelia Crosby in Granville, Annapolis, Nova Scotia. She had been born in 1799 in Ireland, though she was of Scottish descent. Her family most probably departed for Nova Scotia soon after her birth.

George Franklin was named after his father George L Dracup, Robert and Amelia’s youngest child. His father’s marriage record suggests that he was born in 1852 in Hastings, Ontario. If this is correct, Amelia would have been at least 52 at the time of his birth – unusual, though not entirely unheard of.

But there is also an entry in the 1851 Census showing a George Dracup aged 7 already in Robert and Amelia’s family, so he might have been born as early as 1844.

Could there have been an elder sibling of the same name who died before his birth? There is no record to support this theory.

And George’s death record gives his age as 38. He died in 1885, suggesting that he was born in 1847 or 1848, which neatly splits the difference above.

The Hastings County Directory for 1864-65 lists George, presumably then aged 16 or so, as a currier – a horse groom – based on East Moira Street in the town of Belleville, which at the time had a population of some 8,000 people.

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Front Street Belleville in 1878 (twice!)

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In 1869 he is listed as a yeoman farmer working part of Lot 9 in the Sixth Concession of Rawdon Township. His brother Albert has part of Lot 12 in the Fifth Concession.

Ontario townships were typically rectangular, unless one or more of their borders was formed by a substantial river or lake. Townships were divided into strips of land one-mile-and-a-quarter wide, called concessions, which were further divided into lots. Initially lots were 200 acres, but these could be divided into two.

According to his marriage record, 26 year-old George married Margaret Selina Aull on 10 January 1878 at Melrose, near the township of Tyendinaga in Hastings County. She was the daughter of James and Rebecca Aull, (nee Madill) who had emigrated from Ireland and farmed nearby.

At the time of his marriage George was living at Forest Mills, in the township of Richmond, now part of Greater Napanee, where he was employed as a clerk. Both bride and groom were Methodists.

An almost contemporary Lovell’s Gazetteer of British North America (1873) describes Forest Mills as:

‘A post village in Lennox County, 10 miles from Napanee. It contains a woolen factory and a store. Pop 200.’

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George’s birth and early life

George and Margaret’s first child was a daughter, Harriet Selena, born on 20 December 1878.

There is some confusion over George Franklin’s date of birth, because he later lied about his age when enlisting for war service. His service records give a birth date of 10 September 1887 but that is impossible, since we know his father died in April 1885.

Both the 1891 and 1901 Censuses suggest George was actually born in 1880 or thereabouts. He seems to have given the correct day and month on his service record, suggesting a true birth date of 10 September 1880. The location is recorded as Lonsdale, Addison County, Ontario.

His father’s gravestone gives the actual date of his death as 12 April 1885, though the death record says 13 April. No cause of death is given but he is described as a ‘merchant’, and his religion is now Presbyterian.

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Margaret would have been left a widow with two young children aged only 6 and 4. It seems likely that she took up residence again with her parents or with one of her several siblings.

On 20 February 1889 though, she married again, this time to Archibald Goodson Fairbairn, a 39 year-old widower. He was a farmer living at North Fredericksburg. Their marriage took place at nearby Napanee, where Margaret was then resident.

Archie Fairbairn had married his first wife, Lucinda Robinson, in 1876, but she seems to have died in 1887, shortly after the birth of a daughter.

The 1891 Census duly registers three children living with Archie and Margaret: Harriet (now called Hattie) aged 12, George Franklin aged 10 and half-sister Lucinda, aged 3.

In July 1897, Margaret gave birth to George’s half-brother, Lyndon Eldon Fairbairn in Napanee.

But George and Hattie must have left the family home shortly afterwards. The 1901 Census indicates that Hattie (now 22) and George (now 20) were living together in North Fredericksburg.

George was working as a farmer, presumably with the assistance of the third member of the household, a 27 year-old servant called Alfred Moore. The Census records that he was paid the not inconsiderable sum of $200 per annum.

But this must have been a relatively short-lived arrangement because, on 2 July 1902, George applied for a homestead grant, for land in a township near Yorkton, Saskatchewan. He was 21 years old.

One source suggests that George lived near Roblin, Ontario for some 28 years of his life, so until 1908 or 1909. This seems inaccurate though he may have retained a base there until he moved permanently to Yorkton, some 2,000 kilometres to the north west.

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The North West Territories in 1900

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The founding of Yorkton

The first Homestead Act for Western Canada was passed in 1872 but, for the remainder of the Nineteenth Century, most settlers were attracted instead to the American prairies. Over 120,000 Canadians migrated in that direction between 1870 and 1890.

But, during the mid-1890s, economic conditions for American homesteaders began to deteriorate as land prices increased dramatically. In the early 1900s they were also affected by successive years that brought difficult weather conditions.

Consequently the Canadian prairies became the destination of choice. Saskatchewan’s population grew from below 20,000 in 1881 to over 90,000 by 1901, and then increased with even great rapidity, reaching 258,000 by 1906 and 492,000 by 1911.

In the decade beginning in 1900, approximately 36% of applications for Saskatchewan homesteads were from Canadians, 29% from Americans, 17% from potential English, Scots and Irish immigrants, and a broadly similar proportion from people living elsewhere in Europe.

In 1881 the Canadian Government had passed laws to support the creation of colonising companies. Parcels of land were made available at $2 per acre and, under the terms of the legislation, these companies also received $160 per settler.

In 1882 a group of Ontario businessmen formed the York Farmers Colonization Company, intending to invest in the development of land for homesteading in what was then the Provisional District of Assinboia, part of the North West Territories.

They secured parts of several townships in the area and began to invite homesteaders to move there. Their first settlement was located on the banks of the Little White Sand River, a few miles north of where Yorkton stands today. The first settlers called it York City, but changed its name to Yorkton when a post office was opened in 1884.

There were 158 residents by 1883 but, though the project had proved comparatively successful, the new settlement was not served by a rail link, essential to its further growth. So, in 1890, Yorkton moved a few miles so it could be adjacent to the Manitoba and North Western Railway. The first train arrived the following year.

Although Yorkton had fairly auspicious beginnings, most of this first tranche of colonisation companies were not particularly successful: the 26 that completed their five-year contracts in 1886 and 1887 between them sponsored only 1,080 homesteaders.

But, as numbers began to pick up in the 1890s, many new businesses became established, often aggressively buying up land from the owners, whether companies or settlers, and finding new immigrants to take it off their hands.

Some provided real estate services for the larger companies in return for land; others were little more than speculators.

As the new wave of European immigrants began to arrive, Yorkton rapidly matured into a thriving base for such companies, as well as a trading centre for the homesteads located round about, including the cattle ranches that drove their herds into town for distribution by rail.

A building boom began. Argyle School was established in the new location in 1891. The Balmoral Hotel was constructed in 1897 and, the same year, a Hudson Bay Company store opened in the settlement.

Yorkton officially became a town in 1900, its population reaching 600. Just a year later, and shortly before George arrived, the population was already close to 1,500. The town hospital was built that year and the Yorkton Hotel in 1902. Telephones were first installed in 1903.

In 1905 Saskatchewan became a province of Canada, by which time the population of Yorkton was 1,200 strong. By 1911 electric light was becoming available and the town’s population was over 2,300. By 1912, Yorkton could claim to be the ‘largest and most prosperous community in Eastern Saskatchewan’.

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Yorkton in 1906

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Securing a Saskatchewan Homestead

Throughout the prairie provinces there was a standardised process for surveying land and then making it available for settlement.

The vast expanses were initially divided into seven Meridians stretching north to south, with two – known as W2 (at 102 degrees) and W3 (at 106 degrees) – located in Saskatchewan.

Each Meridian was sub-divided into Ranges, also stretching north to south, the range number indicating the distance from the Meridian. Range 1 was invariably the easternmost.

Each Range was sliced into blocks called Townships which were also numbered, according to their distance from the American border. Township 1 in each range was always closest to the border.

The surveyors needed to add correction lines so that this essentially ‘flat earth’ system would fit the surface curvature of the earth. These were introduced every 24 miles, north to south. They also made allowance for roads, running both north-south and east-west, typically reserving a strip 66 feet wide.

Each Township had an area of 36 square miles and was sub-divided into 36 Sections of one square mile apiece. These were numbered in rows, starting at the bottom right-hand corner of the township and finishing at the top right-hand corner.

Each Section was quartered, the four quarters identified as North West, North East, South West and South East respectively. Each quarter consisted of 160 acres and was half a mile square.

Prospective settlers could apply to take up one of these 160-acre plots, provided that they were male and aged 18 or above, or else the male or female head of a family.

There were several additional conditions, the details revised over time.

Homesteaders had to pay a $10 registration fee and, if immigrants, declare their intention of becoming British subjects. They typically had to live on their land for at least six months of the year, build a house there and gradually clear the land. It was stipulated that they should cultivate at least 15 acres within three years, or else raise 20 head of cattle.

After these three years had elapsed, homesteaders could apply for the patent on their land, provided that they could supply evidence that they had met the requirements then in force.

From 1908 those wishing to enlarge their homesteads could add a second 160-acre plot if they could demonstrate a further three years of residence and a further 50 acres cultivated. Settlers could also buy up unused land owned by the railways, or sold on by them to the land companies.

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Yorkton positioned on the grid

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The Life of an Early Homesteader

The Canadian Government’s propaganda painted an idyllic picture of life on the prairies. A marketing campaign built around pamphlets and posters used the phrase ‘The Last Best West’ to entice prospective settlers.

In 1899 Canada’s Department of the Interior published a descriptive atlas of Western Canada. It provided estimates suggesting that settlers might roughly quadruple the value of their assets in less than eight years, adding:

‘It is difficult to lay down a hard and fast rule as to the amount of capital necessary to start farming. The answer depends upon the energy, experience, judgment and enterprise of the person who is to spend the money, the province selected, whether free grant land is to be taken up or an improved farm rented or purchased, and many other details. It may safely be said, however, that if a man has about £100 sterling or $500 clear, on reaching the country he is in a position to make a fair beginning on free grant land, though not on a large scale. It should be remembered, however, that numbers of prosperous men have begun life on the prairies with barely enough to take them there. They have in many cases made their way by working as hired men, at seeding and harvesting time, while during other months of the year they performed the statutory and necessary work on free homesteads they had acquired from the government. Many of the most successful have been farm labourers in the old country.’

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On the other hand, for every self-made man there was another who could not sustain the intense industry or suffer the deprivation necessary to make a success of homesteading. Many homesteads were sold on, their owners returning east or else finding employment in one of the rapidly growing prairie towns.

The work involved in land clearance was arduous and home comforts, often initially in a self-constructed shack, were in short supply. Furniture was largely home-made, as were clothes, bedding and matting. Huge stocks of firewood were needed to keep settlers warm through the long, cold winters.

Men were often separated initially from their families, and families from their relatives. There were few opportunities to socialise with one’s neighbours. Travel was often difficult, even to the nearest town, because of the dearth of passable roads and bridges.

The local infrastructure, even close to growing centres like Yorkton, was negligible. Shops were few and far between. Medical support was scarce and often located some considerable distance away: women faced childbirth without medical assistance and men injured in serious farming accidents would often die before they could be reached.

Settlers faced particular problems when overcoming setbacks or pursuing expansion. Their land could not be mortgaged until they had their patent, yet it was often essential for them to replace equipment, or depleted livestock, or to replenish their stocks after poor harvests.

With limited capital, many were forced into debt, tied to repaying loans at high interest rates, or else had to hire out their labour to others before they could once again afford to work for themselves.

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Saskatchewan Homesteader’s Shack (1903)

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From Homesteader to Real Estate

George’s application was for homestead number 107755 in the South East part of Section 2 in Township 26 (Range 2, Meridian W2).

According to this online converter the location is some miles due east of Yorkton.

The extract from the Homestead Grant Register below reveals that George did not apply for a patent to this land in July 1905, after his three years had elapsed.

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The same plot was applied for by one Gustave Conrad, an American of German extraction, in June 1906, and this was subsequently patented.

There is no sign of George in the 1906 Census of the Northwest Provinces, so it is conceivable that he had returned to Ontario for a while. Perhaps he had decided that there was no future in homesteading.

We do know that other members of his family remained in Saskatchewan however.

Stepfather Archibald Fairbairn, now aged 57, was living with his younger brother Robert and his family in sub-district 13 of the nearby Qu’Appelle district, though neither Margaret nor the children were present. The Homestead Grant Register shows that Robert had applied for this land as recently as October 1905.

The Register also reveals that Archibald submitted his own application, for the NE part of section 19 of township 31 in range 6 of meridian W2, on 22 April 1908, and that this was patented on 11 October 1911. The 1911 Census shows Archibald (60), Margaret (52) and Lyndon (14) reunited in this homestead in the Mackenzie District.

We also know that George’s sister Hattie was in Saskatchewan at this time. There is a birth record for her daughter, Evelyn MacFarlane, who arrived on 10 July 1906, at Esterhazy nearby.

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The father was John Givens MacFarlane. I could not trace a marriage record, but this suggests that their wedding probably took place in 1905. MacFarlane was also a native of Ontario, born there in 1877, and he most likely married Hattie before moving west.

I can find no application for a homestead grant from John, though there is a barely legible entry for them in the 1906 census, taken on 3 July, just prior to Evelyn’s birth. It gives their ages as 30 and 24 respectively and, though it locates them in Esterhazy, incorrectly states that they were both born in Manitoba.

By the time of the 1911 Census though, they had moved on to Calgary, Alberta, where John was employed as a pharmacist or ‘druggist’ in a drug store. Their ages and places of birth are this time correct. The 1916 Census has them still in Calgary and John – now aged 40 – continued working as a druggist.

The homestead grant records also show that George’s maternal uncles Erastus and Samuel Aull had applied for land in the vicinity of Yorkton. One of Erastus’s plots was in the same section of township 26 as George’s, though he too later moved to Calgary.

George himself reappears in Saskatchewan in the 1911 Census. He was no longer a farmer but was now working on his own account (so he was self-employed) in ‘real estate’ and lived alone in dwelling number 193 on Broadway in Yorkton.

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1911 Census

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George Marries

George married Harriet Agnes Markham in Winnipeg, Manitoba on 23 March 1914, just months before the outbreak of war. He was 33 years old; she was 30.

The fourth child of Joseph Clark Markham (1855-1944) and Celia Ellen, nee Robinson (1858-1946), she had been born in Spink, South Dakota, USA on 19 July 1883.

Both Joseph and Celia had also been born in the USA, Joseph in Cold Springs, New York and Celia in Marion, Minnesota. They married in Minnesota in 1879 and began farming there, but soon moved on to South Dakota where Joseph set up a livery yard alongside their farm.

The 1885 Territorial Census records the Markhams living as an extended family at Spink. There is a family picture dating from this period.

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That’s Joseph at the back, with an ill-fitting jacket. His wife Celia is to his left, while Harriet is immediately in front of him, in a spotted dress, next to Joseph’s father, Nathan Clark Markham.

In 1891 Joseph migrated across the border to Yorkton with the South Dakota Colony, a collection of some 200 settlers, most of whom set up a community some 45 miles from town.

But Joseph chose instead to establish a new livery stable in the centre of Yorkton also located on Broadway, between First and Second Avenues. I think it may be the one in the picture below, which dates from 1910 or thereabouts. (It also features in the postcard from 1906 above.)

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Celia and her six children joined him in Yorkton in 1892. Further children were born to Joseph and Celia in Canada – there were ten or eleven all told, though three died in childhood.

We know from a press report of Joseph and Celia’s diamond wedding anniversary in 1939 that, at one point, Joseph owned most of the land fronting Broadway between First and Second Avenues. It adds that he sold his business as Yorkton grew larger and took up a farm four miles west of the town.

The 1906 Census reveals Joseph, Celia and six of their children were living together in Yorkton, but the homestead grant records confirm that, on 1 September 1908, Joseph applied for the north east part of section 5 of township 25.

However, the patent was not granted until 30 September 1915, perhaps suggesting that he had his hands full with other priorities. His father Nathan and eldest son Henry had also applied for grants some time beforehand.

According to the 1939 newspaper report, Joseph’s family lived on the farm from 1910 until 1929, when he retired to Yorkton, together with Celia and Hattie.

But, back in 1911, Hattie was living apart from her family, a boarder in dwelling number 209 on Broadway, just a little way down the street from George. She was working as a milliner.

The couple would have known each other already, given the small size of Yorkton at this time, but these living arrangements must have given them much greater freedom to pursue their relationship.

The young real estate agent almost certainly had business to conduct with the Markhams, maybe buying up land for them and also stabling his horses at Joseph’s livery yard.

We know that he was particularly interested in horses because a newspaper article survives, originally printed in the Lethbridge Daily Herald of 15 January 1911, describing a meeting of prominent members of the Western Canada Fair and Racing Circuit, which arranged trotting events and horse racing throughout this territory. George is one of those present.

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Another article from 1914 lists the participants in Yorkton trotting races taking place that June. One of the horses in the 2:30 event is ‘Kid Man’, owned by George.

It is less clear why the couple travelled to Winnipeg, Manitoba to get married, though perhaps Yorkton was unable to supply everything that they wanted to celebrate the event. This doesn’t seem an unusual decision, since Joseph’s eldest son Henry had also married in Winnipeg three years earlier.

We know that, immediately prior to the Great War, George was expanding and diversifying his business interests. There are isolated newspaper references to the buildings he commissioned in Yorkton including the Argyle Apartments on Argyle Street and a building (possibly different; possibly the same) that became known as the Dracup Block.

This latter contained the office of an architect listed in the 1913 Yorkton Directory (which I can’t source online) and there is a newspaper reference to widow Hattie still living in the Block in 1918.

Other newspaper announcements from October 1913 record that George intended to apply for a license to prospect for coal and petroleum on Graham Island (one of the Queen Charlotte Islands) in British Columbia. They describe him as an ‘occupation agent’.

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The first oil wells on the west coast of Canada were drilled on Graham Island at this time, so George was again a pioneer. Whether he did become a prospector – and whether or not he was successful in finding oil or coal – is not recorded.

George was clearly a highly enterprising and ambitious man who could spot new business opportunities and exploit them. It seems likely that, had the War not intervened, he would have become increasingly prominent, wealthy and successful.

But the War did intervene.

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RFC Wireless Training

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George Goes to War

We are fortunate to have a substantial sheaf of George’s war records.

His attestation papers, completed on March 27 1916 at Moose Jaw, give his date of birth as 10 September 1887, giving the impression that he is only 28 years of age rather than 35. He describes his employment as ‘agent’ rather than ‘real estate’ indicating his wider range of business interests.

We are told that he is five feet seven-and-a-half inches tall, has a medium complexion with grey eyes and black hair. Despite his Methodist and Presbyterian antecedents, his religious affiliation is Church of England. I could track down no photographs of George.

His given address is simply ‘Yorkton, Saskatchewan’ as is Harriet’s. However I cannot find her resident in Yorkton or environs within the 1916 Census. It is conceivable that she had relocated temporarily to be closer to George while he was in training elsewhere in Canada.

George reveals that he has had two years of prior military service with ‘the 16th Light Horse’. Previously the 16th Mounted Rifles, this was once Saskatchewan’s first militia regiment, formed in 1885 as the Battleford Rifle Company.

It seems most likely that he joined up in 1914, cavalry service clearly offering another opportunity to indulge his love of horses.

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We can see from this postcard, dating from 1915, that B Squadron, part of the 16th Light Horse was based at the original Armories building in Yorkton. The message on the card say this was one of the first motor cars in Yorkton, but the identity of the driver and passengers is unknown.

Some of those serving in the Light Horse had already been incorporated, along with several other militia forces, into Canada’s Expeditionary Force. They together formed the 5th Battalion Western Cavalry, which transitioned into an infantry force during the early stages of the War.

George did not follow this route, perhaps because he was so recently married.

Instead he joined the 128th Overseas Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force which was being recruited from late 1915 onwards, largely from the area in and around Moose Jaw, some 250km south west of Yorkton, on the other side of Regina, the capital of Saskatchewan.

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His papers are approved by the commanding officer of the 128th, Lieutenant Colonel Francis Pawlett. He was also a Yorkton resident, and previously commander of B Squadron of the 16th Light Horse, which perhaps explains how George came to join this Battalion.

Pawlett was English-born but, having served in the Boer War, he settled in Yorkton as a retired lieutenant. He had volunteered again for active service in 1914 but was wounded (though his service record refers to ‘severe laryngitis’ owing to exposure in the trenches). After his recovery he returned once more to Canada to raise this new Battalion.

It is conceivable that Pawlett is the driver of the car featured in the postcard above, though he was reputedly an enormously tall man. Some sources suggest he was almost seven feet tall, but his attestation papers record that he was only six feet four-and-three-quarters.

He was also not a man to be trifled with, running into difficulty with the authorities when he had two men suspended by their arms in irons until they fell unconscious. Some thought him ‘not the highest type’.

But, as we shall see, he was well-known to George. One assumes that Pawlett turned a blind eye to George’s lies about his age.

Why he felt it necessary to lose seven years remains something of a mystery. As a 35 year-old he would have remained within the ambit for war service. And it was an offence under military law to enlist fraudulently, including by lying about one’s age.

Once the 128th had shipped to England and its men had been assigned to different regiments, Pawlett took command of the second battalion of the Duke of Wellington’s West Riding Regiment. After the War, he returned to command the third battalion of the North Saskatchewan Regiment but sadly died of influenza in 1922.

George and his compatriots were sent initially for basic training at Camp Hughes in Manitoba, some miles west of Winnipeg. First established as Sewell Camp in 1909, it was renamed in 1915, after Major General Sam Hughes, then Canada’s defence minister.

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By the time George arrived, the camp was huge, boasting a population of some 27,000 trainees, personnel and civilians. It was the most populous place in Manitoba apart from Winnipeg! But it fell out of use in 1917 after some 38,000 trainees had passed through.

The novice troops lived together in large conical tents. The site boasted two churches, a prison and a large swimming pool. There were also several facilities run as civilian businesses, including six cinemas, a tailor, two banks, a bookshop and a photographic studio. An extensive network of trenches was dug to accustom men to the realities of trench warfare.

Camp Hughes was dismantled in the 1930s and in 2011 declared a site of national historical significance.

This series of letters from one of George’s contemporaries offers some insight into how the men lived and trained:

‘Yesterday we started shooting on the Range and stayed with it all day today it is not hard work at all, but longer hours, we get out to fall in at 6.30 a.m. and march about a mile then we lydown and sleep 60 % of the time till we get back to supper, at 5 P.M. we have dinner out on the grass.

It did rain a little this after noon but we carry our oil sheets along and wrap up in them every time it rains…

…We have great times nights playing leap frog and wrestling and boxing around here like we were crazy.’

Finally, George’s intake was ready for overseas posting.

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A complement of 31 officers and 988 men travelled by rail to Halifax, Nova Scotia where, on 15 August 1916, they boarded a troopship called Grampian.

George’s name can be found in the Nominal Roll prepared for their departure. The journey was completed without mishap, Grampian arriving in Liverpool on 24 August.

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Having landed in England, George transferred by rail to Witley in Surrey for further training. Witley Camp had been established in 1915 on Witley Common, a few miles southwest of Godalming in Surrey. It was one of three main training bases in the Home Counties used by Canadian forces, the others being at Bordon and Bramshott, both in Hampshire.

George seems to have been marked out early, since he was promoted to acting corporal even before arriving at Witley. It was fairly common for NCOs to be reduced to the ranks, often for drunkenness, and new men had to be found to replace them.

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George was at Witley at the same time as poet Wilfred Owen, who was training there during the second half of 1916, having been freshly newly commissioned into the Second Battalion, the Manchester Regiment.

He wrote some of his early poems at Witley, including a sonnet, ‘Purple’, which is quite unlike his later work:

‘Vividly gloomy, with bright darkling glows

Of nebulae and warm, night-shimmering shores!

Stain of full fruits, wines, passions, and the cores

Of all quick hearts! Yet from its deeps there blows

Aroma and romance of violets;

Softness of far land, hazed; pacific lift

Of smoke through quiet trees; and that wild drift

Of smoulder when the flare of evening sets.

Solemn, columnar, thunder-throning cloud

Wears it so stately that therein the King

Stands before men, and lies in death’s hand, proud.

Purest, it is the diamond dawn of spring;

And yet the veil of Venus, whose rose skin,

Mauve-marbled, purples Eros’ mouth for sacred sin.’

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Extract from the 128th’s War Diary for March 1917 at Witley

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Officer Material

George’s service record shows that he transferred to Bramshott after Witley, and was very quickly commissioned, being promoted to temporary lieutenant on 12 October 1916. He most probably completed officer training at Bramshott.

George had become one of the so-called ‘temporary gentlemen’, recruited from outside the traditional officer class to replace the large number of officer casualties during the first half of the War.

Given what we can infer from his pre-war life, he most probably saw this as a valuable opportunity for advancement that might well stand him in good stead after the War was over.

There was also significant financial benefit: the basic daily rate of pay for a lieutenant was twice that for a private, and the field allowance for active service was several times higher. There was also an additional premium for flying officers.

We can see from George’s records that his monthly pay in October 1916 was $34.10 but, by July 1917, it had increased to $186.

A separation allowance was also payable to Harriet, initially set at $16 per month. This rose to $30 per month when George became an officer.

George had returned once more to Witley by early March 1917, now officially back on the strength of the 128th Battalion. But, less than two weeks later, his record says he is: ‘‘On Command’ proceeding to Military School Aeronautics Reading’.

That means he would have missed the troop inspection at Witley by Canadian Prime Minister, Robert Borden, which took place on 29 March 1917.

RE8 in flight

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George Joins the RFC

It is unclear why George took this decision, although it is perhaps not surprising that the (all too brief) life of an infantry lieutenant in the trenches was not an attractive prospect.

But air service was also highly dangerous – there was little protection against enemy fire, planes were often combustible and one took to the air without a parachute – but at least life when off patrol was fairly comfortable and, if one slept, one always slept in a warm bed! 

The Military School Aeronautics, Reading was located in Wantage Hall, part of the University of Reading. Originally formed in 1915 as a college for RFC instructors, it was expanded in autumn 1916 to include preliminary training for cadet pilots and observers.

This was largely a theoretical, ground-based experience, covering topics such as basic map reading, gunnery and flight mechanics.

There is a letter surviving from fellow observer James Stevenson Balfour, dated 1 May 1917, that describes the role for which he and George were training and also something of the course they had followed:

‘So since March 1st I have been attached to the R.F.C. and have been receiving instructions as a corps observer and doing quite a lot of flying. A corps squadron, which I will go to in France is the one which is in close contact with the Infantry and helps them a great deal. That is what I like about it.

We will observe for the artillery when it is firing on hostile battery positions, trenches, strong points etc. etc . Also will fly over the infantry when they are attacking and send word by means of the wireless to the artillery and Corps & Divisional H.Q. concerning the difficulty the infantry are having, what places should be heavily shelled, where the enemy are massed etc. etc. It is rather difficult to give you the details as I remember how vague it sounded to me when first commencing the lectures.

For the first few days we were at Reading where we received a few lectures on the Construction of the Aeroplane and one on the changer camera, which takes photos from the air. Then we went to Brooklands. This is the place where most of the auto racing is done in England and where a great many records have been made. The Aerodrome is in the centre of the 3 mile paved & banked track. Do you get that?

At Brooklands we received lectures on Map Reading took Morse till we could receive 8 words a minute and send the same number. Because we use the instrument a great deal in the air. Lectures on Reconnaissance, Contact Patrol, Machine Gun & practice on the ranges.

By the way, one afternoon I made the beat group for the squad, that only happened once. We were billeted in Weybridge a small place about 20 miles from London and I was up several times. Our billet was in a park and a large country house owned by some wealthy gent. There were several Canadians in the school and we passed the time very enjoyable…

… Saturday morning the three of us who came up together from Brooklands went over to Lark Hill Artillery school and were told something about gunnery also watched the guns firing. We came back last night. This morning I was up flying for an hour taking photos at a height of 7000’. It is a warm day but when up high you are glad that you wore a coat, helmet and gloves.

We will be here till Thurs 10th May then have leave till 14th and suppose to leave for France on the 15th. That makes it 1 day over 11 months that I’ve been in England, so there are no complaints and I have been mighty fortunate…’ 

We know that Balfour and George were together during this period. George’s war records show that he too was finally posted to France on 15 May 1917, having been in England for almost nine months. He joined up with 42 Squadron of the RFC.

And Balfour mentions him explicitly in his next letter, written just after they had arrived in France:

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Balfour mentions George

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‘This is my second night with the squadron. Left Reid’s Monday evening and took my luggage to Victoria station and slept at the Grosvenor Hotel which is at the station so as to be handy and not have to get up too early. Train left about 8 o’clock Tuesday and three of us who were at Netheravon together had breakfast on the train and stayed together till we reached that place Sur-mer where I have landed & sailed from several times…

…Yesterday two of us George Dracup of Yorkton 128th Batt’n & I who have been together since joining R.T.C. He is a good head and we are not absolutely together now but he is only a short distance away and I have seen him twice to-day. We came up on the train to the North and arrived at our squadrons last night. There are a few Canadians around but I am the only one in our mess.’

According to other sources, observer training was in its infancy at this point in the War, having been introduced in 1916.

The first part, four weeks of ground training, was undertaken either at Reading or Oxford and covered five topics:

  • Aeroplanes (types of aeroplanes, theory of flight, aero-engines, instruments)
  • Artillery Work (artillery observation, troop formations, reconnaissance, bombs and bombing, aerial fighting, photography)
  • The Lewis gun
  • Signalling (wireless, Morse code)
  • Miscellaneous (map reading, meteorology, astronomy, military law).

Trainee observers were then attached to a squadron that was preparing to become fully operational, to undertake practical aerial observation. They would also attend a further three week course at either Brooklands (wireless operation) or Hythe (aerial gunnery).

Qualification as a fully-fledged aerial observer depended on achieving five outcomes:

  • thorough knowledge of the Lewis gun
  • ability to use the RFC camera
  • ability to send and receive by wireless at the rate of 6 five-letter words per minute with 98% accuracy
  • thorough understanding of ‘the method of co-operation between aeroplanes and artillery’ and
  • two reconnaissance flights undertaken or two experiences of ranging batteries.

At this point observers might be retained on the strength of their existing squadron as it became operational, or else they would transfer to another squadron that was already operational, as happened with George.

Once attached to their squadron they would undertake further training: conversion to the operational aircraft they would now be flying and practicing the full range of skills set out in their manual, ‘Co-operation of Aircraft with Artillery’.

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George’s Location, Commanding Officer and Pilot

George found himself at Bailleul, in Flanders, close to the Belgian border, about 15 miles north-west of Lille. The town of Ypres was a few miles further north-west; the town of Armentieres even closer to the south-east.  

Because of its rail connections and aerodromes, Bailleul was an important military centre during the 1917 Flanders Offensive, which culminated at Passchendaele.

George’s 42 Squadron had been based here since autumn 1916 and would, for the most part, remain until November 1917, before transferring to Italy. The Squadron operated out of the Town Ground Aerodrome one of three nearby. This was prone to flooding and became waterlogged several times during the Offensive.

Bailleul itself was highly vulnerable to enemy attack. On 5 June, German planes dropped two bombs on the railway sidings adjacent to Town Aerodrome scoring a direct hit on an ammunition train, which resulted in a series of large explosions.

On the night of 6 July another air raid resulted in the bombing of the 11th Casualty Clearing Station, set up in a nearby railway siding. Some 25-30 staff and patients were killed and 65 more wounded.

There was further heavy shelling in the days immediately prior to George’s death.

The airmen in 42 Squadron supported the guns of the Second (Anzac) Corps, initially part of the British Second Army, while those with 53 Squadron supported the Ninth Corps. Both squadrons were based at the Town Ground Aerodrome.

The planes and their occupants were attached to specific artillery batteries within these corps, and encouraged to visit them between flights to build closer relationships. Wireless operators from the RFC were also attached to the batteries.

The prevailing westerly wind ensured that crews normally took off directly over Bailleul Cemetery below, which must have shaken the nerves of many of those heading out across enemy lines.

In June 1917 a RE8 biplane from 42 Squadron stalled and crashed into the Cemetery itself, killing those on board.

The Squadron was commanded by Major John Lawson Kinnear. Born in 1890 in Yorkshire, he was almost a decade younger than George. He went to Sandhurst before joining the King’s (Liverpool) Regiment in 1910.

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Major Kinnear

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He applied to join the RFC in 1913, qualifying as a Flying Officer in October 1914 and joining 6 Squadron in France. In 1915 he was promoted to temporary captain, twice mentioned in despatches and awarded the Military Cross.

Further promoted to substantive captain, he joined 19 Squadron in March 1916 before taking up post as Commander of 42 Squadron in June of that year, on promotion to temporary major.

In December 1917 he returned to home duties at First Training Squadron, Beaulieu and was awarded the DSO. He died on 28 April 1918, aged only 28, in an accident during a display of stunt flying.

As a newly-arrived observer, George was assigned to a relatively more experienced pilot, Lieutenant George N Goldie. A Scotsman, born in Leith, he was also some ten years George’s junior.

He had been commissioned into the 13th Battalion, the Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders but, in November 1916, transferred into the RFC, qualifying initially as an observer.

But he had converted to piloting planes by April 1917 – a not uncommon transition at this stage of the War – so had a couple of months’ of experience at the Front before being paired with George.

Later, when 42 Squadron was transferred to Italy, Goldie was paired with a new observer, Lieutenant G F Barnes. While flying RE8 A4445 on 12 January 1918, they were attacked by three Austro-Hungarian fighters and forced to land. They were unable to destroy their plane before being captured by a nearby Austro-Hungarian artillery position and became prisoners of war for the duration.

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Another RE8 from 42 Squadron – 3843

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George’s Plane – the RE8

42 Squadron was equipped with both RE8 and BE2 aircraft. George flew an RE8, number 4456.

The RE8 was a comparatively new plane, first used in June 1916, but subsequently became the most widely-used two-seater across the Western Front.

Nicknamed the ‘Harry Tate’ after a popular music hall comedian, it was well-adapted to reconnaissance work, but had limited manoeuvrability, making it particularly vulnerable to attack by enemy fighters.

A biplane, constructed from wood and fabric, it had a single 140hp engine powering a four-bladed wooden propeller 9 feet 9 inches in diameter, giving a maximum flying speed of around 100mph. It was slightly below 28 feet in length, with a wingspan of 42 feet. Its ceiling was 13,500 feet and it could fly for over four hours on a single load of fuel.

There were twin open cockpits, the gunner/observer occupying the rear cockpit. The pilot was armed with a 0.303 Vickers machine gun; the gunner/observer with a 0.303 Lewis gun on a mount, so it could be swivelled in any direction. There was also a potential bomb payload of up to 260 pounds.

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Some early pilot’s notes for the RE8 included the instruction that:

‘Observers must not stand up to look over pilot’s shoulder while landing as their wind resistance can cause the machine to stall.’

The observer was equipped with a stool enabling him to face in any direction and a folding board for maps. He also had a control column allowing him to take over flight of the aircraft if the pilot was hit.

The camera was specially designed for the aircraft, operated by the pilot but accessible from the rear cockpit so the observer could change the plates. Maps were constructed from the patchwork of photographs taken, the pilot timing each exposure by stopwatch.

The observer had the Morse wireless equipment fitted to his left. He used a series of code letters to communicate with the artillery below. The artillery batteries typically replied with letters made from strips of white cloth that could be read from the air.

When the first gun was ready to be fired, the pilot would manoeuvre the plane so that the observer could see the flash of the gun and the shell burst. He would then advise the battery until all their guns were correctly ranged on the target.

It was common for planes to be shaken or even hit by shells from their own side. Sometimes shells could be seen passing by in the air close to the plane, before the pilot could take evasive action.

The crew were particularly exposed to anti-aircraft fire while engaged in observation or photography above enemy lines. A direct hit meant almost certain death, though there were recorded incidents of crews surviving crashes.

The RE8 had a poor reputation for combustibility, sometimes attracting the nickname ‘the flying wafer’ because of its propensity to burst into flames when crash landing.

Almost invariably, planes would crash land behind enemy lines, so those who survived normally became prisoners of war.

This You Tube video provides a helpful visual tour of the RF8, with added expert commentary, using the plane preserved at the RAF Museum.

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RE8s from 3 Squadron at Bailleul in 1917

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Progress of the War During George’s Brief Flying Career

Early in 1916, the RFC had been reorganised into brigades, each attached to an army. The 42nd Squadron was part of the 2nd Brigade, attached to the 2nd Army.

Each brigade included an HQ, an army wing, a corps wing (normally consisting of one squadron per corps of the Army to which it was attached) a balloon wing and an aircraft park (for stores and spare parts).

42 Squadron fell within the 2nd Wing of the 2nd Brigade, the corps wing, which also comprised 1, 6, 46 and 53 Squadrons. These corps squadrons were increasingly devoted to artillery observation and wider reconnaissance activity, especially aerial photography.

By the beginning of the Somme offensive, there were about 80 Canadian men serving with the RFC at the Front and they constituted about 10% of flyers. This proportion remained broadly consistent throughout 1916, even as the RFC’s strength  was substantially increased.

But losses were high because German fighter aircraft typically prioritised attacks on artillery and reconnaissance aircraft over dogfights with RFC fighters. The relatively ponderous RE8, first allocated to three corps squadrons in April 1917, seemed particularly susceptible. As early as 13 April, 59 Squadron lost six of its new RE8s and ten airmen to an attack by Von Richthofen’s Circus.

Pleas for fighter squadrons to be diverted to protect reconnaissance aircraft largely fell on deaf ears. They were normally directed to attack enemy targets instead.

Losses during April 1917 were extremely high: some 120 RFC aircraft, roughly four times the equivalent German losses. Almost 240 flyers were killed or missing in action; a further 105 were wounded.

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As 1917 progressed, and spring turned to summer, attention began to switch from the Battle of Arras, some 30 miles or so to the south of Bailleul, towards the Third Battle of Ypres, which was to culminate that autumn at Passchendaele.

George’s brief spell in the front line coincided with the transitional Battle of Messines, which took place from 7-14 June, though artillery bombardment began as early as 21 May, shortly after his arrival. Messines was very close to Bailleul.

Afterwards George would have been engaged in preparations for the launch of Third Ypres. This began with the assault on Pilckhem Ridge, which took place a few days after his death.

By this point, 42 Squadron and its partner, the 2nd (ANZAC) Corps, were now part of the Fifth Army. The 2nd Corps had been formed in Egypt earlier in 1916 but was posted to France in July of that year, taking up their position on the front line close to Armentieres and Bailleul.

The deployment of 42 Squadron was part of the massing of 20 RFC squadrons – half fighters and half reconnaissance – in the vicinity of Messines Ridge. The strategic purpose of capturing the Ridge was to secure the right flank for a prospective advance towards the Belgian coast, ultimately intended to capture the ports of Ostend and Zeebrugge.

On this occasion, the aerial strategy was subtly different, since RFC fighters were deployed to patrol the German line of barrage balloons, a mile or so behind the German front line, with a view to preventing all enemy planes – both fighters and reconnaissance aircraft – from crossing towards British lines.

This afforded much greater protection to the RFC’s artillery support aircraft, and only one of these was lost between 31 May and 6 June – another RE8 from 42 Squadron, whose observer was a fellow Canadian: Lieutenant C J Baylis from Victoria, British Columbia.

Since artillery ranging by RFC observers was almost undisturbed, it proved highly successful. When the ground attack began on 7 June, the Germans had already lost about half of their heavy artillery to British guns.

With further assistance from a huge mining operation underneath the German front line, the infantry assault was able to overcome stiff German resistance.

Few aircraft were hit during the assault itself, though A3487, another RE8 from 42 Squadron, came under attack at 08:20 on 7 June by three German fighters while preparing to take photographs over Messines. The observer, an aerial gunner, shot one down and damaged another.

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This is probably A4213 of 42 Squadron, after a crash landing on 7 June 1917

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Some 90 Canadian airmen took part in this attack and, during the month of June, ten  of their number were killed, three were reported missing and six were wounded.

In preparation for the opening infantry assault of the Flanders offensive, a huge 16-day artillery bombardment of German defences around the Ypres Salient was scheduled to begin on 30 June. RFC activity was intensive – some 500 aircraft were involved.

But, once again, the fighters were not deployed to protect the reconnaissance aircraft, despite the success at Messines. This resulted in heavy casualties. German forces reported shooting down 45 planes in a single week that July, 22 of them falling behind German lines.

And, on 28 July – the same day that George met his end – eight RFC aircraft from 45 Squadron, sent to photograph Menin, were attacked by Richthofen’s circus, losing three of their number.

The ground attack, originally scheduled for 15 July, was postponed several times, finally taking place on 31 July. The last day offering reasonable flying conditions was 28 July; the day George died.

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Richthofen (seated left) posing with Anthony Fokker

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George’s End

The ‘circumstances of death’ register contains the following entry:

‘During flight operations which commenced at 08:45 on the morning of July 28th 1917, and when securing better target observations at heights varying from 4000 to 6000 feet, the enemy aerial fire became active. After crossing the lines the sixth time an enemy shell exploded under the machine and he was seen by the Pilot to fall to the bottom of the fuselage seriously wounded. The Pilot immediately returned to the aerodrome landing at 10 o’clock on the morning of the same day, but Lieutenant Dracup succumbed to his wounds a few minutes after the machine landed.’

We know from other records that the incident occurred near Frelinghein, just a few miles east of Bailleul, a little beyond Armentieres. This must have been the area of the German front line that George and his pilot, Lieutenant Goldie, were responsible for monitoring.

According to his records, George was just shy of his 30th birthday; though in reality he was approaching 37 years old. He was just one of 24 RFC airmen to die that day.

Coincidentally Canadian ace William ‘Billy’ Bishop also claimed his 37th kill that day. Richthofen was back in the air after a near-fatal head wound, received just three weeks earlier and, a few days beforehand, Mata Hari had been found guilty of espionage against France.

George was buried in Plot C, Row 3, Grave 262 of the Bailleul Communal Cemetery, Nord, not too far from the graves he might have seen just beneath him as he took off on that fateful summer morning.

The wooden propeller grave-marker in the photograph at the head of this post was probably used to mark George’s grave in Bailleul before it was replaced by the standard Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstone.

The propeller may or may not have been sourced from 4456, the RE8 in which George died. It was most probably constructed by the Squadron’s carpenter. This practice was adopted for several RFC aviators, though typically reserved for pilots.

That it was applied for George was certainly a mark of respect, suggesting that he had made a good impression during his few months with the Squadron and was well-liked, by fellow officers and subordinates alike.

George was just one of some 61,000 Canadian war dead, roughly one in ten of the 620,000 who enlisted with the Canadian Expeditionary Force.

Estimates of Sakatchewan casualties vary, often depending whether the basis for the calculation is place of birth, place of residence or place of enlistment.

This source suggests that Saskatchewan had only some 100,000 men eligible for war service, because so many of its residents were not British subjects. Eventually almost 42,000 of them served, either as volunteers or conscripts.

The number of Saskatchewan servicemen who died was 4,961 and 18.1% of CEF casualties while stationed overseas were from Saskatchewan, the highest percentage from any Canadian province.

A relatively small proportion of the Canadian dead – 1,388 – served with various flying services, including the RFC. Since total casualties for the flying services have been calculated at 9,378, Canadian airmen accounted for roughly one in seven of their total losses.

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Yorkton’s Cenotaph

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Napanee War Memorial

George’s Will

This extract from the 1916 Census shows that there was a Dracup Avenue in Yorkton by that point, although the enumerator spells it with a supernumary ‘y’. So George must have been honoured for his contribution to the Town’s growth rather than his war service.

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George’s files record that Harriet was granted a war pension on his behalf on 1 October 1917. As noted above, she was still living in the Dracup Block in Yorkton in April 1918, and the newspaper report suggests she was heavily involved at this time with the Women’s Auxiliary of the Great War Veteran’s Association.

It is fairly difficult to follow the sequence of George’s land transactions in the period prior to his death.

The land map below, dating from 1917, shows that George part-owned two quarters of Section 10 in Township 26 with W. D. Dunlop and two quarters of Section 12 in Township 26, almost adjacent, with a certain Carson.

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The former is William David Dunlop (1859-1943), one of the earliest settlers in the area. He became a wealthy entrepreneur, constructing the Dunlop Block on the corner of Broadway and Second Avenue, forming a partnership to launch the Yorkton Supply Company and, later, establishing the Dunlop Department Store. He was the Mayor of Yorkton in 1905. 

The latter is Adam Mervyn Carson another real estate man. He, too, was George’s senior, born in Ontario in 1867 of Irish stock. In 1911 he was living on Broadway with his wife Marjorie and four young children but, by 1916, he had moved to Dunlop Street.

There is also a second land grant record, for ‘the late George Franklin Dracup’. This is for the North East quarter of section two in Township 35, Range 8. This transaction was effected either in late 1917 or early 1918, so might have been undertaken in George’s name for Hattie’s benefit. The location seems to be about 80km North East of Yorkton, near a place called Hazel Dell.

George’s will also survives, as part of the probate file lodged in 1920, probate being granted on 20 April of that year. The will itself dates from 1 May 1916 and appoints Hattie as sole executor.

Probate assesses the total value of his property as $9,150, comprising:

  • Half interest in Lots four and five Block 28, Plan S700 Yorkton, which is valued at $375; and
  • Half interest in Lot three, Block 12 Plan V2305, which is valued at $75.

Does this perhaps relate to the Dracup Block and the Argyle Apartments?

There are also two agreements for sale:

  • Half interest in Lot 8, Block B, Plan 46116, sold by George and Francis Pawlett to N J Vaughan for $1,000, of which $200 is due; and
  • Half interest (presumably in the same Lot) sold by George and Francis Pawlett to John Long for $1,600, of which $1,000 is due.

So George’s Lieutenant Colonel – the man who signed his attestation papers and overlooked his claim to be several years younger – was clearly a close business associate, if not a business partner.

Pawlett’s own attestation papers, signed in September 1914, describe him as a ‘real estate and financial agent’. Jackson’s Real Estate Directory for the USA and Canada in 1912-13 lists both George and Pawlett as Yorkton-based realtors.

Inevitably one wonders whether it was through Pawlett’s influence that George was so rapidly promoted and, ultimately, found his way from the infantry into the RFC?

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Extract from George’s Will

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By far the largest element in the assets left by George is a half interest in 585 shares in the Great West Realty Company, based in Yorkton. These are valued at $7,500.

I can find little information about the Great West Realty Company. It seems to have been a large operation with branches in several towns.

There is one item in the Winnipeg Free Press dated 5 May 1913:

‘Yorkton, Sask – May 4: The Great West Realty Company during the next three months intends spending from $12,000 to $20,000 in the erection of new houses in various parts of the town, the need for new dwellings being much felt as the population is still growing. The work will be commenced next week. This company is also grading four miles of roads on their sub-divisional property.’

An affidavit from Harriet states that the owner of the other half-interest is Adam Carson, so he and George were clearly even closer business partners than George and Francis Pawlett.

Harriet further states that the household goods and furniture in their home prior to his death were her personal property. There is no reference to the land near Yorkton or the parcel at Hazel Dell. George’s horses are not mentioned either.

The will was witnessed by Dorothy Beatrice Overhage and Margaret Boland. Dorothy was the 19 year-old daughter of John Overhage, a Yorkton tailor. Margaret was a 26 year-old stenographer, the sister of William Alexander Boland, a barrister. She possibly worked in his office.

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George’s CWGC Gravestone

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Harriet’s Widowhood

Harriet’s exact location is hard to trace for some years after her husband’s death. She is not to be found in the 1916 Census, though we know she was living in Yorkton’s Dracup Block in 1918.

Her name appears in the society pages of the Lethbridge Herald of 15 September 1920, when she is a guest at the home of a Mr and Mrs C Carberry. However, she is seemingly missing from the 1921 Census.

In the 1926 Census she reappears, now aged 38, living with her parents on their farm just outside Yorkton. We are told in the 1939 newspaper report mentioned above that she moved with Joseph and Celia in 1929 to their retirement property in Yorkton.

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Press cutting from 1918

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Joseph died in March 1944 and Celia and Hattie remained together until Celia’s death in 1946. A 1945 voters’ list places them in Apartment B2 in the Saskatchewan Apartment Block on Duncan Street. Hattie has taken up employment as a clerk

By 1949 she was living alone in the same apartment and, though now in her mid-60s, still employed as a clerk.

By 1962 she is living in Apartment B2 in the Gibson Apartments – quite possibly the Saskatchewan Apartments renamed. This block was built in 1940 and remains today.

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This late photograph allegedly shows Hattie with her ‘sister-in-law’, one Nevada Van Horn. She is likely a more distant relative, since I can’t identify her as having been married to any of Hattie’s brothers.

The old lady looks stiff, formal and very sad.

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TD

April 2021

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