Coombe’s Appeal for 161st Huron Troops

Battalion Events – May 5, 1916

By early spring, it became evident that the 161st Battalion was short of recruits to be considered full strength. So an intensive enlistment campaign was launched on May 5, 1916 with recruitment offices set up throughout Huron County.

On May 5, 1916, the following address to Huron County by the Battalion’s commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel H.B. Coombe was printed in the Goderich Star.

“Huron’s Battalion, The 161st

Surely that phrase should stir within the breast of every man a feeling of pride and of patriotism in the knowledge that in the day of an Empire’s stress our Country has had the glorious privilege of forming her own Battalion, a Battalion composed of the the sons and grandsons of those sturdy old pioneers who, in the years gone by, settled within the borders of the county and by the sweat of their brows carved out the broad acres and laid the foundation for the unexampled prosperity of Huron.

To the sons of these men – to the sons and grandsons who have not listened to the command of King and Country – I make this appeal.

The Huron Battalion has been ordered to mobilize May 15th and the needed 250 men to complete establishment of the Battalion must be enlisted by time of mobilization. This is a direct command of your King and a command which must be harkened to by every man of this country. If, of military age and physical fitness, your duty is plainly to enlist.

If over 45, your duty can be done by urging younger men to do their “bit”. If under 45 years of age and not physically fit you can, at least, wear the button ribbon which will be supplied you by the medical examiner of your local detachment, after he has examined you and given you a certificate of military unfitness.

This is the last call for men to come forward, of their own free will, and to save (Huron) County from the stigma of reproach that “she did not do her duty.”

Kitchener (a British Army officer) says, “the last man and the last shell will win the victory. Mayhap your individual enlistment will be the means of the Allies inevitable triumph.

Put aside all petty jealousies and considering only an empire’s need and County’s welfare, come forward, and take the place reserved for you amongst the men who in the days to come, will prove worthy of a County’s pride and of a County’s honour.

The 12th hour is striking! The time for your decision has arrived. The answer must be “Aye” or “Nay.” Will it be, “Ready, Aye, Ready, in the 161st?”

In the Goderich Signal, three weeks later on May 18, 1916, it was noted that the campaign for 161st recruits was making progress. Over 120 recruits signed up with the 161st Huron Battalion over the 3 weeks.

Enlistments – May 5, 1916

On May 5, 1916, 3 men enlisted with the 161st Huron Battalion. All survived the war.

654767, HUTTON, (Pte.) John Cowan, “A” Company, enlisted at Wingham on May 5, 1916, but is believed to have been transferred to the Stretcher-bearers section at Camp Borden because he was photographed with the 161st Overseas Stretcher-Bearers in the back row, 4th from the left. His next of kin was John Hutton of Stratton, a village in the Rainy River district of northern Ontario.

Private John Cowan Hutton survived WWI. In 1935, John Hutton was listed as living in Uno Park in northern Ontario. From 1944 until his retirement in 1962, he served as the United Church minister for the Pine River United Church, a small community about 8 miles south of Kincardine, ON. John Cowan Hutton died on December 26, 1963.

654766, WEBER, (Pte.) Maurice Louis, “Hensall’s Own,” enlisted in Hensall on May 5, 1916. His next of kin was Mrs. Phoebe Weber of Zurich, ON. Private Maurice L. Weber had prior military with a Canadian militia unit and was photographed with Hensall’s Own, squatted in the front row, 9th from the left.

Private Maurice Louis Weber survived WWI. In 1935, Maurice Weber was living in Zurich, ON.

654769, WINCH, (Pte.) Leslie, “A” Company, a teacher, enlisted on May 5, 1916 in Bluevale, ON. At the time, he owned land in Turnberry Township on Lot 20, Plan 166 (Lower Wingham), where he was a teacher at S.S. # 4, Turnberry. His next of kin was his father, Stephen Winch of Paisley, ON.

Leslie Winch was born to Stephen Winch (b. 1863) and Annie Maxwell (1870) on September 22, 1895 in Elderslie Township in Bruce County. He lived with his siblings; Laurence (b. 1888), Lillian A. (B. 1887), William H. (1893), Stewart (b. 1896), Carlton (b. 1898), Velma (b. 1902), Esther (b. 1904), Mary (b. 1907) and his grandmother, Mary Maxwell (b. 1936) in Elderslie Township as late as 1911. Private Leslie Winch had previous military experience with the 28th Perth County Battalion.

After going overseas, Pte. Leslie Winch served with the 18th Battalion in France, Belgium and Germany.

He was discharged on May 24, 1919 and commemorated on the Stratford Normal School Memorial that was erected on June 1920. He was also commemorated on the Roll of Honour of the Ontario Teachers Who Served in the Great War 1914-1918 that was created by the Ontario Department of Education in 1922.

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