News from 161st Battalion in Carling Heights

161st Battalion Events – June 1, 1916

On June 1, 1916, the Goderich Signal  reported that “A public farewell was given The 161st, at Clinton, prior to their departure for training camp at London, Ontario.” Despite the Goderich’s article, it appears from other reports that units of the 161st Huron Battalion left individually from the train stations closest to them over the week of May 23rd, 1916.

Military Destination – Carling Heights, London, Ontario

The Goderich edition printed a description of the Battalion’s new home for the next few months by 161st member, A.E. Warner, “Our camp is just west of the new McCormick biscuit factory and is high and dry.”

What many of the 161st Huron Battalion members and the local newspapers referred to as Carling Heights (or at times, Carline Heights) was an area around the Wolseley Barracks, established in 1885 on the outskirts of London, ON.

Around 1885, London proposed trading the John Carling farm property on Carling Heights  at the edge of London for the area, known today as Victoria Park, that had been owned and occupied by the Dominion Government’s military since London’s founding. The military had been using the Carling farm for training practice since the 1860s. The trade was made.  In 1885, the military moved their training grounds from the evolving heart of London, Ontario out to the edge of the city.

They built their headquarters, Wolseley Hall, between 1886-1888 and named it after the British military hero and accomplished general, Sir Garnet Wolseley. His military assignments had taken him to almost all the British Empire continents of the time. The phrase “all things Sir Garnet” referred to everything being in order, due to his many battle successes and keen military mind.

The Wolseley Barracks became the home of the Canadian Infantry School Corps’  “D” Company. In 1901, the Infantry School Corps became The Royal Canadian Regiment. Wolseley Barracks became their Regimental Headquarters in 1923.

During WWI, Wolseley Barracks was the training ground and tented city for many southwestern Ontario battalions and units. The distinctive Wolseley Hall is in the background of many photographs taken of training exercises, like those experienced by the men of the 161st Hurons.

161st Huron News – June 1, 1916

In the “Belmore” column of the Brussels Post, it was reported that Privates George Wess, Marshall Abraham, William Abraham, John Lawrence and James Lawrence of the 160st Bruce Battalion, stationed in Walkerton spent Sunday at their homes in the Belmore area.

At Victoria Hall in Jamestown on Friday, May 26, a presentation was made to the Jamestown men who enlisted – Ptes. Charles B. Forrest, John M. Miller, John Hayden, Frank Shaw, A. Miller and David Johnston, who was home from the West.

Six little girls – Jessie Messer, Elva Ramsay, Gertrude Robertson, Margaret McDougall, Ruby and Grace Kernaghan – all dressed in white made the presentations to the soldiers after the following speech by Robert Scott.

Dear Boys – We, your old associates and neighbours have met tonight in this Hall to wish you God-speed in the great work you have undertaken. We realize that you, one and all, have not enlisted without making a very great sacrifice and we therefore appreciate very keenly the stand you have taken. You have taken up arms to defend our country, our homes and our dear ones. The call of our King has been for men and more men and you have answered the call. Some of you have been very closely associated with the work of our Sabbath School here and also with the workings of the Hall and you all will be greatly missed. We feel thankful for all you have done and trust ere long this terrible war will be over and we may soon see you back in your accustomed places in the community. You, Pte. David Johnston are a comparative stranger in the community but the place our your birth asks you to please accept this wrist watch with our best wishes. Ptes. Charles B. Forrest, John M. Miller, Andrew T. Miller and Frank J. Shaw kindly accept these wrist watches, bibles, Waldemar knives and fountain pens and as the moment go by we will be thinking of you all. Pte. John Hayden since have already been presented with a wrist watch, we ask you to please accept this Battalion ring, bible, pipe and fountain pen and may the circle of boys not be broken in any way. May the hand of God direct you in all your ways and we will look forward to the time when you will once more lay down the sword and return to the plow. Signed on behalf of your neighbours and friends – R. Messer, R. Scott, James Peacock, Alex Johnston and Ed Jacklin.

Private Charlie Forrest gave a “happy reply” after which the audience cheered the young men. A program of entertainment followed with speeches, readings, music solos and instrumentals. After a tasty lunch, the evening closed with the singing of “We’ll Never Let the Old Flag Fall” and the National Anthem.

Although William Holt was unable to make it to the presentation, he sent the following letter of thanks to the Brussels Post, which was published in the June 1st edition. “On account of not being at Victoria Hall Friday evening I wish to express my thanks to the neighbours and friends of Jamestown community and the people of Johnston’s church for the valuable and most appreciated gifts recently received by me. Each gift will ever be a treasured keepsake with a heart of gratitude and love to all. Sincerely yours, William Holt, 161st Huron Battalion.

A Farewell Pic-Nic for the Jamestown boys in William King’s grove on June 3 was called off because the boys were moved to the London Camp on Tuesday, May 30th.

On Sunday May 21st, Pte. Charlie Buttrey of the 11th Concession of Grey Township, who recently enlisted with the 161st Huron Battalion, was presented with a wrist watch by William Ellacott. Bert Evans read the following speech.

Dear Charlie – Having learned that you have joined “the Hurons” for your King and Country, we have chosen this sacred time and place to express our appreciation of your act and to wish you God’s richest blessing and prosperity. You have always been ready and willing to give your best, being considerate and helpful. You’ll be missed but never forgotten by us. You are helping to bring that glorious time nearer when this terrible cruel war will be ended, solemn treaties observed and small Nations will have the right to exist and flourish. Therefore though we are sorry to see you leave our midst it is with pride that we see you go forth to help keep “the best old flag on earth.” We wish you God’s blessing and protection while you are absent. We ask you to accept this wrist watch as a slight token …”

John McDonald, son of Donald McDonald was among one of the newest recruits, as of the 1st of June, for the “King’s Service.” Ben King tried to enlist but could not pass the necessary medical exam. “Patriotism is still alive,” according to the Brussels Post.

Pte. Ralph Shaw, who has been suffering from typhoid fever for 11 weeks gradually regained his strength and was, as of June 1st, able to be out of bed. It was noted that he would soon be able to accompany his mother home to recuperate “in the pure atmosphere of Morris Township.”

Pte. M.J. Slemmon, who joined the Brussels company of the 161st Huron Battalion was granted an honorable discharge owing to the necessity of assisting on the home farm. The Brussels Post reported that “he took a live interest in military affairs and was an apt pupil.”


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