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Huron County War News – December 28, 1916

Pte. Alex Conon, son of Mrs. Alex Conon of the 5th line of Morris, went overseas with the 97th Battalion from Camp Hughes and was later drafted into the Princess Pats. Pte. Conon has been ill with pleurisy at Seaforth Camp.

Lieut. R.I Ferguson of the 33rd Huron Regiment, has been appointed for guard detail with the 21st Regiment of Windsor. Lieut. Ferguson, who grew up in Belgrave, was one of the first officers to be selected from the 161st Battalion to go overseas in a draft of officers, but was unable to pass the medical on account of his heart. The Brussels Post reported that “he is still serving his country to the best of his ability.” R.I. Ferguson is the eldest son of W.H. and Mrs. Ferguson on the 5th line of Morris Township.

Pte. George Champion’s Letter Home

Huron County War News – December 21, 1916

Published in the December 21, 1916 edition of the Brussels Post was the following letter from Private George Champion to his mother.

“Dear Mother – Just a few lines to let you know that we landed in England safe and are at camp. Got along fine all the way over, the only thing that bothered me was the sea sickness. Roy and I had quite a time with it. Landed in Liverpool at 4 o’clock Saturday morning and did not get off the boat till 4 o’clock in the afternoon. We were certainly sick of it. Had to stand with our packs on for an hour or so then we got on the train and struck for Shorncliffe, England. We got there, had 2 miles to walk. We were a tired looking bunch.

Are in tents yet but that is just for a few days then we go into huts. They are like those long hen houses they have in Canada. I thought I would not like England but she is a fine place. Not much mud. Roads here are just like Camp Borden only they are black. We are not far from a village, the name of it is Devonville. It is just a small one about a half a mile.

Roy is getting along all right. He passed the medical inspection this morning all but his teeth and they are going to fix them. I did not pass at all as they turned me down for not being old enough and bad teeth. I don’t know what they are going to do, whether they make us go on home guard or not. Billy John got turned down for flat feet. His is tickled right up the back. I hope I will get home as far as I am concerned but we are not the only ones who are getting turned down as there are 3 in my tent, so that is the way all over. There is about 35 turned down ahead of me and there was only one company through then.

I will tell you more about England. The fields over here are as green as they are in Canada in the middle of the Summer, in fact there is better grass here now and the stock is all out. There is a flock of sheep about 10 rods from my tent, about 500 of them. They are certainly great sheep too.

I am just going to the tent door to see an air ship going over. I saw zeppelins flying this morning, about 5 of them and 3 air ships. There is some great sights. We are just 50 miles from the firing lines and can hear the cannons going in France, so that ain’t very far.

We were from 1st of November till the 11th on the boat, then we were on it two days before we started. We got on the boat on the 29th of October.

I will have to tell you about the trains. They are the most comical things I ever saw. The coaches are just big enough to hold 16 men, 8 in each place. There is a wall between each bunch. We got on the train at 8 o’clock in Liverpool and landed at Shorncliffe at 12 o’clock. We went 250 miles in that time. They go like a blue streak. Had to keep the doors and window blinds down on account of a zeppelin flying over. Well I guess this is all for this time, hoping everybody is well.

From your loving son and brother, George.”

Pte. Hector Heywood Newest Recruit

Enlistments – December 13, 1916

On December 13, 1916, former 161st Battalion member, Private Hector Norman Heywood enlisted in London, Ontario.

654044, HEYWOOD, (Pte.) Hector Norman had enlisted in Exeter on December 10, 1915 with the 161st Huron Battalion. His next of kin was his wife, Mrs. Edith Anne Heywood of 72 Rectory St., London, ON. Prior to enlistment, Hector Heywood was a carpenter in Exeter, ON.

Hector N. Heywood was born on May 3, 1888 in Exeter, ON. At the time of enlistment he was 26 years old and stood 5’ 7.75” in height, with a dark complexion, brown eyes and dark hair. He was Methodist in faith.

On September 29, 1916, Private Heywood was struck off strength at Camp Borden as a deserter.

Hector Norman Heywood enlisted again on December 13, 1916 in London, Ontario, his attestion papers noting that he had 7 months military service with the 161st Battalion. At that time, he described as being 5’ 5.5” in height with a dark complexion, hazel eyes and dark brown hair. He was approved for enlistment.

He embarked for England on the S.S. Olympic on April 28, 1917 and landed May 7, 1917. He was taken to Shorncliffe Camp on June 7, 1917 and nine days later became part of the 8th Reserve Battalion, then was transferred to the 119th Battalion at Witley Camp on May 26, 1917.

Private Hector Heywood was admitted to the Military Hospital in London, while with the 63rd Battery, for neurasthenia on January 5, 1917 and discharged to return to duty on January 26, 1917.

Pte. Hector Heywood was posted as a gunner with the 52nd Battalion, Ammunition Column and landed in France on February 2, 1918. He later served as gunner for the 63rd Battalion.

Pte. H.N. Heywood was injured in the Battle of Cambria around September 30, 1918 and taken to the 22nd General Hospital at Camiers and later admitted to the 6th Convalescent Depot in Etaples, France on September 11, 1918 with a gunshot wound to his left hand.  He developed an abcess on his left upper arm on November 15, 1918. From Etaples, he was moved to the 5th Convalescent Depot on December 14, 1918 and demobilized to England on January 26, 1919. Gunner Hector Heywood finally sailed for Canada on May 7, 1919 on the S.S. Orduna from Liverpool, England.

When he was discharged on May 18, 1919, it was noted that he was now 30 years old and had a scar on his left wrist due to a glass cut in 1909.

Hector Norman Heywood died on March 31, 1967 in Westminster Hospital in London, Ontario

Huron Men Overseas Activities

Huron County War News – December 7, 1916

Pte. William Hall, of the 161st Huron Battalion, has been rejected in England as unfit for active service and given employment in England.

Pte. John G. Anderson, son of John and Mrs. Anderson of the 5th line of Morris Township, has been promoted to Lance Corporal of the Signal Section. He is currently stationed at Shorncliffe in England.

Pte. B. Woodley of Brussels, who enlisted with the 71st Battalion in Galt, was reported as missing in the casualty lists of Saturday, December 2.

Pte. Walter A. Currie, 910886, nephew of both Robert Currie of the 4th line of Morris and Mrs. J. Hewitt of Brusssels, left on October 26 for England with the 196th Western Universities Battalion.

161st Battalion Moves from Army Tents to Huts

Battalion Events – December 1916

In December 1916, The Hurons moved into army huts at Upper Dibgate, in time for Christmas … the first, away from home. Men commenced to take their first leave in England. Following this, drafts were called to go to France. (LWC)

The first 200 161st Huron Battalion members to cross the British Channel, for active duty in France, were in a draft to The 58th Toronto Battalion in December 1916. In the Goderich Signal of December 14, 1916, it reported that “drafts from The 161st have already gone to France. Evidently a large portion of “B” Company, made up of men from Goderich and Blyth is already across the Channel.

In a letter by Private Harry L. Watson, bandsman of the 161st Huron Battalion Brass Band that was published in the Goderich Signal on December 28, 1916, he kept the folks at home informed about what was going on in England. He noted that “Charlie Donagh is playing snare drums with a 60 piece band in Shorncliffe … Charlie used to be a drummer with the Goderich band 25 years ago.”

After the 161st Huron Battalion landed in England and were housed in camps, they were again examined for medical fitness for duty. It was noted in a December 1916 article in the Goderich Signal that only 67 members were rejected out of a total of 740 members. This was apparently a very good record in comparison with other battalions.