Shuffles In 161st Command

Battalion Diary – March 12, 1917

Location: Witley Camp, North Surrey

Captain C.G. Vanstone being On Command, Captain Town took over the duties of Acting Adjutant.

Captain D.G. Ross and Captain A.P. Malone transferred to the 4th Reserve Battalion, Bramshott.

Lieut. J.K Mair and Lieut. R.A. Cluff returned from Officers’ Course, Crowborough.

Pte. Hoover’s Letter from France

Huron County War News – January 4, 1917

The Brussels Post published the following letter from Pte. R.H. Hoover (654889) of the 161st Huron Battalion in its January 4th edition.

“Pte. Hoover Writes From France”

Dear Mr. Kerr – It is with much pleasure that I take my pen in hand to write you these few lines, although we must be brief – because of military restrictions. I hope these few scattered ideas or news might interest the readers of THE POST.

In the first place I must say that I am enjoying fine health with the exception of a slight cold which, needless to say, every chap gets when he follows the army life. Of course we feel rather tired at times, especially after a 6 or 10 mile route march with full marching equipment, which take it from me is no light weight.

Well folks! Without any further preliminaries I will continue with hard facts. Here we are in distant France and before you get this letter, we will be in the trenches opposite old Fritz. Our Battalion is re-enforcing the 58th Battalion and many of us Brussels boys are all here together. We sure have some good times amid our troubles. However we are here to uphold Canada’s honor and that we’ll do even to our uttermost. Leslie Lowry, Charles Forrest, Frank Shaw, Roy Thuell, Leslie Perrie, Alf. Posliff, Will Sholdice, Walter Noble, myself and others are here together and from this fact we are more cheerful.

Have not seen Cleve Denbow yet but might some day. Poor chap! I can imagine him all alone, whereas we are together. I suppose you will be enjoying a sleigh ride when this reaches you. No snow here as yet but sometimes very wet and mostly muddy. The scenery of the country here is very picturesque but not so up the line – that is at the front. The people talk mostly French but odd ones can speak a little English. The French money is mostly paper bills of francs and centimes; a franc being worth 20 cents and a centime is a 1/6 of a cent. It sure is odd but more easily reckoned than the English money. It consisted of pounds, shillings, pence, florins, half crowns, crowns, guineas, etc. But after all give me the old Canadian money of dollars and cents.

Do you know readers that the trip all through has been very interesting – especially the six day leave we had in England before coming to France. Charles, Frank and I went up to Glasgow, Paisley, Gourock and Greenock. We visited relatives of the others at Gourock, which is outside of Port Glasgow, and we sure had a good time. Also, returned to see many of the famous palaces, cathedrals and Parliament buildings of the world’s largest city – London. We saw also where the late Lord Kitchener lived, the residence of Lloyd George, Dickens’ Old Curiosity shop and many other interesting places. I might say here that if some of you wish to see a few of the pictures you might ask brother “Bill.”

Have seen many of Fritz’s prisoners since we landed and they sure look downhearted. The training is very interesting and very soon we will be practising on old Fritz. We fellows received letters just before leaving England but none since, until we go up the line. If any of you wish to help cheer us along be sure to write, if its only a few lines as a letter seems to be very cheering.

Now I must not say too much this time as it will take too much room in your paper. However I hope these few lines may interest you all and sometime later, if Mr. Kerr will permit room in his paper, I will write a much shorter one when I get up the line.

With this I close, wishing you all the season’s compliments and the day when war will have ceased and the time of Peace proclaimed when I will see you all face to face again.

Yours sincerely,

654889 Pte. R.H. Hoover

58th Battalion, B.E.F.


Sapper J. Gordon Ferguson, son of Mr. & Mrs. W.H. Ferguson of Belgrave, was presented with a khaki-covered bible from the members of the Young People’s Society of Knox Church in Belgrave on the evening of January 2, 1917. The presentation was made by James Wightman and Charlie Cole read the following address:

Dear Friend in Khaki – It was with pleasure we heard you were going to be at home for a few days and taking advantage of the opportunity we have gathered here with you for a short time this evening. The contemplation of your departure is far from pleasant yet we are proud to have you on our Honor Roll together with other brave patriots who have sacrificed personal interest for King and Country. We, as a Y.P.S. of the Christian Church are anxious that you should continue to be a brave soldier of the the Cross. We assure you that you will not be without our prayers that you may always Fear God, as well as Honor the King. We present  you with this Bible and commend you to the care of an All Wise and loving God and pray that in His own time he may bring you safely back.

Huron Boys News Home

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