Sunday, 25 January 2015

Ernest Bolton (1893-1917)


Ernest Bolton was a nephew to Randy's great grandmother, Ann Boulton.  A relative in Ontario (who was a wife to a nephew of Ernie's) had sent these photos to Russell years ago and he recently passed them on to me.  The entire service records of soldiers from World War One are in the process of being digitized and are online at Library and Archives Canada.  Using that information and other online documentation, I have written his biography as follows. Further information is welcome through the comments below or to my email at
Ernest was born on May 23 in 1893 to Thomas Bolton (1840-1926) and Margaret Johnson (1861-1945) in Brockville, Ontario.  He was eighth born of their twelve children. They farmed at Graham Lake, northwest of Lyn, Ontario.  Thomas was 20 years older than his wife Margaret, who had been born in Scotland.  Ernest appears in the 1891 and 1901 Canadian census living with his farming parents.

A kind soul from the Davidson Library, Debbie Shearwood, was generous to help me with my research and found record of him next.  In the 1906 and 1911 Census record young Ernest is at Davidson, Saskatchewan.  She sent me the clip below from the Davidson Leader archives.

This prairie town is midway between Moose Jaw and Saskatoon and apparently he was working there at one time as a lineman with the Government Telephone Department.  What brought him to Davidson, I am not sure.  Another son of Thomas and Margaret, Stanley, is in a photo at the Boulton farm at Reston in about 1910. He was a garage owner at Griffin, SK on the 1921 census and his father Thomas lived with him.  Griffin and Davidson are 300 kilometers apart, however.

On February 29, 1916, 23 year old Ernest Bolton enrolled in the Canadian Expeditionary Force from where he was living, in Davidson. His next of kin was listed as his mother Maggie, living in Brockville. He declares his trade as a teamster and a driver on these papers where he is noted as being 5 feet 10 inches tall and 178 pounds with fresh complexion, blue eyes and light brown hair.  He is declared as a Presbyterian.  After a complete medical examination and being given vaccinations and immunizations, he is declared fit and is given regimental number 504033.
They wasted no time getting him overseas as he left Halifax on May 16, 1916 and arrived in Liverpool 14 days later.  His service record shows him as having entered a School of Cooking in March of the next year for 2 weeks.

On August 1 he was granted 10 days leave and noted in the picture above, it was taken on his last leave in Paris in August of 1917.  His file says he rejoined his unit on August 12th and on September 18, he was killed in action.  A clip from his hometown paper is pictured below, thanks to Debbie.

Ernie was part of the 10th field company of Canadian engineers and was the rank of Sapper.  I have found that a "Sapper" is the name given to a soldier who is charged with facilitating the living, moving or fighting of the forces.  They may be bridge builders, foxhole diggers, or his his case, a cook for the soldiers.  

After originally writing this blog entry, a nephew of Ernest's was so kind as to send me a copy of the original letter sent to Ernie's mother on September 24, 1917.  I am so glad to be able to tell the final chapter of the story as written below.
My Dear Mrs. Boulton -  
It is with regret that I write to tell you of the manner of your son's death in action.He was in charge of a working party in one of our trenches, on the afternoon of the 18th, when a Hun shell, burst in the trench close to where he was standing.  A piece entered his side and he died instantly.We got his body out that night and he was buried the next day back of the lines, a Church of England Chaplain taking the service and as many men as could be mustered being present.I cannot do more than tell you that he was a most brave and gallant man and his loss is felt by all ranks of the company.  Since ceasing to be a cook and while doing front line work he had continually volunteered for all the dangerous jobs and when these jobs were allotted to him, he carried them out with bravery and thoroughness.  All ranks mourn his loss and I can assure you that his place will be hard to fill.Will you please accept the sincere sympathy of myself and all ranks of this unit in your bereavement.
Yours very sincerely,  Capt. C.E.

Ernie was buried in Sucrerie Cemetery in Ablain-St Nazaire in France at Pas-Calais.  Details of his headstone can be found here.  His file indicates his father received a Memorial Plaque and Scroll with serial #800712 and his mother the Memorial Cross.

The town of Davidson honoured Ernest on their War Memorial.  Thanks again to Debbie for the pictures below.  Ernie was one of so many young men who left Canada never to return to their homes and families.  "We will remember them". 

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