Friday, 25 November 2016

Ernest Leroy Cassel - Part Three

Ever since I've written blog posts about Randy's Great Uncle Ernie here and here, I've been searching for a picture of him and really didn't think it would be that hard.  I wrongly assumed that the government that recruited these young men to fight for their country would have had pictures taken and labelled with their names, to be able to identify them at least.  I was forgetting that photography was fairly new and likely costly in 1916 when Ernie enlisted on his 18th birthday, February 9th,  in Virden.  In my search, I have found some new details to add to his story but the gold star is the picture at the top of this post with Ernest Leroy Cassel in the middle!

The picture was sent to me from his niece Carol whose mother Illa was a younger sister of Ernie's.  The back of the picture shows it was a postcard that has been trimmed but I can only assume this was Ernie's handwritten message back home to his family. 

This link to an online book  at Peel's Prairie Provinces Library has given many more details about his group of 1025 men who formed the 226th Overseas Battalion nicknamed "The Men of the North" and "The Grizzly Bears".  They assembled in Camp Hughes in the early summer of 1916 and the panoramic picture below can be found in the Dauphin Legion, thanks to Don White for sending a photo of it.

This battalion was made up of  men with mostly agricultural backgrounds from all over rural Manitoba and   The book at Peel's says they 
...have the reputation of being physically superior to any battalion in Camp Hughes while their efficiency in physical training, bayonet fighting and musketry is considered equal to that of any other Battalion at camp... The prowess of the Battalion in this respect is evidenced by the fact that at the recent camp athletic meet they carried off the premier honors...
Apart from pay-day, "Visitor's Day" is the most eagerly looked for by every man in the Battalion , as that day invariably brings large numbers of welcome friends from all parts of the surrounding country.  In this the Battalion has become the envy of the camp and it is doubtful if any other battalion ever attained such popularity in Camp Hughes.  

That makes me wonder if his family (William and Agnes, Gertie, Russell, Pearl and Illa and Irene) was able travel the over 80 miles to visit him.  Ernie would have been part of the "C" Company along with other recruits from Virden, Neepawa and Glenboro and would have likely been in Platoon 9, 10, 11 or 12 but the quality of the pictures in this book make it next to impossible to pick him out.  I was advised by one helpful researcher to keep a look out for an original copy of the book, as they go on sale from time to time. 

The Nominal Roll of all the 226th shows three other recruits that Ernie may have grown up with - James Russell Grant (who lost an arm but made it home) and Robert Thomson from Elkhorn and Allan Gerald Nelson from Manson (who enlisted the same day and place as Ernie). 

On December 15, 1916, the 226th boarded the S.S. Olympic in Halifax and arrived in Liverpool on December 26th.  The Battalion was split up to fill in the ranks of other units and  he ended up in the 43rd Battalion.  Ernest Leroy Cassel paid the ultimate price of war at Passchendaele, and was laid to rest at Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery in Belgium

I am so glad to have a face to go with Ernie's story but am heartbroken when I think he was the same age as my own youngest son is now when this picture was taken and would only live a few months longer. We will remember him and all that his family sacrificed for us. 

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