Rae Alden Stewart - WWI

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    mk1rceme
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    Rae Alden Stewart - WWI

    Post by mk1rceme on Mon Dec 07, 2009 3:25 pm



    Rae’s Story

    When war between England and Germany was declared in August 1914 I was employed in an axe factory in Oakland, Maine, earning $4.00 per day, which at that time was excellent pay. Immediately on hearing that Canada was raising an Expeditionary Force I returned home with the intention of enlisting in the Army. However being under age, I was unable to do so as my parents would not consent. Finally on Feb 12th, 1915 I received the necessary consent and enlisted at St. Stephen N.B. in the First Reinforcement Company, which was destined to fill vacancies in the First Canadian Division caused by casualties and illness.

    I trained in St. Stephen until about 10th of May ’15 and then proceeded to Camp Sussex where we were attached to the 55th Bn for training, etc. Early in June we proceeded to England on the “Corsican”. This ship was torpedoed on her next voyage. On arrival in England we were hosted to the 12th Bn (Reserve) at Shorne Cliffe. Then training began in earnest. While at 12th Bn a number of our company was detailed to guard duty at Oxford Junction guarding a large munitions dump, mostly artillery shells.

    While we were at Oxford Jct, the first Zepplin raid on London was attempted with little success. While enroute back to Germany, Zepplins flew low over Oxford and when lights turned on them and anti aircraft fire directed at them, they opened their tailgates and dumped a full load of bombs, 13 in all. None exploded, as all bombs landed in soft ground in Oxford Park. It was rather a hair-raising experience as had those bombs exploded, no doubt, they would have exploded many thousand big shells and wiped the town off the map.

    Early in August 15, our Coy was broken up and about 150 of us went to France arriving at Le Harve. We received advanced training then up the line joining the 14th Bn. Royal Montreal Regiment on August 27th 1915. Then the fun began!! Trenches, mud, cooties, snipers and shell fire. I shall never forget the first German shell that went over my head. It was what was known as a Whiz-Bang and correctly named, but to appreciate how fast they traveled one would have to say Whiz-Bang – as fast as possible.

    All autumn and winter of 1915-1916, we took our turn in trenches at Messienes Ridge. One stretch we did not see the sun for 90 days, raining much of the time. Consequently we were seldom dry. However no freezing weather. It was during this stretch we put most of Belgium in sand bags. Casualties were light, as no attacks by either side. In April 1916 we moved to Ypres Salent where it was hot. Trenches close together and more shelling and shooting. One stretch was known as The International Trench. It had changed hands 19 times the last time I was in it. A very unhealthy place!!!

    On June 2nd, 1916 the Germans launched a heavy attack on the 3rd Can Div who were on our left, inflicting very heavy casualties and driving them back. On the night of June 2nd, 1916 our Bn was ordered to relieve the 3rd Div and regain the ground they had lost. We arrived in position at 5 a.m. June 3, to launch an attack. For some reason we were never able to determine we were held up until 7 a.m. then pushed forward across about 500 yds of open ground suffering dreadfully in killed and wounded. We were partly successful in reaching our objective. At about 5 p.m. I was shot through right thigh. Three courses were open to me; stay and wait for stretcher-bearers; wait for relief; or try to make it back to Dressing Station (First Aid) on my own. I chose the latter, used rifle as crutch and made it back. Then to hospital at Roven, then to England to a military hospital north of London. Was told by the senior surgeon I would have a dropped foot for life and would not have to go back to the firing line.

    Later went to a Voluntary Aid Hospital at East Finchley N.E. of London. I was the first Canadian soldier in the V.A.D. Hospital and after the staff found out I was not wild, really got the royal treatment. Following discharge from hospital went to the 23rd Reserve, at Bramshot. Then I may have made the prize boner of my life. In spite of the report of Surgeon, I convinced a medical board I was fit to go back to the front and did so in about two weeks. Joined the Bn at St. Abert near Somme and got into the “Regina Trench” scrap. “Another Hot One” but by that time we were on the offensive and winning.

    On Sept 26, 1916, again wounded, a bullet across back of right hand and a small piece of shrapnel in left wrist, which is still there. As both hands were useless was shipped back to hospital at Harve. On release from hospital back to the trenches, at Miscienes. Fairly quiet. Later during winter of 16-17 to Vimy Ridge.

    Vimy Ridge was a hot spot, as trenches were from 50 to 100 yds apart. There was a rather a nerve wracking experience one night. We had two listening posts in front of our trench and as duty NCO it was my job to crawl out and visit them several times during the night. On one trip I started to cross from one post to the other, crawling on hands and knees. A German jumped on my back and I think he must have wanted to take me in as prisoner. However I was able to overpower him and used the metal end of my entrenching tool to quiet him. All hell broke loose, both sides sent up shells and opened up with machine gun and rifle fire, so had to crawl into a shall hole until firing ceased, then I got back to our trenches.

    Early in April 1917 preparations made for a big assault on German lines and on April 9th, 1917, the attack was launched. This attack was well planned, well organized and the artillery barrage was scheduled to drop a shell on every yard of the German first and second line of trenches. Consequently very little resistance was encountered. A few minutes before zero hour, I happened to be walking along our trench. I forgot about a low place, but a German sniper quickly reminded me. He got a piece of my nose.

    Later when cleaning up what was left of German troops in their trenches, I found one of them chained to his machine gun. Shot the chain and waved him to go back with other prisoners. He started back and shortly I turned my head to see if he was going and what we called an egg bomb exploded alongside me, twenty six pieces entering the left side of my face. There I was again out of action – two wounds in less than one hour. “Still have piece of that bomb on my face”. Another trip to hospital.

    After discharge from hospital started to rejoin Bn. On arrival at Corps Reinforcement Camp was asked to remain there by being held at this camp escaped Passchendeale in summer of 1917. That was one of the dirtiest battles of the war, mainly as it was over marshy ground.

    Camp closed in Dec 1917 and rejoined 14th Bn. at Chateau de la Hae, where we spent most of winter. Mostly quiet on front lines at this section. In March 1918 when Germans launched their last big offensive our Division was thrown into action in several places mostly in the Arras and Vimy sections. Lots of action and movement.

    In April 1918 was recommended for commission and proceeded to Can Officers Training School at Bexhill England in May. Graduated number 12 in class of 200, on Aug 12th, 1918. A few days at Bramshot then back to the front.

    Rejoined the 14th Bn in time for Battle of Canal du Nord to the right of Arras. The first stage was a push-over then it got tough. That was only big battle I got through without a wound. Was real lucky. Before the day was out I was in command of No. 1 Company and succeeded in capturing a village and about 100 Germans and 12 machine guns with only one man killed and a few wounded. Guess that’s why I was recommended for Military Cross.

    Next came Cambri, really Germans last strong resistance. A touch fight and we lost quite heavy. Again wounded by a piece of shrapnel in back of left knee. Another trip to hospital at Harve.

    On discharge started up the line to rejoin 14 Bn. But got sidetracked to Can Corps Headquarters, then sent to 3rd Can Division to act as Town Major. Duties of this job were to see that the civilians left in towns after German driven out were fed/ arrange billets for troops and check all who had consorted with enemy. This was a very interesting job. As fast as a town was organized we would move on to another.

    On Nov 11, 1918 was cleaning up a little town not far from Mons. Shortly after 11 a.m. that date, the world seemed very quiet. The 5th C.M.R.’s marched through town and I asked George Dibble who was an officer in that unit what had happened. He replied, - haven’t you heard – the war is over. I couldn’t believe it so ran up to head of column and asked the Colonel and he verified it. I went back and told the people in the town and was mobbed. Shortly after armistice rejoined 14th Bn in time for march into Germany. Crossed the Rhine River at Cologne and we spent a month at Unter Eschleaugh, a small town about half way between Cologne and Bonn.

    Shortly after Xmas 1918 we came back to Belgium to a town called Huey between Liege an Namur. Stayed a month in Huey then to England. In England until April 13, 1919 then 5-1/2 days on Steamship Carmania to Halifax to Montreal, then home arriving in St. Stephen April 19th, 1919.

    *Source:www.billcasey.ca


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    Re: Rae Alden Stewart - WWI

    Post by AndyS on Sun Nov 08, 2015 10:27 pm

    Hi,

    I am Rae's grandson. I am researching my family tree, and just wanna say thanks for this.

    I personally knew my grandfather, in fact I lived with him for a period of time. Regretfully, I never had the nerve to ask him about his wartime experiences, but had heard stories via my mother which jive with this narrative (e.g.: the story about being nicked in the nose). I also took a look at his war record at the National Archives. It all fits like a glove.

    However, this narrative describes a few things that I did not know, and my mother, aunt and uncles have passed away, so I would never have found out these things had I not stumbled on this post.


    Last edited by AndyS on Mon Nov 09, 2015 9:26 am; edited 1 time in total
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    Re: Rae Alden Stewart - WWI

    Post by 48th on Sun Nov 08, 2015 11:25 pm

    That is an amazing story, what an interesting man. I could read recollections like this all day.

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    Re: Rae Alden Stewart - WWI

    Post by AndyS on Mon Nov 09, 2015 10:12 am

    Yeah. It's an amazing story. His war record is pretty dry. The story brings out a personal things that you don't see in his records.

    For example, he was wounded four times. During WWI, there were two categories of wounds: Serious and slight. I cannot find any description of how these categories are used, but my guess is that serious means that the soldier's case must be passed through a medical board for disposition. Since my grandfather only had one "serious" wounding, that would account for the fact that he "had to" convince a medical board that he should return to the front.

    The only indication of him losing part of his nose (he had a turned up nose, but was not disfigured) was the following entry in a casualty report card:

    10-4-17 13 G.Hos. Boulogne GSW Face Slt.

    gunshot wound to the face... slight. I had to laugh out loud. It doesn't sound very slight, does it? And there was no mention of what the egg bomb did to his face.
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    Re: Rae Alden Stewart - WWI

    Post by mk1rceme on Mon Nov 16, 2015 6:25 pm

    Glad you found it Andy! This story was very interesting to me as well.


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    Re: Rae Alden Stewart - WWI

    Post by 48th on Mon Nov 16, 2015 10:22 pm

    Welcome back Dale,

    It has been a while since I have seen you post. Good to have you back.

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