With the help of many great people the background and circumstances of The Bryant/Drouillard Wedding can be brought to bear. It only adds more to the mystery in that the circumstances of the marriage of Private Bryant, reg. no. 320 of the Canadian Expeditionary Force to Miss Elizabeth Drouillard.
Private Bryant’s regimental number was problematic. As is was “320” it did not fall into the block assigned to the 18th Battalion. In fact, his regimental number was initially assigned to the 33rd Battalion of the 1st Military District.
Canadian battalions in the First World War were assigned regimental numbers in a specific series. For example, almost any soldier with 53001 to 55000 series regimental number[ii] is an 18th Battalion “original” of the 2nd Contingent who was attested between October 1914 and as late as March 1915 in the cities of Windsor, Chatham, St. Thomas, Woodstock, Ingersoll, Galt, and Guelph. Private Bryant does not show up on the April 1915 18th Battalion nominal roll, and for good reason.
More on that later…
In the case of Private Bryant, he attested in November 1, 1914 in Windsor, Ontario and was assigned a regimental number affiliated with the 33rd Battalion. His attestation paper has two interesting notations appended to it on page 1. The first, in pencil is written as “18th Battalion” and the second in red pen states “Not on Roll”. Clearly this soldier attested under a regimental number not assigned to the 18th Battalion, yet was attached to it. In the limited experience of the author this is unusual. Soldiers are assigned regimental numbers to the unit to which that regimental number is assigned and the can be transferred to another battalion. For example, soldiers of the 160th (Bruce) Battalion formed initially in Ontario and then its members were used to reinforce other battalions, like the 18th, as the war progressed. The notation “Not on Roll” explains why Private Bryant is not on the 18th Battalion’s roll but does not explain why, nor is the notation dated to give it context in the service life of Private Bryant.
There is a clue on the first page of Private Bryant’s attestation paper about his background.
But, more on that later…
Taken in this context of the news story and its relation to the wedding some aspects come into focus. Perhaps not sharper focus but certainly more illuminating.
The wedding certificate/affidavit clearly outlines the date of the wedding, November 12, 1914 and the participants of the wedding and confirms the participation of the 18th Battalion Chaplain, the Reverend Arthur Carlisle. Miss Drouillard was 20 years old and of the Roman Catholic faith and resided in Windsor, Ontario. She was attended to by a Miss Cora Reed of London, Ontario[iii] who witnessed the marriage certificate. Private Bryant was attended to by Private Allen Harold Jackson of Detroit, Michigan[iv].
The bride and groom received two gifts of money raised by the soldiers of the 18th Battalion that was equivalent to over $1,000.00 as a gift and honoured the solemnization of their vows by “…the 1,100 soldiers of the Eighteenth Battalion…” along with another 1,000 people attending the ceremony.[v]
The wedding, duly officiated by the Battalion Chaplain, and witnessed by a combined audience of over 2,000 people must have been a singular event for London, Ontario with attendant romance associated with a young couple being married and having, what very may well be, the first and only Battalion sized wedding for the city and the Battalion.
On November 28, 1914 Private Bryant was struck off strength from the Battalion. The same day annotation was made to his service file:
This man, S.W. Bryant, was married on November 12th, 1914, and his wife’s consent was been attached to Original Attestation Paper.
Robt. L. Stephenson
28th November, 1914”
The irony of this is Private Bryant had left the Battalion in preparation of leaving the country and the military service commitment he had made barely a month prior and the resulting attention for the war time wedding.
He became a deserter.
Records show him entering the United States in January 1915 with his Port of Entry being Detroit, Michigan[vi]. This was not the first time he had entered the United States. He is recorded arriving at the same Port of Entry on February 24, 1912[vii] which shows he had prior experience and relations in Detroit. His best man, A.H. Jackson was from there which indicates that Private Bryant very likely resided in Detroit and, in some semblance of patriotism, returned to Windsor on November 1 and joined the C.E.F. Then, as the news article relates, 11 days later he is married on London.
Private Bryant’s connection to Canada was based on his country of birth. He was a British subject and a British Home Child who was born in Cardiff, South Wales and then came to Canada via the S.S. Dominion, landing in Halifax, Nova Scotia on March 21, 1908[viii] and eventually arriving in Hamilton, Ontario. He lived in Canada and then appears to have moved to the Windsor area or resided in Detroit. Whatever the case he had a prior entry at Detroit in 1912 and then arrived in Detroit January 1915 after he deserted. A military court of inquiry held January 9, 1915 made a determination that he was a deserter effective November 28, 1914 though the initial date noted this change on January 23, 1915. The original determination of AWOL (absent without leave) was upgraded to Deserter by that court of inquiry and this service record was backdated to reflect this change of status.
Desertion was a serious crime and Canadian soldiers where executed for this act but Private Bryant was pardoned of this act on December 20, 1919 under a General Amnesty.
The iron of his desertion is that he eventually was register for the U.S. Army draft. The United States of America declared war on Germany April 6, 1917 and on June 5, 1917 Sydney Bryant registered for the draft. Interesting to note that there is a discrepancy in his date of birth. Bryant’s C.E.F. attestation papers record it as March 6, 1893 and the U.S. Draft Registration records it as March 6, 1894, one year later. He has declared his intention to become an American citizen. He is now a shipping clerk working for Levine Waste Paper Co. and has declared on the form that he has no prior military experience. He is still married and has no children. His eyes are blue while his C.E.F. attestation papers say they are hazel and is considered tall and of medium build.
Therefore, Private Bryant’s exclusion from the Spring 1915 18th Battalion was due to the circumstances of his desertion to the United States. His service records attest to this as does the fact he was a British Subject who was to become a British Home Child who ended up in Ontario, Canada and subsequently felt the compulsion to volunteer in the C.E.F.. His subsequent desertion with the funds raised by the soldiers of the 18th Battalion compounds his crime but the Canadian Government pardoned his desertion.
Private Bryant’s actions now are part if the history of the 18th Battalion in a unique way.
Thanks to, for with out them, I could not do this article:
Matthew Barrett via his blog comment
Deborah Crawford via the British Home Children Advocacy & Research Association Facebook Group
Dawn Hueston via the 18th Battalion Facebook Group
Lori Oschefski via the British Home Children Advocacy & Research Association Facebook Group
[i] Note that part of the confusion was based on the spelling of the subject soldier’s name. This service record was forward per Deborah Crawford and Matthew Barrett.
[iii] The connection to both witness to the bride are unknown. Private Bryant’s witness is from the city in which I contend Bryant lived in before his enlistment and Miss Reed’s connection to the bride evasive given her city of residence is London, Ontario.
[iv] Allen Harold Jackson, reg. no. 53349 is on record of living at 236 Beresford Avenue, Highland Park, Detroit, Michigan. He attested on November 1, 1914 in Windsor. The same place and date as Private Bryant.
[viii] Per Lori Oschefski via the British Home Children Advocacy & Research Association Facebook Group