Service Summary: Bryce, William Wilson: Service no. 770063

A recent contact by a relative allowed a more detailed examination of the service record of Private William Wilson Bryce. Below is a summary of service high-lighting the more significant aspects of his service.

Private Bryce’s service record only has one demerit for being absent without leave very early in his service and his experiences are typical for a soldier on the C.E.F. He was gassed and suffered a very long convalescence and then returned to the 18th Battalion, only to be wounded on the second last day of the war.

One interesting aspect of Private Bryce’s record is his detached service to units other than the 18th Battalion. Other service records are similar and it is surmised that his skills as a carpenter, his stated trade on his attestation papers, led to his value being realized on other roles. But, eventually, he became a front-line soldier with all the risks and horrors that entailed.

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Date Event Remarks
September 10, 1890/83 Born Paisley, Ontario The attestation papers show a birth year of 1890 and this headstone shows 1883. The reason for this discrepancy is unknown.
February 3, 1916 Enlisted in 124th Battalion. Enlisted in Toronto, Ontario. Living at 187 University Avenue, Toronto, Ontario. He is single with the trade of carpenter.
July 8, 1916 Canada Absent with out leave. Forfeits one day pay.
August 1, 1916 Canada Assigns $20.00 per month pay to his father Thomas Bryce.
August 7, 1916 Embarks for England
August 18, 1916 Arrives England
October 10, 1916 Transferred to Overseas Service Transferred to 18th Battalion.
October 11, 1916 Arrives Canadian Base Depot, France.
November 5, 1916 Attached to No. 2 Canadian Entrenching Battalion[i]
November 15, 1916 Attached to 4th Field Company, Canadian Engineers[ii]
November 26, 1916 Returns to No. 2 Canadian Entrenching Battalion
January 22, 1917 Attached to Headquarters, 1st Canadian Division
March 4, 1917 Returns to No. 2 Canadian Entrenching Battalion From other soldiers’ service records, it appears that Private Bryce’s skills as a carpenter led him to be “loaned” out to other units to effect work relating to the needs of the entrenching battalion, the Canadian Engineer Company, and the headquarters of the 1st Division.
March 5, 1917 Joins 18th Battalion in the field.[iii] One of 21 other ranks arrived as replacements that date.
May 9, 1917 Gassed[iv] Note that there may be an minor error in the service record. The reporting unit is indicated as the 4th Field Company, Canadian Engineers. The next report was from the 4th Canadian Field Ambulance. It may be that the report dated Ma7 12, 1917 came from the 4th C.F.A. but was entered incorrectly as coming from 4th Canadian Field Company, Canadian Engineers.
May 9, 1917 to September 26, 1918 Various medical units and reserve units in England After an extensive recuperation time, rest, and training Private Bryce is taken on strength with the 18th Battalion. A notation on a medical card classifies his gassing as severe which would account for the long recuperation time.
October 4, 1918 In the Field[v] Private Bryce arrives in the field with the Battalion. It is located at the Buissay Switch, Hindenburg Support Line.
November 10, 1918 (Day before war ends) G.S.W. left forearm in the CIPLY area of action[vi]. 6th Canadian Field Ambulance Private Bryce was one of ten soldiers to be wounded that day.
November 17, 1918 General Canadian Hospital, Rouen, France
December 1, 1918 Uncertain. Probably #6 General Hospital, France Interesting notation indicating Private Bryce was a carpenter and ranch owner.
December 12, 1918 Canadian General Hospital, Basingstoke, England
February 8, 1919 Dental Examination Two teeth noted as extracted. It is unclear if that was during the examination or prior to.
April 7, 1919 Medical Examination Western Ontario Medical Hospital, London, Ontario
April 12, 1919 Further dental examination More detailed report of state of dental health.
March 11, 1919 Invalided to Canada
April 15, 1919 Discharged from service medically unfit. Discharged in London, Ontario having suffered from a G.S.W. to left forearm. Indicates some loss of use of arm due to enemy machine gun bullet. Note that the discharge document indicates he was wounded November 9, 1918. The service record indicates November 10 is the correct date.

 

[i] From Guide to Sources Relating to Units of the Canadian Expeditionary Force: Entrenching Battalions. “Wire training and reinforcing units for personnel destined for engineer, pioneer and infantry units in the field. They were trained as infantry battalions but they also provided working parties on Royal Engineer work, trench repairs, wiring, road making to front line, carrying parties for front line, burial parties and clearing battlefield etc. In short, they performed labour battalion duties in the Canadian Corps, the Canadian labour battalions being employed in railway duties elsewhere. The entrenching battalions were abolished in September 1917 when the Canadian Corps Reinforcement Camp was formed.”

[ii] From Guide to Sources Relating to Units of the Canadian Expeditionary Force: Field Companies and Battalions, Canadian Engineers. “Throughout most of the war, each division had three field companies of engineers and one pioneer battalion. In April 1918, however, a major reorganization took place and, as a result, each division had an Engineer Brigade consisting of three engineer battalions and a pontoon bridging transport unit. Each of the battalion was composed of a headquarters and four companies, three of which were organized for general engineering work and the fourth for tunneling and mining. The nucleus of each new battalion was provided by one of the field companies and one third of a pioneer battalion.”

[iii] War Diary Entry March 5, 1917: 18th Canadian Battalion relieved in the front line by: – 8th Canadian Battalion[ii] in frontage held by A Company south of A.16.a.5 ¼ + ½ . Company guides led in relieving Battalion and completion of relief was notified by code word “BIRD” . 2 o.r.s wounded this morning now reported “Died of Wounds.”[iii] MAJOR G.V. NELSON, D Company commander was killed by a shell during the relief of Battalion. 21 o.r. arrived as reinforcements. 6 o.r.s admitted to hospital.

[iv] The 18th Battalion War Diary entry for that date makes no mention of being subject to shelling. “Before day-break Lieut. J. McAmmond, who was in Command of our right Platoon, under great difficulties established communications with the 19th Battalion, both through advance Posts in T.24.c. and along Winnipeg Road (t.23.d.) During a break in communication a Pigeon Message was sent to Brigade Headquarters. Pigeons were released and flew a distance of approximately 6 miles, to ECOIVRES, where they were trapped and message wired to Brigade, the whole proceedings occupying 23 minutes.”

[v] The War Diary records on October 4, 1918: “During the day battalion Hdqrs. was moved to a more suitable location in x.14 central. All Battle stores, Bombs, Flares, etc. were formed into Company Dumps. A canteen was established to-day near one of our Company Hdqrs. enabling the men to keep well supplied with cigarettes and various eatables. Parties were sent forward to reconnoitre the MARCOING LINE in squares x.23, 17, and 12c. During there was heavy enemy bombing in the area. Lieut. H.N. Bawden proceeded on leave. Fourteen O.R.s arrived as reinforcements.”

[vi] November 10, 1918 War Diary Entry: “At 04.00 hours the Battalion pushed forward and established posts in CIPLY and HYON meeting very little opposition. Rear details moved up from FRAMERIERES and reached CIPLY about 10.00 hours. There was considerable scattered shelling of village and vicinity till 15.00 hours, when the enemy guns were silenced by our batteries. 4 O.R.s proceeded on leave. 3 O.R.s returned from leave. 1 O.R. returned from hospital. 10 O.R.s wounded, 1 O.R. Killed in Action.”

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