Do you remember Lorenzo Kress[iii] who soon became one of the best known men among those who were first stationed at Queens Park? He later became well known in the Battalion as Dutch Kress, a nickname acquired during his school days. Dutch was quite a man. Before the war, he was a star pitcher for the Galt Baseball team and when they were eliminated from the Inter-County playoffs, Dutch and his catcher, Butch Cramond[iv] both enlisted and were in our Platoon. They were direct opposites. While Dutch was loud and flamboyant, Butch or Alec as most of us called him was quiet and reserved. They were both grand fellows.
Dutch seemed to be a part of everything unusual that took place in our Platoon. He liked to tease poor old Sgt. Drake[v]. I believe they came from the same district.
I recall on occurrence that I am sure other still remember. There was a nice looking chap named Clarke[vi] whose cot was at the lower end of the Automobile shed where we were billeted. After we were nicely settled at Queens Par he was made an M.P.[vii] In fact, he walked around with an M.P. band on his arm while we were all in civies [sic]. When the uniforms were issued, he was still an M.P. and seemed to spend most of his time in downtown London. Some of the fellows claimed he was strict and overly officious. About the end of January or three months after we had commenced training, for some reason or other, he was given his discharge. He changed into civilian clothes and left the sleeping quarters about the time we were coming back from the Mess. He had just started across the parade grounds when Dutch and two others fell in behind him, all banging on the tops of garbage cans. If they were trying to imitate a drumming out ceremony, they were doing a fair job. The poor chap was so embarrassed, I actually felt sorry for him. Several years later Davy Norwood[viii] told me he had met the former M.P. in France later in 1917. At that time, he was a gunner with a Canadian Battery.
Dutch was a big man and looked strong and healthy. He wasn’t. Shortly after we arrived at Sandling, he had trouble with his legs which would swell up and cause him some discomfort. He attended several sick parades and the tall Corporal in Major Hale’s office kept him supplied with some white pills which were supposed to reduce the swelling and ease the pain. Dutch claimed they were only aspirin and handed them out quite freely to anyone with a cold or headache. Shortly after we arrived in France, the leg condition returned and Dutch missed several trips into the front line. Dutch was with the Battalion for quite a while, but Butch, who later transferred to the Bombers was with the Battalion to the end. The last time I saw Dutch was at one of our early Reunions. At that time, he had lost a lot of weight and I thought he looked haggard.
Every Platoon had the odd character or two but Dutch Kress, Bill Bartlett[ix] who wrote those tear jerking articles of the London Free Press, little Georgie Read[x] the lonesomest [sic] man in the Battalion and Hooligan whole last name I can’t remember, we seemed to have more than our share. They were all good fellows, who made a drab army life a little more interesting.
This “memory” by an unknown author relates some of the experiences of two of men of the 18th Battalion who were original members. Lorenzo Kress and Alexander Vincent Cramond where friends who played baseball in Galt, Ontario. The story relates some of their biographical information; Kress is “loud and flamboyant” and Cramond is “quiet and reserved”; and that they both played baseball for Galt. Kress was the pitcher and Cramond was the catcher and upon losing the Inter-County playoffs they enlisted on October 25, 1914.
The story further relates some of the experience of “Dutch” Kress. He teases a “Sergeant Drake” and mocks a fellow soldier (Clarke), who, as a Military Policeman, appears to have abused his position as an M.P. to throw his weight around. Perhaps it was this abuse and his “strict and overly officious” behaviour that led to his dismal from the service. Given that he was given such a position of responsibility over the men of the Battalion one would surmise that his superior officers felt he had the experience and leadership potential to act responsibly and effectively in a capacity as a military law enforcement soldier. His actions led to his dismissal and Private Kress and two other ranks felt the necessity to make an example of the former Private Clarke by escorting him from the camp in such a public manner.
At the same time, Kress was not a model soldier, being gigged two days pay for being absent without leave according to Daily Order 122, dated March 8, 1915 per his service card.
The story continues with the Battalion now at West Sandling for its training in England from April to September 1915. During this time Private Kress suffers from medical issues with his legs. The health problems continue in Flanders and he eventually leaves the Battalion for treatment.
“Butch” Cramond is assigned to the “Bombers”, men tasked as specialist in the utilization of the grenade for combat in the trenches and serves almost the entire war with the Battalion.
The author meets Kress later and his health has been impaired and then relates how men like Kress, Cramond, Bartlett, Read and “Hooligan” made “…a drab army life a little more interesting.”
The author crams a lot of information, at the expense of detail, due to the short length of the “memory” but one can derive some details and tone from the story.
The friendship and comradeship of Kress and Cramond is beyond doubt. They played baseball on the same team and worked intimately together in their respective roles of pitcher and catcher. There can be no doubt that they shared hours of time on the field in practice and during games working together for a common goal of winning baseball games. In their roles they were a key component to the success or failure of their team when they are fielding the innings. It is a touching detail of the story that they waited until their team’s elimination from a series before they enlisted with the C.E.F. An example of patriotism tempered by the needs of their team.
No record of a “Sergeant Drake” served with the 18th Battalion was found at publication of this article. Obviously, Drake’s rank could not protect him from the attentions of Kress and one suspects that his attentions could be biting, and embarrassing given the display Kress creates with the ad hoc drumming out ceremony of the former M.P., Clarke. Such ceremonies were marks of shame for the subject of the ceremony and this mocking may have been more poignant given the nature of its creation by Clarke’s peers.
Private Kress’ medical history reflects the details of the story. He was a big man by the standards of the day standing 5’ 10” tall and weighing 175 pounds. He injured his knee in May 1915 while at West Sandling and then suffered from synovitis of the left knee which takes him out of serve from December 1915 to January 1916. He then suffers an injury to the knee which requires a month’s treatment during April and May 1916. He has another medical condition later in his service, but he effectively serves with the Battalion without any wounds from its inception in October 1915 until it was broken up in May 1919. Kress is discharged from service on May 24, 1919 and returns to Galt to reside at 47 Bond Street on the East side of Galt.
Private Cramond’s service parallels his team-mates to some degree. He, however, gains several promotions, first as a lance-corporal and then a corporal and then becomes an officer in in May 1917 and leaves the Battalion for training, returning to serve with the Battalion in October 1917 as a lieutenant. He suffers one injury to his right foot and requires 2-weeks treatment in October/November 1916. Unlike Kress who appears to be demobilized with the 18th Battalion upon its return to London, Ontario in May 1919, Cramond is discharged in Ottawa on May 25, 1919. He too, returns to Galt, Ontario after the war.
The “memory” ends with a summation of some of the other “odd” characters of the Battalion giving the reader some insight into the personalities of the unit and how their actions help shape the fabric of the author’s memory.
“Dutch” Kress died May 28, 1954 at the age of 68. He is buried along with other veterans of the First and Second World War at Mountview Cemetery in Cambridge, Ontario. His team-mate and friend, “Butch” Cramond joined him on November 5, 1957 at the age of 64 and is buried in same cemetery. One would like to think they were close friends after the war and thanks to this “memory” we can learn a bit about how they lived and served as part of the heritage of the “Fighting 18th”
[i] The blog has come into the possession of an exciting and valuable series of documents care of Dan Moat, a member of the 18th Battalion Facebook Group. His Great Grand-Father, Lance-Corporal Charles Henry Rogers, reg. no. 123682 was an active member in the 18th Battalion Association and the Royal Canadian Legion. With is interest in the post-war Association a series of “MEMORIES” in the form of one-page stories relate many of the Battalion’s experiences from the “other ranks” soldiers’ point-of-view.
It appears that the documents were written in the early 1970s, a full 50-years after the end of The Great War and are a valuable social history of soldiers’ experiences as told in their own words about the events that happened a half-century ago to them, and now a full century for us.
[ii] The transcription and research of these “memories” is an attempt to connect and identify the people mentioned in the stories with some accuracy. This is, in no way, a definitive identification of the people in the stories but there is high confidence that these are the men mentioned in the “memories”. In some cases, the story may identify people, places, dates, times, and details inaccurately and, where possible, these details are noted. Given that the men relating these memories would be in there late 70s, at the minimum, their errors can be forgiven. The stories related stand on their own as a social history of the experiences of the men of the 18th Battalion.
[iii] Kress, Lorenzo: Service no. 53933.
[iv] Cramond, Alexander Vincent: Service no. 53896.
[v] This soldier is not identified at this time. There were two soldiers that enlisted with the Battalion by the surname Drake but neither soldier obtained the rank of sergeant.
[vi] Unidentified at this time.
[vii] Military Policeman.
[viii] Norwood, David: Service no. 53948.
[ix] Bartlett, William J.: Service no. 54110. Note that his profile has an example of one of his letters to the London Advertiser.
[x] Read, George Edward: Service no. 53963.