One hundred years ago today, Fredrick Leonard Davis enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force. He was 5’6” tall and weighed 138 pounds with dark brown hair and blue eyes. He listed his occupation as farmer. He was born here on Wolfe Island in 1895 but at the time of his enlistment was farming in Joyceville where his father owned land. He enlisted in 1916 just as the Battle of the Somme was ending. We cannot know the reasons why he chose to enlist, but by 1916, and certainly after the long bloodbath of the Somme, Frederick no doubt knew the risks he was undertaking in enlisting.
While training in Canada he married. On April 9, 1917, the day of the great battle of Vimy Ridge he wed Mary and she moved to the farm in Joyceville. Shortly thereafter he departed for England in May 1917 arriving on the 14th of May on the SS Megantic. It is not clear if he knew before he left but certainly he would soon know that his wife was pregnant when he sailed. The baby, also named Frederick would be born after his father had died in battle.
Frederick was taken on strength of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry in March of 1918 after further training in England. He joined the battalion after the hell of Passchendaele and was fully integrated before the start of the Hundred Days campaign that would see the end of the war. At Amiens, Arras, and the Hindenburg Line Frederick was in the thick of the action. This series of battles from August to November 1918 saw the heaviest casualties of the war for the Canadian Corps. It was in almost continuous action through this period, leading the assault on the most difficult German defences.
The Canal du Nord was Frederick’s last battle in October 1918. The 3rd Division, of which the PPCLI was part, had the challenging task of cracking the German defences around Cambrai – the last major transportation and logistics hub held by the enemy in France. They were determined to hold it and had created elaborate and extensive defences around the city. Frederick’s battalion was advancing just north of the city on the 10th of October, one month before the war would end, when he was struck down.
Frederick’s widow, Mary, received a payment of $100 and eventually a war widow’s pension. She moved to Kingston at some point after the war and lived for a time at 208 King Street, near the corner of Earl Street. Frederick is buried in Mill Switch British Cemetery near Cambrai, and is commemorated on the Town war memorial in Gananoque as well as on page 394 of the Book of Remembrance in the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill.
Hundreds of Wolfe Islanders answered their country’s call during the First and Second World and Korean Wars, as well as in the conflicts of the Cold War and Afghanistan. We take this time every year to remember them and the sacrifice they made to maintain our freedom. We will remember them.
Delivered at Wolfe Island Remembrance Day Ceremony 2016, Wolfe Island by David Patterson