More than 620,000 men and women served Canada during the 1st World War, an amazing contribution from a population of just eight million citizens.

The Canadian Army stationed on the western front in France had a reputation as “shock troops”, soldiers who would carry out the hard fighting and fulfill objectives.

(The post below was originally published 18th July, 2016)

Remembering My Grandfather Henderson Who Died This Day 99 Years Ago in WWI

Archibald Henderson died this day the 18th of July, 1917, 99 years ago, at age 33.

Archibald had served in the British Army’s 4th Hussars for four years before emigrating from Glasgow, Scotland to Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. He married Helen Anne Henderson in 1910. They had one daughter Margaret, my mother, born in 1912. When Canada entered the war with Germany, Archibald volunteered for the Winnipeg 34th Fort Garry Horse and, as a Sergeant, trained young recruits from the farms and villages of Manitoba, all much younger than him.

The little I know about my Grandfather’s war record is this: He didn’t have to join up. At age 33 and with a three year old child, he was exempt from the draft. However, he felt his Army experience in Scotland before emigrating to Canada gave him military savvy few Canadians had at the time.

When the “Garry’s” were ready to go overseas to fight, he opted to go with the boys he had trained rather than continue training recruits. He accepted a demotion from Sergeant to Corporal and probably a pay cut to get into the war, all for a feeling of loyalty to his mates. However, upon landing in France he was moved to the larger regiment of the Lord Strathcona’s Horse and saw action in the trenches of Ypres, France.

He was reported wounded by a bullet in the buttocks and then transferred to the Canadian Light Horse in a headquarters company. He had clerical skills, typed, and was considered elderly, and it seems he became an aide to the officers. His only leave was to visit his mother in Glasgow.

He contracted pneumonia and was admitted to 4th Scottish General Hospital. He was personally nursed by his younger sister Agnes who was in residence there. In the records I obtained from the Canadian Army. His only medication was a half-ounce of whiskey every three hours and little else. Today a shot of Penicillin would have cleared his lung condition within days. I have on several occasions visited his grave in the Clements cemetery, Glasgow where he is buried next to his mother under a Canadian forces gravestone engraved with a Maple Leaf.

The Scottish writer Robert Lewis Stevenson once wrote “It is the mark of the Scot of all classes, that he stands in an attitude towards the past that remembers and cherishes the memory of his forebears, good or bad: and there burns in the Scot a sense of identity with the dead even to the twentieth generation.” (The Clearances) We only have to listen and believe in our memories to realize by a kind of grace, that we are given a chance to repay to the living what it is we find ourselves owing the dead.

The loss of Archibald in WWI cannot be measured in our family today, but we know we missed a great deal without his company. We are proud of him and his sacrifice and even though we only have his picture on the wall and a small box of medals, we have been inspired by his memory and can truly say we missed him. Those who have passed from this world die only when we, whom they loved, forget them. We will never forget Archibald. His soul will always be bound up in the bonds of our lives.

Don North
Fairfax, VA.
July 18th, 2016

Archibald Henderson
Archibald Henderson

Sgt. Archibald Henderson poses with men he trained of the 34th Fort Garry Horse before leaving for duty in France 1914
Sgt. Archibald Henderson poses with men he trained of the 34th Fort Garry Horse before leaving for duty in France 1914

In a photo taken in Winnipeg days before his departure for the war, Archibald, his daughter Margaret age 3 and his wife Helen Anne
In a photo taken in Winnipeg days before his departure for the war, Archibald, his daughter Margaret, age 3, and his wife Helen Anne

Papers from Sgt. Henderson’s file from Veterans Administration

Canadian troops in Ypres where Sgt Henderson served prepare for a German gas attack

Near Ypres is the WWI monument to Canadian Forces at Vimy

Sgt. Archibald Henderson before emigrating to Canada as a lancer in the British Army 11th  Hussars

Canadian Veterans Gravestone of Archibald Henderson, Cadder Cemetery, Glasgow