Tuesday, March 17, 2015

500748 Sapper William Bristow, 8th Canadian Engineers

William Bristow was born on 6th June 1876 (although later information given to the military authorities in Canada conflicts with this).  The 1901 census for England and Wales shows him living with his family at Grantham Cottage, North Chailey.  The household comprised: William Bristow (head, aged 51, working as a domestic gardener), his wife Jane (aged 42) and five sons and daughters: William (aged 24 and working as a general agricultural labourer), Gilbert Bristow (aged 11), Nellie Bristow (aged 10), Sidney Bristow (aged six) and Dora Bristow (aged two).  Another brother, Harry Bristow (16), was serving with the Royal Navy and stationed at Portsmouth. 

At some stage after the census was taken (but before 1907 when he reports an ear infection in British Columbia), William emigrated to Canada. 

On 8th November 1915 he attested (for the second time) at the Horse Show Buildings, Winnipeg, Canada with 2nd Field Troop, Canadian Engineers.  He was given the number 500748 and the rank of sapper.  He gave his address as – what looks like - Fort Osborne Barracks, Stratherne Horse; his place of birth as Chiltington, Sussex and his next of kin as his father, William Bristow of North Common. 

William was unmarried, working as a miner and – according to the doctor who examined him – of good physical development. He was five feet, eight inches tall, had dark brown hair (although the word “bald” is included here in brackets), grey eyes and a dark complexion.  A mole on his right shoulder is noted as a distinguishing mark.  

It was noted that William’s religious faith was Church oi England and that he had previously served for six months with H M Marines.  His enlistment was approved the following day. He was given the standard innoculations against typhoid and other diseases in November and December and arrived in England with the 8th Draft Canadian Engineers on 10th January 1916, moving to Shornecliffe the following day.  Chailey Parish magazine first publishes his details in December 1915, noting simply, Bristow, Private W but adding the following month that he was in England. 

On 18th May 1916 he was transferred (in France) to the First Canadian Tunnelling Company.  Two weeks later, on 2nd June he was admitted to Number 2 Field Ambulance with Ortitis Media (an ear infection).  Three weeks after that, on 25th June he was admitted to No 3 Canadian Gen Hospital, Boulogne with mid ear infection. 

Chailey Parish Magazine mentions in July 1916 that William is in France with the Royal Canadian Engineers but by now he was already on his way to returning to England and ultimately Canada.  He was admitted to No 1 Convalescent Depot, Boulogne with mid ear infection on 1st July but discharged to Base Details the following day.  On the 20th July he was posted to the Canadian Base Depot at Havre and by the end of the month was back in the UK at the Canadian Casualty Assembly Centre (CCAC) in Folkestone. On 3rd August a medical board reported: 

Disability: inflamation, middle ear
Date of origin of disability: 1907 (at Silverton, British Columbia)

“In 1907 had trouble with right ear.  Discharged a little but soon recovered from that attack. Never had any more trouble until May 1916.  Was in France three months – says that the noise of guns started the trouble again. West Cliff Hospital report says the right ear has almost complete destruction of drum – pre-existent but aggravated by military service - shell explosions caused the re-appearance of the old trouble. 

On this form it is noted that William was 47 last birthday.  In actual, fact he would have been 40.  If he was in France for three months, this puts his date of arrival there at the beginning of May 1915. 

At a Pensions and Claims Board meeting at Bath on 8th August 1916, William’s date of birth is noted as 6th June 1869 (which again is incorrect) and his place of enlistment as Nelson, British Columbia.  It furthermore states that he spent one week in France in trenches.  William’s present condition of health is recorded as “not good” although he is deemed fit for his old work as a miner.  It is recorded that no work is promised him for when he leaves the army. 

William was sent on strength to Canada for discharge on 5th September 1916, Chailey Parish Magazine noting two months later that he had been invalided and discharged. William’s younger brothers Gilbert, Harry and Sidney also served their King and Country during the First World War and Sidney was killed aboard HMS Invincible on 31st May 1916.

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