A Canadian soldier at Passchendaele

Thursday, 12 July, saw the official remembrance ceremony at Tyne Cot military cemetery in Belgium, to mark the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele, also known as the Third Battle of Ypres.  47 memorials on our database specifically mention Passchendaele, but there will be many more memorials that commemorate soldiers who died during this battle.

 

One of these memorials is dedicated to Lieutenant Archibald John Harvey of the 29th Canadian Battalion, reminding us that many soldiers from other countries of the Commonwealth also died at Passchendaele.

Lieutenant Harvey’s Commonwealth War Graves Commission record reveals much the same information as his memorial.

If we want to know more about this soldier we can turn to another extremely useful resource for researching Canadian soldiers. The Library and Archives Canada, based in Ottawa, have digitised the attestation papers of those who joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the First World War. The database now contains over 800,000 pages of scanned documents.

Lt Archibald Harvey’s attestation papers reveal more significant details about him.  He was born on the Isle of Wight in England in 1887, but later emigrated to Canada, probably as a young man as his parents were still living on the Isle of Wight at the time of his death.  He signed up on 15 November 1914, soon after the outbreak of war, and we can imagine his desire to return home to do his duty for king and country. 

At the time he enlisted he was unmarried and working as a salesman, but interestingly he had already served four years with the Canadian Army Medical Corps. The papers also detail Lt Harvey’s physical characteristics helping us to conjure up an image of the man.  He was 5′ 5″ (short but not unusually so for the time) with grey eyes, brown hair and a fair complexion.

By looking at a combination of Lt Harvey’s attestation papers, his memorial details and his CWGC entry we can catch a glimpse of him at the start of his service and sadly gather details about the end of his life at Passchendaele.

Returning to his memorial, situated in his home town of Shalfleet, Isle of Wight, we see that he was wounded on 7 November, just three days before the end of the battle and died five days later on 12 November 1917. 

He was buried in Lijssenthoek, the location of some of the casualty clearing stations in the Ypres area, and presumably where he was brought to be treated after being wounded at Passchendaele.

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