Canadians take Passchendaele

In Remembrance;
-Private Herbert Portufield Fenby
- Private Frank Manson
- Private Charles Lancaster
- Lieutenant Kenneth Glaisby

And so ‘Third Wipers’ had continued. Before the onset of full-blown winter Haig had estimated that there could be one more final effort to capture the piles of bricks that had once been the peaceful Flemish village of Passchendaele. Having defied the efforts of such valiant British warriors as the Guards Division, the British C. had been desperate to see a final victory in the desperately sordid morass of Flanders and despite knowing the dangers of prolonging the suffering at Passchendaele, had elected that the battle be carried on, this time with the Canadians taking the lead.

Still stationed in the Somme area of France, the Canadian Corps had duly received orders to move northwards to Flanders on the 13TH of October 1917, and by the 22ND the Canadians had relieved the Australians in the deep mire of Flanders field, and four days later the ‘Canucks’ had begun their advance on the distant village.

Owing to the mud their ‘creeping barrage’ had move forward slower than usual, at about 100 yards every eight minutes, however event his had proved too fast due to the deep ooze covering the sodden Belgian earth which had reduced the Canadians advance to the pace of a wade in water than a walk on solid ground and soon the infantry had begun to lose their protective barrage. Neillands describes;

‘The Canadian guns were dropping rounds short, the German pillboxes were spraying the field with fire, and the rain which had accompanied most of these Third Ypres battles was again sluicing down’[1]

Despite the frightful conditions, the Canadian had fought on for two more days. Attacking by day and night, and beating off numerous enemy counter attacks the Canadians had fought their way the Passchendaele Ridge, and by the 27TH of October they had reached a position known as ‘Decline Copse’, which they had captured at the point of their bayonets during that night. By this time the Canadians had gained four Victoria Crosses, and had lost some 2,481 men, killed wounded, and missing. Exhausted almost beyond endurance during the next couple of days the Canadians had drawn breath and had rested as best they could before the next stage of their offensive.

The Canadians had renewed the attack at 0550 on the 30TH of October accompanied by a barrage from over four hundred artillery pieces, nevertheless, the Germans had replied with their usual torrent of machine gun and artillery fire and the Canucks had seen some very heavy fighting, especially around numerous strong points on the notorious ‘Bellevue Spur’, which had seen the demise of numerous assaults that had previously been made by the Australians. Nevertheless, despite this avalanche of fire, patrols from some Canadian units had eventually fought their way momentarily into the deserted Passchendaele, However, these units had subsequently been forced to retire as the enemy’s fire had intensified. Once again the butchers bill had been expensive, several Canadian battalions having lost half of their men during that day’s fighting.

Once again the bad weather had drawn the curtains over the blood-soaked battlefield for a few days between the 30TH of October and the 6TH November and during that time Currie, the Canadian Corps commander, had brought the relatively fresh troops of the Canadian 1ST and 2ND Divisions to the front in preparation for a renewal of the attack on Passchendaele due to begin on the 6TH of November.

By this time the state of the rain flooded battlefield had almost defied description, however, a soldier would later describe;

‘For the first few miles we moved along a single duckboard track laid down on a vast sea of mud. Movement was difficult and slow, although separate up and down tracks were in use By the time we had reached the end of the duck boards night had fallen and guides from the front line met us to lead us as best as they could on solid ground between the maze of water filled shell holes. Into these many men fell and got soaked in the foul water, and were fortunate indeed if they were seen and hauled out and saved from almost certain drowning, weighed down as they were by their heavy equipment. Picture the puny efforts of a small fly to cross the pudding basin full of batter and you have some idea of the hopelessness of the man who had missed the track and become bogged in this appalling mud. A party of ‘A’ Company men passing up to the front found such a man bogged to above the knees. The united efforts of four of them with rifles beneath his armpits, made not the slightest impression, and to dig, even if shovels had been available, would have been impossible, for there was no foothold. Duty compelled them to move on up the line, and when two days later they passed down that way the wretched fellow was still there; but only his head was now visible and he was raving mad’[2]

Nevertheless, despite the dreadful conditions the Canadians had resumed their attack at 0600 hours on Tuesday the 6TH of November. Amongst the units that had taken part in the assault had been the 31ST Battalion [Alberta Regiment] of Canadian Infantry.

Attached to the 6TH Brigade of the 2ND Canadian Division, the Alberta Regiment had launched its attack from near ‘Crest Farm’, immediately in front of Passchendaele village and moving forward as ‘one man’ had begun their slow laborious advance through the thick glutinous mud into the ruins of Passchendaele. A highly trained military unit by this stage of the war, the 31ST Battalion had used infantry skills that had been honed on the Somme and during the Arras battles and had advanced in small groups of men each unit supporting its neighbour with covering fire.

Initially the Battalion had met little resistance from the enemy’s positions and had reached its first objective with little loss. However, later in the attack, on the left flank especially, a number of enemy concrete pillboxes which had been attacked by a section of men using rifle and machine gun fire to keep the enemy’s heads down whilst another group of men had worked their way forwards using every scrap of cover to lob grenades through the strongpoints entrances or weapon slits. The Battalion’s War Diary reports;

‘Some rifle and machine gun fire was encountered, the latter being in part from enemy aircraft which flew low above our lines. As this flank neared its objective they were temporarily held up by the enemy in concrete defence, or pillboxes. A scattering rifle fire was maintained but again the plan of shooting rifle grenades from the front while small parties worked round the flanks succeeded, and the resistance was overcome’[3]

By 8am the men of 2ND Canadian Division had achieved all their objectives and the village of Passchendaele, by this time consisting of little more than ‘a pile of bricks with the ruins of a church, a mass of slaughtered masonry and nothing else on a wind swept height’ had been held firmly in Canadian hands. Nevertheless, the taking of the hillock standing just fifty feet above sea level, had cost the Canadian Corps over fifteen thousand casualties including eighteen officers and over three hundred men belonging to the 31ST Battalion. Amongst these had been Scarborough born;
231037 Private Herbert Portufield Fenby.

Born in the town at No 96 North Marine Road on the 26TH of June 1881, Herbert had been the eldest son of Isabella and ‘master butcher’ Jonathan Fenby. A former pupil of Scarborough’s Central Board School, by the time of the 1901 Census the nineteen years old ‘Bert’ is recorded as being employed as a ‘billiard marker’, however, by this period there is evidence to suggest he had already served for two years in the South African War as a soldier in the Yorkshire Yeomanry. [4]

One of life’s more ‘colourful’ characters, by the outbreak of war Bert Fenby had migrated to Canada, where on the 15TH of November 1914 he had been married in the settlement of Erskine, Alberta to American born Stella Faye Bowman. The pair had subsequently moved to Nevis, Alberta where together they had ran a ‘boarding house’ until Bert’s enlistment into the army at Edmonton on the 19TH of February 1916. Described as being aged thirty four years at this time, Fenby is also recorded as being five feet nine inches in height and being in possession of a ‘clear ruddy’ complexion, ‘grey eyes’, and ‘light auburn coloured hair’. [5]

Initially enrolled into the Edmonton raised 202ND [Sportsmen’s] Battalion of Canadian Infantry, Fenby had served in alongside the renowned Alexander Decoteau [Fenby had been the witness at Decoteau’s enlistment on the 24TH of April 1916] a ‘Cree Aboriginal’ who has been described as Canada’s finest long distance runner and the country’s first native policeman. [6]

Fenby [and De Coteau] had served in ‘A’ Company of the Sportsmen’s in Canada until the Battalion had received orders to proceed overseas during November 1916, when the unit had travelled via the ‘Grand Trunk Pacific Railway’ to the port of Halifax, Nova Scotia, where Fenby and the remainder of the unit had boarded His Majesty’s Transport Mauretania, which had left Halifax on the 24TH of November, the troops subsequently enjoying a ‘very fine’ five days trans-Atlantic voyage in the huge 31,000 tons former luxury liner.

Arriving at Liverpool on the 29TH of November, the 202ND Battalion had disembarked during the following day, and had been taken southwards by train to eventually end up in Witley Camp, in Surrey. Promoted to Acting Corporal on the 30TH of November, Fenby had been stationed at Witley until May 1917, during that time his battalion had conducted many exercises in preparation for its eventual posting to the Western Front, and by mid May a draft of 250 men from the unit had made their preparations to cross ‘over the water’ to France. In order to be included in this party Fenby had reverted to the rank of Private, and had duly embarked for service abroad at Folkestone on the 27TH of May 1917.

Initially sent to the Canadian Corps Base Depot at Le Havre, Fenby and his two hundred and forty nine comrades in arms had remained at this depot until the 15TH of June 1917, when they had been posted for service with the veteran 31ST Battalion, which had lost an equal number of men in recent [May] fighting in the Vimy Ridge Sector, the 250 former sportsmen had consequently joined their new battalion in the Arras Sector, at Houdain, on the 16TH of June. Commanded at the time by Major E.S. Doughty, the unit’s ‘War Diary’ records Fenby’s arrival;

‘During the afternoon a draft of 250 men from the 202ND Battalion arrived and joined the 31ST at Houdain. They are a very fine looking lot of men and should prove a great acquisition to the Battalion. This draft will bring companies up to full fighting strength, and will enable re organisation and training to proceed on the required line’[7]

For the next three months of his remaining life Fenby had spent his time in the Arras Sector of Northern France, rotating between the trenches in the front line close to Vimy Ridge, and his unit’s billets at Houdain. However, by mid October Fenby and the remainder of the 31ST Battalion had been stationed in the ‘Chaudiere Sector’ of Vimy Ridge, where the Fenby and the remainder of the Battalion had not only to contend with the enemy but also consistently wet weather. For the 12TH of October the Battalion’s War Diary reports;

‘The enemy is not so lavish in his trench mortars, as compared with the last tour we had in this front, and things may be said to be quiet. On the other hand, we have our old enemy ‘mui’ to contend with, this is of the thick and sticky variety, making progress along the trenches a somewhat arduous task. The right sub sector [that occupied by ‘C’ Company], is completely devoid of dugouts, and the available shelter, much as it is, is everyday becoming more scarce as funk hole after funk hole falls in…The men’s feet have to be carefully watched, and whale oil applied as a preventative against trench feet’.

During the following night the 31ST Battalion had been relieved by the men of the 29TH Battalion, the mud soaked men of Alberta marching back to the warmth of billets in the village of Neuville St Vaast, where the unit had duly received orders to transfer to the Flanders front preparatory to the Canadian assault on Passchendaele. by the night of the 5TH of November, the Battalion had been in the village of Potijze from where, ‘after partaking of hot tea’, the men had begun their march to their assembly positions in from of Passchendaele on a ridge known as ‘Abraham Heights’.

By midnight on the 6TH of November the Canadians unit that had been earmarked for the assault on Passchendaele had been in their respective assembly positions. The 31ST Battalion’s War Diary reports the weather that night as being ‘fine and clear’, and continues.

’After a quiet night the attack on the village of Passchedaele was launched at 6.00am, and by 8.00am the entire town was in the hands of the 6TH Canadian Infantry Brigade. The evening found all well established on the eastern outskirts of the town with a well-consolidated trench along the whole Brigade front. The loss of Major G.D Powis Officer Commanding ‘C’ Company early in the day is greatly felt by all ranks [8]

The news of Bert Fenby’s death had obviously been forwarded his widow, Stella Faye, who by November 1917 had been residing with the couple’s daughter Jessie ‘Avis’, in Alberta in the tiny hamlet of Red Deer. The town’s local newspaper, ‘The Red Deer Advocate’, had duly reported his demise on Friday the 30TH of November 1917 in its ‘Local Happenings’ section;

‘A message came through yesterday that Private Fenby has been killed in action at the front. Private Fenby joined with an Edmonton Battalion last year, and his wife and children moved to Red Deer, where they now reside opposite the Fire Hall’ [9]

In Scarborough, for some unknown reason the news of Bert Fenby’s death had been reported seven days earlier, in a casualty listing which had appeared in ‘The Scarborough Mercury’ of Friday the 23RD of November 1917;

‘News has been received that Corpl. H.P. [Bert] Fenby, Canadian Forces, fifth son of Mr. Jonathan Fenby, Belle Vue Parade, Scarborough, has been killed in action. He was 36 years of age. He had been in Canada for some years before the war. He also saw service in the South African War. Two brothers are serving with forces’[10]

Initially posted as ‘Missing in action’, Bert Fenby had eventually been recorded as killed in action on the 8TH of November 1917, and despite many searches of the squalid battlefields around Passchendaele, no identifiable remains of the former Scarborian had ever been found. Bert’s name along with those of over fifty four thousand other ‘missing’ soldiers of Britain and her Commonwealth [except New Zealand] that had eventually been included on the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing of the Ypres Salient, which can be found in the city of Ypres [Fenby’s name is included amongst Panels 24-28-30].

Commemorated on Scarborough’s Oliver’s Mount War Memorial, Bert’s name can also be found in the town’s Dean Road Cemetery on a now broken monument located in Section B, Row 30, Grave 26, which also contains the names of the soldier’s parents; Isabella Fenby, who had been born at Bridlington on the 4TH of July 1843 and had passed away in Scarborough on the day of her fifty second birthday during 1895. Once known as ‘the musical butcher of oxen’, Bert’s father, Jonathan Fenby, had been born in Scarborough where for many years he had carried on a butchery business at numerous locations in the town. Also a noted amateur musician and singer Jonathan had also once been the organist and choirmaster in the ‘bottom end’ St Thomas’s Church, as well as St Mary’s. A well-respected member of Scarborough’s business community Jonathan Fenby had eventually passed away at his home in Belle Vue Parade during Thursday the 1ST of March 1923 at the age of seventy-six years.

This memorial also commemorates Bert's younger brother George Ernest Fenby, who had passed away in Scarborough at the age of 29 years on the 28TH of August 1914, and two of the Fenby’s children who had died in infancy, Alice Mary, who had died at the age of ten months during July 1876, and Edward, who had died during August 1889 at the age of nine months [these two children are interred in a nearby grave [B/30/25] which also contains the remains of Harold Fenby, who had died at the age of thirty seven on the 31st of December 1935].

Born in the United States of America at Cheriton, Iowa during 1882, Stella Faye Bowman had originally arrived in Canada during 1912 where she had lived for a time in the settlement of Didsbury before moving to Red Deer where she had met, and eventually married, Bert Fenby. Following the death of her husband Stella Faye had continued to reside in Red Deer for a number of years before moving to the equally tiny settlement of Bankhead before relocating to the town of Claresholm, Alberta, where she had eventually passed away at the age of eighty-five during Wednesday the 12TH of July 1967. Her remains had subsequently been interred in Lot 97, Section B1 of ‘Garden Cristus’ in Mountain View Memorial Gardens, Calgary, on the 15TH of July 1967.

Whilst the men of the Canadian 2ND Division had been fighting their way into the rubble of Passchendaele, a little to the north the soldiers of 1ST Division had been involved in the capture of Mosselmarkt, another pile of rubble and fallen masonry that had once been a peaceful Flemish village. The 1ST Canadian Infantry Brigade had taken the lead in these operations, and having met little concerted opposition the 1ST and 2ND Infantry Battalions had by 7-45am also taken all their objectives.

Throughout the ensuing three days the Canadians had consolidated their newly won positions. However, not content with the amount of ground taken by the Canadian Corps during the 6th of November, and despite the exhausted state of the troops by this time, Haig had insisted that more ground had needed to be captured before the British operations in Flanders could be finally brought to a close. Therefore, at dawn on Saturday the 10TH of November units of the 2ND Brigade of 1ST Division had launched an assault on two enemy positions to the east of the Mosselmarkt –Meetcheele road known as ‘Venture Farm’ and ‘Vindictive Crossroads’.

Beginning their attack in the pouring rain of the tenth of November, the attack on these positions had been spearheaded by the 7TH [1ST British Columbia] and 8TH [90TH Rifles] Battalions, whilst in support had been the 20TH [Central Ontario] Bn. The War Diary of the 7TH Battalion reports;

‘Zero Hour was fixed at 6:05am. At 5am the enemy opened a very heavy artillery fire—chiefly on our support areas and Marselmarkt. Most of this shelling passed over the assembly trenches and casualties were few. This shelling had died down considerably by 6-00am.

At Zero, the [Canadian] machine gun barrage opened, followed about half a minute later by the artillery barrage, and the companies left the assembly trenches.

A little opposition was encountered near Vindictive Cross Roads, but was overcome without checking the advance, and no further opposition was encountered before reaching our objective, though enemy rifle and machine gun fire became fairly heavy for the final two hundred yards and caused many casualties’…

Badly mauled by enemy shellfire in the days leading up to the assault, the 8TH Battalion had lost over sixty of its men by Zero Hour on the 10TH. Nevertheless, the unit had launched its attack as planned and despite the intense enemy machine gun and artillery fire had advanced over five hundred yards to also achieve all its objectives by 7am that day. Throughout the remainder of the tenth the Canadians had consolidated their newly won positions and had repulsed several concerted enemy counter attacks until the onset of darkness.

Inevitably the Canadians had suffered heavy casualties. The 7TH Battalion’s War Diary recording the unit had lost fourteen of its officers and three hundred and sixty two ‘other ranks’. Unfortunately, the 8TH Battalion’s War Diarist had not recorded this Battalion’s losses. However, the diary does mention that by the end of the day the unit had consisted of around two hundred and thirty three officers and men out of a complement of around seven hundred all ranks. Amongst the 8TH Battalion’s casualties had been twenty-seven years old; 550216 Private Frank Manson, Military Medal.

Born in Scarborough at No 92 St Thomas Street on the twentieth of February 1890, Frank had been the fourth son of Margaret Anne and ‘master grocer’ William Manson. Baptised in Scarborough’s St Mary’s Parish Church on the 21ST of September 1890, Manson had eventually become a pupil of the town's Central Board School and had served an apprenticeship with local plumber, glazier, and gas engineer William Bolder with who he had been employed until 1912, when he had migrated with his parents and the remainder of the Manson family to Canada, where the Manson’s had eventually settled in the city of Toronto at number one hundred and eleven and a half Westmoreland Avenue. [11]

Nevertheless, by the outbreak of war, Frank Manson had journeyed into the heart of Canada where he had been employed as a ‘gas engineer’ and had been residing in the province of Saskatchewan in the tiny settlement of Borden. Located some sixty miles from the then burgeoning city of Saskatoon, Manson had enrolled for service with the Canadian Expeditionary Force at Saskatoon on the 24TH of November 1915 and had initially trained for eight months in Ontario, at Niagara on the Lake, with the Depot Squadron of the Canadian Dragoons.

Whilst at Niagara, on the 4TH of July 1916, Manson had had to re-enlist into the Canadian Expeditionary Force and his ‘Attestment Paper’ shows he had given a wrong date of birth, the 20TH of February 1892, the paper also describes him as being five feet eight inches in height, and in possession of a ‘fair complexion, ‘blue eyes’, and ‘light brown hair’. Duly considered fit for overseas service, Private Manson’s military career had ran on virtually the same lines as that of Herbert Fenby and had eventually landed in France at Le Havre during February 1917, where, after a period of training at the Canadian Base Depot, at the beginning of March 1917 he had been included in a draft of replacements consisting of one officer and thirty three other ranks destined for service with the veteran 8TH Battalion of Canadian Infantry.

Commanded at this stage of the war by Lieutenant Colonel John Mervyn Prower, the battle worn 8TH Battalion had been resting in billets in the Arras Sector of Northern France at a village called Ecouvres following an arduous stint in the nearby Ecurie Sector of the front line. Attached to ‘B’ Company, Manson had duly served in the muddy trenches of this sector until the opening of the Arras Offensive of 1917, when on Easter Monday the 9TH of April the 8TH Battalion had taken part in the Canadian Corps operations at Vimy Ridge. Also a veteran of the vicious fighting for the town of Arleux during May, and the subsequent bloody action at Hill 70 that had begun on the 15TH of August, that over the following three days the Germans had launched no less than twenty one counter attacks that had been repulsed by the Canadians at great loss to the enemy, Manson had also taken part in numerous often-bloody raids on the enemy’s trenches whist in the Vimy sector.

Like the remainder of the Canadian Corps, the 8TH Battalion had begun its move towards Flanders towards the end of October 1917 and by the beginning of November the Battalion had been stationed in the village of ‘Zuytpeene’, where the unit had carried out ‘attack practice’ until the fourth of the month when the formation had moved to the area of Brandoek. On the 6TH of November the Battalion had boarded trains that had taken it to Ypres, the men of the unit marching through the ruined town to a camp in the area of St Jean, where they had rested and waited for the call that would take them to the hell of Third Wipers.

Grievously injured by enemy shellfire during the 8TH Battalion’s operations of the 8TH-10TH of November, Frank Manson had been amongst the hundreds of Canadian wounded that had lain in the deep cloying mud of Passchendaele that after the battle had proved so difficult to remove to safety due to the appalling state of the ground that had necessitated as many as eight men to carry a single stretcher. Eventually evacuated to the small French coastal town of Le Treport where Manson had been admitted into the 7TH Canadian General Hospital, there, despite the efforts of the hospital’s surgeons he had passed away on Friday the 16TH of November 1917.

Aged twenty-seven years at the time of his death, the remains of the unmarried Frank Manson had duly been interred in a burial ground that had served the numerous hospitals that had been located around Le Treport that today is known as ‘Mont Huon Military Cemetery’. Located some thirty kilometres to the north east of Dieppe, and just to the south of Le Treport this cemetery contains the graves of over two thousand casualties of the Great War and Manson’s final resting place in located in Section 6, Row A, Grave 4A.

[During December 1917 Frank Manson had been amongst a large number of men from the 8TH Battalion that had been awarded with the Military Medal in appreciation for various deeds of bravery that had been performed during the Canadian Corps operations at Passchendaele, sadly, he had never lived to receive the award].

Although not included in any of the casualty lists that had appeared in the local press of the time, some unknown person, perhaps a relative had seen to it that Frank’s name had been included in the ‘Births, Deaths, and Marriages’ section of ‘The Scarborough Mercury’ of Friday the 23RD of November;

‘Manson—Private Frank Manson, 8TH Canadian Batt., died of wounds received in France November 16TH 1917, fourth son of William and Margaret Manson, late of Spring Gardens, Scarborough’…

Although not included on the original panels of the Oliver’s Mount Memorial, during September 2007 the author has begun the process of having Manson’s name added to the memorial. Like that of Private Fenby, Frank’s name is also not commemorated on any of Scarborough’s surviving church and school war memorials, whilst in Canada his name is remembered on Page 290 of the First World War Book of Remembrance located in the ‘Peace Tower’ on Parliament Hill in Ottawa [Herbert Fenby’s name is featured on page 236 of the same book].

Born in Scarborough on the 30TH of September 1886, Frank’s elder brother, William Manson had also served during the Great War in the Canadian Army. Enlisting into the 2ND Depot Battalion of the 1ST Central Ontario Regiment at Toronto on the 5TH of June 1918[Regimental Number D-3235774] he had remained in Canada until his demobilisation during 1919. Frank’s youngest brother [born in Scarborough on the 8TH of November 1898] Herbert had enlisted into the Canadian Army at the age of seventeen and a half years also at Toronto on the 31ST of May 1916 to serve as a gunner [Regimental Number 339875] in the 69th Battery of the Canadian Field Artillery, and unlike brother Frank, had also survived the war.

Haig had ‘asked’ the Canadians to take the piles of rubble and fallen masonry that had once been the village of Passchendaele and they had done so, albeit at a price. The so-called ‘Second Battle of Passchendaele’, the last offensive of Third Wipers, had cost them 12, 403 officers and men killed, wounded, and missing. Overall, at the start of the Canadian Corps operations in Flanders at Zero Hour on the 26TH of October, Currie had estimated that his formation would loose around 15,000 men during the forthcoming operations to take the village, and by the time that the Canucks had secured the whole of Passchendaele Ridge, the butchers bill had overran Currrie’s estimate by just six hundred and fifty four casualties.

During the days immediately after the capture of Passchendaele Ridge the various Canadian infantry battalions had been relieved by fresh troops. By this time the Canadians had been exhausted beyond redemption and many units had reported in their War Diaries of men dying from sheer exhaustion. Relieved during the night of the 11TH of November, the state of the men of 20TH Battalion after the battle sums up the dire situation of all the Canadian units that had taken part in the previous sixteen days of bitter fighting in the most appalling conditions.

‘After trailing through the mire, the Battalion assembled in due course. The struggle to get out alive had been so great that many of the walking wounded died from exhaustion. All were almost unrecognisable. Everyone had three-day-old beards. Faces, hands and clothing were covered with mud. A few had no shoes, several had no puttees, and many had no helmets, but non-cared much. A special party from rear headquarters was at Seine Dump to carry the Lewis guns, arms and equipment so that the men could walk the rest of the way without encumbrance—a happy thought on someone’s part. After breakfast and a brief rest the march to the tents at Potijze was begun’[12]

In British hands until the German Spring Offensive of 1918 Passchendaele had been lost to the Germans without a drop of blood being spilt during April 1918 and had remained in enemy hands until September 1918 when the village had finally been recaptured by units of the Belgian Army.

Some ninety years after the dreadful events of July-November 1917, the Third Battle of Ypres is now almost forgotten. Recently I had asked my children if they had heard of the battle and they had looked at me if I had been talking in riddles. Nevertheless, all those years ago ‘Third Wipers’ had been on every persons tongue, almost everyone in all the corners of Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Germany having lost, or had known someone who had become a casualty during the four months of hell that had been Passchendaele.

Also amongst the many that had lost their lives during ‘Third Wipers’ had been twenty-one years old; Lieutenant Kenneth Glaisby.

Born at York during 1896, Kenneth had bee the youngest son of Margaret Louise, and ‘Dental Surgeon’ Walter Glaisby, who hade been residing in Scarborough at a house named ‘Brackencliffe’ located at No1 Esplanade Gardens, during late 1917.
Attached to the Territorial Force Royal Field Artillery Lieutenant Glaisby had arrived in France on the 22ND of February 1917 and had initially served on the Western Front with the 2ND[West Lancashire] Brigade of the R.F.A., however, by the time of his death less than nine months later, during Thursday the 1ST of November 1917, he had been attached to the 34TH Battery of the Royal Field Artillery which had been amongst the numerous artillery units that had supported the Canadian Corps with the fire of their eighteen pounder field guns during the assault on Passchendaele.

Killed in action at the age of twenty-one years, the remains of Kenneth Glaisby had originally been interred in a small battlefield burial ground known as ‘Pheasant Trench Cemetery’. Located a little to the east of the village of Langemarck, this Cemetery had once contained the final resting places of thirteen other British soldiers that had also lost their lives in the nearby killing fields during ‘Third Wipers’. However, at the end of the war, these, along with those of Lieutenant Glaisby, had been re-interred in a much larger burial ground that today is known as ‘Cement House Cemetery’. Once the military name of a large fortified farm building that had stood on the Boezinge- Langemarck road, ‘Cement House’ now contains the graves of over three thousand British casualties of the ‘Great War’ and although the majority of these burials remain to this day unidentified, the final resting place of Lieutenant Glaisby can be found in Section 5, Row C, Grave 23.

Unfortunately little else is known of Kenneth Glaisby. His name had not been included in any of the casualty lists that had appeared in the local press; neither does it appear in any of Scarborough’s surviving school or church War Memorials. Nevertheless, Lieutenant Glaisby’s name is included on the town’s Oliver’s Mount War Memorial, and elsewhere in the town it can be found inscribed on the base of a fine ‘rugged cross’ grave marker located in a secluded part of Manor Road Cemetery [Crescent/ Terrace 1/ Grave 33] that also commemorates the Lieutenant’s parents; Born at York on the 21ST of April 1856, Walter Glaisby, had been a dental surgeon for much of his working life and had retired to Scarborough shortly after the turn of the century to live for the remainder of his life in the South Cliff area of Scarborough at ‘Brackencliffe’. A well-known member of Ganton Golf Club for over twenty years, Walter had died at the age of seventy-one on Tuesday the 15TH of May 1928 and had been interred in Manor Road Cemetery during the afternoon of Friday the 18TH of May 1928 following a service of Remembrance at St Martin’s Church. Born in Belfast during 1867, Margaret Glaisby had eventually passed away some eighteen years after her husband, during Sunday the 7TH of April 1946, at the age of seventy-nine years, her remains being interred in the family plot in Manor Road Cemetery on Saturday the 13TH of April 1946.

[Born in York on the 15TH of January 1891, unlike his younger sibling; Flight Sub- Lieutenant Lacy Norman Glaisby, a pilot with the Royal Naval Air Service, had been extremely fortunate to survive over two years of service on the Western Front and had eventually lived after the war in the London area. Born at York during 1892 Kenneth’s only sister, Margaret Doreen Glaisby, had eventually married John Hudson the union producing three daughters; Anne, Elizabeth, and Penelope Jane].

Estimates of the number of casualties of ‘Third Wipers’ as a whole vary. Some accounts put the figure of Allied casualties somewhere in the region of a quarter of a million officers and men killed, wounded, and missing, whilst German losses have be ‘guestimated’ to be around the 400,000 mark.

With rain pouring onto the battlefield in Flanders, shortly after the capture of Passchendaele Haig had finally called a halt to ‘Third Wipers’ and with barely a backwards glance at the extraordinary casualty lists that had begun to arrive on his desk had turned his attention towards the start of another offensive that would shortly begin to the southwards in France, on the 20TH of November 1917 in front of a town known as Cambrai.

The author is extremely grateful to Mrs Maureen Fenby of Pocklington, Yorkshire, and the remaining relatives of Bert Fenby that live in Canada. Without their precious information and assistance the story of Private Herbert P. Fenby could not have been told.

[1] Robin Neillands; The Great War Generals of the Western Front 1914-1918; Magpie Books; London; 2004.

[2] C.A. Bill; the 15TH Battalion The Royal Warwickshire Regiment in the Great War; Cornish; Birmingham; 1932.

[3] The War Diaries of most Canadian units that served in the Great War have been digitalised and are available through the website of the Library and Archives of Canada.

[4] At the time of the 1901 Census the Fenby family had been residing in Scarborough at No7 Milton Terrace, and had consisted of; retired butcher and widower Jonathan, aged fifty four years, daughters Kate Isabella, 28 years of age, Margaret C. 24 years, Herbert P. 19 years, Henry A. 17 years, employed as an ‘ironmongers apprentice’, George E. 15 years, Frederick W. 14 years, and Harold aged 12 years. All were born at Scarborough.

[5] Herbert’s description is extracted from his service record which, like the majority of men who had served in the Canadian Expeditionary Force of 1914-1918, is available online via the website of the Library and Archives of Canada.

[6] Born on the Red Pheasant Reserve, near North Battleford, Saskatchewan, on the 19TH of November 1887, Alex Decoteau [pronounced Alec Dakota] had been the son of Peter and Mary Decoteau, and apart from being a prominent athlete had also been
Canada’s first native policeman. Killed in action on the 30TH of October 1917 by a sniper whilst serving in Flanders as a Private with the 49TH Battalion of Canadian Infantry [Alberta Regiment], the final resting place of the twenty eight years old former Olympic runner is located in Section 11, Row A, Grave 28, of Passchendaele New British Cemetery.

[7] Amongst over two hundred and forty casualties that had been suffered by the 31ST Battalion between during early May had been; 79759 Private Charles Lancaster. Born in Scarborough on the 5TH of December 1882, Charles had been the eldest son of Alfred and Mary Ann Lancaster, of No 8 St Martin’s Square, Scarborough, the former upholsterer had been killed in action on the 3RD of May 1917. Incorrectly recorded as being aged fifty-two years at the time of his death, Charles Lancaster has no known grave and is commemorated on the Vimy Ridge Memorial to the Missing.

[8] Formally in command of Bert Fenby’s ‘B’ Company, on the 6TH of November Acting Major Gordon Douglas Powis had led ‘C’ company into action and had eventually been killed by enemy shellfire. The son of Alfred and Elizabeth Powis of 161 Aberdeen Avenue, Hamilton, Ontario, and the husband of Mona Murray Powis of 94 Duke Street, Hamilton, no identifiable remains of the thirty years old Major Powis had ever been recovered from the detritus of the battlefield of Passchendaele, and like that of Bert Fenby his name is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing at Ypres [Panels 24-28-30].

[9] Despite extensive enquiries in England and Canada the author has not found any information relating to Fenby having been the father of any children, and as far as is known he had been the step father of Stella’s daughter Jessie ‘Avis’ Fenby.
[10] The two serving brothers had been Jonathan Harwood [born in Scarborough during 1879] who had served in the ranks of the Royal Filed Artillery to eventually receive a commission and serve throughout the war as a Captain in the R.F.A., whilst Frederick W. Fenby [born 1887] had served in the ranks of the Royal Garrison Artillery before being commissioned as a Second Lieutenant with the R.G.A.. Both had survived the war.

[11] The son of Mary Ann., and ‘grocer and baker’ John Manson, William Manson had been born in Scarborough during 1862, and had been married in St Mary’s Parish Church on the 2ND of June 19884 to Margaret Ann Gibson [also born in Scarborough during 1862, Margaret had been the daughter of Mary Hannah [formally Helm] and ‘ship’s carpenter Thomas Gibson]. By the time of the 1901 Census the family had been had been residing in Scarborough at No117 Falsgrave Road, and had consisted of sons; John, aged sixteen and employed as a ‘grocers assistant’, William, 15 years, who had been ‘employed in the manufacture of aerated water’ George 12 years, Frank 11 years, Eva 8 years, and Herbert aged 2 years. All had been born in Scarborough.

[12] History of the 20TH Canadian Battalion in the Great War 1914-1919; Major D.J. Corrigall D.S.O. M.C.

Share this article

Request our email newsletter for all our latest news and information
Contact us

01723 369361
45 Eastborough, Scarborough, North Yorkshire, YO11 1NH, England

We are here

Opening times

11am - 4pm
11am - 4pm
11am - 4pm
11am - 4pm
11am - 4pm
Registered charity No 1144532. Company No 06755717.