Private Alfred CHANTR(E)Y


Regiment/Service:
Canadian Infantry
(Eastern Ontario Regiment)
Unit:
2nd Battalion
Service Number:
7729 
Date of Death:
22 April 1915 - Died of wounds
Age:
31
Cemetery / Memorial:
Memorial Reference:
Panel 10 - 18 - 26 .

Personal History:
Alfred was born on 28th June 1882, the son of George (Grocer) and Annie (née Hill) Chantry. He had five older brothers and sisters, Beatrice H., Joseph G., Annie Maria, James and Eliza, and two younger ones, Alice and William Henry. In 1891 (Census RG 12/2778) the family's shop was at 58 Spring Gardens, Buxton, before moving to The Grove, Buxton. (1901 Census RG 13/3270).

There is, however, no obvious reference to any members of the family on the 1911 Census, probably because both parents had died in 1907, and Alfred, with his younger brother William Henry [see Footnote below], had emigrated that year from Liverpool to Canada.
On his enlistment in the Canadian Army on 22nd September 1914 Alfred stated he was unmarried and employed as a 'Clerk'. He was 5 ft. 6 ins. (1.68 m) tall, had a 'fair' complexion, brown hair and blue eyes. Also that his next of kin was "Mrs Bewley", 134 The Moor, Sheffield. This would be his older sister, Annie Maria, who married Harry Bewley in 1907, just before the death of both parents later the same year. In that year also his younger sister, Alice, had also died.

Military History:
Alfred enlisted, with his brother, William, in the Canadian Army at Valcartier, Ontario on 22nd September 1914. Local militia gathered at Valcartier, in August 1914 and became part of the 2nd Battalion. With their Battalion, the brothers sailed on board the S.S. Cassandra from Quebec City on the 22nd September 1914,  as far as the Gaspé Basin, where more troops were collected. They left there on the 3rd October as part of a convoy of at least 30 other ships, carrying a combined 32,000 Canadian soldiers, which would be the first of the Canadian infantry to enter the War

The S.S. Cassandra landed at Plymouth on the 25th October, where the Battalion disembarked and began training for the European battlefield. On the 8th February 1915 the Battalion was mobilized and sailed on the S.S. Blackwell for France. On the 19th February they entered the trench system at Armentières.

Their first engagement was the Second Battle of Ypres, 22nd April - 25th May 1915. When the battalion were pulled out of the battle, on the 29th April they had lost 6 officers and 68 other ranks killed, 4 officers and 158 other ranks wounded, and 5 officers and 302 other ranks missing, for a combined loss of 543 men. However, official figures revised later suggest the final toll to be higher.

The opening phase of the Battle was The Battle of Gravenstafel Ridge (22nd - 23rd April) and Alfred died of his wounds this first day. [N.B. The British Official History comments that there does not seem to be a reason for connecting this first battle with the Gravenstafel Ridge. The German attack and the British counter-attacks actually took place farther to the west in the region of Keerselaere and west of St. Julien.]

The 2nd Battalion War Diary reported the actions over these two days in some details. For the first week of April the Battalion were billeted at Neuf Berwin, generally training for the coming offensive. On the 6th April they marched to Winnezelle, again in preparation for the coming battle, and on the 12th were inspected by General Smith-Dorrien, who ".. seemed more than pleased with the Brigade.".

On the 18th the Battalion moved again, leaving at "9.26 a.m." for billets between Proven and Poperinghe, and two days later moved on again at 2.35 a.m. for Vlamertinghe. A footnote to the Diary reported that: "The French allow Germans to break through lines on the extreme left of British lines." [N.B. The 3rd Battalion, Middlesex Regiment, were also sent into the line following the French withdrawal after a gas attack. Another Buxton man of that Battalion, Pt. G/6651 George William Robinson, was killed a few days later in the same action.]

The day Alfred was killed, April 22nd, the Battalion moved into the line under the command of Brigadier General Sir Richard Ernest William Turner, VC, DSO.  On the morning of the 23rd April the Battalion ".. arrived at 3rd Bde. H.Qrs and took up a position with our left flank on right of woods and our right flank about 400 yds west of St Julien - Wieltje road in order to assist the counter-attack previously launched by the 19th and 16th Bns.".

"The attack was bravely carried out but owing to the enemy's machine guns on our flanks which enfiladed the whole Company the attack was not successful. It gave time, however, for the remaining companies to entrench."

At some time during this action Albert died of his wounds, possibly as a result of the German gas attack [see Footnote below]. Maybe he was originally buried, but his grave was lost and is now commemorated on the The Menin Gate Memorial. Official Canadian War records list 139 others from same Regiment who died on the same day. His Burial Register entry states: "Previously reported missing, now for official purposes presumed to have died", and adds that this was during: "Attack at St Julien".

The Canadian Memorial stands in Saint Julien Wood, a section of forested land in Belgium, near Langemark, at the north east of the Ypres Salient. During World War I, the location was known as 'Vancouver Corner'.

Footnotes:

· The village of St. Julien had been comfortably in the rear of the 1st Canadian Division until the poison gas attack of 22nd April, when it became the front line. Some of the first fighting in the village involved a hasty stop, which included the stand of Lance Corporal Frederick Fisher of the 13th Battalion CEF's machine-gun detachment; who twice went out with a handful of men and a Colt Machine-gun and prevented advancing German troops from passing through St. Julien into the rear of the Canadian front line. Fisher was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions on the 22nd, but was killed when he attempted to repeat his actions on the 23rd; this was the first of 70 Canadian VCs awarded in the First World War.

· Alfred's brother, Pt. 7730 William Henry Chantry, [photo right] enlisted in the same Battalion at the same time -
   they have consecutive Service Numbers.

Sources:
· Library and Archives Canada - Soldiers of the First World War
· CEF Burial Registers, 649-C-636
· CEF Commonwealth War Graves Registers, 1914-1919, File: 25-C-722
· I am grateful to Keith Taylor for the photos of Alfred and William Chantry ['Buxton, Burbage, Chelmorton, Harpur Hill,

Commemorated on:
Link to CWGC Record
The Menin Gate Memorial
Private Chantry's name on The Menin Gate Memorial
poppy