Sunday, November 11, 2012

Lest We Forget...

Harry James Proven
"How did you get interested?" is one of the most popular questions I get asked when someone learns that I have an interest in military history. I don't have a straight answer but my family's military history spans both World Wars and I like to think that is where it starts. In today's post, I'd like to share the brief stories of two of my great-great uncles who served with the Canadian Expeditionary Force in World War One and never came home.

Three boys were born to James and Harriet Proven: Harry, Ernest (Ernie), and Sidney. When war broke out in 1914, the three brothers were working at the family farm in Clanwilliam, Manitoba. Harry, the oldest, enlisted with the 45th Battalion in January 1915 at the age of twenty-two. For the next year, Harry trained with the 45th before sailing for England in March 1916. At the same time as Harry's sailing date, Ernest enlisted with the 107th Battalion.

In June 1916, Harry was transferred to France with the 1st Canadian Mounted Rifles (1st CMRs) as a reinforcement. Six months later, Ernie would join the 1st CMRs also as a reinforcement. Reunited, the two brothers are believed to have served in the same battalion, no doubt Harry trying to protect his younger brother. However, their service together would soon be cut short in April 1917.

Ernest Albert Proven
On April 9, 1917, the four Canadian divisons went "over the top" in what would be known as the Battle for Vimy Ridge. As the 1st CMRs advanced over No Man's Land, Ernie was shot in the shoulder. He was eventually collected by stretcher bearers and transferred back for medical care. On April 12, 1917, Ernie died of his wounds at a Canadian hopsital in Bolougne.

Harry, certainly affected by his brother's death, continued with the 1st CMRs for the next year and a half. Eventually reaching the rank of Sergeant, Harry had beaten the odds and had not received a single wound in over two years of service. However, his luck was about to change. On September 29, 1918, the 1st CMRs attacked the small village of Saint Olle, on the outskirts of Cambrai. German machine guns cut down many of the advancing Canadians, Harry among them. He died at a Canadian Field Ambulance near the small town of Queant.

Lest We Forget...

No comments:

Post a Comment