15-Year Old Serving With RMR In Trenches Is Recommended For DCM

Tuesday, May 18, 1915

Essars

The Battalion War Diarist wrote for this day: “Received orders to move back to Le Touret and left Essars at 7 a.m. going to same trenches as occupied on May 17th at Le Touret, where the battalion remained until 2:30 p.m.  It then moved forward to assembly trenches at Indian Village east of Rue de L’Epinette, the 3rd Brigade having received orders to attack on a frontage near  the locality known as The Orchard, the whole ground of these operations being known as Festubert.” [1]

THIS DAY IN RMR HISTORY: “… Artillery fire was encountered during the move and, later, in assembly trenches, one shell caused 11 casualties. Reply to this fire was being made by a battery of Indian mountain guns, whose amazing mobility provided the Canadians with no little amusement. The battery would come into action, fire a few rounds, dismount the guns, transfer them to a spot some distance away, and come into action again just as German shells began to drop on the position vacated.”[2]

18 May 15

Festubert, 18 May 1915

“The 14th Battalion attacked with “A” and “C” Company forward; to their left the Guards Brigade, and to their right the 16th Battalion. Told not to expect serious opposition, they moved into the former German front line, and set off immediately into heavy shell and machine gun fire with an officer from 1/8 Royal Scots as a guide, aiming at a position known as “The Orchard” as their objective. Lieutenant-Colonel Burland, in charge of the assault companies, ordered the line to halt in the face of the devastating German fire and attempt to dig in. They were ordered on the night of 18-19 May to hand over their positions to the Guards and pull “A” and “C” Companies back to the former German line where “B” and “D” Companies had remained in reserve. “Both the attack and the withdrawal were made under trying conditions – in darkness, under constant fire, and across water-logged country seamed with deep ditches and old trenches.” Some 65 other ranks were casualties, most of them fatal, including 18 NCOs. The 14th Battalion remained in support trenches until 22 May under constant shellfire, losing 75 other ranks killed and wounded, as well as one officer killed and another wounded while attached to the 13th Battalion. The Montrealers of the 14th Battalion had met fire from the same un-located machine-guns that had harried the Guards and were diverted south, halted about 400 yards from their jumping-off trenches.” [4]

“Late on the night of May 18th Nos. 1 and 3 Companies of the 14th Battalion were withdrawn from the advanced trenches, which were taken over by an extension of the Guards and the Canadian Scottish. On relief Nos. 1 and 3 Companies joined Nos. 2 and 4 Companies, who had taken position in the old German front line. During the advance of Nos. 1 and 3 Companies and the subsequent withdrawal casualties had totalled 67. Lieut C.B. Price, DCM, had been severely wounded and 18 N.C.O.’s had been killed or wounded. Coming so soon after the Ypres engagement, these losses were sharply felt, but the end was not yet.”[5]

Once again our story meets up with a fifteen year old boy soldier serving in the ranks of the Regiment. From the Battalion history we read:

– “The devotion to duty practised by the Medical Officer during these trying days and nights undoubtedly stimulated the Battalion stretcher bearers, who, throughout the engagement, toiled unsparingly at their task. But the stretcher bearers were not alone in their effort to help the wounded. On the night of May 18th Bugler Anthony Ginley,* aged 15, twice made his way back from the front of No. 3 Coy. to guide stretcher bearers up through heavy shelling to a spot where wounded men were waiting. The daring of this young soldier and the uncanny skill with which he picked his way over the difficult ground were held by all ranks of the Regiment to be worthy of the highest commendation.” [6]

* About whom we first read in the posting for October 20th 1914 when the Battalion was arriving at Salisbury Camp.

18 May 15_BBugler Anthony Ginley, #26265, is mentioned by Lieut.-General Sir R.E.W. Turner, V.C., K.C.B., K.C.M.G., D.S.O., in his Foreward to the history of the 14th Battalion C.E.F., The Royal Montreal Regiment – 1914-1925, where he refers to Ginley when speaking of some of the gallant deeds done by the Battalion “…and the assisting in bringing in wounded under shell fire by Bugler Ginley, a lad of 15 years, at Festubert.” [7] Ginley’s story is told in this 1916 newspaper clipping:

“(Canadian Associated Press Cable) London, Oct. 2. Anthony Ginley, boy bugler of the Royal Montreal Regiment, whose persistence won for him a place with the regiment at the front, and who, it is stated, has been recommended for the Distinguished Conduct Medal, caused a mild sensation on arriving unexpectedly at the Cliveden Canadian Hospital, giving evidence of recent association with the trenches, and bearing a rifle and a uniform. He did not come for treatment, being sound of wind and limb, but he was seeking Capt. Richardson, quartermaster of the hospital. Ginley met with a warm welcome, being for some time the lion of the institution. He is of Scottish parentage [his attestation paper says born in Ireland], but is an orphan. His father died when he was 18 months old, and subsequently with his mother he went from Scotland to Canada. [arriving at Quebec City aboard The Corsican in August 1910]. His mother died there three years ago. Major Woodside, Canadian Heavy Brigade, engaged the boy on a small farm near Ottawa, and when the war broke out Major Woodside volunteered for active service, and the boy was eager to go. The lad was so young that the major declined to consent, but he allowed him to join the 14th Montreals as a bugler. He came to England and crossed to France in February, being keen to accompany the regiment to the trenches. He was allowed to shoulder a rifle. The hard work agreed with him, and since he has been in France he has grown three inches. He was present at both the battles of Ypres and Festubert.

He was granted seven days leave last week to visit Capt. Richardson at Cliveden and friends in Scotland. Capt. Richardson said that Mrs. Richardson, now in Ottawa, had taken an interest in the lad and had sent him letters to the front, which led to his visit to Cliveden, where Capt. Richardson saw that he was well cared for. He remained in the hospital till yesterday, when he left it for Scotland. He will rejoin his regiment at the expiry of his leave.”[9]

A number of similar stories about Ginley appeared in newspapers in both Britain and Canada about this time. One lengthy article, purportedly written by himself under the heading “Anthony Ginley – The Empire’s Youngest D.C.M. – His Story as Told by Himself” appeared in “La Vie Canadienne”, Vol. 1, No. 5, published by the Canadian Section, General Headquarters, 3rd Echelon, January 1917, pp 2-4. It is a somewhat less than modest account of his purported exploits. After perusing the official records available it does not appear that Ginley was awarded the D.C.M. despite the recommendations for it. After serving 20 months with the 14th Bn. (RMR) he returned to Canada and re-enlisted at Ottawa in the 207th Bn. Ginley returned to Canada at the end of the war, and in 1920 married Hazel Mary Dorman, in Cumberland, Nova Scotia. Anthony Ginley died at Amherst, Nova Scotia, November 2, 1945, survived by his wife, four sons, five daughters and numerous grandchildren.

[1]   War Diary, 14th Canadian Battalion, The Royal Montreal Regiment, May 18, 1915.  Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa, http://data2.collectionscanada.ca/e/e044/e001089733.jpg
[2]   R.C. Featherstonhaugh, The Royal Montreal Regiment 14th Battalion C.E.F. 1914-1925, Montreal, The Gazette Printing Co., Ltd., 1927, pg. 54.
[3]   Festubert 1915, Canadiansoldiers.com  http://www.canadiansoldiers.com/history/battlehonours/westernfront/festubert.htm
[4]  Nicholson, Gerald Official History of the Canadian Army in the First World War: Candian Expeditionary Force, 1914-1919 (Duhamel, Queen's Printer and Controller of Stationery, Ottawa, 1964) p.86,  as quoted in Festubert 1915, Canadiansoldiers.com  http://www.canadiansoldiers.com/history/battlehonours/westernfront/festubert.htm
[5]   Featherstonhaugh, Ibid, pg. 56.
[6]   Featherstonhaugh, Ibid, pg. 57.
[7]   Featherstonhaugh, Ibid, pg. ix.
[8]  “Boy Bugler Gets Off On Leave,” The Toronto World, Toronto, Ontario, Monday, October 4, 1915, pg. 7, col. 2.
[9]   Ibid

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