Sunday, August 8, 2010

Private Cecil Harry Taylor

Private Taylor Joins the CEF

Cecil Harry Taylor attested to the Canadian Expeditionary Force on February 14, 1916 in Alliston, Ontario. Upon joining the CEF he was assigned to the 157th Overseas Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. There is good evidence that Cecil joined the 157th Battalion as early as December 3, 1915 and was transferred to the 76th Battalion on March 4, 1916. The February 14th date appears to reflect the "Acknowledgement of his Attestation". It is important to note that Cecil shows his birth date as February 1897, so he presented himself as being of age, rather than 15 or 16 years old! The CEF did not acknowledge this error until May 8, 1918. Of course, Cecil was only one of thousands who lied about their age, medical condition or other matters in order to gain acceptance into the CEF.

At the time that Cecil Taylor signed up to serve with the CEF he indicated that he was living in Mansfield, Ontario and that his place of birth was Melanthan (or Melancthon), in Dufferin County, Ontario. He lists his occupation as Farming, his religion as Methodist and states that his mother, Mrs. Edward Taylor, was his next of kin. He was credited as having an "apparent age" of 18 years.

There is a note on the 1911 Census page concerning the discrepancies. I have also added links to the page for Cecil's Attestation Papers and his CEF WW1 Blog.

You will note in the service record of Private Taylor that he is also referred to as "Trooper Taylor", confirming his role in the Canadian Cavalry (Cavalry Trooper = Infantry Private). That provides some confirmation that the spurs in his collection are in fact his spurs and not souvenirs from service overseas.

Attestation Paper of Cecil Taylor
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Details regarding the date of birth of Cecil Taylor was made available through the transcription of the 1901 and 1911 Canadian Census. The 1901 Census shows the following for the Taylor family in Mulmur, Simcoe (South), Ontario Canada. (Link to 1901 Census Page)
  • Edward Taylor, HEAD - December 5, 1871
  • Carrie Taylor, WIFE - October 1, 1877
  • Cecil Taylor, SON - February 6, 1900
The 1911 Census shows different information, not only with the addition of two daughters, but differences in the names and dates of birth of the family members. They are still reported as being in Mulmur, noted as Dufferin County. (Link to 1911 Census Page - click on "Split View" to see the original documents)
  • Edward Taylor, HEAD - October 1863
  • Caraline Taylor, WIFE - October 1867
  • Cecil Farris Taylor, SON - October 1900
  • Mable May Taylor, DAUGHTER - December 1903
  • Alice Jane Taylor, DAUGHTER - June 1905
The "Discharge Papers" for Private Cecil Harry Taylor, dated February 6, 1919 in Winnipeg, Manitoba show that his age record had been corrected. He is now listed as being 19 years of age. The papers do confirm that he attested to the 157th Battalion, however I suspect the date of November 3, 1915 is incorrect (should be December 3, 1915). The discharge papers do note that he served in France for 11 days with the 2nd Battalion (1st Infantry Brigade, 1st Canadian Division). Further details about his 11 days service "in the field" are provided in the later part of this report.

Service Record of Cecil Taylor

We have retrieved the service records of Private Cecil Harry Taylor from Library and Archives Canada, on behalf of his daughter Caroline Marshall (nee Taylor) of the Milton Canadian Legion, Branch 136. It is from these documents and a number of reference texts that this summary document has been prepared.

A complete copy of Private Taylor's service record from the Archives has been provided to his daughter Caroline (paper format). An electronic copy of those papers, for those accessing this record on-line, can be found at the following link: (this is a large file, download by high speed connection only):

Taylor, Cecil Harry 642851

Many of the records in the files of Private Taylor show that he joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force as early as December 3, 1915. For example, his MEDICAL HISTORY SHEET shows that date for his attestation in Alliston, Ontario and that he was from the Town of Melanthon in the County of Dufferin. The records state that he was with the 157th Battalion as of December 3, 1915 and that he transferred to the 76th Battalion on April 6, 1916. Both the 157th and the 76th Infantry Battalions were "broken up" in England to provide for reinforcements to units in the field. The concept to have men join at home in community groups did not see the light of day in the war zone of England, France and Flanders - the kill rate was too high and units had to be broken up to send replacement soldiers to the trenches.

Private Taylor left Canada aboard the Empress of Britain in April 1916. The CEFSG MATRIX RECORDS show that the ship boarded on April 23, 1916 and left Halifax on April 25, 1916, arriving in Liverpool on May 5, 1916. These records are a clear indication that Private Taylor had already transferred to the 76th Battalion prior to his departure from Canada. As the historical records, as well has Private Taylor's service record show, the 76th Canadian Infantry Battalion was broken up and absorbed by the 36th Battalion to provide for reinforcements in the field. Cecil's records show that his transfer to the 36th Battalion took place on July 9, 1916  in West Sandling (UK). Only 6 days later he was transferred to the 2nd Canadian Infantry Battalion. Other records show that he joined the 2nd Battalion on July 18, 1916 and that on July 29, 1916 he was classified "C" ("Home Service - Canada Only) and transferred back to England from Havre, France. That accounts for his 11 days service in France with the 2nd Canadian Infantry Battalion.

What happened in the immediate weeks and months is not yet clear (but we may find the answer) as he was moved to the CCAC (Canadian Casualty Assembly Centre) in and out of other Battalions (12th Reserve Battalion) until he ended up in the 34th Battalion on November 27, 1916 at West Sandling. The family records of Don and Caroline Marshall (daughter), show that Private Taylor was in No. 5 Coy (Company) of the 12th Reserve Battalion, at West Sandling Camp in Kent, England. On November 30, 1916 Private Taylor was promoted to an "Acting Lance Corporal" with the 34th Battalion at Shoreham, England.

It is during this period that it appears that someone became suspicious of his age, as on March 29, 1917 he was moved from the CCAC to the CASC (Canadian Army Service Corps) at Hastings, Shoreham and Seaford. It is reported that at this same time he "Reverted to Rank" (Private) at his own request.

By November 6, 1917 they have confirmation that he was a MINOR BORN FEBRUARY 6th 1900. He was sent back to Shoreham, England.

It is not all that clear what they did with Private Cecil Taylor during his time as a "Minor" (November 1917 to June 1918) but we do know they did not send him back to Canada. He was now approaching the legal age to serve in the CEF and so on August 28, 1918 he was sent to the CRCR (Canadian Reserve Cavalry Regiment).
Cecil's "Casualty Form - Active Service" shows that on June 8, 1918 he was SOS (Struck-Off-Strength) to the CASC on June 6, 1918. Shortly thereafter, on June 9, 1918 he was TOS (Taken-On-Strength) by the 8th Reserve Battalion, which trained and applied soldiers to active units at the front (see link for details). It was from here that he was transferred to the CRCR (Canadian Reserve Cavalry Regiment) on August 28, 1918. This was during the BIG PUSH for the rapid advancement of troops during "Canada's Hundred Days", as action had finally broken out of the front line trenches and the Cavalry was in demand.

The Great War ended with the signing of the Armistice on November 11, 1918 - Private Taylor had survived! Cecil  was transferred to the CDD (Canadian Discharge Depot) on November 25, 1918 for subsequent discharge to Canada on December 15, 1918.

The records suggest that Trooper Cecil Taylor came back to Canada on the S. S. Northland after having dealt with a bout of INFLUENZA in January 1919. Despite the epidemic of the "Spanish Flu" (which killed more than the war itself), Cecil was sick for only 3 days and had a good recovery. It appears the Northland left Liverpool England on December 15, 1918 and arrived in Canada (Halifax) on December 26, 1918.

Although there are no WAR DIARY entries for the CRCR (Canadian Reserve Cavalry Regiment), it appears that it is linked to the "Canadian Cavalry Regimental Depot", as many men were processed through here from the CRCR in early 1919 - at the time that Trooper Taylor is recorded as being associated with the group. (Note: A "Trooper" is a cavalry term for what would be a "Private" in the Infantry). Most of Trooper Taylor's "Discharge Papers" reference his discharge from the CRCR, not from an Infantry Battalion.

War Diary, Canadian Cavalry Regimental Depot January 1919

Cecil's 11 days with the 2nd Battalion in France

As noted previously, Cecil served for 11 days in the battle zone in France, as recorded on his "Discharge Certificate". The only direct reference to this service is in Cecil's records where it shows that he was transferred from the 36th Battalion to the 2nd Battalion on July 17, 1916 and then on July 29, 1917 was transferred to the CASC (Canadian Army Service Corps). That would account for his 11 days with the 2nd Battalion. Confirmation that he was in France on active service is shown in his "Casualty Form - Active Service" (Army Form B. 103).

The 2nd Canadian Infantry Battalion had been very active in the Battle of Mount Sorrel in June of 1916 and the continuing action at Mount Sorrel, Observatory Ridge and Hill 60 in July of 1916. The battalion would not relocate to the "Battles of the Somme" until August 1917. The War Diary of the 1st Canadian Infantry Brigade shows that the 2nd Battalion was at Mount Sorrel and Observatory Ridge (Rly Dugouts) at the time Private Taylor served with the 2nd Battalion.

War Diary, 1st Canadian Infantry Brigade HQ , July 1916

The greatest detail of the action taking place between July 18th and July 29th (1916) is depicted in Appendix "F" of the 1st Brigade War Diary:

Appendix F - 1st Canadian Infantry Brigade, July 1916

Comparison of this information to the War Diary of the 2nd Canadian Infantry Battalion for the same period, shows the 2nd Battalion moved up to relieve the 7th Battalion that was in Brigade Reserve at White Swan Chateau (location of Headquarters) on July 21, 1916. They moved closer to the front lines on the night of July 26th, when they relieved the 5th Battalion in the front support lines of the Hill 60 Sector.

War Diary of the 2nd Canadian Infantry Battalion, July 1916

Hill 60 (yellow marker) in the Ypres Sector of Belgium (Flanders)

This period of time, referred to in the historical texts as the "Summer in the Salient", was not a period of intense forward action, however neither was it a time of peace and quiet. Back-and-forth action continued and there were many casualties on both sides. Private Cecil Taylor survived his ordeal and subsequently avoided the carnage at the 1916 Battles of the Somme, only because they found out he was a minor. Had he not been shipped back to England, no one knows what would have happened to Cecil.

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