Sgt Volkert Sees Three RMR Officers Fall in 1915

Tuesday, May 4, 1915

In trenches on Yser Canal

The Battalion War Diarist wrote for this day: “Relieved after dusk May 3rd and marched to Transport Lines north of Vlamertinghe arriving shortly after day break on the 4th. Remained in Transport Lines until dusk orders having been received to march to rest billets near Bailleul.  Left about dusk and marched through Vlamertinghe, Ouderdom,  and Locre to Bailleul.  So far the 3rd Brigade moved together, the 14th Bn. now broke off and proceeded to rest billets at Le Nouveau Monde about 3 kilometres South of Bailleul arriving about day-break May 5.  Long tiring march, but very few stragglers”. [1]

THIS DAY IN RMR HISTORY: The Regimental History adds this comment: “At Bailleul the Brigade scattered, the men of the 14th, exhausted after the wearing experiences of the previous fortnight and the long night march, finding that another 3 kilometres were required of them. ‘It was a pretty sorry looking bunch that crept into Bailleul’, writes one diarist. ‘We were all footsore and weary, but we found that our billets were about two miles out of town. We managed to crawl that distance, and reached our destination at dawn on the morning of May 5th. The march was the worst I had ever experienced.’” [2]

(Special Cable from The Gazette’s Resident Staff Correspondent. London, May 3. Among the wounded at Splott Military Hospital at Cardiff is Sergt. W.C. Volkert of the Fourteenth Battalion (Royal Montreals) 435 Champlain Street. He was an employee of the Walker hardware store in Montreal. Telling his story in the hospital today, he said:

‘The night of April 22 was a memorable one for the Montreal battalions, the Thirteenth and the Fourteenth. They were in the trenches at St. Julien under a heavy gun-fire and an awful smoke. An order was given to advance as the Germans had broken the French lines, so the Royal Montreals went to the assistance of the Fifth Royal Highlanders. It was a costly advance, entailing heavy losses.’

04 May 15During the advance Sergt. Volkert saw three Montreal officers of the Fourteenth, Major Hanson, Capt Steacie and Lieut. Knubley, fall. It was here that the stretcher-bearers did heroic work in picking up the wounded. One splendid piece of work was that of Private Matthews, who went out in the face of heavy fire and picked up Major Hanson, and with the aid of bearers, brought him out of the danger zone. Matthews was an employee of the powder works at Brownsburg before he enlisted. He also made a try for Capt Steacie. About this time Sergt. Volkert himself was wounded by shrapnel and was removed to the dressing station. This was shelled and an order given for the wounded who were able to walk or crawl to get out the best they could. Getting back to Ypres shells burst around the ambulances containing the wounded.” [3]

Sergeant William Charles Volkert, No 25788: Born at Montreal in March 1870, Sergeant Volkert served for 28 years with both the 1st Regiment Canadian Grenadier Guards and with that regiment’s predecessor, the 1st Regiment, Prince of Wales Fusiliers in Montreal.  He married an Oshawa lady in 1896.  For some years he worked in the paper box business, and about 1907 he joined the James Walker Hardware Company in Montreal as a shipper. Enlisting for service overseas on September 21, 1914 with the 14th Battalion, he served with the 14th for five years until returning to Canada with the Battalion in April 1919. Upon demobilization in 1919, he resumed his employment with the Walker Company where he remained until his death. He was an active member of the Salvation Army in which he was a bandsman for several years.  In addition he was a member of several Masonic lodges. In 1913 Volkert was instrumental in capturing a man who had shot a man and woman on Notre Dame St., near McGill St.  The male victim died and the assailant was tried for murder, and hanged. Volkert had witnessed the incident, grappled with the assailant and effected his capture.  Sergeant William Charles Volkert died at Montreal in March 1926, at the age of 59, and was survived by his wife, a son, and three daughters.

[1]  War Diary, 14th Canadian Battalion, The Royal Montreal Regiment, May 4, 1915.  Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa,
[2]  R.C. Featherstonhaugh, The Royal Montreal Regiment 14th Battalion C.E.F. 1914-1925, Montreal, The Gazette Printing Co., Ltd., 1927, pp. 46-47.
[3]   Ibid.

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