THIS DAY IN RMR HISTORY, 17 October 1914 – From the 14th BATTALION (RMR) WAR DIARY:

Saturday, October 17, 1914

Camp Salisbury Plain, West Down South

“Pte. Hartley, batman to Major P.R. Hanson, found dead on road near camp. Coroner’s inquest and verdict of death from heart failure.  Buried on 20th in Shrewton Churchyard..”    [1]

The first death of a member of the 14th Battalion after landing in England was that of Private William Herbert Vaughan Hartley, Batman to Major Paul Renard Hanson, Commanding Officer of “C” Company, The Royal Montreal Regiment.

St. Mary’s Church, Maddington, Shrewton, Wiltshire
St. Mary’s Church, Maddington, Shrewton, Wiltshire

On Sunday morning, on the road between Salisbury and the plain where the Canadian contingent was encamped, the body of a soldier was found. The body was that of Private Wm. H. V. Hartley, of C Company, 34 years old. He had received leave on Saturday and went to town where he spent the evening.  An inquest was held and the jury returned a verdict of accidental death. The burial took place on Tuesday Oct 20th in the village church-yard (St.Mary’s) at Maddington, Shrewton, Wiltshire, with full military honors.

Hartley was born in Blackburn, Lancashire and served for 16 years in the British Army before bringing his family to Canada in 1912. After a few months stay in Toronto, he settled in Valleyfield, Quebec, where he had obtained employment with the Montreal Cottons Ltd.  Following his enlistment in September 1914, Mrs. Hartley had been without support and had received aid from the municipality and from individuals. Her five children were all under seven years of age, and apart from her husband’s sister she had no relatives in Canada.

An interesting event occurred at the Coroner’s Inquest after the jurors returned their verdict of accidental death. When the jury, which was composed mainly of working villagers, heard that a widow and five children were left they handed back their fees to the coroner who remitted them to Captain Hanson, coupled with an expression of sympathy to the widow in her bereavement. The whole sum did not amount to much more than $3 whereupon Captain Hanson, noting that most of the jurors were working men, offered to make up the sum himself, and transmit as if coming from them if they would each keep the small amount due to them for their services. Thereupon Captain Hanson handed each member of the jury a Canadian twenty-five cent piece, which they accepted as a souvenir. [2]

Meantime, having remained aboard their ship, the Andania for three days longer than their comrades who had been on the Alaunia, Nos. 4, 5 and 6 Companies, and the Base Company of the Regiment disembarked at 9:30 p.m. on October 18th.  These companies entrained at midnight, also heading for Patney Station, for the march across Salisbury Plain to join their comrades at West Down South. [3]

[1]  War Diary, 14th Canadian Battalion, The Royal Montreal Regiment, Oct. 17, 1914. Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa, http://data2.collectionscanada.ca/e/e044/e001089670.jpg
[2]  http://www.visitchurches.org.uk/Ourchurches/Completelistofchurches/st-marys-church-maddington-wiltshire/
[3] With information from the Huntingdon Gleaner,Huntingdon, Quebec, October 22, 1914 and an unidentified newspaper clipping of the time.
[4]  R.C. Featherstonhaugh, The Royal Montreal Regiment 14th Battalion C.E.F. 1914-1925, Montreal, The Gazette, Printing Co., Ltd., 1927.


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