Honouring Our Military Ancestors Challenge (Day 10)

They shall not have died in vain.

YOU sitting right there — yes, YOU! You can help to make military ancestors go viral this November! Pay tribute to the service men and women in YOUR family. Write your own blog posts or share your historical photos and records on social media or even simply email someone who doesn’t know the story yet! We’d love it if you shared this post with your friends and followers too.

Canadian genealogy blogger, Patricia Greber, called family historians around the world to arms in honour of the veterans and the war dead to whom we owe our freedom. With Day Ten of this #MyMilitaryAncestor challenge, we continue our participation by sharing another extraction from BIFHSGO’s database of the 879 soldiers who died at the No.1 Canadian Casualty Clearing Station.

Honouring Our Military Ancestors Challenge – Day Ten

British troops eating their Christmas dinner in a shell hole, Beaumont Hamel, 25th December 1916.
British troops eating their Christmas dinner in a shell hole. Beaumont Hamel, France. 25 December 1916. Image Source: the collections of the Imperial War Museum (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AChristmas_on_the_Western_Front%2C_1914-1918_Q1630.jpg : accessed 10 November 2017).

Bomb thrower gassed, shelled, participates in Christmas exchange

Ira Irvin Victor Whalley was born in Yorkshire, England in 1891, and moved to Saskatchewan, Canada in 1907 along with his mother and two brothers. He enlisted with the Saskatchewan Regiment, 28th Canadian Infantry Battalion on 24 October 1914 at the age of 23. His battalion shipped out the following May, arriving in Plymouth, England on 7 June 1915.

Private Ira Whalley
Private Ira Irvin Victor Whalley. Image source: Canadian Virtual War Memorial (http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/memorials/canadian-virtual-war-memorial/detail/202160 : accessed 10 November 2017).

In the fall of 1915, Ira qualified as a “bomb thrower” and on 17 September 1915, the battalion embarked for France, arriving in Boulogne the next morning. The crossing had been rough and the soldiers got little sleep, but, after breakfast, Ira’s battalion departed for the Front, arriving later that same day.

By September 25th Ira and the rest of his battalion were in the trenches, in the pouring rain. The battalion rotated in and out of the line for the rest of the winter while they carried out a variety of trench routines, including field work and patrolling.

Ira had the misfortune of being on the Western Front when the Germans used the poison gas phosgene for the first time on 19 December 1915. Only six days later, on Christmas Day, he was also present for what must have been a surreal experience when groups of soldiers from both sides of the front stopped fighting to sing hymns and carols, then exchanged cigarettes and souvenirs between the trenches.

Ira’s battalion experienced casualties in early 1916, and by the middle of January their trenches were being heavily shelled. Two months later, Ira himself suffered shell wounds to his right upper arm and right chest. He succumbed to his injuries on on 12 March 1916. He was 24.

Private Whalley is buried at the Bailleul Communal Cemetery Extension, Nord Pas-De-Calais, France. He is memorialized on two Saskatchewan war memorials and his name is also displayed on April 23rd each year in the Book of Remembrance which can be found in the Memorial Chamber of the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.


This brief biography is an extract from one of 300 written by volunteers for the British Family History Society of Greater Ottawa (BIFHSGO), which maintains a database on the 879 soldiers who died at the No.1 Canadian Casualty Clearing Station. Canada’s casualty clearing stations, located within a few miles of the Front, were one of the most important links within the Canadian Army Medical Corps for the treatment of Allied wounded soldiers during WWI.

For more information about Canada’s No. 1 Casualty Clearing Station or to start searching this database, please click on THIS LINK.

If you haven’t had a chance yet, please check out our other posts for the #MyMilitaryAncestor Challenge:
Day One – Infantryman “undoubtedly saved lives” at Passchendaele
Day Two – War was a family affair
Day Three – Measles, Mumps and the Military
Day Four  God who knows best has called you to rest
Day Five – “I expect you will have heard of the death of…”
Day Six –  The horror of gas attacks
Day Seven – Corkscrewing away from a Junkers 88
Day Eight – Unexpected engine trouble ends pilot’s career
Day Nine – Over the Top, A Canadian Soldier Gives his Best at Vimy

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