Private Samuel Farish

By Gerald Halliday and Christopher Bretz

 

Private Samuel Farish
Manitoba Regiment
#2378745

52nd Battalion (New Ontario), 9th Infantry Brigade
3rd Canadian Division
Canadian Expeditionary Force
January 1918 to August 1918

 

 

The Great War erupted on July 28th, 1914 and was fought by all of the great powers of the world, organized into two opposing alliances. It was a massive effort which involved more than 70 million military personnel, and killed 15 million people. It was a conflict characterized by rapidly advancing technology and its radical impact on centuries old strategy and custom. At its outset, many believed the soldiers would be home before Christmas.

In 1916, at age 23, Samuel Farish tried to join the Canadian military to fight in World War I, but was turned away for having 'flat feet'. Soon afterward however, Canada passed the Military Service Act in an effort to recruit more soldiers, and he found himself conscripted anyway. In November 1917 Samuel went for a military physical, and was finally accepted into the army on January 3rd, 1918 by the 1st Depot Battalion, Manitoba Regiment. He was called up as part of the 96th Regimental Draft.

The Manitoba Regiment consisted of 1st Depot Battalion, 11th Reserve Battalion which fed the 16th, 27th and 43rd Battalions, and the 18th Reserve Battalion which did the same for the 8th, 52nd and 78th Battalions. Therefore the Manitoba Regiment had one depot, two reserve and six active battalions. The Depot operated from February 1917 till April 1919.

It is not known where Samuel did basic training. There was only 4-5 weeks from his enlistment until he had to go overseas.

Samuel arrived in England on February 16, 1918 through Liverpool from Halifax. From there he was sent to the Canadian Pioneer Training Depot at Dibgate, Shorncliffe, where he spent several months drilling and training for eventual service in France. The area was close to Dover on the Kent coast, and was subject to bombing raids by Zeppelins and Gothas. A number of Canadians had died in various raids before Samuel arrived.

Beginning in mid-1916, the Division had adopted a system of coloured Battle Patches which were worn on both sleeves of the Service Dress jacket as well as the greatcoat. A rectangle 2 inches tall by 3 inches wide in black was adopted to distinguish the 3rd Division from other formations of the Canadian Corps. In short order the colour was changed to French Grey. Coloured geometric shapes used in combination with the divisional patch distinguished individual formations, units and sub-units within the division. The markings were also seen painted on steel helmets, vehicles and used as road signs. 

Although it would vary by engagement, his equipment generally consisted of; a haversack, 250 rounds of ammunition (100 in bandoliers), gas mask, water bottle, 'iron rations' (corned beef and biscuits), entrenching tool, two Mills bombs and two sandbags.

In March 1918 disaster struck the Allies. German armies, moved from the Eastern to the Western Front after Russia's collapse in 1917, smashed through British lines. The Canadian Divisions were not involved in the defensive fighting against the German attack and so were used heavily in in the counter offensive. 

After two and half months of training Samuel was transferred from the to the 52nd battalion on May 3, 1918 and sent to Seaford. He very quickly he shipped out and arrived in France by May 4th. He made it to his new unit in for active duty by May 18th, which was stationed near Lozinghem.

The Battalion's War Diary provides wonderfully detailed informantion on the unit's movements and battles. It reports 37 reinforcements arrived on May 16th, possibly the group which included Samuel. Most of the remainder of May involved a good deal of marching and training. The Battalion was not stationed near the front, although occasionally there are reports of German shelling. The weather was hot and they still found time for the occasional concert. Before the end of the month orders have them move north to relieve other units near Bomy and Fontes, where they continued to train and march.

On June 2nd the Battalion paraded in front of the Roman Catholic church at Fontes. Afterward there was a competition between unit's platoons for the 'Dumbbell' Badge.

The Battalion stayed around Fontes for several weeks before being ordered to proceed east to Guabecque to assist the 5th and 61st Divisions in building up rear defenses. This lasted nearly a week at which point the Battalion returned to Fontes.

The unit moved south to Bretencourt on July 1st, to relieve the 42nd Battalion. They were now much closer to the front lines near Arras. During the second week of July the Battalion supplied working parties to help bury cables and dig trenches.

On July 15th the unit relieved the 43rd Battalion in the trenches on the front line. This might have been the first time Samuel Farish was in battle. Over the next ten days there was intermittent shelling and attacks by German planes, but the unit was mainly there to hold the position. They were relieved on the 24th and withdrew to Couves to recover.

In early August the Battalion received orders to move west to Amiens, some distance away. They spent several days looping around the city from the north and getting to near Boves on the southeast side. In connection with an Anglo-French offensive, the 9th Brigade was ordered to attack the Germans near Bourges. The 52nd Battalion was to support this effort.

Amiens, August 8-11,1918. From Official History of the Canadian Army in the First World War: Canadian Expeditionary Force 1914-1919, G.W.L. Nicholson, 1962;

The 1st and 2nd Divisions were each attacking on a single brigade frontage, using a fresh brigade at successive lines of advance, but because the River Luce split the 3rd Division’s front General Lipsett employed two brigades in the initial phase. He crowded three battalions of the 9th Brigade and a company of the 5th Tank Battalion into the narrow bridgehead south of the river about Hourges, while on his left flank the 8th Brigade assaulted with a single battalion up.

The leading battalions advanced well deployed so as to reduce the number of casualties from the enemy’s fire. In general each was disposed in five waves at intervals of one hundred yards. Skirmishers in the foremost wave of two lines, thirty yards apart, helped guide the tanks. The next three waves consisted of well dispersed section columns in single file; and carrying parties brought up the rear. The infantry found themselves less heavily burdened than in former operations, for to meet the requirements of a prolonged yet rapid advance General Rawlinson’s staff had devised a modified “fighting order” which eliminated some unnecessary weight and distributed the rest more evenly.

Brig.-Gen. D. M. Ormond’s 9th Brigade achieved early and satisfying success. Taken completely by surprise the Germans allowed themselves to be overrun in their positions, many surrendering without firing a shot.

Actions around Damery, August 15-17, 1918. From Official History of the Canadian Army in the First World War: Canadian Expeditionary Force 1914-1919, G.W.L. Nicholson, 1962;

On the same day the 52nd Battalion entered Damery, which had been the main centre of resistance in front of the 9th Brigade. The ease with which the village was taken pointed to a possible German ruse, which materialized in the afternoon with a violent shelling of Damery followed by an attack from two battalions of the 60th Regiment of the 121st Division. From positions to which they had temporarily withdrawn east of the village companies of the 52nd Battalion broke up the advancing waves, mowing down large numbers of Germans as they marched forward in massed formation. The enemy was driven back in disorder, leaving behind him some 200 prisoners and a great number of dead and wounded.

Although the unit suffered nearly 100 casualties, the battle was largely successful and the 52nd Battalion (and others) pursued the Germans north, back to near Arras. Along the way there was very intense fighting, with attacks and counter attacks by machine gun, artillery, aeroplane, and gas. In one incident alone on the 14th of August, a gas attack cost 22 soldiers their lives. The unit was finally relieved by the 43rd Battlion on the 16th and withdrew to Neuvillette for recovery.

This photograph shows fellow Winnipeger, Captain Christopher Patrick John O'Kelly, VC (on the right) of the 52nd Battalion talking to two other soldiers (National Archives Photo, Copy From the Private Collection of George Romick). By the time Samuel joined the 52nd, Captain O'Kelly had quite the reputation, having recieved the Military Cross several months before.

By late August the Battalion was located was near the village of Boiry-Becquerelle, close to Arras, France, and began what is called the Battle of the Scarpe - part of the Hundred Days Offensive in the final months of the war. They were now only a few kilometres from the infamous Hindenberg Line of trenches, and near the site of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, which had been fought the previous April resulting in over 10,000 Canadian casualties.

Orders were received on August 27th for the attack of 'Artillery Hill and Boiry', where the initial objective of the 52nd was to capture the southern woods of Bois du Vert.

An account of the battle is found in The 116th Battalion In France, 1921, a fellow battalion to the 52nd within the 9th Brigade;

The Brigade objectives were Boiry-Notre-Dame, Artillery Hill, and the two woods known as Bois du Sart and Bois du Vert. The 58th Battalion objective was the Bois du Sart, and the 52nd Battalion the Bois du Vert. The 116th Battalion was to pass through these units and capture Boiry and Artillery Hill, the 43rd Battalion to follow in reserve.

"A" Company (Capt. Preston) was to follow in close support to the 52nd Battalion, and on their clearing the wood was to follow through and make a turning movement north on Boiry Village. "D" Company (Capt. Wilson), followed by "C" Company (Capt. Sutton), were to work along the sunken road between the two woods and on their being cleared were to push on and capture Boiry and Artillery Hill, "B" Company (Major Pratt) to follow in close support of "C" and "D" Companies.

With an almost uncanny exactness our artillery barrage opened at 4.55 a.m., and being closely followed by our front waves, the whole battalion was soon in the thick of the Bosch artillery and machine gun barrage. After moving forward about a hundred yards our objectives were soon seen. The two woods situated on rising ground stood out in bold relief with the village of Boiry perched on the top of another and higher hill about 800 yards beyond the woods. It was soon realized that the Bosch had a lot of kick left in him yet, "A" Company being forced to swing to the right of the Bois du Vert to clean up some machine gun nests which were inflicting heavy casualties on our forward platoons by enfilade fire.

The enemy was in great strength here and it was not long before we were engaged in hand-to-hand fighting. During the day this line of trenches was captured, lost and recaptured by counter-attacks no less than three times. During one of these attacks Sergt. McMillan of "A" Company was captured and forced by the Bosch to carry back wounded, but on his second trip he was recaptured in a counter-attack led by Capt. Preston.

In the meantime the 58th and 52nd Battalions, after hard fighting, had captured their objectives and "D" and "C" Companies of our own Battalion had cleaned up the ground between the woods, but on emerging to the open ground in advance of these they were literally mown down by intense machine gun fire from Artillery Hill and Boiry Village. It was here, whilst gallantly trying to lead forward the advance, that Major J. Sutherland, acting in command of the battalion, was killed, the command then falling on Major Pratt, next senior officer.

Owing to the intense machine gun fire it was found impossible to make any great advance without further support, but during the day individual and small parties made further gains and a line was finally established well in advance of the woods, communication being established with the 58th and 52nd Battalions on our left and right. On night falling every effort was made to reorganize the companies and platoons. The evacuation of the wounded was rendered most difficult, as were the ration and ammunition carrying parties, owing to the continuous machine gun fire and the fact that we were occupying shell holes with very little cover.

During the night, orders were received to make a further attack in conjunction with other units of the 9th Brigade on Artillery Hill from the Bois du Sart; on the morning of the 28th Aug., after getting into our assembly positions this order was cancelled, and we were ordered to take up new ground and closely support the 4th C.M.R. Battalion in a flank movement from the south of the Bois du Vert, in conjunction with other units of the 3rd Division. At 11 a.m., "zero hour," our artillery laid down a perfect barrage and both Boiry and Artillery Hill were captured with a large number of prisoners, a line being established just on the outskirts of the town.

At 9.30 p.m. very welcome orders were received that our division would be relieved by the 4th British Division and at 3.10 a.m. on the 29th of August the 116th Battalion was relieved by a battalion of the Hampshire Regiment, companies moving off independently when relieved and assembling in billets in Feuchy.

The 52nd Battalion's War Diary described the battle thus;

The Battalion proceeded along the Arras Road, sending advance parties ahead. The Adjutant, who had ridden ahead, met the Brigadier in Arras, and was informed that the orders had been changed and that the Battalion would billet in Arras.

Accordingly, the Battalion proceeded to billets at the Arras Museum, arrive there about 12.30 P. M. Headquarters was established at Billet No. 21, Rue de Murs St.

While in Arras, information was recieved that the 8th Brigade had made good a line east of Monchy, that the 7th Brigade were ordered to capture the Bois de Vert, and that the 9th Brigade would probably attack the following morning, and would in the mean time, move forward to the neighbourhood of the old front line.

About 25 minutes to 6.00, a definate order to move was recieved, and at half past 6.00, the Battalion fell in and marched to the area about H. 26 Central (Sheet 51 B.)

The area occupied included a number of trenches in which the Battalion took shelter.

On the way to the area, the Commanding Officer had been summoned to a meeting at Brigade headquarters. About 11.00 o'clock he arrived at Battalion Headquarters and immediately sent for the Company Commanders to explain the action required of the Battalion.

We were to march forward at once, get into position in the neighborhood of line running through O. S. a. and c. and from there attack the Bois de Vert, a wood situated on a commanding hill, the attack to commence at 4.55 A. M.

"A" Company was to go to the left of the Bois de Vert, "C" to envelop it from the right, "D" Company keeping touch between "C" Company and the road, "B" Company in reserve.

By the time the scheme was explained to the Company Commanders and they got back to their companies, very little time was left, and all Companies had to hasten forward down the Arras-Cambrai Road, with all possible speed.

Battalion Headquarters was established in an old German dugout in Morocco Trench at N. 12. d. 90.85. The Companies had barely time to get into position , one company, indeed, was just reaching its position when the Barrage opened.

Ten minutes before Zero Hour a message was received from the Tank Commander that he had been informed that the operation was postponed to 10.00 A.M. and awaited orders. It was impossible to get the message through to him before Zero, but the circumstance was reported at once to Brigade.

The Tank Commander had promised our SIgnal Officer, to whom he had handed his message that it it was a mistake, and our attack did commence at 4.55, he would go forward in any case.

The barrage opened at 4.55, and three companies went forward. The Tank Commander learning that our attack was proceeding, put his promise into effect, though, unfortunately, some time had elapsed before the tanks could get up from the rear, and at 6.15 A. M. four tanks passed Battalion Headquarters, going forward.

Shortly after 7.00 o'clock messages were received from both 'A' and "C' Companies, stating that the right flank was in danger. This was due to the fact that the 2nd Division on our right had not attacked at the same time as ourselves, their attack having been postponed until 10.00 o'clock. The message from "C' Company, however, stated that the objective had been reached; that is that the Bois de Vert had been taken.

The support company was at once moved up to the right flank to form ‘a defensive flank, and the capture or the Bois de Vert reported to Brigade Headquarters.

Reports received from "D' Company showed that they had suffered rather heavily, having lost their Company Commander and many others, the Second in command remaining in charge of about 35 men; any of the other men had, or course, gone forward with other Companies.

At 10.00 o clock the 2nd Canadian Division attacked on the right or the Cambrai Road. the 43rd Canadian Battalion, having passed through us, attacked in front of us on the left of the road.

Owing to the configuration oi the ground, the attack of the 2nd Division, which as up the slope or a hill, could be witnessed from our position, in its entirety. They went forward in splendid style and apparently with complete success. At any rate the barrage laid down for their attack and that of the 43rd Battalion, and the success of the attack, completely relieved the situation which had developed on our right, though, unfortunately the barrage had been rather close to our line at its commencement and we suffered several casualties there from.

The remainder of the day was spent in consolidating our position, and attempting some reorganization of companies, which had become somewhat mixed one with the other during the attack and also in getting up supplies.

Meanwhile, about 10.00 o'clock, as a counter attach of the enemy as threatening, on our left flank, and the right flank appeared no longer in trouble, ‘B’ company was moved from the right flank over to the support of the left flank, arriving about midday.

During the German thrust against our flank before the attack at 10.00 A. M. commenced, they, unfortunately, took prisoners a few men of ours, in an advanced position.

Some or these men were used by the Germans to oarry stretchers to their dressing stations in the rear, and made several trips. While going forward again on another trip, the 43rd Battalion took and released them, and they were able to fall in end march off as prisoners some of their recent captors

Instructions were received during the evening that the proposed relief would not take place, but that further operations would be carried out the following day.

About 1.00 A. M, 28th August, instructions were received for the attack on artillery Hill and Boiry together with the trench system in fiont. The 52nd Battalion was to attack on the right with the 116th on the left.

The Battalion had previously been ordered to close in on the left, thus narrowing our frontage.

Early in the morning, detailed instructions for the attack were received, the order now being that the 52nd attack on the left and the 4th C. M. R.s who were attached to our Brigade on the right. This Battalion was to pass through the enemy trench system, swing to the left, take Boiry end then artillery Hill, the attack to be closely supported by the 58th Battalion. Zero Hour was to be 11.00 o'clock.

Col. Sutherland, as the time was short, decided to visit each Company Commander personally, and explain what was required.

After the C. O. had left Headquarters, messages received from companies, indicated that the losses of the previous day had been heavier than at first anticipated. Mary of these men subsequently were round, having become lost and attached to other units. There were, however, available for attack only about 220 men. The men were in extremely exhausted condition. They had been rather tired before the commencement or the first attack the day before, having made three moves, and having had very little sleep. Subsequent to the first attack which was in in itself a very trying experience, they had been shelled very heavily all day, and secured very little or no rest, so that physically they were in very poor shape beside being very week in numbers.

At 11.00 o'clock the companies moved forward to attack in the following order: "B" Company was to press forward first, swing to the left to the east of Boiry, "C" Company was to follow and swing to the left and enter the centre or the town. the remnants of "A" and "D" which were consolidated into one company, were to follow the other two and swing to the left through the western side of the town.

These orders, subsequently, had to be altered and Companies were directed to press forward, south of the village, leaving it on the left flank. This however, had the desired effect of outflanking the Germans and clearing the town- Captain J. D. Yonng, M. C., whose company was now on the left flank, of the Battalion, satisfied himself that the town was entirely cleared of the enemy and so reported.

The 58th Battalion, following close on our heels, attacked Artillery Hill.

The operation was thus successfully completed. Our four Companies now only numbered 100 all told, although many men were subsequently found attached to other units.

A position was taken up in Lady Lane to the south west of Boiry. The artillery were given a barrage line and Battalion consolidated position.

Towards evening, orders were received that the Battalion would be relieved by the 4th Imperial Division, and as night fell, these troops began to move up. The relief for our Brigade however did not come till after midnight. It was finally completed about 3.00 o'clock. The Battalion then proceeded to the area previously occupied in H. 26 Central.

Samuel was killed during this offensive on August 28th, 1918. It is not known which Company he was with. The war would finally end just over two months later, but not soon enough for him.

Samuel Farish is buried in the Vis-en-Artois British War Cemetery at Haucourt, France. Plot 5, Row C, Grave 2. The image to the right shows the photograph which was sent to the Farish family of Samuel's temporary grave. The date on this card was found to be a misprint. His death is also recorded on the Jolly family gravestone in Dumfries.

His name is also found on the WW1 Monument (known as the Next-of-Kin Monument) erected on the Manitoba Legislature Grounds in 1923.

Listen to Samuel's niece, Jean Halliday, talk about her uncle in the Audio section.

Samuel is remembered online at:

 

Below is a map of Samuel's Battalion's movements during the time he was with them in 1918.

 

Private Farish's posthumous service medals include;

And his mother recieved;

The whereabouts of these medals is unknown.

 


 

Further reading: