Clifford Wiseman arrived in France on July 18, 1916 and died on the Somme exactly 15 weeks later.
Editor’s Note: The following is the second installation of a two-part series on ‘The Boys.’ Click here to read Part 1.
“Dear Sister, I received your package this morning and also some papers from Barrie. You don’t know how happy I was to receive the package and papers. I was reading about the murder of poor Clifford Wiseman.
They were just a couple of teenagers. Just a few months earlier, they had ditched their football helmets and jerseys and traded them in for a very different type of uniform.
Seeking adventure and a chance to do their bit, Donald Kelcey, the letter’s author, and his friend, Clifford Wiseman, set out for the battlefields of France in the summer of 1916. They likely hoped to return home. in time and tell their war stories to the other Barrie boys.
When he wrote home on December 8, 1916, Donald Kelcey had already experienced more lives and near-deaths than perhaps he had expected.
In September On September 14, 1916, the 16-year-old soldier broke his own iron rations and ate them without permission. What was meant to be an emergency food supply must have been very tempting to the hungry boy. Donald Kelcey must have enjoyed the meat, cheese and crackers it contained, until the moment his commanding officer found out about the unauthorized food.
His punishment was known as Field Punishment No. 1, or FP No. 1 for short. The offender would be chained and handcuffed before being tied to a fence or other stationary object. Donald Kelcey was sentenced to three days.
In September On January 17, Donald Kelcey completed his punishment. The next day, enemy fire shot him in the head. That same day his left eye was surgically removed.
Evacuated from the battlefield in a precarious condition, moved from hospital to hospital, semi-conscious most of the time, the teenage soldier underwent multiple treatments and surgeries. He could be forgiven for not knowing what was going on in the world beyond his hospital bed.
It would have been the November 2, 1916 edition of the Northern Advance That gave Donald Kelcey the terrible news while he was recovering at Third London General Hospital in London, England.
“The high cost of lives continues among the ranks of the 76th battalion. Frank Clifford Wiseman’s name is added to the list this week. “
Six weeks. This is the generally accepted and calculated life expectancy for the average soldier in the trenches during World War I.
Clifford Wiseman left Sandling’s training camp at Maidstone, England, on 17 July 1916 and arrived in France the following day. He died on the Somme exactly 15 weeks later.
The Somme Offensive had been underway since 1 July and by the end of August reinforcements were desperately needed. Three divisions of the Canadian Corps were sent, our young Barrie men among the ranks.
Clifford Wiseman found himself in the town of Courcelette in September. On the first day of the battle, the Canadians took the ruined village. That battle is considered to have lasted six days, but hostilities on the Somme continued throughout September, October and November.
Pte. Clifford Wiseman, who died on October 8, 1916, was one of the 24,000 Canadians killed on the Somme.
Pte. Donald Kelcey returned to Barrie in August 1917 and visited his sister who lived on Caroline Street. He Barrier Examiner of August 9, 1917 reported that the wounded soldier had spent nine months in various English hospitals and since June had been receiving further treatment in a convalescent hospital in Toronto.
“That he’s alive is quite remarkable.” concluded the journalist, and in that he was not wrong.
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