William Robinson Allen signature

On this day in 1918 William Robinson Allen, a liveryman, was conscripted at Camp Barriefield in Kingston. He was born on November 15th, 1886 in Ameliasburgh, Prince Edward County, the son of Samuel Allen and Phoebe (née Allison). By 1901 the family had moved to Deseronto and William attended the High School there.

Allen joined the 1st Depot Battalion of the Eastern Ontario Regiment with the regimental number 3060480. He was five feet five and a half inches tall, with a dark complexion, brown eyes and brown hair. His service record shows that he left Canada on the SS Tunisian on July 6th, arriving in England on July 22nd.

In England, Allen served with the 6th Reserve Battalion and the Central Ontario Reinforcement Depot. On August 3rd he was examined by a medical board for a problem with his feet:

William Robinson Allen contracted feet

Disability: overseas
Has not been in France. Had Articular Rheumatism as a child and feet have been contracted since & always been lame.
Complt [Complaint] – Crippled feet
Exam – No organic disease detected. Looks older than age given. Feet contracted, boots also turned up at toes showing shape of feet. Should not have been enlisted for overseas service.

Allen was struck off the strength of his unit on November 22nd and arrived back in Halifax on the RMS Aquitania on November 28th. He was demobilized in Kingston on December 26th, 1918.


Every year there is a graveside ceremony in Deseronto, organized by Pat and Murray Hope of 418 Wing Belleville, to remember the airmen who died while serving at the two Royal Flying Corps/Royal Air Force training camps near Deseronto. Seven of the men were buried here.

2018 marks the 100th anniversary of many of those deaths, including that of Lieutenant Colin Goss Coleridge, who was killed on July 23rd, 1918. Colin’s family lived in the village of Snettisham, Norfolk, England and was one of 45 Snettisham men who died during the First World War. The local Parish Council has created the Snettisham Remembers website as a memorial to each of these men.

This weekend three Snettisham residents were able to be in Deseronto. The village’s vicar, The Reverend Veronica Wilson; Norfolk County Councillor Stuart Dark; and Parish Council Chair, Rosalind Pugh came to lay a wreath of Norfolk lavender and rosemary on Coleridge’s grave as part of this year’s service.

Rosalind Pugh laying a Norfolk wreath on Colin Goss Coleridge’s grave

The Archives became involved with this event because we hold a brass plaque remembering Lieutenant Coleridge:

This became part of the Archives’ collection in 2002 when St. Mark’s Anglican Church in Deseronto was deconsecrated. It had been attached to a credence table and was donated to the church by John Coleridge of the Manor House, Snettisham in memory of his son. The table remained in the church when the plaque was sent to the Archives.

As part of the commemorative events this weekend, the plaque and the table were both donated to the National Air Force Museum of Canada. Here are the three visitors from Snettisham, reuniting the two items on Friday:

Photo courtesy of Paul Robertson

The table and plaque will now form part of the collection of the National Air Force Museum of Canada, a permanent reminder of the close connections between the air forces of the United Kingdom and Canada.

Carl August Bender signatureOn this day in 1918 Cadet Carl August Bender was killed in a flying accident near Deseronto. The Royal Air Force casualty card records the following details:

Date of Casualty: 10.6.18
Where occurred: Canada East of Camp Rathbun Aero
Type of Machine: Curtiss JN4 C1004
Nature and Cause of Accident: Failure to come out of spin
Result of Accident: Killed

Bender, a bank clerk, enlisted in the Royal Flying Corps in Winnipeg on November 17th, 1917 with a regimental number of 153630. He was five feet seven inches tall, with a medium complexion, light brown hair and blue eyes. He was officially appointed to the Corps in Toronto on December 14th.

Bender was born in Montmagny, Quebec on May 28th, 1894, the son of Eugene Bender and Kate (née Forrest). By 1911 the family had moved to Winnipeg. At the time of his death Carl was in training with 81 Canadian Training Squadron, part of the Deseronto Wing at Camp Rathbun.

At the Court of Inquiry convened on June 11th to investigate the accident, 2nd Lieutenant E. P. Cavanagh reported that:

Detail of file RG4-32/1334 at the Archives of Ontario

Detail of file Attorney General 1918 file RG4-32/1334 at the Archives of Ontario

About 4 p.m. on 12-6-18 I sent No.154630 Cadet Bender C.A. up in machine C-1004 to spin. I gave him instructions to go to 4000 feet before spinning. This Cadet had been taken up by myself in the morning and had been spun twice by me, and then had spun the machine twice with the instructor in it and came out of it by himself, thereby satisfying me that he was quite able to spin. Before sending this Cadet up I examined the machine and found all in good order.

Carl was buried in the Roman Catholic section of the Deseronto Cemetery.

Grave of Carl A. Bender in Deseronto Cemetery

Stillman Gurnsey Kimmerly signature

Stillman Gurnsey Kimmerly, a farmer, signed up in Regina, Saskatchewan on this day in 1918. Stillman was born in Deseronto (or Mill Point, as it was known then) on October 13th, 1878, the son of Benson Kimmerly and Almira Finkle. By 1891 the family were living in the Assiniboia East district of Saskatchewan.

Kimmerly’s younger brother, Walter Wilford Kimmerly, had been called up on May 21st, 1918. He was eighteen years younger than Stillman. Stillman joined his brother’s unit: the 1st Depot Battalion Saskatchewan Regiment with the regimental number 277009. He was described as being five feet eleven inches tall, with a light complexion, blue eyes and light hair. Stillman’s service record reveals that he arrived in England on August 15th, 1918. He and his brother both served in the 15th Canadian Reserve Battalion until June 1919, when they returned to Canada. Stillman contracted influenza in October 1918 and spent a month in hospital. Both men were demobilized on June 26th, 1919 in Regina.

After the war, both Stillman and Walter were granted 160 acres of land in adjacent parts of Township 49 in Saskatchewan under the Soldier Settlement Act. Stillman died in 1935 and was buried in Edmonton Cemetery. Walter died in 1961 and was buried in Beechmount Cemetery, Edmonton.

Reverend Dr Allan Miller sent us this letter from The Sarnia Canadian Observer which shows an interesting glimpse of life with 89 Canadian Training Squadron at Camp Rathbun for pilots-in-training. It was written by Cadet William Boyce Mavity to his mother, Emily and published in the newspaper 100 years ago today.

Letter from Camp Rathbun

Camp Rathburn, Deseronto
Dear Mother—Here I am away out at Camp Rathburn, which is about twenty minutes walk from Deseronto. This is a small camp, there being only about 100 cadets in training. Camp Mohawk is about a mile away. This afternoon I went up for my first “joy ride” and it’s almost impossible to describe the sensation. In starting off the bumping of the wheels on the uneven ground can be felt, but as the machine gains speed it gradually lifts itself off the ground and seems to be riding on cushions, there being no jar whatsoever. The ground seems to fall away from the machine until it gains level flying position, when the machine seems to be suspended in the air and the ground moving. The machine I was in attained an altitude of 5,000 feet (the Curtis will not climb over 8,000) and you can’t imagine how strange the earth looked. It was impossible to discern people on the ground, but cows and horses were evident. Houses looked like little blocks and roads like long narrow strips of white ribbon. The farming country looks like a checkerboard and the Bay of Quinte and small lakes look just like pools of melted lead.

Bay of Quinte from the air

DA 2012.10 (09)

The only thing that bothered me, was when the instructor headed the machine into a straight nose dive. The earth started to rush toward us and I began to feel sick at the stomach. The machine dropped about 4,000 feet before it straightened out. I was up 30 minutes. You can’t imagine how strong the wind is at a high altitude and especially when the machine is falling. I wore a big heavy leather coat, thick gloves, goggles and a crash helmet. The wind exerts such pressure on the helmet and forces it on your head so hard that your head aches. The goggles were not very air tight and the wind nearly blew my eyes out. I will go up again tomorrow and will be allowed to guide the machine myself. This morning a cadet started on his first solo flight. He went up twice and landed twice, but the third time he tried to land, the machine landed on its nose and was completely demolished and he didn’t even get scratched. In fact, he got another machine and went up again.
The meals we get here are swell. We get 90 cents a day extra while flying, but they take $8 a week for board. We have fresh tomatoes, chicken, cake, ice cream, pie fruit—in fact, the best of everything and all is well cooked. We have flowers on the tables and have waiters to wait on us and eat with the officers. At present I am sleeping in a tent with two other fellows. We have a coal oil stove and lantern, too.
Well I will close now, write soon,
My address is
No. 15300 Cadet W. B. Mavity
89th C.T.S. R.F.C.
Deseronto Ont.

Mavity had originally enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force on February 24th, 1917, but was discharged six weeks later for being under age. He joined the Royal Air Force in 1918 after his nineteenth birthday. He completed his training was granted a temporary commission as a 2nd lieutenant on September 5th, 1918.

Thomas Jerome Toppings signature

Thomas Jerome Toppings, a wheelman on the Great Lakes, was conscripted in London, Ontario, on this day in 1918. His draft paper notes that he was “apprehended” on June 3rd. He was born in Deseronto on December 29th, 1895, the son of John Toppings and Annie (née Hastings). By the time Thomas was conscripted, both of his parents had died (they were buried in Kingston) and he gave his uncle, James Toppings of Montreal, as his next of kin. He listed his own address as 124 Montreal Street, Kingston.

Toppings joined the 1st Depot Battalion of the Western Ontario Regiment with the regimental number 3137596. He was five feet five and three quarter inches tall, with a dark complexion, blue eyes and black hair. His service record shows that he was struck off the strength of the regiment on August 22nd, so that he could join the Royal Naval Canadian Volunteer Reserve.

It is not clear where Thomas went after the war.

Alexander Stormes signature

On this day in 1918 Alexander Stormes was conscripted in Camp Barriefield, Kingston. Stormes (sometimes Storms) was born in Violet, Ontario on February 1st, 1894, the son of Norman Stormes and Florence Thompson. By 1911 the family were living in Tyendinaga. Stormes gave his home address as Deseronto when he was drafted.

Alexander joined the 1st Depot Battalion of the Eastern Ontario Regiment with the regimental number 3060358. He was five feet eight inches tall, with a dark complexion, blue eyes and black hair. His service record shows that he did not go overseas and was demobilized at Barriefield Camp in Kingston on January 28th, 1919.

In 1921 Alexander was back with his parents, now in Richmond Township, where he was working as a storekeeper.

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