A Grand Adventure: Seven young men go to the Western Front

This small snapshot arrived with a recent lot of artifacts that we won at auction. The lot includes the medals of one George Sydney Rowe, a clerk in Toronto, as well as photographs taken during his time training at Valcartier Camp. The seven men in this photo are all named on the back by Private Rowe; it is likely it was taken in early 1916, shortly after they had all enlisted with the 84th Battalion, which recruited from Toronto and the surrounding area in the summer and fall of 1915.

Image: [G.S. Rowe and friends at Valcartier Camp, c 1916] Collections CCGW/CCGG 2015.02.13.06

The 84th, like many of the battalions raised in the summer of 1915, was broken up for reinforcements upon its arrival in England in June 1916 and its members transferred to the 73rd and 75th Battalions, among others of the 4th Division. The men in the photograph are: (left to right) Frank Brugger , Robert Robinson, John [Jack] Seedhouse, George Sidney Rowe, William [Bill] Vohmann, Stanley Martin and Thomas Maynard. Of these seven young men, all under the age of 25 and all from Toronto and area, only three would survive the war.

Frank Brugger [164676] was the last to enlist with the 84th Battalion on 29 December 1915, at the age of 18. Like several of his photo mates, Brugger was transferred to the 75th Battalion in the summer of 1916 and was sent to the Western Front with the rest of the 4th Division to take part in the latter half of the Somme Campaign, embarking on 10 August. Brugger was shot in the shoulder on 6 September 1916 at St-Eloi, the deltoid muscle of his shoulder was almost completely destroyed and he would spend the next two years in hospital until his discharge in April 1918. He spent a total of less than a month on the front before his injury.

Robert [Robbie] Robinson [126306] enlisted on 10 September 1915 at Stratford, Ontario. Like the others, he was transferred from the 84th, in his case to the 4th Battalion (Manitoba). Robinson was killed in action on the first day of the Battle of Amiens on 8 August 1918 while the battalion was attacking the village of Caix. He was 24 years old.

John [Jack] Seedhouse [163692] was youngest of three members of the Seedhouse family to enlist; all three brothers had immigrated to Canada from their family home in Lipton, Sheffield. Seedhouse joined the 84th Battalion on 5 August 1915 at Toronto, the same day as his future photo mate, George Rowe. Like the others, Seedhouse would have been transferred, likely to the 75th or 73rd Battalions. All three Seedhouse brothers survived the war.

George Rowe [163673] enlisted with the 84th Battalion on August 5 1915 in Toronto, one month after his 18th birthday. Like the others, he was transferred to the 75th Battalion and sent to the Western Front in August 1916. Rowe was killed in action on 18 November 1916 on the last day of the Somme Offensive before it was called off, when the 75th Battalion and the rest of the Canadian 4th Division took Desire Support Trench, after recapturing Regina Trench. He was 19 years old.

William [Bill] Vohmann [163716] was the son of German immigrants, though he himself had been born in England, and had been an employee of the W.R. Brock Company. His mother’s family in Germany also had several members fighting with the German Army, including his uncle. He enlisted on 5 August 1915 in Toronto, along with Rowe and Seedhouse and was also transferred to the 75th Battalion. Vohmann survived the Somme Campaign and was promoted to Corporal. He was killed on 9 April 1917 during the Battle of Vimy Ridge; Vohmann was posthumously awarded the Military Medal for his actions that day, he was 25 years old.

Stanley Martin [163627] enlisted with the 84th Battalion on 5 August 1915 in Toronto, along with the others . He was transferred to the 75th Battalion with Vohmann, Rowe, Brugger and Seedhouse and was sent to the Western Front in August 1916. Martin was killed on 23 September 1916 during one of the first attempts to take Regina Trench. The 75th, while attempting to move up Farm Road was enfiladed and came under flanking and heavy artillery fire. It is likely that Martin was killed then. He was 22.

Thomas Maynard [164400] enlisted on 25 September with the 84th, his attestation paper is witnessed by George Rowe, whose signature appears twice. Like Seedhouse and Brugger, Maynard survived the war.





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