Home » The Short Life of John (aka Joseph) Hamilton

Private Hamilton

by: Rob Probert

Sadly there is not that much known about this young man. There was even some confusion over his first name. He enlisted under the name John but is listed in the Commonwealth War Graves records as Joseph. He has been referred to in other’s correspondence as Joe. In any case his military service number and record confirms that ‘Joe” and “Joseph” were one and the same.

Joe was born May 24, 1891. His parents were Joseph and Ada Hamilton, originally of Greet, Birmingham, England. It is assumed that the family had settled in Carleton Place but that is somewhat unclear as Joe had a brother serving in the British Army at the same time. Is it possible that Joe had come to Canada on his own ? Why was he living in Carleton Place if he did not have his parents here as well?

Joe enlisted at the age of 23 and five months old. He was described as having a dark complexion, with blue eyes and black hair, standing 5’7” tall. An identifying mark was tattoo of a girl’s face on his left forearm. He was an adherent of the Methodist Church. One might wonder what the fellow church goers thought of that tattoo.
Joe was considered one of the older army volunteers. He had a working career at the Findlay Foundry as a metal polisher. Hundreds of men worked at the Findlay factory. One could assume, that like all the boys, he was well known in Carleton Place, likely took part in sports and enjoyed time on the Mississippi Lake, just as today’s youth do.

Joe’s war record was virtually identical to John McPhee and William Lochard Campbell. Joe enlisted in Sept., 1914 and was part of that first contingent of eleven volunteers plus Capt. W.H.Hooper who left Carleton Place on Aug.14, 1914 by train for Perth, Ont. and then on to Valcartier, Quebec as part of B Company of the 42nd Battalion. In service, this unit was under the command of Capt.W.H.Hooper of Carleton Place.

Together they all sailed for England on the steamship S.S.Cassandra. The destination was Liverpool but fears of a submarine attack diverted the ship to Plymouth with the landing at dawn Oct.15, 1914. For some, the crossing was uneventful; for others, sea sickness was like mischief run wild. Unfortunately there is no information on how John fared on the crossing.

The usual brutal training took place on the Salisbury Plain. It was also here, that on one of his first furloughs he was able to meet up with a brother who was already serving in the British Army. This brother (name unknown) had already seen battle and was due to return to the front. It would be safe to assume that he told Joe of the many horrors of trench warfare and what he would soon face. Trench warfare was bad enough but mustard gas attacks were now coming into the conflict.

As fate would have it, Joe was part of the unit commanded by Capt. W.H.Hooper ordered into the St.Julian’s “Hooper farmhouse” fight. Five Carleton Place men involved in this horrible episode were killed and some accounted for. There was no record of Joe Hamilton published in any prisoner of war postings and for official purposes he was presumed to have died on April 26, 1915 in the vicinity of St.Julians, another victim of the 2nd Battle of Ypes.

John (Joseph) HAMILTON’s name is engraved on the Ypes (Menin Gare) Memorial along with 6,994 other Commonwealth war dead.

From correspondence from a James McGill, it would appear that all of the missing Carleton Place soldiers in this fight were killed on or about Apr. 25, 1915. Official dates of death would reasonably be seen as approximations given the destruction and chaos of the events.

This young man served as a Private, “a foot soldier”, and lost his life in his 24th year. Sadly, little else is known of him and there is no grave.

Epilogue

In 2013, 94 trees were installed at various schools in Carleton Place to commemorate the names of lives lost in WWI, WWII and Korea. These are the names engraved on the Carleton Place Cenotaph.

This was the VICTORY TREE PROJECT. In the memory of James McGill, an Autumn Blaze Maple “Victory Tree” was planted at Arklan Public School. A large plaque was installed with the trees, and as well, a plaque inside the school denotes the names and details of all represented by the tree planting.

We Will Remember

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