Saturday, August 11, 2018



So the other day, for a reason that will become apparent, I wanted to learn about someone- J. C. Abbott. I was trained to be an historian, but back before the internet when everything was on paper, in books or microfilm, in libraries or institutions. It took me only an hour to find this stuff out. 
     He was born in Winnipeg, Canada in 1896- six years younger than my grandfather. By the time he was 18, he was working as a cabinetmaker in Vancouver, B. C. His home was in Cloverdale with is parents- his mother’s name was Katherine, but she went by Kate. He was 5 feet 8 1/2 inches tall, fair haired with grey eyes and a small scar above his left eye. We know all this because on November 19, 1914, he signed on to the Canadian Expeditionary Force’s 29th Battalion- raised by a Vancouver lawyer, Henry Tobin. 

     James Curtis Abbott, now # 75042, embarked on May 20, 1915 with the rest of “Tobin’s Tigers” aboard the steam ship Missanabie and ultimately on to France. He and his mates were lucky, Missanabie and 45 men were torpedoed and went to the bottom in 1918.
     He would have worn a cap badge like this one. 
     I even found his picture! 

     The 29th were a fighting regiment, staying on the Western Front right through the war. With a full strength of about a thousand soldiers, over 4300 men served in the battalion during the war. About 600 were killed and 1400 more were wounded, not good odds at all for the originals. 

     Their battle honours are a list of awfulnesses- 

    Private Abbott was assigned to “A” company, which must have been a good outfit- as witnessed by this incident after another Battalion was so shot up as to require its dissolution.

     Private Abbott stayed a private soldier- he earned a good conduct badge and the little extra pay that came with it. He stayed lucky with diseases and flying steel, too- went to hospital with the ‘flu a couple of times and caught a bullet in the left arm at Hill 70 in the same action where Sergeant Hanna over in "D" company won the Victoria Cross.

      Maybe Abbott is in one of these pictures of 29th men in and out of action: 

     I did all this research on Wednesday, that’s the 7th of August. Thanks to the Canadian National Archives, the war diaries of the 29th are digitised- no trip to Ottawa required. I wondered what was happening exactly a century ago?

     Hmm. Let’s look at these appendices....

     Well! I can put a face to that spot, having driven through Rosieres many times. The Major is very matter of fact about the “Too late, chum” on those Boche, isn’t he? The 29th’s brigade mates in the 28th originated the term “too dead to be used as prisoners”, perhaps a pattern is emerging. 

     And Lieutenant Burridge  in “D” likes to provide some atmosphere-  I think C. T. C. channels him-

     But we're interested in Abbott-  did “A” company leave a report? Yes it did- 

     Today is August 11, 2018.  11-8-18, as a Canadian would write it-

     So, why did I have this interest? On Wednesday, I bought 

          James Curtis Abbott’s watch. Undoubtedly he was carrying it at Rosieres, and a hundred years ago today it began its journey to me from Rouen hospital. Sometimes an object can take you places all by itself. Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Abbot and James Curtis Abbott.