William Arthur Durston

Pte William Arthur Durston

William Durston was the son of Arthur and Emilie Durston. He enlisted in the Canadian Army August 15, 1915 and served in France.  He was killed in action in September 1916.  The following is posted on the Commonwealth War Graves web site.

"...........................................

In Memory of

WILLIAM ARTHUR DURSTON

Private
150888
1st Canadian Mounted Rifles (Saskatchewan Regt.)
who died on
Friday, 15th September 1916.

 

Commemorative Information

Memorial: VIMY MEMORIAL, Pas de Calais, France
Location: Canada's most impressive tribute overseas to those Canadians who fought and gave their lives in the First World War is the majestic and inspiring Vimy Memorial, which overlooks the Douai Plain from the highest point of Vimy Ridge, about eight kilometres northeast of Arras on the N17 towards Lens. The Memorial is signposted from this road to the left, just before you enter the village of Vimy from the south. The Memorial itself is someway inside the memorial park, but again it is well signposted. The Memorial does more than mark the site of the engagement which Canadians were to remember with more pride than any other operation of the First World War. It stands as a tribute to all who served their country in battle in that four-year struggle, and particularly to those who gave their lives. At the base of the Memorial, these words appear in French and in English: TO THE VALOUR OF THEIR COUNTRYMEN IN THE GREAT WAR AND IN MEMORY OF THEIR SIXTY THOUSAND DEAD THIS MONUMENT IS RAISED BY THE PEOPLE OF CANADA Inscribed on the ramparts of the Memorial are the names of over 11,000 Canadian soldiers who were posted as "missing, presumed dead" in France. The land for the battlefield park, 91.18 hectares in extent, was (as stated on a plaque at the entrance to the Memorial) "the free gift in perpetuity of the French nation to the people of Canada". Eleven thousand tonnes of concrete and masonry were required for the base of the Memorial: and 5,500 tonnes of "trau" stone were brought from Yugoslavia for the pylons and the sculptured figures. Construction of the massive work began in 1925, and 11 years later, on July 26, 1936, the monument was unveiled by King Edward VIII. The park surrounding the Memorial was created by horticultural experts. Canadian trees and shrubs were planted in great masses to resemble the woods and forests of Canada. Around the Memorial, beyond the grassy slopes of the approaches, are wooded parklands. Trenches and tunnels have been restored and preserved and the visitor can picture the magnitude of the task that faced the Canadian Corps on that distant dawn when history was made.

............................"[end of quote Commonwealth War Graves Commission]

            William's attestation papers

 

 

The following pictures were taken at the Vimy memorial on October 29,  2000.

The Canadian Memorial seen from the parking lot. William’s name is inscribed on the Vimy monument,  signifying that there is no known  grave.  There are 11,200 names in total on that monument.

         

William’s name on the monument

         

Land cratered and hilled by WWI bombs.  20% of these exploded at the time.  Most of the rest have been discovered and disarmed since. The Canadians had 1 million rounds ready for their advance in 1917          

These are the Canadian trenches,  now made comfortable for tourists with concrete sandbags and drainage.


Was William Durston Killed at the Battle of Vimy?

The battle of Vimy Ridge was fought in the Spring of 1917 by Canadian Forces, and, by April 12, 1917, the Canadians had prevailed and controlled the ridge, at a cost of 3,598 men killed and 7,104 wounded. [ref Wikepedia].

 

William was killed September 15, 1916, so he was not part of this particular battle. The memorial is intended to also serve as a memorial for those who  died elsewhere in France, and at other times than the battle of Vimy. In William's case, he was a member of the 1st Canadian Mounted Rifles (Saskatchewan Regt.), and this regiment was part of the 8th Infantry Brigade. The four battalions of this Brigade were formed from six Canadian Mounted Rifle regiments. In turn the 8th Infantry Brigade was part of the larger Canadian 2nd Infantry Division.

According to Wikepedia;

"The British 8th Division was a Regular Army division that was formed by combining battalions returning from outposts in the British Empire at the outbreak of the First World War. Major-General F. Davies took command on 19 September 1914. The division moved to France in November, 1914, following the First Battle of Ypres. The division fought on the Western Front for the duration of the war, taking part in the Battle of Neuve Chapelle, the Battle of Aubers Ridge, the Battle of the Somme (1916) and the Third Battle of Ypres."

The Battle of the Somme began July 1, 1916 with an intense British attack, and enjoyed some early success, but as the struggle drew on into August and September, the Germans had strengthened somewhat and were a more formidable opponent. On September 15, 1916, the British made a concentrated effort in the Battle of Flers-Courcelette. This battle was notable because newly developed tanks were used by the British, something no one had ever done previously. Again, full success evaded the British, and it was not until the Battle of Vimy Ridge that this area was more fully secured. The Canadian role on September 15 was the successful capture of the town of Courcelette, apparently with the assistance of one of the tanks.

 

Since William was a member of 1st Canadian Mounted Rifles (Saskatchewan Regt.); and this regiment took part in the Battle of Flers-Courcelette [part of the Battle of the Somme]; and this battle offensive was mounted on September 15, the same day William was killed, it is highly probable, therefore, that he was killed during the Battle of Flers-Courcelette, either during the early day advances, or later on after having advanced to the town of Courcelette.

Elsewhere in family documents,  a family history was submitted to a 1967 publication for a community project called "Bridging the Years, a Griswold Centennial Booklet". It states in part "..........The eldest son, "William" enlisted with the 1st Canadian Mounted Rifles and was killed in action in the Battle of Causelette (sic.) on Sept. 15, 1916...."

 

 

 

Monument at Courcelette Courcelette Monument

Courcellette Monument Courcelette Monument
The monument at Courcelette to honour the Canadian soldiers
– Seen from a distance and the front and rear of the monument

William and three of his Sisters Memorial poster

William shown here with his Sisters Edith, Nellie, and Winnie. 

(There were eight more younger siblings in his family)
A Poster-sized memorial to William which was framed and hung over his Mother's bed until her death in 1949.

obit


The obituary card for announcement to the home community

William is also listed with war casualties honoured with a memorial
in his home town of Griswold, Manitoba . Click for details

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