Finding Old Battle Fields

Remembering Lt Albert Service and his men of the 52nd Battalion CEF killed in action near Hill 60, near Ypres Belgium in 1916.

I attended the Canadian Literature of World War One Conference University of Ottawa on 31 July and 1 August. The program is listed at the end of this short article. Organized by the University of British Columbia and U of Ottawa with support by the Canadian War Museum featuring an opening plenary brief by Tim Cook, the event was an eye opener to say the least. Some references have already been put on the COBWFA website for your further study.

A central question of the weekend was what were writers of the day saying about the Great War for Civilization? We ran over the work of Stephen Leacock, Canon Frederick Scott, and Robert Service, famed for his tales of life in the North among others.

This article briefly introduces you to the work of Robert Service and his tales of a Red Cross Man which is below. The work was written in memory of Albert Service who was a Lieutenant with the 52nd Battalion CEF and who was killed by shell fire on August 18 1918. Robert Service served with an ambulance unit and is remembered at the link below (in French and English).

The last part of this short update for you is demonstrate how you can trace actions of the First World War and Canadian Army presence on the battlefields. Briefly – the 52nd Battalion CEF was working near Ypres Belgium in the later summer of 1916 maintaining trench systems near the site of Hill 60, a high part of the battle area controlled by the Germans that could see into the zone controlled by the British Army. Neutralization of this vantage point would allow the British to move out from Ypres and surroundings to ultimately take the high ground of Passchendaele in the late fall of 1917. At Hill 60, there was a secret project to set two powerful underground mines packed with explosives which, when detonated would shatter the German line and allow the Allied Force to move forward. This took place on June 7, 1917 at the start of the 3rd Battle of Ypres. Readers can google Messines Ridge Offensive / Under Hill 60 for more information. The underground works were dug by British, Canadian and Australian Miners. An outline of this work is on the COBWFA website site concerning Major CB North below.

We know that Lt Albert Service died under enemy fire. But where was this? The answer is that cursory research from the War Diary and the Circumstances of Death Registers shown below is inconclusive. The War Diary records his unit was subject to German shell fire and that the day after his death the area the unit was operating in was shelled heavily damaging the existing trench systems

The general area near Hill 60 is shown in this graphic with the 600 yard radius marker a bit under the 29 numeral in the upper area of the image. Page six describes the aftermath of the shelling the day after Albert Service was killed. Areas hit are shown as red flags with names indicated.SVC1

The area shown on a modern day Google Earth Map marked by the BLUE BOX follows at the lower right. Albert Service was buried about 2.2 km from where he died.


In addition to Albert Service the following members of his unit lost their lives in August 1916, and are buried or remembered near him. (CWGC Source)




Canadian Literature of World War One Conference

The work of Robert Service and Rhymes of a Red Cross Man

Robert Service on Wikipedia

Robert Service on Blogspot

Albert Service on the Canadian Virtual War Memorial

WW1 Mapping Application – LINESMAN by Great War Digital in the UK

52nd Battalion War Diary Entries for August 1916

August 1916, p. 1

August 1916, p. 2

August 1916, p. 3

August 1916, p. 4

August 1916, p. 5

August 1916, p. 6

August 1916, p. 7

August 1916, p. 8

August 1916, p. 9

Circumstances of Death Records at the National Archives

Albert Service Details below – no indication of exactly where the incident happened.

Graves Register 1 note his wife lived in Edmonton

Graves Register 2

Circumstances of Death 1

Circumstances of Death 2