“Remember me is all.”
By Eric Schweitzer
On October the 14th 1916 Private (Pte.) Frederick Charles Day of Crawford Bay B.C. was killed in action while serving with the 54th Battalion (Kootenay), Canadian Expeditionary Force during the Battle of the Somme near Courcelette France. The book Cinquante-Quatre: Being a Short History of the 54th Canadian Infantry Battalion relates that on October 14th the 54th was moving from an area called the Chalk Pits, “of evil memory,” to the line in front of Courcelette to relieve the 75th Battalion in preparation for a new attack on Regina Trench. The page from the battalion’s war diary for the 14th indicates “Situation quiet in the morning. In afternoon enemy opened up heavy bombardment to our right and left to which our artillery retaliated.” The entry goes on to indicated that casualties sustained were 4 killed and 15 wounded.
Cpl H.W. Herridge, who was from Nakusp, was with Pte. Day at the time of his death and recounted the events in a January 24th 1968 article that was published in the Nelson Daily News: “I had just been promoted to the exalted rank of corporal, Mr. Herridge recalled. Freddie Day, in the midst of an artillery barrage, dedicated a song to me and was signing the song, “My Hero,” from an opera of that time, when a shell went through his body and killed him. I was knocked down, but after the initial shock was able to get the remnants of his body up over the rear parapet of the trench. Later, when the shelling ceased, I got the stretcher bearers to carry out his body for burial.” Pte Day was taken to 9 Casualty Clearing Station and then laid to rest in Contay British Cemetery in Picardie (Hauts-de-France).
(VERNON ARMY CAMP AT LEFT)
Frederick Day came to Canada on the Canadian Pacific Line Steamship Lake Champlain which sailed from Liverpool England on the 30th of March 1911 and arrived in St John New Brunswick on the 11th of April. His name is on the passenger list immediately below my Grandmother’s name as he immigrated to Canada and settled in Crawford Bay BC with my Great Grandfather William Freeman, his wife Florence, and their daughters Constance, who was 4 years old, and my Grandmother Gwendoline who was 5 months old. My Great Grandfather was a gardener foreman at a number of estates in Reigate, Surrey and Frederick Day’s occupation was listed as a labourer so I suspect he possibly had worked with my Great Grandfather or perhaps they may have become acquainted at St, Mary’s Church in Reigate. After arriving in St John, they boarded a train which arrived in Nelson BC on the 17th of April 1911. They travelled from Nelson to Crawford Bay on either the paddle-wheeler S.S. Kokanee or S.S. Nelson where they settled and established their property which was called Hill View Ranch.
While my Grandmother was in hospital prior to her passing in 1985, she wrote about some of the memories that were most important to her in a notebook which included some details of my Great Grandparents and their time in England prior to coming to Canada. Her writings also included quite a few details of when they first moved to Crawford Bay. She wrote that “Fred Day had a gramophone and used to bring it up to our house to play it to us. And on account of one record he had, we (Connie and I) used to call him Uncle Bubbly. Sorry to say he enlisted in the First World War and was killed in action in late 1916 or 1917.” Amongst her writings she included a picture of Fred Day that was taken at Camp Bramshott, England where the 54th joined the 11th Brigade as part of 4th Canadian Division. Along with the picture, there was also a postcard that was sent to my Great Grandfather when Pte. Day was in Camp Vernon where he was taken on strength with the 54th following his enlistment at Nelson B.C. In the postcard he said to my Great Grandfather “Well Will how’s everything in the ranching business. Hope the garden is flourishing, also the stock. We are getting nearer Berlin every day. Very hot Country here. Don’t catch all the fish. Remember me is all.”
Pte F.C. Day is commemorated on page 76 of the First World War Book of Remembrance where he is listed amongst those who gave their lives during the Battle of the Somme. His name is also listed on the Cenotaph in Nelson BC and on a plaque in Harrison Memorial Church in Crawford Bay BC which was built by Commander Matthew Harrison in 1920 who my Great Grandfather worked for as a gardener. I consider it a significant honour that the pictures and details regarding Pte. Day were passed on to me and that I had the opportunity to piece this story together and ensure that he is remembered as he clearly held a special place amongst our family. I would like to thank Judy Deon from Nelson Museum and Art Gallery for the work she did to provide me with the 1968 Nelson Daily News article about Pte. Day.