March 17, 2022. Last year, we met with Lindsay and Norma Seaman about Lindsay’s uncle, William ‘Alfred’ SEAMAN, a WW2 Chaplain who lost life in France in 1944 during the Battle of Caen. (See https://onthewarmemorialtrail.com/2021/06/20/on-the-war-memorial-trail-the-ww2-chaplain-who-lost-his-life-in-france-on-his-wedding-anniversary/)
During our visit, Lindsay mentioned that his grandfather William ‘James’ SEAMAN, the father of Chaplain Seaman, served in WW1, and later became the postmaster in Breadalbane, Prince Edward Island.
According to his military attestation record, William ‘James’ SEAMAN was born in Wheatley River, Prince Edward Island on August 18, 1874, the son of Thomas and Sophia (nee Andrews) Seaman.
…James participated in Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897!…
In 1893 he joined the 82nd Militia Regiment. We were intrigued to learn that four years later he was one of four chosen to represent the Regiment at Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in June 1897. (See https://www.thediamondjubilee.org/queen-victorias-diamond-jubilee and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diamond_Jubilee_of_Queen_Victoria)
According to family records, James received a decoration from the Princess of Wales, the future Queen Alexandra and wife of the future King Edward VII, at Buckingham Palace.
On February 6, 1901, James married Sophia Brown and they farmed in Springfield, while raising four children: Lorne, Irene, Alfred (the WW2 Chaplain who died in France), and Cedric (Lindsay’s father).
James enlisted in Charlottetown on March 13, 1916 with the 105th Overseas Battalion. (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/105th_Battalion_(Prince_Edward_Island_Highlanders),_CEF)
…Previous stories of Islanders who were aboard the ‘Empress of Britain’ with James Seaman….
In July 1916 he went overseas aboard the SS Empress of Britain. Several Islanders, whose stories have previously been told, were on that same ship. Among them were:
- Patrick Raymond ARSENAULT, who died during the Battle of Vimy Ridge in April 1917. (https://onthewarmemorialtrail.com/2017/07/28/learning-about-the-two-names-on-the-vimy-memorial/)
- Theodore ‘Ted’ Francis ARSENAULT, who died during the Battle of Amiens in August 1918. (https://onthewarmemorialtrail.com/2022/03/06/on-the-war-memorial-trail-the-ww1-soldier-from-abrams-village-buried-in-manitoba-cemetery-in-france/)
- Maynard FOY, who survived the war. (https://onthewarmemorialtrail.com/2021/04/24/on-the-war-memorial-trail-the-ww1-soldier-who-returned-to-tryon/)
- George Stanley HENNESSEY, who survived the war. (https://onthewarmemorialtrail.com/2022/02/14/on-the-war-memorial-trail-the-ww1-soldier-who-served-in-the-1st-canadian-engineers-battalion/)
The ship docked in Liverpool, England on July 25, 1916.
…James had a transport role in England…
Given that he was over 40 years old at the time of enlistment, he was not sent into battle, but was appointed Acting Transport Sergeant with the Regiment in Lower Dibgate, England on August 20, 1916. Lower Dibgate was about 1.6 km (1 mile) west of the Shorncliffe camp outside of Folkestone and located by the English Channel.
As Transport Sergeant, James had a vital logistical role in ensuring that artillery, food and medical supplies, etc went across the English Channel to the front lines in France and Belgium.
…James deemed ‘too old’ for trench warfare…
On January 20, 1917 he was transferred to the 13th Reserve Battalion in Witley Camp in Surrey. On September 18, 1917, proceedings from the medical board indicated that he was not fit for trench warfare, given his age of 44.
A few days later, on September 22, 1917 he was transferred to the New Brunswick Regiment and based in Shoreham while awaiting transport back to Canada. On November 6, 1917 he left from Liverpool and arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia on November 17, 1917. On December 5, 1917 he was officially discharged due to being ‘overage’.
…James returned to civilian life…
He returned to his family and the farm. Later, he was appointed Postmaster in Breadalbane on November 2, 1926, and served until November 3, 1932. (See https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/postal-heritage-philately/post-offices-postmasters/Pages/item.aspx?IdNumber=6422&)
James died May 8, 1960 and is buried in the Breadalbane People’s Cemetery.
Thank you to to Lindsay and Norma Seaman for sharing photos and information on William ‘James’ Seaman. If you have photos or information to share, please let Pieter know. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, comment on the blog, or tweet to @researchmemori1.
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© Daria Valkenburg