May 29, 2022. Some Prince Edward Island soldiers who served in WW1 seem to disappear into history, in spite of the many inter-relationships between Island families. Chesley William HOWATT, who is buried in the North Tryon Presbyterian Church Cemetery, appears to be one of these, as up to now no surviving family member has been found.
Born in Tryon, Prince Edward Island, Chesley was the son of Robert Newton and Elizabeth (nee Wilson) Howatt. When he enlisted with the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force in Calgary, Alberta on June 2, 1915, he said he was born July 24, 1888. According to his baptismal certificate, he was born in 1886, so it may be that he shaved off a few years in order to be eligible to serve. At the time of enlistment, he was a farmer.
On October 24, 1915 he left Halifax, Nova Scotia aboard H.M.S. Oduna with the 50th Battalion Canadian Expeditionary Force, and arrived in Plymouth, England on November 4, 1915.
…Wounded at Vimy Ridge….
On August 10, 1916 he was sent to France. Troops were training and preparing for the spring offensive that began on April 9, 1917 that became known as the Battle of Vimy Ridge. There were many skirmishes before that battle, and the artillery spent a lot of time rehearsing. Nightly raids helped pinpoint and knock out the location of German batteries.
On February 3, 1917 Chesley received a gunshot wound to the face at Vimy Ridge, with fine metal particles from the blast entering his eyes.
According to the report on what happened, “… at 8:45 pm on the night of February 3, 1917….” Chesley was “…going ‘over the top’ and after arriving in the enemies trench a rifle grenade exploded near him and fragments of shrapnel entered his eyes. From then until 30 days later he was not able to use his eyes…”
After initial treatment in Etaples, France, he was sent back to England for treatment and recuperation at 3rd London General Hospital. On May 10, 1917 he was transferred to the West Cliff Canadian Eye and Ear Hospital in Folkestone, from which he was discharged from care on May 14, 1917.
For Chesley, the war in mainland Europe was over. On May 21, 1917 he was transferred to the 21st Reserve Battalion and posted to Bramshott in England.
…A medical discharge and reenlistment….
On February 4, 1918 he was transferred to the Canadian Discharge Depot in Buxton and was sent home to Canada via Liverpool a few weeks later. On March 31, 1918 he received his formal discharge in Halifax, Nova Scotia, due to being unfit for service due to defective vision as a result of the gunshot wound.
This wasn’t the end of Chesley’s military service, however! On September 2, 1918, he reenlisted in Charlottetown, this time stating that he was born in 1887. He did note that he had previously served in the 50th Battalion.
By the time of his second discharge on July 17, 1919, he had married Bessie Anne Falconer on December 3, 1918, and was living in Charlottetown.
The family moved to Tryon following his second discharge. Sadly, their only son, Alexander ‘Falconer’ Howatt, who had been born September 4, 1919, died on July 23, 1934 at the age of 14. Chesley died a few years later, on January 22, 1938, in Tryon.
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