Then with a chemistry background he would somehow end up back at Toronto and probably using his chemistry skills to get along with customers and fellow workers at his job in a bank.
George Fraser Kerr met the call and joined up with the 3rd Battalion of the 1st Central Ontario Regiment. He was enrolled on 22 September 1914 at Valcartier Quebec as a Private and given the serial number 9570. He claimed to be a chemist, and a single man.
Had he arrived a few weeks earlier he might have been among the 1165 men, who had just left Quebec on the SS Tunisian for England on the 25th. These men were primarily from the Toronto Regiment, now known as the Queens Own Rifles. This unit, under a different name had been fighting to protect Canada..in Canada..before it was even formed in 1867.
But alas, Fraser would spend 2 weeks at Valcartier and would then be sent off to England on 1 October 1914 with other recruits to join the war effort. Arriving a few weeks later he and the other recruits were put into the 12th Brigade and given further training before being sent off to Europe. His progress must have pleased his bosses and by early Feb. 1915 he was in France and back with the 3rd Battalion. Soon he was promoted to Lance Corporal and on 9 Feb 1916 he was made a corporal. By early March Fraser would have been an acting Sergeant and then confirmed in the rank of Lance Sergeant.
But March was probably not one of his favorite months. On the 5th he was invited to sit down with some senior officers. But it was no picnic. It was a Court Marshall and he was sitting at the wrong side of the desk...or more than likely standing at attention with cap in hand. He faced 2 charges. First, that he was in an establishment that the orders forbade him to be in... possibly a pub... whilst on duty. Second..that he was intoxicated. He was found guilty and sentenced to about 3 weeks in jail. That and a demotion back to the lower ranks. (Records found don't disclose to what rank he was dropped.) The sentence was confirmed by the commanding officer of the division. None other than Brig. General (Later Maj. General) Garnet Burk Hughes. And his daddy was none other than Sir Sam Hughes, the then serving Canadian federal cabinet minister, and Minister of both Defense and the Militia of the day.
But then there is the saying if you don't do anything... you don't get in trouble. Fraser's records will soon show that he did lots.
It would be less than 2 months later that Fraser Kerr would show his superiors that not only could he drink, but he could also fight. It would be in Belgium at the battle known as Mount Sorrel, a point of high ground over 30 meters higher than the land all around it. This was just a few miles away from Yypres, with Canadian troops in dug out trenches, and with the Germans in the high ground watching every move they made.
The Battle would start of the 2nd and would last till the 13th. On day one... actually 2 July 1916, the enemy began a lengthy artillery bombardment of the Canadian lines and in the area were Kerr's troops where, they had losses of about 75% due to deaths and mangling wounds. Major General Mercer would be killed on this first day of the battle. He would be the highest ranking Canadian officer... ever... to be killed in battle. His body was unrecognizable and identification was only confirmed by markings and rank on the uniform.
The Germans buried men in many of the trenches and even buried an underground allied hospital during the formidable shelling. They would then advance and gain about 1200 yards of ground. The Canadians dropped back and reorganized and started their own assault the next morning. But the signal for all units to advance was the firing of 6 green rockets. But some failed to discharge. Thus, some advanced at seeing those that did work, and others followed...much much later. Those in the lead obviously took the brunt of the casualties that day. But the allies managed to close a gap in the line and even take about about 500 yards of enemy territory . But that's as far as they got.
After doing more regrouping the commanders decided to try a ruse with the enemy. They would bombard the hill for 30 minutes, after which the enemy would expect the Canadians to charge forward. But they wouln't charge. The Canadians would do this four times over 2 days and hopefully wear the enemy down with expected charges that would never come. The on the fith they would, and no doubt by then would not be expected.
Great plan. So they did it on the 10th and 12th and on the 13th they charged and WERE NOT EXPECTED!
During this charge Kerr's platoon still took lots of heat. His platoon officer and the platoon Sergeant were killed. It then fell to him to rally his men and push on to their objective in order to establish a bombing post. This they did under his leadership, courage and determination. For this action he was recommended for the Military Medal. It was supported by none other then Lt General Byng, approved, and the award was made and gazetted in the London Gazette for this action on 23 August 1916.
Kerr received a shrapnel wound to his left leg and ankle and was subsequently invalided back to London on 31 July 1916 for operations and recuperation that would see him away from the front for about a year. But during that time he would be promoted to Lt and attached to the 12th Brigade in England.
He and I will return to these pages on Monday next.