Thursday, 18 May 2017

James Ivall (1885-1918), Canadian Soldier Who Died In WW1

This is a revised version of an item posted in 2013. It contains information from James Ivall’s war record (which has recently become available online) and about his homestead in Alberta.

James Ivall was a grandson of Alexander “Sandy” Ival (1831-1911), who emigrated from Scotland to Canada in about 1837 and had ten children. James was a son of the third child, also called Alexander (1855-1922) and his wife Sarah (1859-1941). James was the third of their six children. He was born on July 11th 1885 in Morin Flats (now called Morin Heights), Quebec, about 50 miles north-west of Montreal. He was baptised by the Church of England in Quebec in 1886. The baptism record reads
James, son of Alexander Ival, of the township of Morin, Argenteuil County, Province of Quebec, farmer and of Sarah his wife was born on the eleventh of July in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and eighty five and baptised the fifth day of December one thousand eight hundred and eighty six. 

The 1891 census showed Alexander Ival, aged 36, a farmer, living in Morin with his wife Sarah (28) and children Joseph (11), James (6), George (3) and Thomas (1 month). I can’t find James or his parents in the 1901 or 1911 censuses. Other evidence indicates that James’s family moved to Rainy River, a small town in NW Ontario, near the US border, sometime between 1891 and 1907.  

The spelling of the family surname in Canada seems to have changed from Ival to Ivall over the years. In the 19th century, Ival is the most common spelling in records that have survived. In the 20th century, the name is normally recorded as Ivall.

On November 6th 1905, James married Katherine McCarthy in St Patrick’s Church, Montreal, which opened in 1847 and is known for its links with the Irish Canadian community. Katherine was a Roman Catholic born in Quebec and of Irish descent. She and James were both aged 20. 

Many inhabitants of Quebec, Ontario and the Maritimes moved westwards in the early 20th century in order to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the development of the Canadian prairies. In June 1911, James applied for a homestead grant in Alberta and was given initial permission to farm 160 acres of previously uncultivated land (NW Section 31 Township 59 Range 3 Meridian W5) at Glenreagh, a small settlement 3 km from the town of Barrhead, about 120 km north-west of Edmonton. A local history book (called “Links with the Past”) records that James was one of the first homesteaders in the district. The Canadian Encyclopaedia says that homesteading was a late 19th- and early 20th-century phenomenon in which immigrants were attracted to the Canadian West by government advertisements of "free" land. Under the Dominion Lands Policy, 160 acres cost only $10, but the homesteader had to build a house, often of log or sod, and cultivate a specified area within 3 years. A new homesteader required basic agricultural implements. Since horses were expensive, most used oxen to clear and break the land. A fireguard to protect farm buildings had to be ploughed, and a vegetable garden planted and game hunted to supplement the food supply. Homesteaders and their families were often separated from friends and relatives, and many suffered years of hardship and loneliness. One of the greatest difficulties was the absence of roads and bridges. Most trails were impassable when wet. In the autumn homesteaders waited until the ground was frozen before transporting their produce to the railhead.

The Alberta Provincial Archives contain documents relating to James’s homestead grant. They include sworn statements made in August 1914 by two of his neighbours detailing the progress he had made in cultivating his land. They say that James built a house out of logs in October 1911 and had lived there since November 1911. In 1912 he broke 6 acres and cropped 3 acres, in 1913 he broke 12 acres and cropped 10 acres and in 1914 he broke 12 acres and cropped 22 acres. In 1912 James had 2 cattle, in 1913 he had 6 cattle and 3 horses, in 1914 he had 9 cattle and 4 horses. By 1914 he had built a barn and cow barn, as well as drilling a well on his land. This progress resulted in a patent for the homestead being granted to James in October 1914.

The 1916 census shows James and Katherine, both aged 30, living at Glenreagh, Edmonton, Alberta. It seems that James and Catherine had no children, as none are listed with them. The census return says that James was a farmer, spoke English and French but could not read or write.

James joined the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force in Edmonton on 10th May 1916. He must have volunteered, as conscription was not introduced in Canada until 1917. His attestation paper describes him as a carpenter and farmer. His height was 5 foot 11 inches, complexion ruddy, eyes grey, hair dark brown. James was given army number 231524. His war record can be viewed (free) on the Library and Archives Canada website.

James was assigned to the 202nd Battalion. He spent 46 days in hospital between 26 June and 10 August 1916, suffering from otitis media, an inflammatory disease of the inner ear. On 23 November 1916, his unit sailed from Halifax, Nova Scotia on board the RMS Mauretania, a Cunard Liner that was used as a troop ship at this time. They arrived at Liverpool on 30 November 1916 and James was sent to Witley Military Camp (near Aldershot), which had been set up by the Canadian Army. James was transferred to the 28th Battalion, Canadian Infantry and arrived in France on 25 May 1917. On 19 November 1917 he was admitted to a field hospital with bronchitis and discharged to duty on 4 December 1917. In February 1918, he was granted 14 days leave in the UK, after which returned to his unit in France.

On 25 May 1918, the 28th Battalion were in Divisional Reserve at Bellacourt, a village 10 kilometres south-west of Arras. The Battalion’s war diary says that the enemy shelled the village, causing 14 casualties, 4 killed and 10 wounded, of which one (this was probably James) went to hospital. A Brigade sports event in Bellacourt went ahead that day, in spite of the shelling.
Extract from the war diary of the 28th Battalion, Canadian Infantry

James’s service record says that he sustained shrapnel wounds to his face and left shoulder on 25 May 1918. They were probably caused by a shell that exploded near him. He was taken to No 56 Casualty Clearing Station, which was located at Gezaincourt (30 km south-west of Bellacourt) at that time. He died of his wounds on 28 May 1918 aged 32. Private James Ivall is buried at Bagneux British Cemetery, Gezaincourt.

619,636 Canadians enlisted with the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the war, and approximately 424,000 served overseas. Of these men and women, 59,544 members of the CEF died during the war, 51,748 of them as a result of enemy action.

Records indicate that James was one of two Canadian born Ivalls who fought in the First World War. The other was James’s brother George Ivall (born 1889), who survived the war.

James’s wife continued to live in the same district for many years after his death and was highly respected and admired for the assistance she gave to others in the community (this information is from “Links with the Past”). 

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