Monday, 21 March 2011

Swinnerton Vimy casualty

British military historian and genealogist Iain Swinnerton has an article, Soldier, bookbinder & commissary, in the March issue of the UK's Family Tree Magazine about his extended family member William Swinnerton who served in India.

In a closing paragraph he mentions William's grandson, Aysceau Francis Robert William Swinnerton, who was killed in action in 1917 at Vimy Ridge while serving with Canadian Forces.

We are approaching the anniversary of the battle of Vimy Ridge on 9 April. What was Swinnerton's part in the action?

His Commonwealth War Graves Commission file gives very basic information, only initials, rank, regiment, and a date of death of 1 March 1917, and that he is remembered at the Vimy Memorial.

The date of death means it was in preliminary action, before the iconic battle.

His one page (officers) attestation paper gives a home address, that of his father, as 31 Avenue Road in Toronto, born in India, date of birth 10 October 1892, and that he was an undergraduate at the University of Toronto.

Although listed as nationality Canadian by the CWGC the family were all born in India and part of the major immigration Canada saw prior to the Great War. They had travelled on the Royal Edward from Avonmouth to Quebec arriving on 10 May 1911 bound for Toronto.

There is a short biography in the University of Toronto Roll of Service 1914-1918 (scroll down)

AYSCEAU FRANCIS ROBERT WILLIAM SWINNERTON Oct. 10, 1892-
Lieutenant, Seventy-fifth Battalion. [March 1, 1917
Son of Robert William Swinnerton; b. Hyderabad, India; ed. Vale College, Ramsgate, and Dean Close School, Cheltenham, Eng. ; Applied Science 1912-14; 2nd Regt., Lieut.
He volunteered for service in 1914, but owing to defective eyesight was not then accepted. For several months he was employed on the Toronto Island Guard. Early in 1916 he was appointed to the i66th, Queen's Own, Battalion, and went overseas in October. After serving at Shorncliffe as Instructor in Bayonet Fighting, he went to France in December and joined the 75th Battalion. In the attack at Vimy Ridge on March 1st, 1917, he reached his objective and was placing a machine gun in position, when he was shot by a sniper. Believed to have been buried where he fell.

According to Nicholson, G. W. L. 1962. Official History of the Canadian Army in the First World War: Canadian Expeditionary Force 1914-1919. 1700 members of the Canadian forces, including the 75th,  attacked on the night of 28 February-1 March. "The venture was almost a complete failure." Casualties numbered 687.

A younger brother, Aylmer Aberffraw Swinnerton, also served with the CEF and survived the war.

1 comment:

Glenn Wright said...

It is clear from your blog that there are several sources of information about Lieut. AFR Swinnerton and his death in the Great War. I would suggest that the war diary of the 75th Battalion (online at Library and Archives Canada) be consulted ... it has a very detailed description of what happened on that fateful night. Appendices to the diary for the month of March 1917 may also yield additional information about the operation in which Lieut Swinnerton was wounded and died. Records created by the 75th Battalion are also held by LAC and may include information on operations during the war. Lieut. Swinnerton's service record is, as most are aware, available from LAC. Less well known is the fact that there is an outside chance that a more complete service file still exists. A description of these sources and others can be found in my book, Canadians at War, 1914-1919 (Global Genealogy, 2010).