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Soldiers of the Great War; The Fredericton Soldier Biography History Initiative

All explanatory text, archival descriptions, narratives, database headings, and navigation assistance on the web site of the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick are provided in both English and French. When content is extracted from a document for insertion in a database or to be presented as a facsimile, it is provided in the language of the original.

Thompson, Cyprian Alfred

Lieutenant 23071
4th, 12th Battalion
Royal Canadian Regiment

Background

Cyprian Alfred Thompson was born April 18, 1893 in Halifax, Nova Scotia to Alice G.G Thompson and Herbert H. Thompson, although newspapers indicate Cyprian was born in England and came to Canada with his mother after the death of Herbert. Regardless, Cyprian and his mother would move to Fredericton and would occupy a residence at 776 Queen Street. Cyprian would become a student in Fredericton, attending the former Fredericton High School which would have been situated on the corner of York and George Street. While little is known of his early life, records shows that Cyprian would go on to pursue studies at the Collegiate Institute in Brantford, Ontario and later work as a bank clerk in the bank of Montreal at Grand-Mere Quebec. At the time of his enlistment at Valcartier, Quebec in September of 1914, Cyprian was unmarried, approximately five feet nine inches tall, with fair skin, blue eyes, light hair, and was a member of the Church of England. He had previous military experience with the 38th Regiment and being an educated man with desirable leadership qualities he would eventually be elevated to the rank of Lieutenant with the 36th Canadian Infantry Battalion in the summer of 1916. Cyprian was 21 years of age when he left Canada from Quebec to go overseas with the 12th Battalion. He would never return home.

Wartime Experience

Cyprian Alfred Thompson boarded the S.S. Scotian from Valcartier, Quebec on October 4, 1914 with the 12th Battalion for England, arriving at Shorncliffe. Cyprian would be held in reserve with the 12th for half a year until early 1915. In the spring of 1915, he would be attached to the 4th Canadian Mounted Rifles, proceeding to France with them until being transferred to the 36th Reserve Infantry Battalion on June 6th, 1916. According to the Daily Gleaner, in October of 1915, Private Thompson was buried alive by a bursting German shell and later recovered, held for nine days with a field ambulance brigade behind allied lines after being dug out. In many ways, Cyprian's official service record presents evidence of a soldier dedicated to service even when faced with tremendous physical and mental trauma. His medical history documentation may also point to a developing medical and military culture still learning how to treat conditions soldiers had never experienced before. After less than 12 months of service on the western front, Cyprian had been twice diagnosed with shell shock in the fall of 1915, only to be returned for duty, and was admitted to military hospitals a total of ten times during that same period. Of course, given the involvement of the 4th Canadian Mounted Rifles in key battles such as Mount Sorrel and The Somme in 1916, and later at Vimy Ridge in 1917, Cyprian's experiences on the ground would have had been incredibly traumatic. While on medical discharge for treatment of shellshock and in the opinion of the medical board needing "a fairly long rest" in August of 1916, he would be granted a temporary rank of Lieutenant with the 36th Battalion and later attached to the Royal Canadian Regiment. Interestingly, Cyprian's medical records also reveals that although suffering from what was described as "nervous dyspepsia" in the fall of 1916, he was eager to get back in line claiming that "the above condition has practically disappeared and... feeling fit again". Lieutenant Thompson would proceed to France with the Canadian 3rd Division in November of that same year and remained with the RCR through the winter under the command of Colonel Clarke Hill until the 1917 spring attacks near Arras and at Vimy Ridge. It would be here that Lieutenant Cyprian Thompson became an integral part of the four-day assault by all four Canadian Divisions against German positions on Vimy Ridge, just north of Arras. More than 10, 600 Canadians were killed or wounded during the four days of fighting, with the first two days claiming the highest number of casualties. Newspapers would report that Cyprian died on Easter Sunday, April 8, 1917, the first day of the Battle of Vimy Ridge with limited details as to how he died that fateful day. Lieutenant Thompson was only 22 years old, just ten days short of his birthday. Records reveal that Cyprian's mother was the only remaining member of the family.

Lest We Forget

Cyprian Alfred Thompson is buried and remembered with honour at Ecoivres Military Cemetery, in Mont-St. Eloi, France; a few kilometers south-west of Vimy. According to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the cemetery currently contains 1,728 Commonwealth burials of the First World War, of which Canadians are an overwhelming majority. Plots V and VI contain the graves of men killed in the capture of Vimy Ridge in April 1917.

*This biography was researched and written by Michael LeBlanc & Ryan Innes, Grade 8 students (2016-2017) at George Street Middle School located in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada.

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