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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.

Brewer, Ernest Alfred

Private 710058
140th Battalion, New Brunswick
25th Battalion, Nova Scotia Rifles
26th Battalion, New Brunswick

Background

Private Ernest Alfred Brewer was born on February 5, 1898 in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Ernest grew up with his father Sergeant Major Herbert T. Brewer and his mother Mrs. Hattie M. Guthrie, who married one another the summer of 1889 in Fredericton. According to the 1901 census, Ernest was the second youngest of six siblings, which included four brothers, LeRoy, Raymond, William, and Cecil, as well as an older sister, Edith. Given the families strong ties to the local militia through their father, who served with the Royal Canadian Regiment and was in charge of recruiting with the local militia, the family resided on Carleton Street in Fredericton at the local armories.

Newspapers reveal that all five brothers would enlist for service with their father when war broke out. Just prior to the war, Ernest worked locally as a clerk and had served for five months with a Halifax composite Battalion before enlisting in Sussex with the 104th Battalion on February 17, 1916. According to his attestation documents Ernest had a fair complexion, had blue eyes, brown hair, and weighed approximately 148 pounds. He also stood an average five foot five and a half inches tall. Records reveal that his family identified as “free” Baptists and records highlight how the Brewer boys were all held in high esteem by the community, described as exceptional young men. William would enlist in Ottawa with the 1st Battery, LeRoy would serve with the Royal Canadian Engineers, Raymond would serve with the 26th Battalion and receive a commission with the 236th, and Cecil would enlist as a piper with the 236th Battalion. William and Ernest would never return home to their families.

Wartime Experience

Documents reveal that Ernest enlisted just prior to meeting the required military age for service, claiming to be nineteen years old. After spending a few months with the 104th in Sussex before shifting to Nova Scotia, his unit left Halifax June 28, 1916 for England on the S.S Olympic, arriving in Liverpool July 6. Over the next twenty four months, Ernest would be in and out of military hospitals in England for a variety of illnesses and ailments while being held in reserve with the 13th Reserve Battalion. After the winter of 1916, the spring found Ernest in isolation for approximately one month while recovering from a case of the mumps. After being given a full recovery he would once again be admitted to hospital a few months later as medical records reveal that he fractured both bones in his left leg during a football game in November of 1917. He would need nearly four months to recover fully and would be discharged in February of 1918 only to be immediately readmitted due to ligament complications and swelling in his knees.

It would not be until August of 1918, nearly two years after arriving, that Ernest would see action in the field as he would be sent with the 26th Battalion, New Brunwsick, to France. It is likely that a sudden thrust into action may have been caused by the sudden news of his brother’s death. Sergeant Major William Douglas Brewer died August 15 nearby the village of Quesnoy, just three days before Ernest would step foot in France. Private Brewer would be active in late August and nearly all of September with both the 25th, Nova Scotia Rifles and the Fighting 26th, from Saint John, in engagements at Amiens and then west of Cambrai, areas his brother would have been as well. On October 8, 1918 while in an area west of Cambrai, Private Brewer’s circumstances of death document indicates that Ernest was killed instantly when a piece of shrapnel hit him in the head. Ernest was 19 years old.

Lest We Forget

Private Ernest Alfred Brewer is buried in the Bourlon Wood British Cemetery which is located four and a half miles West of Cambrai, France. According to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the cemetery, initially made by the Canadian Corps Burial Officer in October 1918, contains 234 identified casualties in an area that was retaken by the 3rd and 4th Canadian Divisions in September of 1918.

*This biography was researched and written by Jayden MacDonald, Ethan Webb & Riley Taylor, Grade 8 students (2015-2016) at George Street Middle School located in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada.

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