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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.

Edgecombe, Frederick A.

Private 427621
46th Battalion, South Saskatchewan Regiment
58th Battalion, Central Ontario Regiment

Background

Frederick Allison Edgecombe was born on February 3, 1893 in Saint John, New Brunswick to Arthur C. Edgecombe and Mabel Estey. Arthur and Mabel, both from Fredericton, married one another September 16, 1891 and would go on to have another son together, Arthur Clarence, in the fall of 1896. According to records, the Edgecombe family lived in Saint John where their father, Arthur, worked as a mail clerk until tragedy struck only a few months after their second son was born. Documents reveal that in January of 1897, Arthur died at the age of 32 and Frederick’s mother would return to Fredericton with her boys where she would spend time living with her parents, Richard and Catherine, getting help as she raised her two boys. The 1901 Census shows that she and her boys were living at the home of her parents in Fredericton along with her younger brother Fred.

Over this period of time she met Robert Bedford H. Phillips, also of Fredericton, whom she would go on to marry in June of 1901. By 1911, Robert and Mabel had two children together, J.R. Darrell and Grace Ireland, and according to the 1911 Census her two boys, Frederick and Arthur Clarence, were still living at home on 582 George Street. Also living at the property was a domestic house servant named Amelia McConaghy. Only a few years later, as a teenager, Frederick Allison would move out west for work prior to the outbreak of war where he would become an electrician and would eventually enlist in Regina, Saskatchewan on September 15, 1915. According to his attestation to sign up with the 46th Battalion of south Saskatchewan, Frederick was unmarried and had no prior military training or experience. He was described as having a ruddy complexion, hazel eyes, black hair, and standing five feet six inches tall. Frederick was 21 years of age at the time he left to serve. His brother, Arthur Charles, would also enlist and serve with the 58th Howitzer Battery.

Wartime Experience

According to his record of service, Private Frederick A. Edgecombe would have only a month of training with his western unit before he would leave for England from Halifax on October 21, 1915, aboard the S.S. Lapland. By October 30 the 46th Battalion had arrived at Devonport, England, and Frederick would train with his unit over the winter of 1915-1916 until transferring to the 58th Battalion from Central Ontario, arriving in France on June 17, 1916. The 58th had just been involved at Mount Sorrell and were in need of reinforcements in northern France and Belgium.

By July, the 58th was in Belgium along the salient near Ypres where constant enemy fire and the use of gas made conditions difficult for most units. After only being in the field for two months, letters written home by Frederick illustrated some of the harsh conditions he faced. In September of 1916, just a month after being injured, the Daily Gleaner shared Frederick’s experience of being buried alive. While assisting to dress the wounds of another soldier, he was completely buried by an exploding shell that would cause shrapnel to be embedded in his left eye and legs. Luckily, he would be able to dig himself out where he was removed to No.1 Casualty Clearing Station for treatment. He would also be diagnosed with shell shock. The trauma of his experiences were clear by his words written home explaining as well that the men beside him in the trenches always happened to be the ones being killed.

Private Edgecombe would be sent to England for medical treatment relating to his eye injury and while there he would receive further treatment over the winter of 1916-1917 for other illnesses. By March, 1917, his records show that he was in command of the Canadian School of Stenography at St. Leonards until being admitted two months later to a Canadian Military Hospital because of a suspected case of tuberculosis. Medical records show that on May 4, 1917, Frederick was diagnosed with tuberculosis and would be invalidated home to Canada leaving on the Hospital Ship Araguaya from Liverpool, England June 11, 1917.

After arriving home, Private Edgecombe spent time being treated at the Jordan Memorial Sanitorium in River Glade, New Brunswick before being formally discharged from service on May 31, 1918 because he was no longer fit for duty. Only a year after being discharged, on May 10, 1919, Private Frederick Allison Edgecombe would pass away. Frederick was 26 years old.

Lest We Forget

Private Frederick A. Edgecombe is buried in the Fredericton Rural Cemetery in Fredericton, New Brunswick. The cemetery is located along Woodstock Road and Frederick’s burial locations and headstone is located close to the Saint John River.

*This biography was researched and written by Rachel Brewer & Melodie Stymiest, Grade 8 students (2015-2016) at George Street Middle School located in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada.

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