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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.

Bonnar, Herbert Little

Private 817974
26th Battalion, New Brunswick
140th Battalion, New Brunswick

Background

Private Herbert Little Bonnar was born July 25, 1883 in Fredericton, New Brunswick to James Bonnar and Mary Anne Good. According to the 1901 Census, James and Mary would have three boys together, James, Edward, and Herbert. While few records exist to shed light on Herbert’s early life, documents do show that his father was a farmer in the Marysville area, just north of Fredericton, and that Herbert would eventually work as a mill-hand and a cotton weaver at the local mill. During this time he would become close with a local Marysville girl named Jennie Manzer who was four years younger than him. By the summer of 1906 Jennie, only 18 years old, and Herbert, 22, married one another in Marysville. That fall Herbert and Jennie would have their first child together, a girl named Alice. Two years later Jennie would give birth to another girl, Mabel, and their only son, Milster, would be born in 1912.

Herbert’s oldest brother, James, would marry a relative of Jennie’s in 1906 named Bessie Oldenburgh and Edward would marry Elizabeth Humphrey, from Saint John, after the war in 1919. Well before the war the Bonnar brothers’ father had already passed away, leaving their mother a widow. When war came to Fredericton, all three brothers would enlist for service. According to his attestation papers, Herbert would formally enlist at the age of 32 in Saint John on March 17, 1916 with the 140th Battalion. While Herbert claimed to have no military training, his skills and trade as a labourer would come into good use overseas. Private Bonnar stood five feet five inches tall and had a medium complexion, brown eyes, and brown hair. While it is likely that Herbert wrote letters home to his family, especially his wife and children, he would never see them again once he left Canada for England.

Wartime Experience

Private Bonnar would be with his unit in Canada until leaving from Halifax, Nova Scotia on September 25, 1916 aboard the S.S. Corsican. The 140th Battalion would arrive at Liverpool England October 10 where Herbert would be sent to the RCR and Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry Base Depot one month later. Over the winter of 1916-1917 and spring of 1917, Private Bonnar would be transferred through a number of units before being drafted to join the 26th Battalion from Saint John as it was preparing to go to France in August.

The summer of 1917 found the “Fighting 26th” active during the battles of Hill 70 and Lens, places where the Canadian Corps would improve their ability to gain and hold territory while units from behind carried forward. While casualties were always felt in the ranks, this strategy allowed units to be more effective when dealing with counter-attacks. It is here that Hubert would see his first bit of action as a member of the 26th, coming into the field after Canadians had captured an important position from the Germans at Hill 70. By September and October, Private Bonnar was near Neuville-Saint-Vaast with his unit just north of Arras. According to the official war diary of the 26th Battalion, by the middle of October Bonnar’s unit had replaced the 22nd Battalion in the front-line trenches. On the day of his death, an enemy heavy barrage had opened up on the front line and supporting trenches he was located in during the early morning hours of October 15. Enemy shells would hit where Herbert was positioned causing shrapnel wounds to his face, eyes, legs, and arms. He would be evacuated to Number 42 Casualty Clearing Station where medical attention was administered but he would not survive. Private Herbert Bonnar was 35 years of age, leaving behind his wife, Jennie, and three children.

News of his death would reach Fredericton newspapers by October 22 and a brief report would share that he had died in a London Hospital although his service record shows he had died in France where he had been wounded. By March, 1919, Jennie would marry a gentleman from Salisbury named Bliss Alfred Lewis, and she would relocate there with her children. Jennie would receive Private Bonnar’s medals and plaques in honour of his service. Herbert’s brothers, Edward and James, would both survive the war and would return to Fredericton.

Lest We Forget

Private Herbert Little Bonnar is buried and remembered with honour at the Aubigny Communal Cemetery Extension located in Aubigny-en-Artois, just 15 kilometers north-west of Arras. According to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, this cemetery is the sight of the 42nd Casualty Clearing Station where soldiers were buried after their deaths while in the field. There are 2, 778 identified casualties which include Commonwealth, French, and German war graves.

*This biography was researched and written by Belle Schriver & Aidan Aubin, Grade 8 students (2015-2016) at George Street Middle School located in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada.

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