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Archives provinciales du Nouveau-Brunswick

Les soldats de la Grande Guerre : Projet de biographies historiques sur les soldats de Fredericton

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Chase, Silas Hartley

Private 22559
71st York Carleton Regiment
12th Reserve Battalion, Central Ontario

Background

Private Silas Hartley Chase was born October 1, 1889 in Fredericton, New Brunswick to Edward and Melissa Chase. The 1901 Census shows that Hartley had two sisters and a brother, Sadie, Samuel, and Alice. However, by 1911 three more children had been born into the family. Their names were Ora, Faria, and Flossie. Few records reveal what Hartley’s early life was like, however, in November of 1909, the death of their father at the age of forty-one likely brought sadness and difficulties to the home. The death of Edward likely put added pressure on the boys of the home to help out and provide in his absence. A teenager at the time, just prior to the war saw Hartley begin working as a labourer while still keeping residence at his mother’s home where he also had spent eight years with the local 71st regiment.

By 1914, when war came to Fredericton, Hartley was one of the first to formally enlist and head off for Camp Valcartier in late summer. According to his attestation, signed on September 24, 1914 in Quebec, Private Silas Hartley Chase was young and well-trained having spent eight years with the 71st York Carleton Regiment. Hartley was 22 years of age, was unmarried, and stood five feet six inches tall. He was described as having a dark complexion, grey eyes, and black and grey hair. As well, given that he was a labourer, he was likely the kind of soldier needed for the tough work ahead in Europe as he joined the 12th Reserve Battalion. His family would never see him again.

Wartime Experience

Private Chase left with the 12th Battalion for England less than a week after formally enlisting. According to his service record, his unit would sail from Quebec on October 3, 1914 aboard the S.S. Scotian and would arrive in mid-October. Hartley would train with his unit at Salisbury Plain over the winter of 1914-1915 in preparations for plans to send a Canadian Division to the front in early 1915. However, on January 13, 1915, Silas would be admitted to No.1 General Hospital and later transferred to Bulford Manor Hospital for an infection of spinal meningitis. Doctors would diagnose him as seriously ill. Hartley would pass away at 12:50 p.m. at Bulford Hospital, three days after being admitted.

News of Private Chase’s death reached New Brunswick papers two days later, and according to reports there was great sympathy in Fredericton for Hartley’s family. A memorial service was held at St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church, led by Rev. Dr. W.H. Smith, as members of the Fredericton Brass Band played the entry and exit of local soldiers in attendance.

In an editorial column printed in the Saint John Standard the day of Hartley’s notice of death, criticism was leveled on politicians choosing the site of Salisbury Plain for Canadian troops calling it “a death-trap… where good men have succumbed to meningitis, pneumonia and other diseases induced by the bad weather and insufficient shelter of the camp”. While Canadians would endure hardships much worse in early 1915 and over the course of the war, the illnesses and diseases that would claim thousands of Canadians is an often forgotten result of the First World War. Private Silas Hartley Chase was 22 years of age.

According to Hartley’s record of service, his mother would receive her son’s medals and pension, and would continue to live at 482 University Avenue until moving to Needham Street before her death in the winter of 1933.

Lest We Forget

Private Silas Hartley Chase is buried with honour at the Bulford Church Cemetery located in the locality of Wiltshire, England. According to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, there are 71 First World War burials from soldiers who trained at Bulford Camp on Salisbury Plan.

*This biography was researched and written by Lily Keays, Grade 8 student (2015-2016) at George Street Middle School located in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada.

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