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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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McAdam, Walter

Corporal 1257848
9th Battery, Canadian Siege Battery

Background

Walter McAdam was born October 6, 1898 in Fredericton, New Brunswick. His parents were James and Annie Murray McAdam who lived at 522 George Street. According to his attestation papers, at the time of his enlistment for service Walter stood five feet eight inches tall and weighed 170 pounds, having blue eyes, light hair and fair skin. He would also grow up in the Presbyterian Church. In his early years in Fredericton, Walter was a student and would attend Fredericton High School on the corner of York and George Streets. According to census records, Walter had three brothers named Murray, Alex, and Donald. All four sons, including Walter, would eventually choose to enlist and serve in the Canadian Corps. At the time of his enlistment in the fall of 1916, he was not married, nor did he have any children. Walter had just left school and had turned 18 years old, the legal age for enlistment, when he enlisted on October 13 in Fredericton with childhood friend Allen Wetmore to go overseas with the 9th Canadian Siege Battery as a gunner. Prior to leaving Fredericton, McAdam was a prominent athlete and well respected rugby player at school. Newspapers at the time indicate that while in England he would end up playing on the Canadian rugby team against some of the best New Zealand squads. Unfortunately, Walter would never return home.

Wartime Experience

On March 4, 1917 Walter embarked for France from Halifax, Nova Scotia arriving in Liverpool, England twelve days later on March 16, 1917. He spent the great majority of his involvement in the First World War training in England, being moved around between reserve units often only staying on with one a maximum of one month in each location. In October of 1917, approximately 7 months after arriving, Walter was drafted into the 4th Siege Battery along with other local New Brunswick boys, as well as Allen Wetmore, landing at Boulonge, France on October 18. A few days after arriving, he would be shifted as reinforcement to a Canadian Siege Battery unit upon arrival to Belgium. The Third Battle of Ypres had been ongoing since July and the Allies were preparing a new offensive in what would become known as Passchendaele, near the city of Ypres. It has been characterized as one of the most futile and devastating campaigns of the Great War. After only being in the Western Front on active duty for less than a month, Walter was killed alongside other members of his battery unit on November 7, only a few days before the battle ended. In the following letter written home to his mother from Captain G.B. Wetmore, Walter's last moments are described in details to offer solace to his family:

"Last night while the detachment your son was commanding was in action, an enemy shell fell in the midst of them, killing your boy, my cousin Allen Wetmore, also of Fredericton, and four others instantly... in the case of all six, they never could have known what happened or suffered a moment's pain and will be buried side by side...he was one of the finest types of people and was to have been a corporal and before long a sergeant."

Gunner Walter McAdam was the second son of Mrs. McAdam to lay down his life. Newspapers report him being only 18 years of age at the time of his death. Less than a year earlier, Walter's older brother, James Murray McAdam would be lost during the Somme battles in the fall of 1916.

Lest We Forget

Walter McAdam is buried and remembered with honour at the Potlijze Chateau Grounds Cemetery, in Ypres, Belgium. According to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission it contains about 850 commonwealth soldiers from the First World War. It is important to remember the bravery, and the sacrifice of these soldiers. They were regular people, that loved and cherished just like we do, and they sacrificed everything for the well being of the people of Europe. Walter was well known in Fredericton, a prominent young athlete and rugby player during his time at Fredericton High School.

*This biography was researched and written by Alex Strong-Saad, a Grade 8 student (2016-2017) at George Street Middle School located in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada.

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