Provincial Archives of New Brunswick

Soldiers of the Great War; The Fredericton Soldier Biography History Initiative

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Brewer, William Douglas

Sergeant 40138
1st Battery, 1st Brigade (Canadian Field Artillery)


Sergeant William Douglas Brewer was born on January 14, 1896 in Fredericton, New Brunswick. He grew up with his father Sergeant Major Herbert Thomas Brewer and his mother Mrs. Hattie Melissa Guthrie. William was one of the older brothers in a military family which included LeRoy, Raymond, Ernest, and Cecil, as well as an older sister named Edith. William’s sister would later marry Harry E. Sutherland and moved to Ottawa where she would reside during the war. William’s family had strong ties to the local militia through their father, who had been with the Royal Canadian Regiment and was recruiting with the local militia. As a result, the family resided on Carleton Street in Fredericton at the local armories.

Sergeant Brewer’s service documents and archival records suggest that he had a close relationship with his older sister and that he was without any particular calling before the war. Edith would be named his next-of-kin instead of his parents during the war. William’s attestation document shows that he was unmarried without any form of work in the fall of 1914, and newspapers illustrate that he was living in Ottawa where he would enlist in August, formally signing up for active service at Camp Valcartier on September 22, 1914. Given his military upbringing, William had spent two years in Fredericton with the 71st Carleton York Regiment and was fit for duty standing five feet nine inches tall, with a fair complexion, blue eyes, black hair, and a tattoo with the initials W.B. on his left forearm. Sergeant Brewer was 18 years old the fall of 1914 and would never return home.

Wartime Experience

After being at Camp Valcartier for a month with the 1st Battery, Canadian Field Artillery, his unit left Canada October 3, 1914 for England. While his service records reveal little about his training during the winter of 1914-1915, documents do show that he had been trained as a signaler and would spend time as a driver within his unit. He left the south of England, near Avonmouth, a port and suburb of Bristol, on February 8, 1915 with the 1st Brigade, Canadian Field Artillery for northern France and Belgium.

The Canadians would not see action for the first time until a month later in March, supporting the British; however, they were arriving at a turning point in weapons-use as deadly chlorine gas would be unleashed against the Allies. After surviving the Second Battle of Ypres and other battles that followed, William was granted a week-long leave of absence on November 20, 1915. Newspapers indicate that during 1916, as Canadians were involved in St. Eloi, Mount Sorrel, and the Somme, William would be seriously injured in the leg for the second time after writing a letter home informing his sister, apparently not wanting to inform his parents what had happened. He would be granted a second leave of absence to England for treatment of the leg wound, but not until receiving a Good Conduct Badge for two years of quality service to the Canadian Army. The next two years of the war, 1917-1918, found William being promoted to the ranks of Corporal and then Sergeant by January, 1918, at a time when he was also suffering off and on from influenza as well as complications due mustard gas injuries received at Passchendaele.

After having served more than four years Sergeant Brewer found himself an integral part of the August Battle of Amiens, a battle that also became known as Llandovery Castle out of respect for those lost during the ship’s sinking. It is here where documents show that William Brewer’s battery unit was behind the village of Les Quesnel during heavy enemy shelling when at approximately 7:30pm on August 15 he was reported killed instantly when a shell exploded nearby hitting him in the head and stomach. An official board of inquiry would follow a month after his death as it was initially unclear whether his death was caused by shell fire or shots from a gun. Three witnesses were called to testify where the court heard Lieutenant H.L. McCulloch, Sergeant C.J. Peppin, and Corporal J.G. Boyd all claim that William’s death appeared to be the result of enemy shelling. Having served for almost three and half years, news of William’s death was met with sorrow in Fredericton while newspapers pointed out that “his letters to his parents were always the most cheerful nature, and he always looked forward to returning home at the close of the war”. William, and his brother, Ernest Alfred, who would die a few months later, would never return. Sergeant William Douglas Brewer was 22 years of age.

Lest We Forget

William is buried in the Cerisy-Gailly Military Cemetery, which is located in Cerisy, France, located 10 kilometers south-west of Albert. Originally buried at Beaufort British Cemetery, nearby the area that was captured by the 1st Canadian Division, in August, 1918, Sergeant William D. Brewer’s grave was moved to Cerisy. According to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, there are approximately 631 identified casualties at the Cerisy-Gaily Military Cemetery.

*This biography was researched and written by Brandon Hanson, Isel Perez-Lopez & Emma Whitlock, Grade 8 students (2015-2016) at George Street Middle School located in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada.