The recent passing of my uncle has led to the discovery of a 1920’s photograph album that once belonged to my grandmother, Jean Paulin. Much to my surprise it contained this wonderful photo of Joseph Labreche, the husband of my great aunt Elizabeth Paulin. The Paulin’s were Acadians from New Brunswick who by the late 19th century had settled in and around Ottawa, as had the Labreche family who were originally from Quebec.
Joseph Labreche joined the 139th Northumberland Overseas Battalion on March 6, 1916 during a recruiting drive through eastern Ontario in early 1916. Joseph was born on February 28, 1876 in Clarence Creek, Ontario and turned 40 years old exactly one week before he enlisted. He stood at 5′ 9″ and so perhaps his height compensated for his age. My father distinctly remembers the family referring to him as “Big Joe”.
“Big Joe” was assigned service number 814830 and trained with the 139th in Cobourg, Barriefield Camp and eventually Valcartier. The nominal roll reveals that on September 27th the 139th sailed aboard the S.S. Southland and arrived in Liverpool on October 6th. The 139th never served as a unit overseas as they were immediately absorbed into the 36th Battalion who, in early 1917, were subsequently absorbed into the 3rd Reserve Battalion.
The signature on the photograph indicates Joseph was in France in 1918 although I don’t know which unit he was serving in at that time (the photo shows him wearing a General Service cap badge). His complete service record is not yet online but it will be one of the first I look up when all 640,000 are digitized: an announcement from Library and Archives concerning this initiative is imminent! Joseph survived the war and died in Earlton, Ontario in 1956.