Valentine Hitchcock – Part 6

Valentine Hitchcock seated in front row, far right

Valentine Hitchcock “Somewhere in France”.
He’s seated in the front row, far right, and is wearing 11th CLTMB collar badges.

Valentine Hitchcock Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

In April 1918 the Canadian Corps continued to hold large stretches of the British line. On April 12 the 11th Canadian Infantry Brigade relieved the 8th CIB and Valentine’s 11th Canadian Light Trench Mortar Battery took up positions at La Folie Farm near Vimy Ridge. The trench mortars saw very little action although the 11th Brigade war diary states that “a number of rounds were directed against low-flying enemy aircraft”. Another interesting excerpt involved Sergeant Lewis of the 87th Battalion. On May 2nd he:

“observed a pigeon, flying from the enemy lines at approximately T.17.c.2.1. By a very good shot Lewis managed to snipe the bird and in spite of some hostile rifle fire went out and brought it in. The pigeon was carrying an enemy message in code, which was sent to Division”.

On May 8th, after two months in the trenches, the 11th Brigade was relieved and joined the Canadian Corps at GHQ Reserve for two months of sport and training. On July 10th the Canadian Corps relieved XVII Corps and the 11th CIB took up positions in the Gavrelle Section of the line. At the end of the month they moved under great secrecy by bus and on foot to their new positions in preparation for the Battle of Amiens.

On August 8th, 1918 Canada’s Hundred Days began with a very successful surprise attack in dense fog which German General Ludendorff later described as “the black day of the German Army”. The allied offensive continued throughout August, driving deeper into German territory, and by the early morning hours of September 2nd the 11th Brigade found themselves facing the heavily defended Drocourt-Queant line. Canadian Corps Commander Currie would later comment that the breaking of the D-Q line was one of the hardest fought battles of the war.

Map showing Valentine's evacuation on Sept 2, 1918

Map showing Valentine’s evacuation on Sept 2, 1918

Valentine Hitchcock manned one of eight Light Trench Mortars that were assigned in pairs to each of the four 11th Brigade infantry battalions. Documents don’t state which battalion Valentine was attached to but they strongly suggest he took up positions alongside his old battalion, the 54th “Kootenay” BattalionThe 11th Brigade war diary states that “The two guns with the 54th Battalion did not come into action owing to casualties to personnel and damage to the guns by shell-fire” while Valentine’s service record shows he received a shrapnel wound to his right side that very morning.

British Colonist 13 Sept 1918

British Colonist 13 Sept 1918

The wounded were collected by the 11th Canadian Field Ambulance and brought to the roadside near L’Esperance corner where, according to the war diary, they were evacuated “by prisoners of war, Ford Ambulance and any empty returning vehicles” to the Advanced Dressing Station near St. Rohart’s Factory. The book “The C.A.M.C. with the Canadian Corps during Last 100 Days of the European War” by Col. A.E. Snell describes the next stage of Valentine’s journey as being a “long tedious trip over the very congested Arras-Cambrai road”. His destination that day was the British 23rd Casualty Clearing Station located west of Arras.

The following day Valentine was transferred to the 26th General Hospital in Etaples where he spent 12 days recovering before being sent across the channel to the Fort Pitt Military Hospital in Chatham, Kent. On Sept. 17th he was moved to Rosherville V.A.D. Hospital in Gravesend and then finally to the Military General Hospital at Woodcote Park in Epsom where, on October 21st, he was deemed fit for duty.

Valentine was attached to the Canadian General Depot and immediately received 10 days leave. He never returned to the continent and on Dec. 23rd he wrote a postcard to his niece stating that he had just arrived at the Canadian YMCA Beaver Hut in London and was about to leave for Liverpool on 8 days leave. He had just had a medical exam and was confident he would be returned to Canada sooner rather than later. His hunch proved correct and on Feb. 2 he departed Liverpool for Canada aboard the S.S. Carmania. He arrived in Vancouver on Feb. 18th and on March 3 he was briefly reunited with his family in Victoria before returning to Vancouver for formal demobilization on March 8th, 1919.

Valentine returned to his job at the King’s Printer where he remained until he retired in 1942. He never married but continued to live with his sister and her family at their home at 162 Robertson Street in Victoria until his death on January 16, 1946 at the age of 71. He was buried three days later at the Colwood Burial Park, now known as Hatley Memorial Gardens.

Valentine Hitchcock (1874-1946)

Valentine Hitchcock (1874-1946)

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