Fred FINNEY
Rank: Lance Corporal
Number: 63327
Unit: D Company, 3rd Battalion Canadian Infantry (Central Ontario) Regiment
Date of Death: 17 June 1915
Age: 22
Cemetery: Vimy Memorial, Pas de Calais, France

Much is known about Fred from his enlistment papers held by the Canadian National Archives. He was born in Dukinfield on 18 August 1892. His father, Samuel, was living at 316 Edgeley Road, Cheadle Heath in 1914, subsequently moved to Hall Street, Cheadle and, after the war, had moved back to Cheadle Heath, living at 40 Elm Road. Fred had emigrated to Canada in 1912

When he enlisted on 9 November 1914, he was a single man, working as a steamfitter. He was a slight man, in comparison with modern times, nearly 5' 9" in height with a chest measurement of 35 inches. He was described as being of light complexion (except for acne on his face), light hair and hazel eyes. Fred had described his religion as Church of England.

His Battalion embarked for England quite quickly and it is probable that it was during training that he met and married Jennie. After the war, she was living at 3 Trelawny Mansions, 5 Stuart Crescent, Wood Green, London. Newspaper reports indicated that he received minor wounds in action on two occasions before June 1915.

On 15 June 1915, Canadian and British troops went into action at Givenchy. There had been two days of artillery bombardment of the enemy positions, but this had barely touched their deep dugouts. As the troops of the 1st Battalion "went over the top", they were cut down by rifle and machine gun fire.

A fresh attack was planned for just after midnight on 16 June. Because of the losses suffered by the 1st battalion, this new attack would be undertaken by Fred's unit. A series of delays postponed the attack until 5.30 am, but at 4am, the Battalion was "stood down" and sent back to the reserve trenches. Just after midday on 16th June, the attack was re-scheduled for 4.45 and Fred and his comrades were again ordered into the front line top prepare.

The enemy was fully ready. As soon as the artillery barrage stopped, the Germans manned their machine guns. The fire was so devastating that none of the Canadians made it across No Man's Land and they had to retreat back to the trench.

A Corporal Boulton subsequently wrote to Fred's parents "We were all together when our company charged the first line of German trenches and Fred was as eager as any to give them all they deserved but, unfortunately, we failed to get to the enemy trench. We had to get into a communication trench and it was just on the point of getting into the trench that poor Fred was wounded in the left breast, The bullet passed through his body and I am positive that he was struck with an explosive bullet."

The letter went on to describe how they dressed his wounds under "a hail of lead and shrapnel", but he died on the way out of the trenches, during the night.

The attacks of the previous days had been total failures with considerable loss of life and orders were given to take up defensive positions and make no further attempts to gain ground.

Presumably, Fred was buried near to where he died. If the Battalion was being going into reserve, they would not have marched for miles with a body. Perhaps the location of his grave was never properly marked, or it was destroyed in the fighting of later years. Whatever the circumstances, Fred now has no marked grave and is commemorated on the Canadian Memorial to the Missing at Vimy Ridge.

(NB: Original research by John Hartley for the Cheadle & Gatley War memorials website)

   
           
   
     
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