Sgt David Bryce Gillespie

Researched and written by Anne Wright

Sgt D B Gillespie
29th (Vancouver) Battalion, Canadian Infantry
Killed, 12.9.1916
Age, 36

David Bryce Gillespie was born on 22 May 1880 in Tottenham, Middlesex. His parents were of Scottish descent; his mother Grace Helen Bryce was born in Glasgow in 1855 and his father in London in 1851. The family home in 1881 was at 14, Undercliffe, Hastings. David had two older siblings, Grace and Alexander. His father was a West Indies merchant. Ten years later they were still in Hastings but had moved to 21, Dane Road and the family had expanded to include another two siblings, Margaret and Gladys. David’s mother died in 1898 and by 1901 his father, paternal grandfather and three of his siblings lived at Elgin Lodge, Weybridge. David was not there. He had joined his father’s business and worked in his London and New York offices. By 1909 he was a fruit farmer in British Columbia, Canada and in this year, on 26 January, David married Louise Gwendoline Mutlow Williams at Nelson in the same province; they had three children. She was also a British citizen, having been born in Leigh on Sea, Essex in 1885.

In June 1915, at the age of 35, David enlisted at Vernon Camp, British Columbia. He stood just over six feet tall, had a dark complexion, brown eyes and black hair. He joined the 29th (Vancouver) Battalion, of the 6th Canadian Brigade in the 2nd Canadian Division. Canadian troops fought in both Belgium and France. He first went to the front in January 1916. David and his comrades were spared the early battles of the Somme offensive but joined the struggle shortly before the Battle of Flers-Courcelette at the end of August. His unit was deployed in the area of Pozieres; their task was to secure the defences around the village of Courcelette (on the Baupaume to Albert road), take the village itself and the trench system between Courcelette and Martinpuich. On 10 September, before moving into the front line trenches in front of Pozieres, all ranks from British Columbia had a democratic duty to carry out: they voted on prohibition, women’s suffrage and for the Provincial Legislature. The next day the weather was fine. They had suffered heavy shelling during the night and did so again during the day but they repulsed two small bombing attacks.

The 12 September, David’s last day, was also a fine. An enemy plane was brought down at about 9am near their support trenches. One officer and nine other ranks were killed and thirty-four other ranks wounded. David must have been among the fatalities as although there was shelling later in the day there is no mention of non-officer casualties at that stage. The Allied bombardment of the enemy started on this day in advance of the attack on Flers-Courcelette which was to begin on 15 September. This battle would see the first use of tanks in warfare. David was initially buried in the Albert Communal Cemetery Extension where his grave was marked by a Memorial Cross; his body was later exhumed and subsequently reburied in the London Cemetery and Extension at Longueval (a village 12 km east-north-east of Albert).

David’s father remained in Weybridge until his death on 9 June 1927 at Fir View, The Heath which had been his home since before 1911. His funeral took place at St. James’ Church. Louise Gillespie had brought her family to her husband’s home town and they lived at Holmlea in York Road between 1918 and 1919 before moving to Iona, Woodland Grove. She remained in Weybridge until at least 1931. Louise did not remarry and died in August 1962.

Sources:

Sergeant David Bryce Gillespie, http://www.canadiangreatwarproject.com/
Surrey, England, Electoral Registers, 1832-1962, https://www.ancestry.co.uk

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