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Tuesday, January 31, 2023
The Monuments Men: Part 31: Adelburt Samuel Green died while repairing trenches
The First World War was fought from the trenches, literally. And when they were damaged by heavy rains or German artillery, it was the job of soldiers like the men pictured here had to repair them. Imperial War Museum
A work detail of soldiers totes pick axes, shovels, sledge hammers and other tools essential to digging trenches. Imperial War Museum

It’s been a century since Niagara-on-the-Lake’s iconic clock tower cenotaph was erected. Then, in 1926, the Township of Niagara unveiled its own memorial in Queenston. In recognition of those who fought and died in two world wars and beyond, NOTL historian Ron Dale has been researching the stories of the people – all men – whose names are engraved on the two cenotaphs. This is one in a series of stories documenting and remembering the sacrifices of those commemorated on the municipal memorial in Queenston.

Ron Dale
Special to The Lake Report

Infantry soldiers of the Canadian Expeditionary Force fighting in France and Belgium in the First World War normally served in the trenches in shifts.

The men would be in the front line for four days, moved back to support trenches just behind the front-line trenches for four days and then into reserve for four days before returning to the front line.

From time to time the battalion would be moved farther back from the battlefield to a relatively safe place for rest, much-needed baths, reissue of uniforms and resupply of deteriorated kit.

Men in the front-line and support trenches were frequently required to repair their defensive positions damaged or destroyed by German artillery fire or collapsed by heavy rain.

They were also expected to foray into “no man’s land” to raid enemy trenches, hoping to bring back prisoners for interrogation.

The men in the reserve trenches and “rest” areas were also frequently required to work at a myriad of tasks.

Ammunition, rations and supplies had to be continuously transported to the front. Items shipped from Britain were sent by rail to depots where they would be collected by trucks, loaded onto narrow-gauge rail cars or into horse-drawn general-purpose wagons.

The items were transported to the reserve trenches from where they would be manhandled to the support and front-line trenches. It was a huge undertaking.

In August 1917, for example, 227,370 rounds of 18-pound and 4.5-inch howitzer shells were moved to serve the Canadian artillery in the Battle of Hill 70 which raged from Aug. 15 to 25.

In addition, several tons of rations for the men and fodder for the horses had to be moved by rail, truck or wagon.

Roads and rails had to be maintained, suffering frequent damage from vehicular traffic, heavy rain and German shelling.

Soldiers spent more time on “working parties,” repairing damaged infrastructure, than they did manning the front-line trenches.

It was while engaged in this type of labour that Adelburt Samuel Green of St. Davids met his end.

Adelburt was born in St. Davids on Sept. 13, 1897, son of Samuel Green and Emma Goff.

He was the middle child with two older sisters and two younger brothers.  He was 15 when his father died and from that point he worked to help support his family, finding employment as a teamster.

Six months after his 18th birthday, Green enlisted to fight in the First World War.  On March 24, 1916, he travelled to St. Catharines and attested to the 176th Overseas Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force.

Green spent almost a year training in Canada before finally boarding the SS Olympic in Halifax on April 29, landing in Liverpool a week later.

On arrival, he was assigned to the 12th Reserve Battalion before being sent as a replacement to the 75th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, which had suffered severe casualties in the previous months fighting in France.

He joined the regiment at the front on July 16, 1917, in time to take part in the Battle of Hill 70. A few months later he survived the bloody Battle of Passchendaele, part of the 3rd Battle of Ypres, from July 31 to Nov. 10, 1917.

Green’s battalion was in reserve in late January 1918. A week earlier the Canadian front had been struck by a severe storm with torrential rain and gale-force winds.

Roads and pathways were flooded out, the wooden walkways known as “duck boards” that spanned mud-filled craters were blown or washed away, and sodden trenches collapsed. Hasty repairs had to be made, even under enemy artillery fire.

According to the official record of his death, Green was killed on Jan. 23, 1918, while working to repair the damage.

“Whilst on a working party at Lievin he was seriously wounded in the breast and stomach by pieces of shrapnel from a high-explosive shell. He was conscious only a few minutes after being hit and died on reaching the Regimental Aid Post (the first-aid station near the front line).”

Adelburt Samuel Green was the last resident of St. Davids killed in the First World War. He lies in the Villers Station Cemetery in the Pas de Calais, France.

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