Russell Fraser Pirie
Researched by Marika I. Pirie, grand-daughter
Mr. Russell Fraser Pirie was born in Dundas, Ontario, Canada. He was the eldest son of Alexander Fraser Pirie (1849-1903) and Hester Emma McCausland (1858-1901). After the death of both of his parents, he was raised by his paternal aunt, Mrs. Ada L. Murdoch.
World War One
His younger brother, Pte. Goldwin McCausland Pirie (#7076) served with the 1st Battalion Western Ontario Regiment. He served as a bomb thrower during the 2nd battle of Ypres and was severely wounded during a counterattack of the 1st and 4th Battalions. He died of his wounds on July 1st, 1915 at Netley Hospital, England.
R. F. Pirie was known by the name "Fraser". Shortly before the war he went on an extensive trip across Europe - including the British Isles, Germany, and Italy. He was educated at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. At the time of the war he was a student at Osgoode Hall, a Toronto law school.
Pirie served with the 41st Battery C.F.A. His military file lists a number of unit transfers, but reveals little in terms of battles and engagements. These can be determined through looking at the War Diaries at Library & Archives Canada. He was not wounded, and a minor flu like illness (PUO) is noted in the files on one occasion. His name appears on the Nominal Roll for the 8th Brigade Field Artillery. A copy of this may be downloaded here.
During the war R. F. Pirie sent part of his pay home to be held for him by his sister Elsie Pirie in Toronto, Ontario. Elsie had been living at the home of their uncle James Pirie (1863-1944) who was a long time member of the Queen's Own Rifles of Toronto, and veteran of the 1885 Northwest Rebellion. His pay was sent to his uncle's address at 750 Yonge Street. This building still stands - it is fairly close and just southwest of the intersection of Bloor and Yonge.
R. F. Pirie survived the war. During the 1920s he worked at a law firm in downtown Toronto. Shortly after the war he married Olive Leona Croft (1900-1958) of Port Hope, Ontario. They lived for some time in Toronto, and then moved to Dundas. They had five children. His young son Alan Goldwin Pirie (1925-1932) died when struck by a car in Dundas during the Depression. The family suffered many hardships during the Depression years and moved constantly.
He never discussed his first World War service with his children. His son tried to press him on several occasions, but at that he would change the topic. On the other hand, he didn't mind discussing his Veteran's Guard service.
R. F. Pirie's Military Service 1914-1918 Timeline (Source: RFP / National Archives military file)
|Dec. 13,1915||Enlistment in the 41st Battery at Toronto Recruiting Depot (Ontario). |
|Feb. 5, 1916||Departs on troopship Metagawa, St. John, New Brunswick. Nominal Roll.|
|Feb. 14,1916||Arrival at Plymouth, England.|
|May 23, 1916||Witley Camp, England.|
|June 24,1916 ||Transfer to 11th Brigade C.F.A. (with the 41st Battery).|
|July 15, 1916||Arrived at Le Havre, France.|
|Nov. 22,1916||P.U.O. (ill) at 12 Canadian Field Ambulance to Nov. 26th.|
|Feb. 24,1917||Trench Mortar Course - 3 weeks. |
|Mar. 25,1917||Now in 8th Brigade, C.F.A. due to a re-organization. New unit appears to be the 30th Battery. |
|April 1917||VIMY RIDGE|
|June 19,1917||Rest Camp|
|Aug. 21,1917||Leave in Paris.|
|Sept.28,1917||Field Punishment No. 1 for mailing letter at civilian post office.|
|Oct. - Nov. 1917||PASSCHENDAELE |
|Mar. 13,1918||Two weeks leave in Paris.|
|Sept. 17, 1918||Transfer to England.|
|Nov. 19, 1918||Departs on S.S. Scandinavian, leaving Liverpool for Canada. |
|Dec. 21, 1918||Discharged in Toronto, Ontario. Demobilization.|
World War Two
During the Second World War he served with the Veteran's Guard of Canada as an officer in a POW camp.
He was assigned to various duties. Most of his work was at Camp Petawawa guarding German POWs. He reported that there were no problems with the prisoners. He was given a German dictionary by one of the prisoners. During his time at this camp he learned to speak German from some of the prisoners and in return he taught them English.1
He also served at Espanola situated on the Spanish River in North Ontario (70 km. west of Sudbury).
Another wartime assignment was at the Richmond Hill Observatory. There were no incidents at this time. On at least one occasion he went overseas via ocean liner to escort prisoners to Canada on the return trip. One trip involved escorting German prisoners from Aberdeen, Scotland, to Canada.
In October 1946 he received an interesting letter from one of the prisoners named H. H. Neumann, #15718. They had taken the liner Aquitania together to Britain, possibly when the prisoners were returned to Great Britain for future repatriation. Mr. Neumann wrote: "I'm not sure whether you'll remember me. We used to have a chat sometimes when you were on duty." He mentions that repatriation had begun. "Very often I remember the years I've spent in Canada...I saw people of different nations living peacefully together and admired the way they get along. It's really no flattery when I say it's a great country...every man should be proud of it." The letter was sent from POW Camp 75, North-Hill-Comp Laurencekirk - Kincardineshire, Great Britain.
After the Second World War ended he took a position teaching at the Coldwater High School. Coldwater is a town located 43 kilometres north of Barrie. He taught history, literature and Latin.2
R. F. Pirie died at age 65 in Dundas, Ontario, in 1956 of a heart attack. Mrs. Pirie died in a car accident in Toronto two years later. Four children survived.
Along with his younger brother, other family members who served in World War One were (ordered alphabetically by surname):
Sgt. Paul Somerville Clark, 5th Canadian Mounted Rifles. Killed in Action, 1916. Menin Gate.
Lt.-Col. Alan Joseph McCausland, 74th and 75th Battalions. After war, 36th Peel Regt.
Bugler Harold Laurence McCausland, 1st Central Ontario Regt. 2nd Training Depot.
Sgt. Kenneth Leighton McCausland, 74th Battalion (Toronto).
Pte. John Roy McKay, 113th Battalion Lethbridge Highlanders.
Lt. Gordon Moore Pirie, 116th Battalion C.E.F. Died of endocarditis in 1920. Convalesced at Brant Military Hospital, Burlington, ON.
Cousins (by marriage to 1st Cousins):
Capt. Charles E. Kilmer, D.S.O., 19th Battalion C.E.F.
Capt. Harold S. Parsons, 58th Battalion C.E.F.
Lt.-Col. Rev Harold McCausland, Military Cross, Chaplain 47th Battalion C.E.F., later, Siberian Expeditionary Force.
Pte. Wilbert Carlton Croft, 136th Battalion C.E.F. Port Hope, Ontario.
Pte. Charles Lorne Croft, 136th Battalion C.E.F. Port Hope, Ontario.
Major Edward W. Hachborn, 214th Royal Siege Battery, B.E.F. (Married Elsie Pirie).
World War Two:
Pt. George Gregor McKay, RCASC. Killed 1944. Buried Moro River Canadian War Cemetery, Italy.
Major Alexander Aimers Pirie, 18th Armoured Car Regt., 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade.
Captain Alexander Bertram Pirie, Lorne Scots.
Major Charles Gibson Pirie, Royal Hamilton Light Infantry, POW Dieppe, Camp Oflag VIIB.
1From notes by P. H. Pirie, April 2010.
M. I. Pirie