Private Harry John Goldthorpe enlisted in January 1916 and served overseas for about two years. He was wounded at the Somme but he survived the war and returned to Canada in July 1918.
Harry was the son of Harry John Goldthorpe Sr. and Margaret Sheehan. He was born on 20 September 1877, possibly in Montreal, and baptized on 8 May 1878 at St. Ange Gardien Church in Lachine. He had at least two older brothers, John and Peter, and a younger brother William. Their father, a blacksmith, was born in London, England and their mother in St. John's, Newfoundland. At the time of the 1881 census the family was living in the Muskoka District in Ontario but within a few years they moved to Keewatin in northwestern Ontario. Harry's parents both died in 1888, his father in May and his mother in June. When the 1891 census was taken Harry, age 13, was lodging with George and Maggie Caron in Keewatin and his brother Peter was living with another couple.
By 1901 Harry had moved to Manitoba and settled in the Marquette district, northwest of Winnipeg. He was married in Dauphin on 1 September 1902 to Margaret Alguire and they had two children, Harry Arnold in 1905 and Evelyn Frances in 1907. Harry enlisted in Winnipeg on 7 January 1916, signing up with the 53rd (Northern Saskatchewan) Battalion. He said he was married and he passed himself off as 32 years old when he was actually 38. Next of kin was his daughter Evelyn who lived in Middlechurch, Manitoba with her guardian Mrs. Fannie Knight.
Harry's battalion left for England that spring, embarking from Halifax on 29 March 1916 on the Empress of Britain and arriving in Liverpool on 9 April. After two more months of training Harry was drafted to the 28th (North West) Battalion on 8 June and sent to France. The 28th was in the 6th Infantry Brigade, 2nd Canadian Division. They had just been at the Battle of Mount Sorrel, which started on 2 June, and on 6 June the 28th had faced "the blackest day in the history of the unit" when the Germans blew up four mines under their trenches near Hooge. The battalion suffered very high casualties and two companies were almost wiped out. Harry was in a draft of 250 recruits sent as reinforcements.
The Somme Offensive started later that summer and the 28th Battalion moved south to the Somme area in early September. The first major battle for the Canadians was at Flers-Courcelette (15-22 September 1916), where the British launched a new weapon - the tank. The 28th Battalion moved into the front trenches on 14 September and the assault began at 6 am the next morning. The 28th was on the left flank of the 6th Brigade's position, supported by a number of tanks as they advanced. The unit suffered heavy casualties that day and Harry was one of the injured, with a gunshot or shrapnel wound to his leg. He was evacuated to England and admitted to 2nd Western General Hospital in Manchester on 18 September.
Harry spent a month and a half at 2nd Western followed by ten days at the Canadian Convalescent Centre in Epsom. On 20 November he was released and posted to the Canadian Casualty Assembly Centre, classified as permanent base. In late December he was transferred to a new unit, the 1st Canadian Labour Battalion, and on 8 January he was sent back to France. Labour battalions worked mostly on railway construction and employed men unfit for front line service. On 7 January 1918 Harry was awarded a good conduct badge, for two years of service, and in February he had 14 days leave in the UK. Shortly after he returned his unit was redesignated as the 1st Canadian Infantry Works Battalion. The troops worked on road and bridge construction, road maintenance and the grading of railways.
On 7 April Harry was returned to England due to debility and being overage. He was transferred to the Canadian General Depot at Shorncliffe and two months later he was on his way back to Canada. He embarked from Liverpool on 22 June on the Empress of Britain and arrived at Halifax on 3 July. He was discharged on 20 August in Winnipeg, listed as medically unfit for further service. He was awarded one gold bar (casualty stripe) and his conduct was described as very good. His intended residence was Middlechurch, Manitoba.
Harry stayed in Manitoba for awhile before moving back to the Kenora area, where he had lived as a child. He was hired by the Ontario Minnesota Pulp and Paper Company and he worked for them for 26 years. While he was in Kenora he became a member of the local branch of the Canadian Legion. In the late 1940s he moved to Sioux Narrows and lived there with his second wife Essel Bell. His daughter Evelyn had married Robert William Hutchings and settled in Washington State. His son Arnold was married and living in Montreal.
Harry passed away at Deer Lodge Veterans Hospital in Winnipeg on 14 September 1953, just before his 76th birthday. He was survived by his wife Essel, his son and daughter, and Essel's two children, Roy and Marian. Harry is buried in the military Field of Honour at Brookside Cemetery. His wife moved to Winnipeg after he died and she passed away there in December 1977.
By Kenora Great War Project