Private Melville Bosman enlisted in March 1916 and served in France and Belgium with the 8th Battalion. He was wounded at Passchendaele in November 1917 and spent the remainder of his wartime service in the UK.
Melville was the youngest son of John Bosman and Laura Sellars of Brandon, Manitoba. John grew up in a large family in Morris Township, Huron County, Ontario, where his father was a farmer. He worked for the railroad and by 1891 he was living in Rat Portage (later called Kenora), in northwestern Ontario. He and Laura were married in Morris Township in April 1893 and they made their home in Rat Portage, where their four children were born: Russell (1894), Melville (28 September 1895), Gladys (1898) and Zelda (1900). When the 1901 census was taken the family was enumerated in both Rat Portage and the town of Wingham in Morris Township. By 1906 they were living in Brandon, Manitoba and at the time of the 1911 census John was a railway engineer and Melville, age 15, was doing woodwork in a factory.
In the fall of 1915 the war entered its second year and Melville enlisted the next spring, signing up in Brandon on 15 March 1916. He was 20 years old and working as a teamster for Dominion Express. His brother Russell Bosman had enlisted a year earlier and was already overseas where he served as a lorry driver with a supply unit. Melville joined the 181st “Chums” Battalion and during the summer they trained at Camp Hughes, just east of Brandon. The winter was spent in Brandon and some of the recruits were sent to Winnipeg on special courses. When the battalion left town in early April, on the first leg of their journey overseas, a huge crowd gathered at the Brandon train station to wish them well and see them on their way. Just a few days earlier, on 2 April, Melville’s father had been killed in a train accident at work.
The 181st Battalion embarked from Halifax on 16 April on the SS Grampian and arrived in England two weeks later. Melville was transferred to the 18th Reserve Battalion and after a further six weeks of training he was drafted to the 8th Battalion (Winnipeg Rifles) and sent to France. He spent a few weeks at the Canadian Base Depot then with an entrenching battalion and it was late August before he joined his new unit in the field. The 8th Battalion had just been through the Battle of Hill 70 where they suffered 400 casualties out of a strength of 720 men (55%). Shortly after Melville arrived the battalion moved to Mingoval, southwest of Lens, and on 31 August a brigade memorial service was held to honour the men who fell at Hill 70.
Over the next few weeks the unit had several rotations in the front line and in October the Canadians were sent to the Ypres Salient in Belgium for the Battle of Passchendaele (26 October-10 November 1917). The 8th Battalion didn't take part in the first phases of the battle but they were moved into the area on 6 November, arriving by train then marching through the ruined city of Ypres. On 8 November they took over a section of the front line and they were heavily shelled that night and the next day. The last phase of the battle, the capture of some high ground to the north of the village of Passchendaele, was planned for 10 November. It was raining heavily as the 8th Battalion advanced from their jumping off positions at 6 am that morning, facing intense artillery and machine gun fire. Melville was one of the casualties during the assault, suffering wounds to both legs, and he was evacuated to a hospital in Étaples on the coast of France. Two weeks later he was listed as seriously ill and once he was well enough he was shipped to England.
Over the next ten months Melville was treated in several hospitals and convalescent centres. In July 1918 he became ill with tonsillitis and in September, almost fully recovered from his wounds, he was discharged to the Canadian Convalescent Depot. By November he was back with the 18th Reserve Battalion where he spent another two months. He embarked for Canada on 11 January 1919 on the SS Olympic, arriving in Halifax on 17 January and getting 14 days landing leave. He was officially discharged from service on 15 February in Winnipeg.
When the 1921 census was taken Melville was living with his mother and two sisters and working for Dominion Express again. On 3 June 1922 he married Ruby Olivette Markle and they made their home in Brandon where they raised two children, a son and a daughter. In 1926 Dominion Express became Canadian Pacific Express and Melville had a long career with the company, retiring in 1962. He belonged to the Canadian Legion and was an active member of the SPCA. Melville passed away in Brandon on 15 July 1974, at age 78. He was predeceased by his brother Russell in 1929, his mother in 1953 and his wife Ruby in 1964. Along with his father they are all buried in Brandon Municipal Cemetery.
By Kenora Great War Project