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Remembered Today:

Pte. Alexander Gordon Sproule, 1 Canadian Mounted Rifles no. 117094, KIA at Mount Sorrel June 1916


Ivor Anderson

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Private Alexander Gordon Sproule - 1 Canadian Mounted Rifles no. 117094 - KIA at Mount Sorrel in June 1916

 

Alexander (known as ‘Alacks’) was born on the 21st May 1885 at 12 Derrynane Parade, Drumcondra, Dublin, Ireland. He was baptised at St. George’s Church of Ireland, Dublin on 19th August 1885.

 

Alacks and his younger brother Frank emigrated to Quebec in Canada and arrived on the ship ‘Cassandra’ on 10th May 1910. On the 1911 Census they were together on Calgary, Alberta. Alacks enlisted in the 1st Canadian Mounted Rifles at Calgary on 5th January 1915. He was a ‘teamster’ which back then meant that he drove a wagon pulled by horses. This may explain his choice of a mounted regiment. His attestation paper gives his age as 2 years younger. His father George then lived at 54 Lr Kevin Street, Dublin. He is recorded as being 5 feet 4 inches tall, with brown eyes and dark hair. His brother Frank who was 5 years younger joined the Royal Canadian Regiment (477817) in 1915. Frank died at Vimy Ridge on 9th April 1917. Another brother, William, died in the attack on gun-pits near Le Transloy by the 2 Royal Dublin Fusiliers on 23 October 1916.

 

The 1st CMR left Montreal on 12th June 1915 aboard the ‘Megantic’, arriving in England on 21st June 1915. Its strength was 28 officers and 602 other ranks. It trained at Shorncliffe Camp. The battalion sailed from Folkstone to Boulogne on the evening of 22nd September 1915 on the ‘La Marguerite’. They were in training in SW Ypres for the rest of 1915 and moved around a lot. They became part of the 8th Canadian Infantry Brigade on 1st January 1916 when they were redeployed as infantry within the 3rd Canadian Division, due to the demands of trench warfare. The 1st CMR moved into the Hoodge/Zillebeke sector around 18th March 1916 and were in reserve trenches there during April 1916. 

 

Alacks died during the ‘Battle of Mount Sorrel’, between Hills 60 and 62, East of Ypres, between the 2nd to 5th June 1916. His body was never found and, with no known grave, he is named on the Menin Gate at Ypres (panels 30/32). He was officially declared ‘missing presumed dead’ on the 5th June (the same day that FM Lord Kitchener died in the sinking of HMS Hampshire). Alacks was probably killed in the German offensive of the 2nd June.

 

Mount Sorrel was c.5km SE of Ypres. On the night of 31st May/ 1st June the 1st CMR relieved fellow Canadians around ‘Sanctuary Wood’. On 2nd June 1916 the Germans delivered a crushing bombardment on the Canadian forward positions. Hundreds were killed, including their divisional commander, Major-General Malcolm Mercer: “Men were literally blown from their positions. Human bodies and trees were hurled into the air by the explosions. Whole sections of trench were obliterated and their defensive garrisons annihilated. The Canadians lost 8430 men at Mount Sorrel”. German infantry took control of the Canadian positions around Mount Sorrel, including Hills 61 and 62, on 2nd June. A few days later the Germans exploded 4 mines along ‘Observatory Ridge’ between Sanctuary Ridge and Mount Sorrel and captured the village of Hooge.

 

The CMR war diary records that on 3rd June survivors were taken to camp A at Zillebeke. On 4th a Captain returning from leave took temporary command of the battalion. On 5th June the battalion prepared to return to Steenvoorde for reorganisation. They moved there by lorry the next day. The Canadians recaptured much of the lost ground on 13th June 1916 and remained in the Ypres Salient until the beginning of September when they transferred to the Somme.

 

https://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/memorials/overseas/first-world-war/belgium/hill62

 

PHOTO - Frank (left) and 'Alacks' (right) in their uniforms in 1915:

 

Screen Shot 2020-05-18 at 09.55.00.jpg

Edited by Ivor Anderson
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Report declaring Alacks 'missing presumed dead':

 

Missing 2.png

Edited by Ivor Anderson
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  • 1 year later...
  • 1 year later...
  • 1 month later...
On 22/07/2023 at 10:26, Ivor Anderson said:

The Menin Gate entrance to Ypres in 1918. Alacks Sproule would have passed through here in 1916:

Screenshot 2023-07-22 at 10-24-02 British Truck Menin Gate Stereoview c1918 WW1 Ypres Belgium Soldiers WWI G699 eBay.png

I’m surprised that nobody has picked up on this before, 

that is the Lillie Gate, 

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23 hours ago, Chesterboy said:

that is the Lillie Gate, 

  Ah, thank you - the southern gate - I took the photo caption at face value. 1910 map of Ypres:

YPRES 1910.png

Edited by Ivor Anderson
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  • 7 months later...

Just found this map from the ‘Fortyniners’ magazine 1954 ( 49th Canadian Infantry Edmonton) of the front at Mount Sorrel, June 1916. 
 

David 
 

 

 

1968F478-7316-4663-9EC9-ACEFEA615142.jpeg

Edited by David_Blanchard
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