On August 8, 1918, the allies of WWI started the big push known as the 100 Days Offensive, that led to the war’s end on November 11th.
There is however, a bigger and more local connection to that movement that brought the war to an end as told by G. William (Bill) Streeter of Southampton. “My mother’s father, my grandfather Hill, had a brother (my great uncle) named Ambrose Marten Hill. He enlisted in the 160th Bruce Battalion and “narrowly” survived.”
Ambrose was born on May 13, 1877 in Bruce Township. The family farmed on Bruce County Road 20 close to the Shiloh Community Church. His parents, William and Jane (nee Hunter) had arrived there about 15 years earlier from their family’s farm near Uxbridge Ontario. His older brother, Andrew was my Grandfather and 13 years older than he. Ambrose had two sisters, Mary Jane and Helen Margaret and another brother, William.
On October 18, 1905, Ambrose married Sarah Elizabeth Strachan in Kincardine. He and Sarah remained on the family farm until 1911 when they moved to Port Elgin where he found work as a Factory Hand at the Stephens Hepner Brush factory. They raised a family in Port Elgin that included two boys, James and Lorenzo and a daughter Maggie.
With the war raging in Europe and there being the critical need for fresh recruits in late 1915, the call went out to form a Bruce County Battalion. Recruitment began in December 1915 and, by April 1916, close to 1,200 young men from across Bruce County had enlisted in the 160th Bruce Battalion.
One of these was 30-year-old Ambrose Hill. He enlisted on January 2, 1916 in Port Elgin. Training began immediately and that April all of the recruits from throughout the county gathered in Walkerton. On June 4th, after marching to Chesley from Walkerton, the 160th received their Battalion Colour Banners from then Premier of Ontario, William Hearst. They returned to Walkerton and soon after arrived in London, Ontario to complete their indoctrination and continue training for their future in Europe.
That October 17th, 1,171 of Bruce County’s finest young men boarded the S.S. Metagama in Halifax. Eleven days later, on October 28th, they arrived in Liverpool and immediately went to their prepared camp at Bramshott in East Hampshire, near Salisbury Plain, to prepare for the move to the European mainland. Canada had four full army divisions at the front and the 160th was planned to become a part of a new 5th Division.
But after more than a year, that took until February 1918, a decision was made that there would not be a 5th Division. Instead, the new recruits would become part of a Reserve Group and would replace the many men that had been killed or injured during the war up to that time. This would mean breaking up the 160th with small groups of them being assigned to other Canadian Battalions from across Canada. This would strengthen the existing groups and make the allied army better prepared for the push to end the war late in 1918.
For Ambrose, it was April 25, 1918 when he reached France and became a member of the 47th Battalion Western Ontario Regiment. This was originally the British Columbia Regiment but, by 1918, its losses had been so large there were more men from Western Ontario in it, so that it was re-named the Western Ontario Regiment. For more than three months they spent their time doing 14 days on and off in the trenches of France. Each day involved 12 hours of being on or off duty with another 12 hours of rest and preparation. The 14 days of being off duty meant being in barn-like quarters or billets back from the front lines.
This all came to a sudden end when, on August 8, 1918, the allies started the big push which is known as the 100 Days Offensive, that led to the war’s end on November 11th. It was during this time that the Canadians fought in the most extreme fighting of the war. The 47th Battalion was right in the middle of it right from the start.
By early September 1918, the intense fighting for the 47th, centred on the Drocourt-Queant Line of trenches between the two French cities of the same names. Germany had constructed their trenches here as part of the Hindenburg Line, a vast German defensive system that ran through Northeastern France. On September 2nd at 5 a.m., Canadian and British forces attacked the German Line supported by tanks and aircraft. The 4th Division, including the boys of the 47th, attacked the south end of the trench line south of the River Sensee. On September 3rd, the Germans were in retreat with the Canadians and British taking many prisoners. BUT Ambrose Hill had been shot in the battle and was taken to a close-by Field Hospital.
He had been shot in the head and the right hip. Six days later, on September 9th, he arrived in the Hospital in Boulogne, France and was declared “Dangerously Ill”.
On September 26th, he was taken to England and was treated at London General Hospital before finally going to the Canadian Hospital in Orpington where he stayed until February 6, 1919. He was in a Convalescence Hospital in Kirkdale, near Liverpool when he was invalided to Canada in March, 1919 and boarded the hospital ship Araguaya.
On his arrival in Canada, he was taken to the Army Hospital in London, Ontario. Following is a transcription of a handwritten medical review dated April 11, 1919 for a test known as “Stereoscopic Imaging”.
To Ward 9:
Report on Pte. HILL, A.M. R. N. 651372 Plates #340
SKULL. Stereos were made of the skull. There is an area of missing bone about the size of a half dollar just to the left of the sagittal suture and just above the occipital parietal suture. There is no ureteral formation of callous.
RIGHT HIP. Stereos were then made of the right hip. They show the hip joint to be normal as far as their bones are concerned. These are of a good quality.
Signed:____________________ H. S. Wismer Captain
On May 9, 1919, Ambrose Marten Hill was discharged from Hospital in London and declared ‘Medically Unfit”.
Following his discharge, he did shoe repairs for a few years but never regained good health.
He died on February 14th, 1930 at the age of 52 in Victoria Hospital in London where he was a patient.
Ambrose is buried in the Shiloh Willow Creek Cemetery on County Road 20 in Kincardine, close to where he was born.