November 3, 1917: Private Alexander Fougere

Fougere Alexander oval crop 716054

Date of Birth: October 22, 1898 at Frankville, Antigonish County

Parents: Edward D. and Sophia (O’Neil) Fougere

Siblings: Sisters Sophia, Marie, Agnes, & Elizabeth (Lizzy); brothers William, Tom, Eddie, Gus & Joseph

Marital Status: Single

Occupation: Telegraphy student

Enlistment: April 13, 1916 at Truro, NS

Units: 106th Battalion (Nova Scotia Rifles); 14th Battalion (Royal Montreal Regiment)

Service #: 716054

Rank: Private

Previous Military Service: None

Next of Kin: Edward D. Fougere, Frankville, Antigonish County, NS (father)

Date of Death: November 3, 1917 at Passchendaele, Belgium

Final Resting Place: Oxford Road Cemetery, Ypres, Belgium

* The 1901 and 1911 census records show Alexander’s year of birth as October 1898. His attestation papers list his birth date as October 22, 1897, a change that made him 18 years old at the time of his enlistment.

Alexander Fougere was born at Frankville, Antigonish County. His father, Edward “Ned” Fougere, was a descendant of Joseph Fougere, Port Royal, Acadia, who made his way to Arichat, Île Madame, Cape Breton at the time of the Acadian Expulsion. Joseph’s grandson, Marcel moved, to Havre Boucher in the 1830’s and subsequently married Veronique Boucher, a descendant of Captain François Boucher, who is believed to be the community’s first settler. Ned Fougere, son of Edward and grandson of Marcel, operated a farm at Frankville.

Alexander’s mother, Celeste Sophia “Sophie” O’Neil, descended from one of several Irish families who settled in Havre Boucher in the early 1800s. Her grandfather, James O’Neil, was one of these early pioneers. Sophia was the daughter of Benjamin O’Neil and Celeste Mathe (Mattie).

In the spring of 1916, Alexander made his way to Truro and joined the recently authorized 106th Battalion (Nova Scotia Rifles) on April 13. He listed his occupation as a student in telegraphy. Having been declared medically fit, the 106th’s new Commanding Officer (CO) signed Alexander’s attestation papers on April 15. His communication background earned Alexander a position in the 106th’s Signalling Section.

On July 15, 1916, the 106th Battalion sailed from Halifax aboard SS Empress of Britain. Upon docking in England, the battalion travelled to Dilgate Camp, Shorncliffe. Two months later, the unit met the fate of many other Canadian units arriving overseas that year, when it was dissolved to reinforce battalions in the field.

On October 27, Alexander Fougere was transferred to the 14th Battalion (Royal Montreal Regiment), which was part of the 1st Canadian Division’s 3rd Brigade. The unit possessed a lengthy history in the Westmount area of Montreal and had sailed to England with the First Canadian Contingent in October 1914, moving on to the trenches of Belgium’s Ypres Salient early the following year.

Prior to Alexander’s transfer, the Canadian Corps had relocated from the Ypres Salient to join the British Somme offensive in France. During the months of September and October 1916, the 14th Battalion saw action at Pozières, Thiepval and Ancre Heights. Alexander joined its ranks on November 9, by which date the 14th had relocated northward to sectors near Lens, France.

The following year, Alexander served with the 14th at Vimy Ridge (April 1917) and Hill 70 (August 1917). In the autumn of 1917, Field Marshall Douglas Haig requested that the Canadian Corps’ four Divisions return to Ypres Salient and assist in completing an offensive commenced several months earlier. Lieutenant General Sir Arthur Currie, Canadian Corps Commander, initially protested, as the battlefield was a muddy bog. But “orders were orders” and Currie reluctantly complied, although he insisted on conducting the operation on his own timetable.

The Canadian Corps’ objective was Passchendale ridge, an area that once contained a village largely obliterated by incessant artillery shelling. Its front was narrow—about 3000 yards in width—providing only sufficient room for a two-division assault. Currie decided to proceed up the ridge in four separate attacks, scheduled October 26 and 30, November 6 and 10. For the October assaults, the 3rd Division assumed positions on the left, with the 4th Division occupying the right. The 1st and 2nd Divisions were slated to enter the line for the final push up the ridge.

In the aftermath of the October attacks, the 14th Battalion co-ordinated its deployment with its “sister” Canadian units. On November 1, the unit moved into support positions behind the 8th Canadian Infantry Brigade, relieving two Companies of the 1st Canadian Mounted Rifles (CMR) in the “Capricorn Keep” area. The 14th established its Battalion Headquarters at Kroon Prinz Farm and relieved the remaining 1st CMR soldiers the following day. Two Companies occupied the front trenches, with the remaining soldiers in support positions, a total of 23 officers and 546 “other ranks” (OR) in the line.

The 14th was located on the left flank of the Canadian Corps’ boundary, the 63 British (Royal Naval) Division’s Hood Battalion located to its left. On the night of the November 2/3, the 3rd Canadian Brigade’s Headquarters war diary expressed concern about the 14th’s circumstances. When German forces opened a heavy artillery barrage, Major Richard Worrall, the unit’s CO, lost contact with his Companies, making for a “very disturbing night.”

German forces, aware that Canadian units were massing for another assault on the ridge, surrounded the narrow attack corridor with artillery fire and launched probing infantry attacks to their left at 1:40 a.m. While Canadian units employed machine gun fire to successfully repel the attacks, an artillery barrage at 4:45 a.m. cut telephone lines, forcing Major Worrall to use “runners” to maintain contact with his men. At dawn, Major Worrall ordered installation of a Lucas Lamp at Source Farm, “to be used in case of emergency.”

When the 14th Battalion was relieved on the night of November 4/5, its casualties for the tour—14 Killed and 73 wounded—were light by Passchendaele standards, as the unit was guarding the Corps’ flank. Private Alexander Fougere, however, was among its fatalities, killed during the November 3 attacks on the Canadian line. Unlike many of his fallen Passchendaele comrades, Alexander’s remains were retrieved from the mud-strewn battlefield and he was laid to rest in Oxford Road Cemetery, Ypres, Belgium.



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