RFA West Lancs Bdes
133699 BDR. J. EDGAR. R.F.A.
Joseph Edgar was born in 1889 in Dornock, Dumfries-shire, Scotland. His father was John Edgar (b. 1853 in Annan), a domestic coachman. His mother was Sarah Rowan (b. 1850 in Falkirk). John and Sarah were married in 1874 and they had five children: Julia (b. 1876), Robert (b. 1880), Elizabeth (b. 1883), John (b. 1888) and Joseph, the youngest. It appears Sarah died in 1904. I don’t know when John snr died, but both John jnr and Joseph emigrated to Canada – John in 1911 and Joseph in 1912. They ended up in Hamilton, Ontario.
In 1913, Joseph married Annie Cunningham. Annie was born in Kirkintilloch in 1890 and had emigrated to Canada in 1910, so she was already in Hamilton when the brothers arrived. John was a witness at their marriage. Joe and Annie had a daughter in May 1917, whom they named Sarah Rowan, after Joe’s mother. Sarah is named on Joe’s pension records but I haven’t found a birth record for her, but I think she was born in Scotland. At the time of Joe’s death, Annie was living at 69 East High Street, Kirkintilloch. So Annie received a UK war pension but the notes say this was to be transferred abroad and by 1920 Annie is recorded as receiving her pension at 67 Ontario Avenue, Hamilton, Ontario. SDGW confirms that Joe enlisted in the Royal Field Artillery in Dumfries. So it seems that although he was living in Canada at the outbreak of War, Joe (and Annie) came back to Scotland, where he enlisted. (His brother John, in contrast, stayed in Canada and enlisted in July 1915 in the Canadian Army Service Corps. He survived the War and went back to Canada).
I don’t know the trajectory of Joe’s career in the Royal Field Artillery but he was eventually posted to “D” Battery of 276 Brigade. In the summer of 1917, D/276 compliment of guns was increased from 4 to 6 so Joe may have been in the gun crews associated with the new guns. If so, he would have fought at Passchendaele and Cambrai. Joe at some point was also promoted to Bombardier.
55th Division relieved 42nd (East Lancashire) Division in the front line at Givenchy and Festubert on 15 February 1918. Here, it faced numerous strong enemy raids in March. Early April was at first much quieter but this was the quiet before the storm. The second phase of the German Spring Offensive, variously known as Operation Georgette or the Battle of the Lys, was launched on 9 April 1918. 55th Division were located at the southern end of the front under attack and while the Germans managed to make huge advances in the northern sector, they failed to break the British defence of Givenchy and Festubert.
During May, the Brigade remained near Givenchy but there were no more attacks and on 27 May they were relieved from the line and withdrew to bivouac at Bois des Dames. They moved back into the line between 9-12 June and between 13-20 June they supported a number of infantry raids. Throughout July, August and September they engaged in harassing fire, mainly by night. Some relatively minor infantry raids were mounted but the action was mainly to disrupt the enemy and prevent any counterattack.
On 2 October, the Brigade received information that the Germans had begun to withdraw and the Brigade then began its advance. They reached Hantay on 4 October, then Hocron on 16 October, Allennes and Seclin on 17 October, Fretin on 19 October, and Esplechin on 20 October (they were now in Belgium). Here they encountered some resistance and they were still in Esplechin at the end of the month.
Joe died in the flu pandemic at 51st Casualty Clearing Station, based at Estaires, on 28 October 1918. He was 29 years old.
Service No: 133699
Date of Death: 28/10/1918
Regiment/Service: Royal Field Artillery, “D” Bty, 276th Bde.
Cemetery/memorial reference: V. F. 10.
Cemetery/Memorial: ESTAIRES COMMUNAL CEMETERY AND EXTENSION
Additional Information: Son of John and Sarah Edgar; husband of Annie Edgar, of 67 Ontario Avenue, Hamilton, Ontario.