838702 Pte. Bert James Traviss was born on January 5th, 1897, in Wareham, Dorset, England, to Edith and Richard Travis.


At some point the family moved across the ocean and settled in Royston Park, Owen Sound, Ontario. At the time of attestation, Bertie, as he was known, was 5ft 9½ inches tall, 130 lbs. He had dark hair, brown eyes and what was described as a dark complexion, with two moles in the centre of his right cheek. Under religious denominations he noted himself as being part of the Salvation Army.


The 147th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, also known as the Grey Battalion, started recruiting in Owen Sound in late 1915. On January 22nd, 1916, despite having no previous military training, this 19 year old single farmer bravely volunteered to serve with the battalion and was given regimental number 838702. The 147th Battalion continued to recruit and train in the area for the winter and on May 19th they left for Camp Niagara where they continued their training under the command of Lieutenant Colonel G. F. McFarland.


Camp Niagara was too small for proper training with the massive number of troops volunteering around the province. It was for this reason that in July they made the trip to central Ontario and became part of the first group of troops trained at Camp Borden, which was a massive camp covering 20 square miles and was a much better site for training large numbers of troops. The Camp became a training centre to 36 C.E.F. Battalions (which was about 32,000 troops) in that first year.


On October 5th, the 1,129 men of the 147th Battalion packed up and started their long journey to Canada's east coast. Upon reaching Halifax, the 147th had a number of cases of diphtheria and this delayed their departure for Europe for a few weeks. Finally Bertie and the rest of the men of the 147th boarded the ship the S.S. Olympic on November 13th, 1916. They made the crossing of the Atlantic in 8 days and arrived safely in Liverpool, England, on November 20th.


After completing the quarantine period, Bertie was assigned to the 8th Reserve Battalion and he made the 300 mile trip to their home base at Shoreham-by-the-Sea in Sussex, arriving there on New Year's Day, 1917. Bertie's training continued with the 8th until he was transferred on April 21st to the 4th Canadian Mounted Rifles as a replacement troops for the many lost in the Battle of Vimy Ridge. He landed in France on the 22nd and joined the 4th CMR in the field as they were pulling back from the front lines to shelters at Fort George on April 25th, 1917.


The day after arriving with the 4th CMR he was admitted to 39 General Hospital in Le Havre with impetigo, which is a highly contagious bacterial skin infection. He stayed in the hospital until he was discharged on May 9th and re-joined the battalion in the field on May 13th at Villers Camp, Villers-au-Bois, as the 4th settled into divisional reserve.


On the May 21st, 1917, while still in divisional reserve, the 4th CMR moved to Toronto Camp where, on May 26th, around 8:30pm, Bertie and a number of the men were playing a game of baseball. During the game, Pte. Clarence McCabe picked up a blind (unexploded) shell which went off with terrible consequences. Clarence McCabe was killed instantly. Bertie suffered multiple shrapnel wounds and was taken to Casualty Clearing Station No.6. The wounds were very serious and he died from them the next day, May 27th, 1917.


7 other men died in this horrible accident, including:


Pte. George Griffin,

Pte. Charles Hartin and

Sgt. George Knowles all died immediately;


Pte. Shurley Asselstine and

Pte. Arthur Carroll, like Pte. Carroll, also died the next day at no. 6. Casualty Clearing Station;


Pte. James Dunn survived until May 31st and

Pte. Edwin Payne died on June 18th.


10 more were wounded, including: Pte. Thomas Davy and Pte. Morley Gilbert.


The image, right, shows Bertie Traviss's grave, as seen shortly after the War. That of Pte. Asselstine can also be seen extreme right of shot.


The accident is all the more tragic in that Bertie had trained for 16 months and through no fault of his own he never made it to engage the enemy or even see the front line trenches. Perhaps it is fortunate that he was spared this horror but he never had the opportunity to prove what a fine soldier he had become.


Bertie is buried a little north of the village of Barlin in Barlin Communal Cemetery Extension, Pas De Calais, France. A picture of his Commonwealth War Grave headstone can be found on the Maple Leaf Legacy Project website.




The above biography is with sincere thanks to Bryan Joyce. The images are courtesy of George Auer.


Bryan Joyce stands alongside the The Royal Canadian Legion #6, Owen Sound, Ont. in representing Pte. Bertie Traviss.


Incidentally, Bryan has written a book about Clarence McCabe's life, and this can be reviewed and bought via this link: Clarence McCabe