2161342 Pte. John Smith Hulton served with the 4th Canadian Mounted Rifles in France during World War I, though his war lasted just a month, until being wounded by gas, hospitalised and discharged due to this injury. He returned home on conclusion of the war to Rhode Island, USA, and his family.

Born in Bolton, Lancashire, England on 20th June 1878 to parents Thomas Henry Barrett Hulton (b.1852) and Hannah (b.1854 née Grierson). His siblings were: Minnie (b.1879), Martha Emily (b.1885), Ernest Thomas (b.1888) and Caroline Coote (b.1893). The family lived at a few homes over the years but had settled at 28 Moncrieffe Street, Bolton, adjacent to the railway station sidings in the town.

John married Ellen Ainscow (b.1878) at Bolton Register Office in 1898 and their subsequent children were: Ellen (1899) and John Smith Hulton Jnr. (1901). At this time he was a seller of fruit and fish and the family were living at 95 Gas Street, Bolton.

The couple made the decision to emigrate and had selected the United States. The decision having been made, John Snr. travelled to the port of Liverpool, where he sailed from on 7th April 1904, to Boston, USA, aboard the SS Cymric of the White Star Line. He disembarked on 17th April 1904 to start the process of emigration for himself and his family to the United States and took up residence at Providence, Rhode Island. His wife and two children followed him later, also aboard the SS Cymric, departing from Liverpool on 29th September 1904, though the family would return to the UK in a couple of years to visit friends and family.

On 20th February 1907 John signed a 'Declaration of Petition', stating his intention to become a US citizen. At the time he was working as a coachman resident at 41 Benedict Street in Providence. The family had again sailed the Atlantic to the UK, as their third child, Sylvia Fennella, was born in Bolton on 19th November 1908. John, his wife and three children were aboard the SS Cymric yet again, sailing from Liverpool to Boston on 30th December 1908, returning to their new home in Providence (the SS Cymric would eventually be torpedoed and sunk during WWI whilst off Ireland by the German U Boat U-20, which had sunk the Lusitania the year previously).

The family now living at 4 Aquidneck Street, Providence, would increase in 1910 with the birth of another son, Chester Arthur, who was followed by another daughter, Florence in 1913; both were born in Providence R.I.

Military Service.

With WWI into its fourth year he travelled to Toronto, Canada, from Providence via Boston to enlist as Pte 2161342 in the Canadian Railway Construction and Forestry Corps on 3rd January 1918. His stated occupation was as a Horse dealer. He was 39 years and 6 months old, 5' 7¼" in height, with dark brown hair and brown eyes. Distinguishing marks on his body were recorded as having a spray of roses tattooed on his left forearm, an eagle and devils head tattooed on his right forearm and a dot tattooed on his chest.

After a brief period of basic military training in Canada, Pte Hulton sailed for England aboard the S.S. Megantic of the White Star Line, disembarking on 4th March 1918. Within two days he was at the C.F.C. Base Depot. By mid-June 1918 his continued training now saw him being part of the 3rd Reserve Battalion at Witley Military Camp in Surrey, England, a camp established by the Canadian Army 64 km south west of London.

He was reassigned to the 4th Canadian Mounted Rifles and on the 4th September 1918 he landed in France and joined his regiment stationed near to the town of Arras. The battle for Arras having recently concluded had forced the enemy to retire from the Drocourt-Queant line back to their strong defensive Hindenburg Line. The following is a summary of events taken from the Sept/Oct 1918, 4th CMR War Diary:

Having taken over 100 casualties during the last month, the beginning of September 1918 saw the 4th CMR re-equipping and reorganising in the region around Arras. From the 5th they moved back into the line and were at Vis en Artois 10km SW of Arras. On 11th they had moved forward to the northern sector support lines around the villages of Recourt, Saudmont and Ecourt-St-Quentin. On the 12th the regiment was augmented by a draft of 66 other rank reinforcements [it is believed John was in this draft]. The day after his arrival a sniper of 'B' Co. 4th CMR, shot down an enemy carrier pigeon. The message it carried was recovered and sent off to the Intelligence branch.

John would no doubt have been employed on working parties, digging and reinforcing their trenches as 85 men from each company were utilised for this purpose on the 14th. A considerable amount of gas shells were fired onto their positions and on the 16th they took 19 casualties from these gas shells. Three days later they were relieved from their trenches and fell back to Vis-en-Artois, where they entrained and travelled to Wanquentin, west of Arras, then marched 4km to the rest area of Simencourt. For the next week they were in preparation for an attack, with rifle and gas practice being undertaken before the march back to Wanquentin and the train to Croiselles.

Battle of the Hindenburg Line.

During this time it was well within the period of the last 100 days of the war. Preparing for the Battle of Cambrai - St Quentin, on the 27th September, the 4th CMR, now in the 3rd Division, would be part of the reserve when the attack started. Placed in the reserve but still within shell fire range, the battle began on a 13 mile front and the 4th CMR supporting the 1st and 2nd CMR seized and held two bridgeheads, holding the positions whilst the battle raged on their left flank. During the first week of October 1918 they had moved forward following the advancing army, and to protect against the ever increasing shell fire around them the reserve and support companies had dug in to an old enemy ammunition dump. However, due to the amount of accurate shelling they received they evacuated the site. On the 7th the dump was shelled near their positions causing a huge explosion resulting in a 70ft wide by 30ft deep crater whilst an estimated 800 shells landed in front of their positions, though fortunately no casualties had been taken.

On October 8th water crossing equipment was brought in by engineers to be used in their attack the following day on the Cambrai Canal, a formidable obstacle with deep sides and deep water. However, orders were cancelled and the attack did not go in, it was on this day that John was blown up by a high explosive gas shell, suffering its effects. He was evacuated from the field and taken to the casualty clearing station and hospitalised at the 4th General Hospital at Dames Camiers at the allied base depot near Etaples. From here he was shipped back to the UK and admitted to the Military Hospital at Eastbourne on October 15th, now part of the 1st Central Ontario Regimental Depot strength.

The war had concluded during the time he was in hospital, and from December 12th he was cared for at the 14th Canadian General Hospital in Eastbourne prior to being sent onto Princess Patricia's Canadian Red Cross at Cooden Camp Bexhill, Sussex on December 21st 1918. From here he was discharged from 1st C.O.R.D. on February 5th 1919 and transported to North Wales, in particular to Kinmel Camp at Rhyl, from where he travelled to a place he knew well, the port of Liverpool, from where he sailed aboard SS Crete on March 3rd 1919 to Halifax, Nova Scotia, arriving there on the 22nd.

He underwent a final medical examination, including X-Ray to his left hip at the St Anne Hospital, Belle Vue, Montreal, on March 26th and was eventually discharged from the military on April 2nd 1919. He became a naturalised US citizen on 20th March 1920 and was living at 172 Pleasant Street, Cranston, Rhode Island. On 15th May 1922 he was issued with the British War Medal and Victory Medal for his wartime services in France, and he was also issued with the Canada War Service Badge class A. The family is shown still living at this address in the US Census return of 12th April 1930. John Smith Hulton died at Cranston on 12th February 1939 aged 60.

Thanks and credit go to Garry Farmer for the above biography, who cites his sources as: Lancashire B.M.D., Library and Archives, Canada, and Ancestry.com (UK and US Census returns, ships passenger lists.)