FRENCH, Alexander Charles

1st World War
Date of Birth
Date Attested
Attested at
Clinton, Ontario
Original Unit
Regimental Number
Date of Death
Age at Death
19 years 6 months
Biographical Summary

DIVISIONAL UNIT:        3rd Canadian Infantry Division
                                             9th Infantry Brigade
                                             58th Battalion - Central Ontario
                                             Canadian Infantry Corps
SERVICE NO:                   654868
RESIDENCE:                    Varna – Ontario 
DATE OF BIRTH:            April 18, 1898
                                             Walpole - Ireland
DATE OF DEATH:           October 30, 1917                 19 years     6 months
CEMETERY:                     Etaples Military Cemetery – Etaples –
                                             Pas de Calais – France
                                             XXX     H     10
PARENT:                           Mr. Dennis French – Sarnia – Ontario
Occupation:                        Farmer                                  Religion:     Presbyterian.
Enlistment:                         Clinton, May 17, 1916 – 161st Huron Battalion
Enlistment Age:                 18 years     1 month

Private French arrived in England on November 11, 1916 and then transfers to the 58th Battalion and joins his unit already in the field in France on December 22, 1916.
Private French was with his Company during an attack on Bellevue Spur near Passchendaele on October 26, 1917. He was gravely wounded in the thigh, leg and back from enemy shrapnel. He received immediate medical attention and was taken to No. 18 General Hospital at Camiers where he was reported by the doctors to be dangerously ill. Private French died from his wounds four days later. He also had a gas infection and he also had his right leg amputated.
The advance by the 3rd Division to capture Passchendaele took them along what was once the Gravenstafel-Passchendaele road toward the Bellevue Spur. The advance was slow because of the battlefield conditions with the mud in placed being waist deep. They still advanced and they overran the forward enemy positions. The enemy replied with a deadly artillery barrage that went on most of the day. This slowed the advance more and the Canadians could not hold the ground they had gained and had to fall back. They dug in and tried to seek cover as best that they could. The Division was not able to achieve their objectives but still managed to advance 1,000 yards.
The casualties on this first day were 2,900 with 600 being killed.
With the rain coming down and heavy cloud cover the Battalion waited at Wieltje Dugout in winds from the south at 10 mph. Then at 5:40 am the artillery began and the 58th Battalion / 43rd Battalion advanced with the 52nd Battalion supporting and the 116th Battalion in reserve. Enemy artillery began falling immediately causing casualties and following the lifting of the Brigade artillery it was notice the barrage was slower on the right than the left and to a depth of 300 yards. This caused casualties as the advance moved ahead. “pill boxes” were capture at Lamkerk and Dad Trench and it was here the advance came under heavy enemy machine gun fire from the enemy trenches and from enfilade machine gun fire from Bellevue Farm to the left of the front.
More heavy enemy machine gun fire was coming from Crest Farm causing the men to look for cover in shell holes. What followed was a bloody, heavy and severe fight for Contour Trench. During this fight 64 enemy soldiers gave up the fight and surrendered. Then the Battalion was able to take control of the enemy trenches.
The casualties taken during the advance and fighting during the day were very severe. On the night of October 26, machine-gun posts were established in front of Contour Trench and the enemy made no effort to counter-attack and regain lost ground.
At the end of the day the Battalion had 197 men able to continue. Killed, wounded and missing numbered 61% or 303 of the original strength of 500 men.