PURCELL, John Joseph

1st World War
Date of Birth
Date Attested
Attested at
Stratford, Ontario
Regimental Number
Date of Death
Age at Death
30 years 5 months
Biographical Summary

DIVISIONAL UNIT:         4th Canadian Infantry Division
                                             10th Infantry Brigade
                                             46th Battalion  -  South Saskatchewan
                                             Canadian Infantry Corps
SERVICE NO.                   126357
RESIDENCE:                     Stratford - Ontario
DATE OF BIRTH:            April 25, 1888
                                             Seaforth – McKillop / Tuckersmith Townships – County of Huron - Ontario
DATE OF DEATH:           September 27, 1918             30 years     5 months
CEMETERY:                     Cagnicourt British Cemetery – Cagnicourt –
                                             Pas de Calais – France
                                             I     B     8
MOTHER:                          Mrs. Bridget Purcell – Seaforth - Ontario
Occupation:                        Grand Trunk Railway          Religion: Roman Catholic
Enlistment:                         September 10, 1915 – Stratford – Ontario
Enlistment Age:                 27 years     5 months

Corporal Purcell had departed Canada on the SS Olympic and arrived in England on April 11, 1916. At the end of May he transferred to the 46th Battalion and then about mid August he moved overseas into France. He joined his unit in the field on November 8, 1917.
Corporal Purcell was Acting Platoon Sergeant during an attack east of Inchy-en-Artois and was about half way to his objective when he was severely wounded in both legs by shrapnel. He was attended to immediately and placed in as safe a place as possible under those circumstances. He died from his wounds before he could be moved from the field to the dressing station.
The weather was cold, it was raining, cold and dirty and it was misty.
The Battalion did not know if there was water in the Canal du Nord or not prior to their advance. They were lined up and ready to advance when more rain came.
The barrage opened up and “A” & “B” Companies led off followed by “C” & “D” Companies. The objective was a sunken road 600 yards beyong the Canal du Nord. To do this they were going to smash through the first line enemy trenches. The enemy opened up with machine-gun fire and an artillery barrage and the casualties being taken were heavy.
“A” Company enveloped an enemy strongpoint in front of lock 4. The infantry also found that they were moving too fast and had almost caught up with their own barrage. The Canal had water in it and the 46th had to use scaling ladders to get up onto the bank and here more casualties were being taken.
Following that, the going was easier because the enemy wire had been destroyed. One platoon reached the objective under the command of a private because no other officers or NCOs were alive.
By 6:15 am the 46th had taken the sunken road.
The casualties were extreme. The Battalion began with four Companies and now due to losses it was decided to contine with three Companies. The losses were that severe. “B” Company for example had enough men to form two platoons. 
The next morning, the 46th would lead the advance against the enemy
This Battalion received 16 battle honours during the 27 months it was in the filed. It was also known as the “Suicide Battalion. Their casualty rate was 1,433 men killed and 3,484 men wounded for a casualty rate of 91.5%.