On September 30, 2018, the Coldwater Legion lowered its flags to half-mast in honour of Private Joseph Borrow and Private William Caswell, M.M., of Coldwater. Both were killed in action 100 years ago while serving on the front lines in France. They were the last two Coldwater soldiers to be killed in action during the First World War.
PRIVATE WILLIAM THEODORE CASWELL
William Theodore Caswell was born in Coldwater, Ontario, on February 1, 1884, the first son of Lorenzo and Annie (Murray) Caswell. On July 30, 1915, he enlisted in Vernon, B.C., with the Canadian Expeditionary Force. He was 31 years old and single. On his Attestation Form he is described as 5 feet 8½ inches tall, with brown eyes and black hair. He identified his religious denomination as Roman Catholic, and his trade as logger, with no previous military experience.
Private William Caswell, regimental number 463246, sailed to England to arrive on October 11, 1915. After training in England for several months, he landed in France on March 9, 1916, initially assigned to the 48th Canadian Infantry Battalion, but transferring later to the 3rd Battalion, Canadian Machine Gun Corps. He was wounded twice during the Canadian attack on Vimy Ridge in April 1917, and on May 18, was awarded the Military Medal (M.M.), for gallantry in action during that operation. The citation for the award speaks for itself:
"For conspicuous courage and devotion to duty during the attack and capture of VIMY RIDGE on April 9th, 1917, when on a VICKERS machine-gun crew detailed to move with the third wave to an advanced position to the rear of the enemy lines at A.4.a.7.7 LA FOLIE map 1:5000: - in that he, though wounded at 5:30 a.m. in that day, while passing through the enemy barrage stayed at his post of duty as No.1 on the gun, remaining in action until the night of April 10th when he was ordered to report to the Dressing Station by the O.C. Battery: - in that he having in addition been severely bruised by shrapnel the night of April 7th has shown by the spirit in which he carried on his duties a splendid example of courage and determination to all his comrades."
Private Caswell was killed in action by machine-gun fire near St. Olle on September 30, 1918, during the "100 Days" final offensive from Cambrai to Mons. He is buried at Drummond Cemetery, Nord, near the village of Raillencourt on the main Arras-Cambrai road, France. He is commemorated on page 382 of the First World War Book of Remembrance, located inside the Memorial Chamber in the Peace Tower in Ottawa.
PRIVATE JOSEPH BORROW
Joseph Borrow was born in Lawson just outside Coldwater, Ontario, on March 11, 1893, the third son of Dobson and Hannah (Coombs) Borrow. On January 25, 1918, he joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force under the Military Service Act (M.S.A.) in Brantford. He was 24 years old and single. On his Attestation Form he is described as 5 feet 4 inches tall, with blue eyes and brown hair. He identified his religious denomination as Methodist, and his trade as farmer, with no previous military experience.
Private Joseph Borrow, regimental number 3310573, sailed from Halifax to England on the S.S. Metagama to arrive on April 19, 1918. After training in England for several months, he joined his front line unit, the 102nd Canadian Infantry Battalion (Central Ontario Regiment), in France, on September 4.
Less than a month later, on September 30, Private Borrow was killed in action during what became known as the "100 Day" final advance in the area of Cambrai. He is the only Coldwater soldier to have been killed while serving under the Military Service Act - better known as "Conscription".
A few years later, his mother and father would have received the awards their son was entitled to: the 1914-1918 British War Medal; the Inter Allied Victory Medal; a Memorial Plaque (a bronze medallion often referred to as "Dead Man's Penny"); and a scroll from King George V. His mother would also have received a Memorial Cross, or "Mothers Cross".
Private Borrow is buried at Cantimpre Canadian Cemetery, Nord, near the village of Raillencourt on the main Arras-Cambrai road, France. He is commemorated on page 371 of the First World War Book of Remembrance, located inside the Memorial Chamber in the Peace Tower in Ottawa. Locally, he is also commemorated on his family stone at St. Andrew & St. James cemetery in Orillia.
We will remember them.