Fletcher

Orville Osbourne Fletcher

Soldier Details:

Private Fletcher’s name appears on the Haltonville Cenotaph.

Haltonville Memorial, photo by  R. Laughton

Fletcher, Orville Osbourne
Private 38th Battalion #410093
April 21, 1915
Vimy Memorial, France
Born in Campbellville (Milton)1892

Commemorative Details:

Private Fletcher’s body was not recovered. His name, like many other at that time, is engraved on the Vimy Memorial in France.

Vimy Memorial. photo by CWGC

 Milton Soldiers on the Vimy Memorial or name of local cemetery (Google Earth).

Soldier Summary:

Private Fletcher’s Attestation Papers show he was borne in Campbellville (now Milton Ontario) in March 1892. His Military Will shows his benefactors as his brother George W. S. Fletcher and sister Mrs. Thos. Richardson, of Campbellville.

Orville attested directly to the 38th Infantry Battalion (12th Infantry Brigade, 4th Canadian Division). This unit was somewhat unique, as prior to serving in France and Flanders, it did Garrison Duty in Bermuda, relieving the Royal Canadian Regiment. Private Fletcher would have arrived in Bermuda in August 1915 aboard the Caledonia. After service in Bermuda the 38th Battalion moved to England, arriving in Plymouth on June 9, 1916 aboard the Grampian. The unit arrived in France on August 14, 1916.

Private Fletcher’s service record shows he was KIA on November 18, 1916 at which time the war diary lists a large number of casualties in the taking of Desire Trench, in the Battle of Ancre Heights. The 38th was in the vicinity of Pozieres on the Albert to Bapaume Road (The Somme Area). A report on the determined action of this date is also contained in the war diary of the 12th Infantry Brigade.

Library and Archives Canada’s Digitization Program will allow for all Service Records to be available on-line. As they become available for each soldier, a link to both the Attestation Papers and the Service Record is provided on the page WWI Soldiers Details.

Location of Remains:

Private Fletcher’s name is inscribed on the Vimy Memorial because there is no known record that his remains were recovered for burial. It is possible that his remains were recovered from the battlefield at the time of his death, or in a battlefield clearance program after the armistice. In many cases, there was just not enough information available to make a positive identification of the remains or to collect enough evidence to believe that they were the remains of the soldier (i.e. grave marker reads “Believed to Be“).

In order to determine if a record was kept of the battlefield burial location of a soldier, his “Circumstances of Death” (COD) or “Commonwealth War Graves Registers” (WGR) files can be consulted. Access to each of these is provided at the Library and Archives site “Mass Digitized Archives“. The WGR cards must be used where the soldier’s COD files were lost or destroyed during the Second World War. If a battlefield burial location was recorded it is on the reverse side of the COD and then generally on the WGR. In the case of this soldier we were able to locate the following:

In this case, the COD file shows that the remains of Private Fletcher were buried at trench map coordinates 57d.R16.c.4.5. Many of the trench maps for Canadian actions are available on-line at the McMaster University Collection or you can consult the detailed maps on DVD from the collection at the Imperial War Museum. You can then mark the location of the remains on that map and link it to any other identifiable marks or known (recovered) burials. In this case we have marked the location that the remains of Private Harold Poynter (also 38th Battalion lost that day) were recovered and then buried in Plot 5 Row E Grave 8 of the Regina Trench Cemetery (see COD1 and COD2). It is likely therefore, but not proof, that if the remains of Private Orville Fletcher were recovered that they would be in the same cemetery.

To relate the trench map to the real world one can consult the reference texts, such as Nicholson’s History of the CEF in the Great War. Sketch 36 of that reference text shows the location of the 38th Battalion on November 18, 1916 at the time of Private Fletcher’s death, which can be matched exactly to the trench map shown above. The text describes the battle in detail.With that information, we can then refer to the archives of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) and search for the recovery of remains for men of the 38th Battalion that were exhumed from that area. In this case we have selected two (2) possible matches as an example. If these were the remains, then Private Fletcher could be either in Plot 5 Row D Grave 23 or Plot 6 Row B Grave 12:In this case we can not specifically state which are the remains of Private Fletcher, however the ancestors of Private Fletcher can do further research and visit the graves of the men of the 38th Battalion in the vicinity to pay their respects. As a minimum, they can go to the exact place where Private Fletcher fell in battle using the information provided above. To convert the Trench Map Coordinates to Google Earth GPS Coordinates you use the “Great War British Trench Maps Coordinates Converter“, enter the coordinates as shown and arrive at a map such as that shown below:

That program provides the GPS reference as “the centroid of grid location 57d.R.16.c.4.5 is at 50.0705, 2.7194“, which then can be entered into the Google Earth Program directly or any GPS device. Here we have used that information and also marked CWGC cemeteries in that area: (names linked to CWGC information)

  1. Adanac Military Cemetery 50.07404,2.74348
  2. Regina Trench Cemetery 50.0666,2.72858
  3. Courcelette British Cemetery 50.05587,2.73444

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