Sergeant Gilbert Walter Candy

Gilbert Candy was born on August 20th, 1889 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, his parents having gone there to establish that country's first cheddar cheese factory. When they returned to England, Gilbert attended Oxford Central High School. In 1911 at the age of 22 he went to Alberta where he said he was going to earn his fortune.

Gilbert joined The Princess Patricias Canadian Light Infantry on August 4th, 1914, the day war broke out. He was inducted by August 12th, and by August 19th 1,098 of those who applied were chosen. All but 49 of them had previous military training, Gilbert with the 15th Light Horse. Within days Gilbert was shipped to Landsdowne Park, Ottawa where The Patricias were clothed and equipped in time for the church parade on August 23rd, when The Patricias received their colours from Princess Patricia, the daughter of the Gov. General, the Duke of Connaught. After initial training The Patricias left Ottawa in late August for Levis, Quebec.

After further training in Levis, Gilbert set sail on October 4th to England on the SS Royal George, arriving in Plymouth on October 18th for further training on the Salisbury Plain. Gilbert and The Patricias sailed for France on December 20th arriving in the Ypres Salient in Belgium where they entered the lines as part of the British 80th Brigade and suffered their first casualties in the water soaked cold muddy trenches at Vierstraat. After relief on January 8th, 1915 they were back in the trenches at St. Eloi, arriving on January 30th. Their trenches were in a marshy meadow where they fought in cold muddy water at thigh level surrounded by rotting corpses. This led Gilbert to be hospitalized for the next 16 days beginning February 26th, 1915 with rheumatic fever.

When the major German offensive began in the Ypres Salient on April 22nd, known as The Battle of Frezenberg, Gilbert was in St. Julien at the 80th Brigade's Headquarters where he had been sent as a guide. The offensive began with a massive gas attack north of St. Julien. The gas penetrated just outside St. Julien and Gilbert was not affected. The Patricias occupied 700 yards of trenches in front of Polygon Wood on April 9th, where they were battered by repeated bombardments suffering 80 casualties. By May 1st the decision to contract the Salient resulted in Gilbert and The Patricias being ordered to occupy 500 yards of trenches above Bellewaarde Lake. It was here on August 8th when Gilbert was delivering reserves and ammunition, a violent German bombardment began between Frezenberg and Bellewaarde Lake. By mid morning Frezenberg had fallen. However Gilbert and The Patricias stood firm. For six hours they endured one bombardment after another, saving the day and were relieved that night. The Patricias probably saved the Salient by holding fast, otherwise Ypres may have fallen. The Patricias were praised by higher commanders, saying even though they were outflanked, outgunned, outnumbered The Patricias did not allow the enemy to pass. Gilbert's part in this battle is commemorated in W.B. Wollen's painting called "The Battle of Frezenberg", 8th May, 1915, which hangs today in The Patricias Museum in Calgary. Gilbert is depicted on the extreme right. To see a copy of this painting click here.

On October 9th, 1915, Gilbert was made a Lance Corporal. He was mentioned in General Sir Douglas Haig's dispatches "for gallant and distinguished services in the field", most likely as the result of his actions at Bellewaarde Lake.

On November 19th, 1915 The Patricias marched away from the 80th Brigade with whom they had been with since landing in Belgium. They joined the 7th Canadian Brigade, The Patricias being the only Canadian Battalion in the Brigade with any combat experience. In the first few months of 1916, Gilbert and The Patricias returned to a more or less regular rotation in and out of the trenches. On June 1st they were in the trenches at Sanctuary Wood in the north east section of The Ypres Salient. On the morning of June 2nd, the Battle of Mount Sorrel began with a massive German bombardment, the heaviest endured by the troops up to that time in the war. The Patricias bore the brunt of the fighting, beating off the Germans' attempt to reach the vital support line before it could be reinforced. Credit for temporarily checking the Germans' wing belongs to The Patricias. By the time they were relived that night, The Patricias had suffered more than 400 casualties including 150 killed. Gilbert was one of the wounded. He was leading a bombing party (grenades) when he was struck by shrapnel from an exploding shell, being struck in the head, neck, shoulder and hip and was for the next 40 days in hospitals in Camiers and then England.

On July 13, 1916, Gilbert was taken on strength with the 7th Division Reserve Battalion in Folkstone where he suffered from flat feet, having great difficulty walking any distance. After treatment and rest they did not improve. On January 18th, 1917 Gilbert was discharged at age 27 as medically unfit. On February 29th he returned to Canada conducting invalid soldiers. A post discharge medical was conducted on April 18th, 1917 in Esquilmalt, B.C. The medical board reviewing the medical report stated that it was their opinion "that this was a case of premature discharge, he has been provided with properly fitting arch supports and shoes and has no difficulty walking and now required no further treatment". Gilbert's pay records show that his pay was $1.00 per day, and a field allowance of ten cents per day. Of his monthly pay of $33.00, Gilbert assigned $25.00 each month to his mother in England.

After 1919 Gilbert returned to England. He worked for his uncle taking care of pedigree bulls and rams being shipped to Argentina. During the return voyage he met his future wife, Esther. A few years later Gilbert and Esther emigrated to New Zealand where he established a milk dairy and distribution business in Te Aroha. He was a man with a great respect for nature and a love of growing things. He died in New Zealand in 1982 at age 94, leaving 4 children and many grandchildren and even more great-grandchildren.

This account was provided by Michael Candy, Gilbert Candy's newphew.
home battlefields resource centre the archive culture & war collector's forum