Private Bertie Hadley

Bertie Hadley was born on 21 May 1889 in Newcastle-on-Tyne, England. He emigrated to Canada in 1913. He was living in Mimico, Ontario, just outside of Toronto, when the war broke out and enlisted with the 20th Canadian Battalion on 11 November 1914. Who knew that the war would not be officially over until four years later to the day?

Placed in C Company of the Battalion, Bertie arrived in England on the S.S. Megantic on 24 April 1915. After five months of quarantine, preparation and training, the 20th Canadian Battalion finally arrived in Bolougne, France on 15 September 1915. Upon arrival, the Battalion was assigned to the 2nd Division, 4th Brigade (the fourth brigade being made up of Battalions strictly raised in Ontario). The 20th were told to hold a position in the Ypres salient in Belgium near Messines for the winter.

Bertie managed to survive the Battle of St. Eloi and other daily trench skirmishes. Then on 15 September 1916, a year to the day of landing in France, the 20th Battalion and the entire Canadian Corps entered the Battle of the Somme. While going over the top on the 15th, he was laden with two sacks of Mills Bombs (grenades), plus all of his regular equipment. Traversing No Mans Land, a piece of barb wire wrapped around his left ankle: he fall into an old trench or shell hole and sprained his ankle. This sprained ankle managed to get him sent back to Blighty, (England) and for the next six months he convalesced in various hospitals.

Bertie arrived back in France in March of 1917 and was posted back to his battalion on 7 April 1917, just in time for the Battle of Vimy Ridge. He managed to survive Hill 70, Passchendaele, Arras, Amiens and other famous battles. On 11 October 1918, the 20th was involved with the Iwuy Engagement, which was part of the Cambrai campaign. Bertie, while lying in the prone position, was hit by a machine gun bullet in his right shoulder, the same day Lt. W.L. Algie won his Victoria Cross. His action in France had come to an end, one month before the war would officially end. It should be noted that the 20th Battalion, after 11 October, only resembled a third of their former strength.

Throughout the rest of his life, Bertie could not extend or fully open his right hand. His right arm was also a little weaker than the left. Invalided to Canada on 31 March 1919, he was officially discharged from the Canadian Expeditionary Force on 14 July 1919. Bertie received a monthly minor pension from the Dominion Government for being wounded. This pension, during the depression, was only worth $1 per month, not much for a veteran of the Great War.

Bertie Hadley passed away 27 March 1970 at the age of 80 years in Toronto. This account was provided by his great-grandson, Allen Hadley.

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