Lance Corporal Arthur George Rice

Arthur George Rice was born on August 8, 1891, in Rockland, Ontario. Before the Great War he worked as a salesman, his only exposure to military life being six months in the Collegiate Cadet Corps, and one month of service in the Home Guard. When he enlisted with the Canadian Expeditionary Force, at Ottawa, Ontario on November 25, 1915, he was an unmarried, healthy, handsome, twenty-four-year-old.

At the recruiting depot, Arthur swore the oath of allegiance to King George V. His younger brother Gordon witnessed his swearing in, and signed the attestation papers. They informed Arthur that his pay was $1.00 per day, and an additional ten cents, when he joined his unit in the field. Arthur requested that fifteen dollars be deducted from his pay each month and sent to his mother Irena. The Army completed the enrolment contract by assigning him Regimental Number: G145687, and immediately posting him to the 77th Overseas Battalion (Governor General's Footguards), where he underwent basic army training for the next seven months.

When his basic training in Canada was completed, Arthur embarked at Halifax, Nova Scotia aboard SS Missinabie, on June 19, 1916 and disembarked at Liverpool, England, on June 29. On July 3, they transferred him to the 73rd Battalion, Royal Highlanders of Canada (RHC), 12th Brigade, in the 4th Canadian Division at Bramshot Camp. While there, on July 8, his sergeant made sure that he executed a will. In it he bequeathed his estate to his mother. One month later, on August 12, he crossed the Channel to France, where he disembarked the next day at Le Havre. Before going into action for the first time, Arthur underwent a further eight months of advanced infantry training with his new battalion. Just before the battle, in April 1917, he was sent on a Visual Signaller Course in the field.

Arthur's first action was the battle for Vimy Ridge. He fought here for seven days, with the 73rd battalion, 12th Brigade, from April 9 to April 17, 1917. The 73rd battalion was one of the battalions ordered to assault Hill 145. Although not without its difficulties, the attack was a successful one and inflicted severe losses on the enemy -- capturing more than four thousand prisoners. On April 19, when the battle for Vimy was over Arthur's decimated Battalion was disbanded. He was then transferred in the field to the 13th Battalion (RHC), 3rd Brigade, in the 1st Canadian Division. He had survived.

Barely six weeks after the battle for Vimy they informed Arthur that his father, Isaac Henry, had died. Two and one-half months later he was in action again, this time at Hill 70 and in the town of Lens. This battle lasted a gruelling six days, from August 15 to August 21, 1917. After the battle, Arthur and his exhausted comrades were taken out of the line and sent on a long overdue leave. He remained in Paris from August 22 to September 3. On returning to duty he underwent more hard field training with his battalion to prepare for its next action. The army recognized Arthur's combat skills and leadership potential. He was appointed Lance-Corporal and sent on an advanced 30-day sniper's course from February 24 to March 27.

Arthur's third and final major battle of the war occurred one year later, at Amiens, on August 8, 1918. He would never know that this action marked the beginning of the war's last one hundred days. Neither would he know that Amiens was to be one of the greatest battles ever fought in the history of the Canadian Army. Arthur's 3rd Brigade was ordered to take the Hangard Strip, and then advance to Aubercoury Village, after crossing the River Luce. At dusk the companies of the 13th Battalion moved into their jumping off trenches in Hangard Wood West. They reported themselves ready by 1:45 a.m. on August 8.

The Battalion was short of bombs and rifle grenades and had no ground flares, illuminating flares or S.O.S. rockets. These deficiencies were regrettable, but nothing could be done about them, as no supplies were available. At 2:00 a.m. Arthur's Battalion Headquarters moved up into the front line to a quarry in Hangard Wood West and reported to Brigade that all was in order. Throughout the night the German artillery was active.

At 4:20 a.m. the barrage opened and immediately the men of the Canadian Corps, with the Australians on their left, started forward, while the French to the right began the shelling that preceded their attack. In the first few minutes of the attack the visibility was bad. This greatly hampered the work of the tanks who were cooperating with the 13th, as the crews inside could not see where the infantry were having trouble. Very tragically, a supporting gun firing short caused the first losses among the Royal Highlanders. To keep the secret of the attack, they had not permitted many of the batteries to register on their targets before 'zero hour'. Thirty casualties occurred from this friendly fire.

In clearing Hangard Wood the 13th ran up against several machine gun nests, which caused serious trouble. Three officers were killed while attacking these, while four others were wounded. One of them, Lieutenant Brady set a fine example of courage and endurance, suffering three distinct wounds before he would admit himself hors-de-combat. Many of the soldiers gave superb demonstrations of bravery and skill during the fighting in the Wood. The shortage of bombs was sharply felt in attacking the machine gun nests, the men being compelled to outflank these instead of using the quick and effective method of smashing them up with bombs and rifle grenades.

Having surmounted the obstacles presented by the machine gun nests in Hangard Wood, the attack of the 13th swept victoriously forward, capturing prisoners, killing those who resisted and taking several batteries of enemy guns. When the battle ended the Canadian casualties totalled 3,868 -- 1,036 killed, 2,803 wounded. They took twenty-nine men prisoners. The Canadian Corps was credited with capturing 5,033 prisoners and 161 guns.

It is not known at which point in the battle Arthur was killed. It could have been from the friendly fire at the beginning of his assault, or in storming the machine gun nests, or even from enemy artillery fire. Two weeks after the battle, on August 22, 1918, Arthur's mother answered her doorbell and signed for a telegram from the Army. It informed her that he was missing and believed wounded in action on August 8. On September 1, 1918, twenty-four days after receiving the first telegram, they dashed her hopes for his survival. She was officially told that he had been killed-in-action during the battle of Amiens, at Hangard Wood, on August 8, 1918. Although his remains were never found, and he lies somewhere in an unmarked grave in an unknown place, the bodies of sixty-one Canadians, as well as other allied army's soldiers, are interred in the Hangard Wood British Cemetery which is 2.5 miles north of the village of Villers - Brettoneux, Hangard (Somme), France. Conceivably, Lance-Corporal Arthur George Rice is one of the soldiers known only unto God who rest here.

Arthur's name is inscribed high on the ramparts of The Canadian National Vimy Memorial on Vimy Ridge, France. The monument's inscription commemorating him reads: "RICE, Lce. Cpl. Arthur George, 145687. 13th Bn. (Quebec Regt.). Killed in action at Hangard Wood 8th Aug., 1918. Age 27. Son of Irena Rice, of 62, Second Avenue, Ottawa, and the late Isaac Henry Rice."

For his service Arthur was posthumously awarded the 1914-1918 War Medal and the Victory Medal. By chance, the day Arthur George was killed in action was also his twenty-seventh birthday, and he had then completed thirty-three months as an infantry soldier in the Canadian Expeditionary Force. A full twenty-four months of his service was spent at the front, and in almost unending combat with one of Canadaís most courageous and decorated Highland battalions. He was the quintessential Canadian Highland Infantryman.

This account was provided by Arthur Rice's nephew, Col. Gary H. Rice (Ret.).



 
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