Stanley Clarence Darling
Stanley Clarence Darling was born on November 26th, 1894 in Lillies just north of the Village of Lyn. His mother was Fanny Darling and his father Wells. He was the oldest in a family of two boys and three girls. His brother Grant was born a year after him in 1895.
We know very little about his early childhood, except that growing up on a farm he would be expected to help out with the daily chores. Living in Lillies he would have attended the Lillies one room school house.
When war broke out in Europe in 1914, Stanley would have been 20 years old and would have read with keen interest the events of that far away war.
On January 6th, 1917 he took a big step and enlisted in the 253rd Battalion Canadian Expeditionary Forces. At the time of his enlistment he stood 5’7 tall, weighted 165 pounds with brown eyes and red hair.
On April 29, 1917 he sailed for England aboard the SS Olympic. He would remain in England for the better part of a year and finally his unite sailed for France and the front lines, arriving on March 8th 1918. When Pte. Darling arrived in France he was attached to the 102nd Battalion as an infantryman.
On September 3rd, 1918, six months after he arrived in France, Pte. Stanley Darling took part in the battle for the Canal du Nord.
The story of that battle is as follows:
On September 3, 1918, the day after the Canadian Corps breached the Drocourt-Quéant Line, a directive was issued for a general Allied offensive on the entire front from the Meuse to the English Channel, with four great hammer-strokes to be delivered at crucial points. The timetable for these blows called for striking the enemy on four successive days. The second of these assaults was to take place on September 27, and was a joint attack by the First and Third British Armies in the general direction of Cambrai to capture the northern part of the Hindenburg Line. Field-Marshal Sir Douglas Haig ordered the First Army to seize Bourlon Wood and cover the Third Army’s left flank as the latter advanced on Cambrai and subsequently on to Valenciennes. The capture of Bourlon Wood was assigned to the Canadian Corps, which would then push forward to establish a defensive flank northeast of Cambrai. Farther south the British Fourth Army, supported by the French First Army, would join the battle on September 29 in an assault on the main Hindenburg position.
The first obstacle General Sir Arthur Currie’s forces had to overcome was the Canal du Nord. Because the Canal du Nord was impassable on the northern part of his front, General Currie had his boundary with the Third Army shifted 2,377 metres to the south, and proceeded with preparations for the Canadian Corps to make its initial attack through a dry area between Sains-lez-Marquion and Moeuvres. It was an intricate operation introducing the difficult problem of moving the whole Corps through a narrow opening before fanning out with four divisions engaged on a battlefront that would rapidly expand to over 10,000 metres.
In the dusk of the evening of 26 September the Canadians moved forward. By midnight they were assembled opposite the dry section of the canal, huddled together for warmth, and for the most part in the open. The night wore on and there was no evidence of enemy counter-preparation. Suddenly, as dawn was breaking, the opening barrage flashed out, shocking the enemy into action. Before they could retaliate, the initial waves had crossed the canal and were fanning out from the bridgehead. Nevertheless, the follow-up troops suffered casualties as the enemy, alive to the danger, subjected the canal bed to a violent bombardment. The results justified Currie’s generalship. He acquired the canal at relatively light cost, but more than that, Bourlon Wood the essential objective, was also taken.
Unfortunately it was at this point during the start of the battle on September 27th that Pte. Stanley Clarence Darling was killed by enemy fire in his 24th year. He was killed in the vicinity of “Inchy-En-Artois”. Fate took its’ toll and less then two months after his death on November 11th 1918 at 11 o’clock armistice was signed and World War I ended.
Stanley is buried in the Bourlon Wood Cemetery in France.
Today, the Bourlon Wood Canadian Memorial commemorates the attack across the Canal Du Nord on ground donated by the Comte de Franqueville, then Mayor of Bourlon. The great stone block is at the top of a hill. It is approached by climbing steep, stone steps past terraces cut into the hillside, and bears the message:
“THE CANADIAN CORPS ON 27TH SEP. 1918 FORCED THE CANAL DU NORD AND CAPTURED THIS HILL. THEY TOOK CAMBRAI, DENAIN, VALENCIENNES & MONS; THEN MARCHED TO THE RHINE WITH THE VICTORIOUS ALLIES”
Ancient lime trees line both sides of the steps that lead to the Memorial. They are the original trees, and though shattered by shellfire in the battle, they were nursed back to health. The terraces are planted with a rich variety of coniferous shrubs and shade-loving plants. The Memorial is beyond the village of Bourlon, which is just south of the Arras-Cambrai road, three kilometres beyond Marquion.
(note information on the history of the battle and grave site was taken from the Canadian War Museum’s website)