Russell Rice, Gunner #343971

Some men are forgotten to history, just a footnote in time and in this case a casualty of the Great War. If it wasn’t for the fact that his name appears on the Toledo Cenotaph, his name would be lost forever. That name however will live on as long as that small memorial in Toledo remains.

Russell Rice was a casualty of World War I, just 26 years old and single when he was killed. His father had passed away some years before and his mother passed away in Brockville just one month prior to Russell being killed. It is quite possible he never heard the news of his mother’s passing.

Russell’s story is like so many others of his generation, and for us a difficult story to piece together, but we will try.

He was born Russell Ira Rice on May 1, 1892 in Jasper, Ontario, Kitley Township. His proud parents were George (1843-1909) and Alice nee Driver (1866- May 30, 1918). Russell was the oldest son, with an older sister Letha, younger sisters Grace and Saddie and younger brother, Roy. George, Alice and their family led a quiet, rural, farm life in Kitley Township.

At some point Russell left the farm, and the next record we found shows him working as a labourer in a foundry in Beckwith Township, Ontario. After his father died his mother and the rest of his family moved into Brockville and lived at 114 Water Street.

Three years after the outbreak of World War 1, Russell enlisted at Kingston on January 18th, 1917. He signed up with the 73rd Battery, 6th Brigade Canadian Field Artillery. He stood 5’5” tall, 155 pounds with blue eyes and light brown hair.

After a few months training in Canada he sailed from Halifax on April 17, 1917 on the SS Missanabie to Liverpool and then on to the massive military training base at Shorncliff, England.

SS Missanabie (photo #1)

On September 19th, 1917 Russell Rice was shipped off to be with his unit in France. His movements during his time in France are a mystery until he was ‘killed in action’ near the city of Calonne, west of Lens France on June 3rd, 1918. The location of his death puts him along the Western Front, during the push to take the city of Calonne which went from April to July of 1918.

 

Calonne France 1918 (photo #2)

 

8″ Howitzer (photo #3)

 

He is buried in Fosse 10 Communal Cemetery Extension, located at Sains en-Gouele, plot III.c.13. Unfortunately there is no photo of his headstone.

Fosse No.10 Communal Cemetery Extension 1916-1919 (photo #4)
Fosse No 10 Cemetery (photo #5)
Fosse No 10 Cemetery (photo #6)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In his Last Will and Testament, he left everything to his sister Grace who was the guardian of his youngest sister Saddie. Grace, along with her brothers had moved to Toronto. (39 Poucher St.)

Last Disbursment of Russell’s Estate (photo #7)

 

30 Poucher St. Toronto (photo #8)

 

And so ends the life and story of Gunner Russell Ira Rice, gone but not entirely forgotten as we have been able to rediscover his life here in these few lines.

Town of Lens after the bombardment (photo #9)

 

 

 

 

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