Lest We Forget: Cantley Veterans

Cantley 1889 Articles

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The following article first appeared in The Echo of Cantley Volume 33 no 5, November 2020. This article is made available for the enjoyment of others with the express permission of the Echo of Cantley.

Lest We Forget: Cantley Veterans

By Mary Holmes

In 2020 we commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II.

Between 1939 and 1945 more than one million Canadian men and women served full-time in the armed services. More than 43,000 were killed. Despite the bloodshed, the war against Germany and the Axis powers reinvigorated Canada's industrial base, elevated the role of women in the economy, paved the way for Canada's membership in NATO, and left Canadians with a legacy of proud service and sacrifice embodied in names such as Dieppe, Hong Kong, Ortona and Juno Beach.1

What do we call a young Home Child who grew up to be a man who served his adopted country in both World Wars? A Cantley veteran.

Ernest Gobell was one of the four dozen (and counting) Cantley veterans who is honoured every November when we lay a Cantley wreath at the Remembrance Day ceremony at the Pioneer Cemetery in Chelsea.

Sketch drawn by Ernest Gobell in the memory book of Agatha Holmes, circa 1936. From Agatha (Holmes) Daly collection, courtesy of Frances (Daly) Wesley.

Ernest was 14 when he arrived in Quebec from Liverpool on April 30, 1911 after a ten-day journey onboard the Corsican. His destination was Ottawa. At the time of the 1911 Census, we find him living in Cantley with Maurice Foley and his wife, Agnes (Prudhomme), as well as Maurice’s elderly parents, Michael and Mary (Noctor). His youthful energy would have been a welcome benefit to the farm.

From his World War I personnel file, we learn that his middle name was Phillip and he was born in Dartford, Kent, England. His brother, John, was in France with the 3Xrd Troop, “A” Squadron, 5th, Canadian Mounted Rifles. Private Ernest enlisted on October 11, 1916, in Renfrew, served four months with the 240th and the 216th Overseas Battalion, when he was found to be medically unfit. He then enlisted again, in Renfrew, on February 24, 1917 in Forestry Reinforcements. He had vision problems that persisted until he was honourably discharged in Kingston on December 9, 1918 after having served in Canada, England and France.

Sometime during or after 1940, Ernest enlisted in the Veterans Guard of Canada (VGC). It was formed to protect military property and later to guard government operated internment camps. Enlistees were men deemed too old to serve based on the World War II rules of enlistment. Ernest was certainly determined to serve.

Ernest Gobell died on November 11, 1965, a fitting date. He is buried in Notre-Dame of Ottawa Cemetery, in Section 30 of the DVA Cemetery.

There is much more to the story of Ernest Gobell. The volunteers of Cantley 1889 are working to fill in the gaps of his story as well as the stories of so many other Cantley veterans.

A Cantley 1889 priority is to create a memorial, mounted in Cantley’s Community Centre, to recognize and honour our Cantley veterans.

Sources: Library and Archives Canada (LAC), Home Children, 1869 – 1932, Immigration Records; LAC Census Records 1911 (online); LAC World War I personnel file for Ernest Gobell (online); St. Elizabeth Parish church records; Legion Magazine.com, article on the VGC (online); FindAGrave.com (online).


Daughters of Cantley veteran Maurice Gauthier participated in the 2019 ceremony to honour their father and all Cantley veterans. Left to right: Francine, Mayor Brunette, Joanne, Marie, Patricia.
Remembrance Day, 2019, at the Gatineau Valley Historical Society ceremony, Chelsea Pioneer Cemetery. Mayor Madeleine Brunette is laying the wreath to honour Cantley veterans.


1 Canadian Encyclopedia, online

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