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.
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.
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).
1 Canadian Encyclopedia, online