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Clarence Garfield Mainse

Clarence Garfield Mainse
Private 781324
28th Battalion Saskatchewan Regiment (Northwest)
6th Canadian Infantry Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division
Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF)

Personal information

Clarence Garfield Mainse was born on 3 November 1892 in Lyndhurst, Ontario, 30 kilometres northeast of Kingston, Ontario. He was the oldest of five children born to Edward and Susan Mainse. Clarence came from a family of strong religious convictions, belonging to the Methodist congregation in Lyndhurst. Footnote 1 As a young unmarried man, he moved to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, where he took a job as a clerk. Clarence was single when he enlisted with the 28th (Moose Jaws) Overseas Battalion in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, on 2 December 1915. Footnote 2 Clarence felt compelled to enlist and fight. In a letter to his mother, written two weeks before he enlisted, he wrote “I have done little enough for others and the bible says ‘Love thy fellow man.' Does that not mean Belgian's suffering, northern France and poor Serbia?” Footnote 3

Military movements

Upon enlistment in December 1915, Mainse and the rest of the recruitments for the 28th Battalion trained over the winter and spring of 1916 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. His mother did not readily accept his decision to enlist. In a letter written home on 30 December 1915, he pleads with her to accept that he has joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force. “Perhaps you will learn with regret that I have joined the colors…You have brought me up Canadian and a Canadian I'll live or die as the case may call for… ,Footnote 4 suggesting that above all her fears, she must agree that he is doing his duty. This letter suggests his reasons for enlisting but opens the question of possible reasons a citizen might enlist in the war.

Clarence trained for the next nine months before moving east to Halifax on 15 August 1916, for debarkation to England aboard the S.S. Grampian. Footnote 5The transport troop ship would arrive in Liverpool, England on 24 August 1916. The 28th Battalion would quickly board the transport trains for Bramshott Camp, north of Portsmouth, England. Here, the 28th Battalion would receive another three months of training in preparation for fighting in France and Belgium.

In preparation for his move onto the continent to fight in the war, Clarence made out his will at Bramshott Camp on 30 November 1916. One week later, on 5 December 1916, Clarence was taken on strength (TOS) by the 28th Battalion and shipped out to France the next day. The 28th Battalion was part of the 6th Canadian Infantry Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. Footnote 6 Clarence would fight at the Battle of Vimy Ridge, Hill 70, and Passchendaele. Footnote 7

The final days

On 5 November 1917, Operation Order 159 was issued ordering the 2nd Canadian Division to attack and capture the village of Passchendaele. The attack plan called for the 28th to move, take and hold the Mosselmarkt Road, northwest of the village of Passchendaele. To the right of the 28th Battalion, the 31st moved to the northwest edge of the village and the 27th moved to attack the village itself. Specifically, the 28th Battalion was ordered to attack on the left flank of the front line. The rest of the day on the 5th was spent getting the 27th Battalion in position on the right, the 31st Battalion in the centre and the 28th Battalion on the left. Footnote 8

The Germans wanted to keep Passchendaele and the ridge and had reinforced their lines on 3 November with the 11th Division, which had been transported from Champagne in Northern France. The importance of Passchendaele was not lost on the Germans. According to records from German High Command, “Passchendaele must be held or, if lost, recaptured at all costs.” Footnote 9

The morning of 6 November began with clear skies, but clouds rolled in as the day progressed. Mainse and the rest of the 28th Battalion began their attack at 6:00 a.m. using a heavy artillery barrage as cover to penetrate German lines. The 27th (Winnipeg), 28th (Saskatchewan) and 31st (Alberta) Battalions had to cover a distance of 1,000 yards to reach their objectives. Footnote 10 The Battalions would move two minutes behind the artillery barrage that was intended to clear out German positions. For some Battalions, the creeping barrage produced excellent results, as German trenches were overrun and many prisoners taken before the Germans could get into position with their machine guns. The 27th and 31st Battalions covered the ground in good speed, but this was not the case for the 28th. Mud slowed the men down. Much of the terrain was muddy up to the knees and in some places up to the waist. This slowed the forward movement significantly, increasing the time span between artillery barrage and infantry attack. The result for the 28th Battalion was that it received the brunt of the German fire, resulting in heavy casualties. Members of the 28th Battalion were pinned down on two occasions by heavy German rearguard actions and got caught in their own artillery barrage.

Despite this setback, Passchendaele and the ridge to the northeast were in the hands of Canadians by 7:40 a.m. However, it cost the Battalion dearly, as 12 officers and 178 infantrymen were killed. Corporal H.C. Baker of the 28th Battalion remarked on the morning of 7 November, “My impression was that we had won the ridge but lost the Battalion.” Footnote 11 In the early hours of 7 November, the 28th Battalion was relieved and bivouacked near a cemetery at Ypres. Soldiers recounted that soup was being served by cooks and this was their first hot meal in 72 hours. Roll call that day revealed that not many soldiers of the 28th Battalion remained alive after the previous day's attack.

The success of the attack was communicated to Canadian Commander Lt. General Sir Arthur Currie who passed the information onto General Headquarters. Commander-in-Chief, Sir Douglas Haig, in his response to Currie, classified the importance of the attack and battle as one on par with Vimy Ridge. Overall, the cost in casualties was heavy. Between 26 October and 7 November 1917, the Canadian Corps suffered some 16,000 casualties in taking Passchendaele; 3,000 dead, 1,000 missing and 12,000 wounded.

Medical records

Clarence was sent to a field ambulance on 22 April 1917 and spent four days there due to illness. There is no specific information given of his illness. The only other entry in his medical record concerns his death during the Battle of Passchendaele. Mainse's body was taken to the #1 Field Ambulance depot where he was examined and pronounced dead. His medical records reveal that he suffered from a concussion to the head by a German shell that had landed extremely close to him. This is consistent with information recorded about a heavily concentrated German artillery barrage after the Canadians had taken Passchendaele and the ridge beyond the town. The concussion was so severe that he died from the blast.

Lest We Forget

Clarence Mainse is buried at Vlamertinghe New Military Cemetery in Belgium. The cemetery now contains 1,813 Commonwealth burials of the First World War. Footnote 12 In his written will he left everything to his mother. She received his military plaque with serial number 752774. He had received $402.01 in total from the CEF until his death. Footnote 13 He was 25 years of age when he died.

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Service personnel information 1914-1918

Name: Clarence Garfield Mainse
Service/Regimental Number: 781324
Rank: Private
Height/Weight: 5 feet 6 inches/145 pounds
Colour of Eyes: Blue
Marital Status: Single
Religion: Methodist
Address: Lyndhurst, Ontario
Next of Kin (and relationship): Edward and Susan Mainse (parents)
Date of Enlistment: December 2, 1915
City and Province of Enlistment: Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan

Military service record 1914-1918

Name: Clarence Garfield Mainse
Rank: Private
Age (at death): 25
Force: Army
Unit (battalion or company): 28th Battalion (6th Canadian Infantry Brigade)
Division: 2nd Infantry Division
Service/Regimental Number: 781324
Honours and Awards: Not applicable
Photograph: Yes
Next of Kin (and relationship): Edward and Susan Mainse of Lyndhurst, Ontario (parents)
Date of Death: November 7, 1917
Country of Burial: Belgium
Cemetery: Vlamertinghe New Military Cemetery
Grave Reference: IX. C. 15
Location: Vlamertinghe New Military Cemetery is located five kilometres west of Ieper town centre, south of the village of Vlamertinghe.
Book of Remembrance: Clarence Garfield Mainse's name appears on page 289 of the 1917 First World War Book of Remembrance.

Grave reference

Clarence Garfield Mainse
Vlamertinghe New Military Cemetery
Grave Reference: IX. C. 15

Scale map of Vlamertinghe New Military Cemetery with grave references in roman numerals