Canadian service records differ in a number of ways from their British counterparts. This is this case with information relating to Court
Martial activities that a solder may have be subjected to. British service records will usually mention the date of a Court Martial and
sometimes the reason for said court action but little else. In the case of Private Hartley French his records contain hand written notes of
the case against him that included testimony from both the prosecution and defense as well the ultimate outcome of the trial.
Charges were brought against Private Hartley French while in South Africa on 13 May, 1902 by his commanding officer Lieutenant
Colonel Evans with the offence being sleeping while on sentry duty. The Court Martial consisted of Captain Moodie, Lieutenant Markey
and Lieutenant Douglas of the 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles. The charge sheet read:
The prisoner, No. 595 Private H. B. French, 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles, a soldier of the irregular forces is charged with –
First: When a soldier acting as sentinel on active service sleeping on his post – in that he, at Lot 22, transvaal on 10 May, 1902, between 1 and 2
a.m. when sentry in a trench on Driving Line was asleep.
Thms Evans, Lt. Colonel
Commandg. 2nd C.M.R.
List of witnesses for the Prosecution:
1st Witness for the Prosecution –
Lt. Ashmead 2nd Can. Mt. Rifles –
“On the night of 10th May at Lot 22 about 2 a.m. I visited the trenches. AT the 3rd trench I found no sentry. I asked twice who was on sentry.
When Corporal Clark answered that Pte. French was sentry I called French twice the 2nd time he answered I found him lying in the trench with
his head covered over with a blanket it being impossible for him to see anyone coming towards him. The Man was asleep.”
Prisoner declines to Cross Examine.
2nd Witness for the Prosecution –
Reg, No. 637 Corporal J. Clark being duly sworn states –
“I was in the trench on the night of the 10th May when Lt. Ashmead came to visit the trenched. He asked who was on sentry. I answered Pte.
French. He called Pte. French twice and was answered the second time. Lt. Ashmead accused him of being asleep. I was ordered to make him a
prisoner. When I saw him his head was covered with a blanket it would have been impossible for him to see anyone approaching.”
Prisoner declines to Cross Examine.
Reg. No. 595 Pte. French makes statement under oath as follows –
“On the night of the 10th May I was on sentry in trench from 1 am to 3 am between the hours of 1 and 2 I had my head covered with a blanket
but was able to see in front of me. I did not hear Lt Ashmead call me the first time but when he called again I answered. He them made me a
Question from the Prosecution –
“Did you hear him call the Corp. of the Guard?”
Taken at Vryburg this 13th day of May, 1902
[Signed] J.D. Moodie, Capt.
After deliberation the guilty sentence was brought by the court. No. 595 Private Hartley French of the 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles was
sentenced to 21 days imprisonment with hard labour.
Regardless of French's less that enthusiastic approach to guard duty, No. 595, Private Hartley B. French was entitled to the Queen’s South
Africa Medal with three clasps: “Cape Colony”, “Transvaal” and “South Africa – 1902”
After the war and his return to Canada Hartley French married Miss Annie Elizabeth Harris in a Catholic ceremony at Fredericton, New
Brunswick. The marriage took place sometime around 1904. Hartley himself was a Free Will Baptist while Annie was of the Roman faith.
Annie French seems to have had a brother living in the United States as she traveled to Boston, Massachusetts on several occasions. In
1910 Hartley was in fact living in Boston working as a waiter at a restaurant. One may assume that he was visiting his brother-in-law for
an extended period of time and took a job to cover costs while away from home. In 1911 he had returned to New Brunswick and was living
with his wife at her parents home.
With the outbreak of World War One Hartley re-enlisted as a Private (No. 69281) at St John, New Brunswick, on 7 December 1914 with
the New Brunswick Regiment. His Attestation papers list his wife’s address as 708 Tremont Street, Boston, Massachusetts so it is possible
that they had again move to the U.S. or that his wife had decided to reside in Boston while Hartley was overseas. Here Hartley was listed
as being 5 feet, 9 inches tall with blue eyes and brown hair. He deployed to Europe with the 26th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force
(second contingent) leaving St. John on June 13, 1915 aboard the troop transport S. S. Caledonia. The “Fighting 26th” spent some time in
England training prior to its arrival in France.
In France Hartley took part in Second Battle of Ypres (22 April – 25 May 1915) and Festubert (15-25 May 1915). It would be at Mount
Sorrel (June 1916) that Hartley would see his final action. On 16 June he was reported missing in action after having last been seen in the
“trenches near Maple Copse”. Like so many of the tens of thousands of other men during the War he simply disappeared and was never
seen again. He would remain officially missing in action until 2 June 1924 when his status was officially changed to “presumed to have
died”. This notice was sent to his wife Annie who was still living in Massachusetts – now on Copeland Street in Roxbury.
Hartley would have qualified for the 1914-15 Star along with the British War and Victory Medals
Today the “Maple Copse” mentioned in Hartley’s casualty report is the site of a small and seldom visited Commonwealth Graves
Commission cemetery that holds the remains of about three hundred British and Canadian troops. The location was used as a cemetery
during the war and its graves where destroyed on several occasions and many of those graves remain unidentified to this day. Given that
this location is where Hartley French vanished in 1916 it is quite likely that he rests with his fellow fallen Canadians after all.
While he has no known grave Hartley B. French is memorialized on the Menin Gate Memorial (panel 26-28) at Ypres, Belgium as well as
on page 88 of the Canadian First World War Book of Remembrance.
|Above: A rather sad looking Private Hartley B. French of the 2nd Canadian Mounted Riflemen in a photograph probably taken just
prior to his departure for South Africa in 1902 during the waning days of the Anglo-Boer War. He is wearing the Stetson hat that came
to typify Canadian forces that served in South Africa and is outfitted for mounted duties. He also wears a rose pinned to his tunic which
may have been a token from a family member or another loved one.
5 1/2 Inches by 7 1/2 Inches
(14 cm x 19.5 cm)
St John, New Brunswick, Canada
|Above: The two inscriptions on the reverse of the photograph identifying the sitter as Hartley French.
|The Court Martial of Private Hartley French