|Date of Birth||June 28, 1894|
|Place of Birth||Brantford, Ontario|
|Next of Kin||Jane Coles (mother), 27 Sarah Street, Brantford, Ontario|
|Trade / Calling||Clerk|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Branch||Royal Air Force|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Place of Enlistment||Toronto, Ontario|
|Address at Enlistment||27 Sarah Street, Brantford, Ontario|
|Date of Enlistment||January 10, 1916|
|Age at Enlistment||21|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||September 11, 1973|
|Age at Death||79|
|Buried At||Carluke White Church Cemetery, Wentworth County, Ontario|
Acting Sergeant Alfred Henry Coles enlisted in January 1916 and served in France and Belgium for two years with the Canadian Army Medical Corps. He transferred to the Royal Air Force in September 1918 and returned to Canada the following summer.
Alfred was the youngest son of Henry and Jane Ann Coles of Brantford, Ontario. Henry was born in Ringwood, Hampshire, England and he immigrated to Canada around 1870. He married his first wife Jane Bradford in 1871 in Brantford and they had two daughters, Nellie and Harriet. Jane passed away in 1887, at age 42, after a long illness. Henry married his second wife Jane Ann Grant on 25 December 1888 in Normanby, Grey County, Ontario. They had three children: Fred (1889), Margaret Louise (1892) and Alfred. Alfred was born on 28 June 1894 in Brantford Township, where his father farmed. When the 1911 census was taken the family was living in the city of Brantford and Henry, age 67, was retired.
In the fall of 1915 the war entered its second year and Alfred enlisted a few months later. He was working as a clerk at the time and he’d served for three years with the 38th Dufferin Rifles of Canada, a militia regiment that was based in Brantford. He enlisted in Toronto on 10 January 1916, joining the Canadian Army Medical Corps, and he was assigned to Section of No. 2 Field Ambulance Depot. He left Toronto with his unit to go overseas on 29 March, arriving in Halifax on 1 April. They embarked on the SS Olympic on 5 April and landed in England eight days later. Alfred was posted to the Canadian Army Medical Corps training school where he spent six weeks. In a letter to his parents dated 3 May he said there were 1,000 CAMC men at the camp where he was based and they sometimes unloaded wounded soldiers arriving by train. On 1 June he was sent to France and transferred to No. 3 Casualty Clearing Station, where he served for the next two years. At the time No. 3 Casualty Clearing Station was in western Belgium, where Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery is now located.
In August 1916 Alfred became ill with influenza and he spent two weeks recovering at No. 16 Casualty Clearing Station in Hazebrouck. He was given two weeks leave in November 1917. In June 1918 he was sent to the Royal Air Force Cadet Distribution Depot in London, England as a candidate for a commission in the RAF. He was accepted on 27 September and he became a flight cadet with the rank of Acting Sergeant. That fall and winter he attended a flight school in Woking, Surrey. Not long after he joined the RAF the Armistice ended hostilities on the Western Front but he served in England until the following summer. He embarked for Canada on 8 July 1919 on the SS Megantic, sailing from Liverpool and landing at Quebec.
Alfred’s father had died in September 1916 while he was overseas. When the 1921 census was taken Alfred was living at home in Brantford with his widowed mother and working as a bookkeeper. By the following year he was living in Hamilton and employed as an accountant. He was married to Stella Ethel Allan, a stenographer, on 18 October 1922. Stella was two years younger than him and she’d grown up in Brantford, the oldest of five daughters of John and Matilda Allan. By the early 1930s Alfred and his wife had moved to Keewatin, Ontario, where he was superintendent and later manager of the Lake of the Woods Milling Company. They had one son, Harry, who was born in March 1928. They lived in Keewatin for more than twenty years and became very active in community affairs. Alfred served on the school board and he was involved with the Canadian Legion, sometimes speaking at Decoration Day ceremonies. His wife was a singer and both of them belonged to the Music Club.
In July 1936 Alfred and Stella travelled to France as part of the Canadian Legion party, for the unveiling of the Vimy Memorial. The ceremony was held on 26 July and more than 50,000 Canadian, British and French veterans and their families attended. Afterwards Alfred and Stella spent some time in the UK, returning home in late August. When Alfred retired they moved back to southern Ontario, settling in west Hamilton near where their son and other relatives lived. Alfred passed away in Peel Memorial Hospital in Brantford on 11 September 1973, at age 79. His obituary was in the Brantford Expositor the next day. His wife had died in February 1968 and they are both buried at Carluke White Church Cemetery in Ancaster Township. Their son Harry moved to Vancouver Island and he passed away there in 1999.
Alfred is commemorated on the 1914-18 Honour Roll at the Zion Presbyterian Church in Brantford, and also remembered by the Great War Centenary Association of Brantford and Brant County.
By Becky Johnson
Photos kindly provided by Alfred’s niece Margaret.