Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthDecember 25, 1891
Place of BirthKenora, Ontario
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinJohn Kerr Brydon (father), Kenora, Ontario
Trade / CallingCivil Engineer
Service Details
Regimental Number460462
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion102nd Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentWinnipeg, Manitoba
Date of EnlistmentJune 21, 1915
Age at Enlistment23
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarNo
Death Details
Date of DeathApril 9, 1917
Age at Death25
Buried AtVillers Station Cemetery, France
PlotIX. A. 16.

Brydon, Robert George Howie

Major Robert George Howie Brydon was working as a civil engineer when he received a commission as a Lieutenant in the 102nd Battalion in May 1916. He died less than a year later at the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

Robert was the youngest son of John Kerr Brydon and Mary Charlotte Campton of Kenora, Ontario. John had emigrated from Scotland around 1875 and he spent some time in Chicago, Winnipeg and Toronto before settling in Rat Portage, Ontario in 1882. He married Mary in Toronto in August 1886 and the couple made their home in Rat Portage (later renamed Kenora). They had three children: John Campton (1887), Marie Isabella (1888), and Robert George Howie, who was born on Christmas Day in 1891. John was a lawyer and he served as a town councilor for two years and as town clerk from 1887 to 1899. He was also involved in the construction of local buildings including the Brydon Block, a stone building that still stands in downtown Kenora.

Robert became a civil engineer and he worked in railway construction. His job took him to northern Manitoba and British Columbia. The war started in August 1914 and he enlisted the following summer, signing up with the 61st Battalion on 21 June 1915 in Winnipeg. He was single, 23 years old, six feet tall with grey-blue eyes and brown hair. Robert was discharged in November and the following spring, while he was working in BC, he was given a commission as a Lieutenant in the 102nd Battalion (North British Columbians). In his Officer’s Declaration, signed at Comox on 1 May 1916, he said he had served for five months with the 61st Battalion and he was currently in the active militia (6th Regiment, Duke of Connaught’s Own Rifles). Four weeks later, on 29 May 1916, he was married in Vancouver to Flora May McKelvie. He left for England the following month, embarking from Halifax with his battalion on 20 June on the Empress of Britain.

The 102nd spent only a short time in England before being sent to France as part of the new 4th Canadian Division. They disembarked at Le Havre on 12 August and three days later they were in Belgium. The men were given training in trench warfare and by 21 August the unit had already suffered 25 casualties, including five men killed. The Somme Offensive started in July and the first three Canadian Divisions were moved to the Somme area in late August and early September. After several unsuccessful attempts to capture Regina Trench the troops were relieved in mid-October by the 4th Canadian Division. The 102nd Battalion went into the trenches on 18 October but due to very heavy rain the operation planned for the next day was postponed until noon on 21 October. The 102nd took part in the assault, capturing part of Regina Trench, and they held on until being relieved on 23 October. The men were exhausted from the muddy conditions and the cold, wet weather. From the War Diary of the 102nd Battalion, 24 October 1916,‘The following recommendations for honours were made to Brigade Headquarters:- For the Military Cross :- Lieut. Robert George Howie Brydon.’   Robert did not receive a Military Cross but five men in his unit were awarded Military Medals ‘for conspicuous bravery displayed during the assault on Regina Trench.

Robert was sent on a Lewis gun course at the beginning of November and his unit took part in one more operation at the Somme later that month. In December he was appointed Acting Major and by the first week in January 1917 the 102nd had moved north to the Lens-Arras front, opposite Vimy. Plans were underway for the attack on Vimy Ridge and all four Canadian Divisions underwent intensive training over the next few months. On 8 April the 102nd Battalion moved into position for the operation, which started at 5:30 the next morning in a snow and sleet storm. The unit was on the right flank of the 4th Canadian Division and their objective was a high point of the ridge called Hill 145. Artillery had failed to put the German machine guns out of action and the men were under heavy fire as they advanced up the slope. Robert led ‘C’ Company over the top that morning and during the operation he was reported missing in action. His body was found the following day.

From the War Diary of the 102nd Battalion, Easter Monday, 9 April 1917, 6:30 pm: ‘Major R.G.H. Brydon still on the missing list.’ 10 April 1917: ‘Dawn broke with snow on the ground. ‘Major R.G.H. Brydon’s body was found; he had evidently been shot dead in the first charge.’

Robert is buried in Villers Station Cemetery near the village of Villers-au-Bois in France. He is commemorated on the Cenotaph in Kenora, on the Kenora Legion War Memorial, on the Brydon family grave marker in Lake of the Woods Cemetery and on the memorial plaque of Kenora and Keewatin High Schools. The plaque honours former students who fell in the First and Second World Wars.

When Mrs. Brydon learned of her son’s death she suffered a paralytic stroke and never recovered. She died on 23 April 1917, exactly two weeks after Robert. Her husband passed away in 1930 and they are both buried in Lake of the Woods Cemetery in Kenora. Their oldest son  John Campton also served in the war. He enlisted with the 231st Battalion in March 1916 while he was living in Vancouver and he survived the war. He passed away in 1956 and is buried in Lake of the Woods Cemetery.

Robert’s wife Flora May never remarried. She died in Surrey, British Columbia on 4 November 1962, at age 69.

Photo of Robert is from the Winnipeg Tribune, courtesy of the University of Manitoba Archives.

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