|Date of Birth||July 23, 1885|
|Place of Birth||Papineauville, Quebec|
|Next of Kin||Joseph Charlebois (father), Kenora, Ontario|
|Trade / Calling||Labourer|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Place of Enlistment||Kenora, Ontario|
|Address at Enlistment||Kenora, Ontario|
|Date of Enlistment||February 14, 1916|
|Age at Enlistment||30|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||March 4, 1918|
|Age at Death||32|
|Buried At||Thélus Military Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France|
|Plot||III. E. 3.|
Private Phillip (Philippe) Charlebois enlisted in February 1916 and served overseas with the 43rd Battalion. He was severely wounded at the Battle of the Somme in October 1916. After a long convalescence he rejoined his battalion in the fall of 1917 and he was killed in action four months later.
Phillip was the oldest son of Joseph Charlebois and Azilda Picard of Saint André-Avellin, a small village just north of Papineauville in Quebec. Joseph was a farmer and he married Azilda, his second wife, in October 1884. Phillip was born on 12 July 1886 and baptized six days later as Joseph Amédée Philippe. He had one sister, Marie Aldée (1888), and two brothers, Emile (1889) and Honorius (1891). Joseph also had two daughters with his first wife. Phillip’s mother died in 1892 when he was six years old and his father was married a third time in 1893, to Georgianna Levert.
Sometime between 1901 and 1911 Phillip, Emile and their father moved to the Kenora area in northwestern Ontario. They lived near Black Sturgeon Lake in Jaffray Melick and in the 1911 census Joseph and Phillip were listed as farmers. The war started in August 1914 and Phillip signed up with the 94th Battalion in Kenora on 14 February 1916. The 94th was a local unit based in Port Arthur and recruited throughout northwestern Ontario. Phillip left Kenora with the other volunteers on 25 May 1916, headed to Port Arthur to join the rest of the battalion. The recruits left for Quebec on 9 June and spent a short time at the military camp in Valcartier, northwest of Quebec City, before embarking from Halifax on 28 June 1916 on the SS Olympic. In England they were absorbed into reserve battalions to be used as reinforcements for other units. Phillip was transferred to the 17th Reserve Battalion on 13 July then to the 43rd Battalion (Cameron Highlanders) a month later, on 24 August. He arrived in France the following day. He joined the 43rd in a draft of 70 men on 20 September 1916, during the Battle of the Somme.
The Somme Offensive had started on 1 July and the Canadians were moved there starting in late August. On the day Phillip arrived the 43rd Battalion had been in the front lines and suffered almost 150 casualties. They were relieved on 21 September and spent two weeks resting and refitting. Early in October they had a two day rotation in the front trenches then on 8 October the battalion was back in action, taking part in the assault on Regina Trench. It was Phillip’s first time in combat and his battalion suffered very heavy casualties during the advance when they encountered uncut barbed wire and strong German defences. By the end of the day the unit’s rifle strength was reduced to 6 officers and 67 men. Phillip was one of the wounded, severely injured with a gunshot wound to his knee. On 10 October he was admitted to the St. John Ambulance Brigade Hospital in Г‰taples, on the coast of France. From there he was evacuated to England and he recovered for four months at Edmonton Military Hospital and the Woodcote Park convalescent centre. On 28 February 1917 he was posted to the Canadian Casualty Assembly Centre and on 10 April, six months after being wounded, he was fit for service again. He was assigned to the 14th Reserve Battalion but transferred to the 11th Reserve Battalion in October then back to his old unit, the 43rd Battalion, on 9 November. He rejoined them in Belgium just as the Battle of Passchendaele was ending.
Over the winter of 1917-18 the Canadian Divisions were not involved in any major battles but the units had regular rotations in the front lines and there were over 3,500 Canadian casualties between December and March. One of the casualties was Phillip, who was killed near Arras on 4 March 1918, possibly while on a night patrol of his battalion’s front line. From the War Diary of the 43rd Battalion 3-4 March 1918: ‘Patrols covered Battn. frontage during night. Casualties O.Rs. 2 Killed, 4 Wounded.‘ The other soldier who died on 4 March was Private Stephen Johnson of Selkirk, Manitoba. Phillip and Stephen are both buried in Thélus Military Cemetery in the village of Thélus, just north of Arras.
Phillip is commemorated on the Kenora Cenotaph, the Kenora Legion War Memorial, the Notre Dame du Portage Roman Catholic Church WW1 memorial plaque and on page 383 of Canada’s First World War Book of Remembrance, on display in the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.
His brother Emile Charlebois was conscripted in November 1917. He survived the war and married Nellie Brinkman in January 1926 in Winnipeg. They made their home in Kenora and they are buried there in Lake of the Woods Cemetery.
By Becky Johnson
Grave marker photo courtesy of J. Stephens, Canadian Virtual War Memorial.