|Date of Birth||October 22, 1897|
|Place of Birth||Kenora, Ontario|
|Next of Kin||Donald Hector Currie (father), Kenora, Ontario|
|Trade / Calling||Lumberman & Carpenter|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Address at Enlistment||312 - 4th Ave. South, Kenora, Ontario|
|Date of Enlistment||May 21, 1915|
|Age at Enlistment||17|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
Corporal Hector Donald Currie enlisted with the 52nd Battalion in May 1915. He was seriously wounded at the Vimy front in November 1916 and invalided to Canada the following spring. After his recovery he enlisted a second time, serving in Canada for another seven months.
Hector was the son of Donald Hector Currie and Annie Jane Campbell of Kenora, Ontario. Donald and Annie were both born in Quebec, Donald in Lochaber and his wife in the nearby village of Thurso. They were married in March 1889 in Ferris, Nipissing County, Ontario, a small community that’s now part of North Bay. Donald had moved to the town of Rat Portage in northwestern Ontario around 1886 and he worked there as a lumberman. After their marriage he and his wife made their home in Rat Portage (later renamed Kenora) and they had six children, four sons and two daughters: James Campbell (1890), Minnie (1891), John (1893), Norma (1895), Hector Donald (22 October 1897) and Methuen (1899). Donald continued to work in the lumber industry and by 1911 he was manager of a lumber company. He also served as town clerk for several years and as the mayor of Kenora in 1911.
The war started in August 1914 and Hector enlisted the following spring when volunteers were being recruited for a third overseas contingent. He was 17 years old, attending high school and working as a lumberman when he signed up with the 52nd Battalion on 21 May 1915. The unit was based in Port Arthur and the Kenora recruits were sent there in June to train with the rest of the battalion. In the fall they left for the east coast where they embarked for England on 23 November on the SS California. After a few more weeks of training the men were sent to France on 20 February 1916. They spent the first night in tents in a snowstorm before being moved to Belgium by train the next day. On 23 February the 52nd Battalion joined the Canadian Corps, becoming part of the 9th Brigade, 3rd Canadian Division, and in early March the men went into the trenches for the first time. Later that month the Canadians took up positions in the south part of the Ypres Salient and Hector’s unit was moved there on 1 April. Two months later the Battle of Mount Sorrel started with an intense bombardment of the Canadian lines followed by the explosion of underground mines. After the barrage German infantry advanced and captured Mount Sorrel and nearby areas. The 52nd was involved in heavy fighting several times over the next ten days. Most of the lost ground was recaptured and the battle ended on 13 June with little change to the front lines but at a cost of 8,000 Canadian casualties.
The Somme Offensive began later that summer and the first major battle for the Canadian Corps was Flers-Courcelette (15-22 September). The 52nd Battalion boarded trains on 7 September and a week later they were in the Somme area. On 16 September they took part in the attack near the village of Courcelette. During the advance the men faced heavy machine gun and rifle fire and they suffered over 200 casualties while crossing open ground to reach their objective. The battalion was involved in further operations in October before being relieved and moved north to a quieter sector opposite Vimy. The weather turned very cold and on 18 November Hector’s unit went into the front trenches for a six-day rotation. He was seriously injured around midnight on 23 November, their last day in the line. He suffered a shell or gunshot wound to his left chest and shoulder and a fractured collar bone. He was evacuated to a casualty clearing station and from there to a hospital in Le Tréport, France.
In late December Hector was moved to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Netley, Hampshire, England. After two months there and another three months in convalescent centres he was invalided to Canada, arriving in Halifax on 17 May 1917 on the hospital ship SS Letitia. He spent a further five months being treated at the Manitoba Military Convalescent Hospital in Winnipeg, some of that time as an outpatient, and on 30 November he received his official discharge from the army. Two months later Hector enlisted a second time, signing up with No. 10 Engineer and Railway Construction Depot on 7 February 1918 in Winnipeg. Unfortunately his old wounds reopened that summer and after treatment at the Military Hospital in Calgary he was discharged for medical reasons on 5 September 1918. His brother John Erroll had enrolled with the Royal Air Force and he trained in Canada, getting his discharge in December 1918.
In January 1919 when Hector applied for his War Service Gratuity he was living back in Kenora. In the spring of 1920 he took some commercial bookkeeping courses in Winnipeg, staying in an apartment there, and by the fall of 1921 his address was Stackpool, Ontario where his parents were living. A few months later he enlisted with Canada’s Permanent Force, signing on with the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery in April 1922 in Kingston, Ontario. His attestation listed his occupation as teamster and his address as College Street West in Toronto. Hector served with ‘A’ Battery of the RCHA for thirteen months, getting discharged in May 1923. In December that year he entered the US at a border crossing south of Montreal, his age 26, occupation bookkeeper and intended destination the city of New York. From there he headed to western Australia and on 29 February 1924 he was admitted to the Perth General Hospital for treatment of the shoulder wound he suffered in 1916. He spent three weeks in the hospital and his address was recorded as c/o Returned Soldiers’ League, Perth, Australia. After that Hector’s family lost touch with him. The last document in his veteran’s pension file is a letter from his brother in Toronto to the Department of Pensions in Ottawa, dated 1937. His brother was trying to find Hector and was advised to write to the Returned Soldiers’ League in Perth. There is no information in the file as to where and when Hector died.
His older brother James Campbell Currie also served in the First World War. He enlisted with the 102nd Battalion in April 1916 and he was killed a year later at the Battle of Vimy Ridge.
By Becky Johnson
Family photo (taken in 1915) provided by a relative.