|Date of Birth||October 30, 1886|
|Place of Birth||Yarmouth County, Nova Scotia|
|Next of Kin||Mother, Mrs Marion Crosby, Brazil Lake, Yarmouth, Nova Scotia|
|Trade / Calling||Locomotive Engineer|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Address at Enlistment||Kenora, Ontario|
|Date of Enlistment||September 23, 1914|
|Age at Enlistment||27|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||August 9, 1957|
|Age at Death||70|
|Buried At||Lake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario|
|Plot||42E-12-3, Elmwood Circle Block|
When the First World War started Frank Stanley Iriam was one of the early volunteers, training with the 98th Regiment in his hometown of Kenora, Ontario in August 1914 then enlisting with the 8th Battalion CEF at Valcartier in September. Five months later he arrived in France with his unit and he survived three and a half years as a front line soldier, sniper and scout. The war finally ended for him when he was wounded in August 1918, three months before the Armistice.
Frank Iriam (Iram) was the youngest son of Henry and Marion Iram of Brazil Lake, Yarmouth County, Nova Scotia. Henry and Marion (née Cann) were married in 1874 and they had eight children, three sons and five daughters. Frank, the second youngest, was born on 30 October 1886. Before leaving Nova Scotia he worked in a sawmill and spent three years serving with the Royal Canadian Garrison Artillery in Halifax. In 1905 he headed west, spending some time in Montreal before settling in the small town of Kenora in northwestern Ontario, where he found work with the Canadian Pacific Railway.
Frank joined the militia in Kenora, the 98th Regiment, and a few days after Britain declared war they began training full time. On 23 August 1914, along with 44 other local volunteers, Frank boarded a train bound for Valcartier, Quebec where the 1st Contingent of the Canadian Expeditionary Force was being assembled. He signed his Attestation Paper on 23 September, enlisting with the 8th Battalion, and when there was talk of a scout section he jumped at the chance to be part of it. His unit embarked in October in a convoy of 32 transport ships and they arrived in Plymouth two weeks later. The recruits trained on Salisbury Plain in southern England for several months and when they had leave for the holiday season Frank spent the time in the highlands of Scotland, at the home of his good friend Alex McRae. After another month of training the 8th Battalion was sent to France in February 1915 as part of the 2nd Infantry Brigade, 1st Canadian Division.
For the first few weeks the battalion was based south of Ypres, in the area between Hazebrouck and Armentières, and Frank’s work as a sniper and scout began almost immediately. Nights were spent patrolling no man’s land and days were used for observation, map making and sniping. Scouts also served as runners to deliver messages and as guides to bring battalions in and out of the trenches. In April the Canadians moved north to the Ypres Salient, to a section of the front line near Gravenstafel. The first large-scale use of poison gas by the Germans took place on 22 April at Gravenstafel Ridge and the 8th Battalion was hit by it on 24 April, the start of the Battle of St. Julien. The unit suffered very heavy casualties from the poison and in the fighting that followed as German infantry advanced behind the cloud of gas. The Canadians held the line until they were relieved on 25 April, suffering 6,000 casualties over the two days. Frank was very ill from the chlorine gas but he managed to make it back to his battalion headquarters along with the remnants of his platoon. He continued with his scout work for a week but by then he was sick enough to be admitted to a field ambulance and he spent over a month recovering in hospitals at Le Tréport and Le Havre.
When Frank rejoined his unit in mid-June they had just been through the fighting at Givenchy, near La Bassée in France. On 21 June the Germans bombarded the reserve trenches at a place called the Duck’s Bill and his friend Alex McRae was seriously wounded. He was evacuated to a hospital in Scotland and died two months later. At the end of June the 8th Battalion moved back to Belgium where the Canadians would spend almost a year holding a section of the line south of Ypres. Frank was promoted to Acting Lance Sergeant and he was asked to organize and train a unit of 24 scouts. At the end of November he had a well-earned one week leave which he spent in London. There were no major operations for the Canadian Corps over the fall and winter but the policy was one of aggressive activity against the Germans, including raids on their trenches. The scouts were kept very busy and information gathered on their patrols was essential for planning successful raids.
In the spring the 8th Battalion moved back to the Ypres Salient and at the end of May they went into the front trenches near a hill called Mount Sorrel. The Battle of Mount Sorrel started on the morning of 2 June with a massive bombardment by the Germans followed by the explosion of underground mines. German infantry attacked and captured the hill and nearby areas. The 8th Battalion was relieved from the line on the night of 5-6 June then went back in on 12 June to take part in the final counter-attack when most of the lost areas were recaptured. The battle ended with almost no change to the front lines but it cost the Canadian Corps 8,000 casualties.
Later in June Frank was ordered to report as Platoon Sergeant for No. 3 Company but he voluntarily reverted to Private so he could stay with the scouts. The following months were a difficult time for him. He was worn down from the physical and mental stress of working as a scout and sniper for over a year as well as from a poor diet, lack of sleep, constant exposure to rifle and artillery fire, and many nights spent crawling around no man’s land in cold, wet weather. In letters home he wrote of the ‘grisly old war’ and the loss of so many good men. Still ahead were the blood-bath of the Somme and the battles of Vimy Ridge, Hill 70 and Passchendaele.
The 8th Battalion was sent south to take part in the Somme Offensive in early September and they suffered heavy casualties in hard fighting over the next four weeks. Frank had a close call during one operation when he was buried for several hours by the explosion of an artillery shell. The battalion – what was left of it – was relieved by the new 4th Canadian Division in October and moved back north to a section of the line near Lens.
Early in 1917 the Canadians began training for their next major assault, the attack on Vimy Ridge. Massive amounts of munitions arrived behind the lines and starting a few weeks before the battle Frank was detailed to work at an ammunition depot. The work included attaching detonators to the stockpile of bombs, shells and grenades. Following the successful capture of the Ridge the 8th Battalion stayed in the area and took part in the attack on the Arleux Loop at the end of April. The position was heavily defended and the battalion lost almost half of its strength in two days of fighting. That summer Canadian soldiers were allowed to take their leave in Paris and Frank spent 12 days in the French capital. He was back with his unit for the battle of Hill 70 (15-25 August), which he called ‘a raging roaring tumult of slaughter the like of which has been seldom seen.’ Just two months later he was in the Ypres Salient for the assault on Passchendaele, where artillery shells and heavy rains had turned the battlefield into a wasteland of mud, swamp and water-filled shell holes. By the time the operation ended there were 15,000 Canadian casualties and Frank spent several days as a stretcher-bearer, carrying out the wounded. He had another leave in December and he went to London and Wales for the holiday season, rejoining his unit in January for what would be the final year of the war.
In March the Germans began a major offensive on the Western Front aimed at breaking through the Allied lines. The 1st and 2nd Canadian Divisions were used as reserves for the British 1st Army and the 8th Battalion was moved several times over the next two months. In early April they stayed in huge underground caves near the city of Arras and at the end of the month Frank was ill with influenza, spending a few days recuperating in a field ambulance. When the German push petered out the Canadians were pulled from the line and given eight weeks of intensive training in open warfare. The final period of the war, now called the Hundred Days Offensive, began in August with a four-day battle near Amiens in France. The 8th Battalion moved into the front line on the second day, 9 August, and the scouts were told to pick off German machine gunners and keep the left flank of the unit on course as they advanced. Frank was in an open field that was being raked by machine gun fire when he was hit by a bullet, suffering a severe wound to his left arm. He was evacuated to Rouen and from there to England where he spent nine months recovering in two hospitals and a convalescent centre. He happened to be passing through London when the Armistice came into effect and he was caught up in the massive celebrations in the city.
In May 1919 Frank was invalided to Canada, travelling to Maine on the hospital ship Essequibo then going by train to Nova Scotia. He spent another four months in a hospital in Halifax and during that time he was able to visit his family in Yarmouth County. On 16 September 1919, five long years after enlisting, he was discharged as medically unfit with the rank of Lance Sergeant.
Frank returned to Kenora and to his job with the CPR. He married Laura Susanna Reid in January 1927 and they raised two children, a son and a daughter. Frank retired in 1947, due to ill health, and he passed away in Deer Lodge Hospital in Winnipeg on 9 August 1957, at age 70. His wife died in 1965 and they are both buried in Lake of the Woods Cemetery in Kenora.
In the 1920s and 30s Frank recorded his war experiences in a manuscript that he wanted published after his death. His son Glenn collected the papers and had them published in 2008 as In the Trenches: 1914-1918. Many of the letters Frank wrote during the war have also survived.
By Becky Johnson
Documents, letters and photos provided by the Iriam family, Lake of the Woods Museum Archives and the Royal Winnipeg Rifles Museum Archives.