|Date of Birth||January 9, 1895|
|Place of Birth||Prince Albert, Saskatchewan|
|Next of Kin||Mrs. G.H. Rochester (wife), 22 De Lisle Avenue, Toronto|
|Trade / Calling||Salesman|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Place of Enlistment||Camp Borden, Ontario|
|Address at Enlistment||22 De Lisle Avenue, Toronto|
|Date of Enlistment||August 21, 1916|
|Age at Enlistment||21|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Decorations and Medals||Military Cross|
|Date of Death||September 28, 1918|
|Age at Death||23|
|Buried At||Sunken Road Cemetery, Boisleux-St. Marc, France|
|Plot||III. A. 24.|
The final period of the war, known now as the Hundred Days Offensive, lasted from 8 August to 11 November 1918. The Canadians were heavily engaged in the operations during those three months and they suffered casualties up to the last day. One of the fallen was Lieutenant George Harvey Rochester of Toronto, a young husband and father who died six weeks before the Armistice.
Harvey was the son of Reverend William Marshall Rochester and his wife Minnie May Cubley of Toronto, Ontario. William was born in Burnstown, Ontario and Minnie was from New York. They had four sons: Herbert Cubley , George Harvey, Ernest Marshall and Reginald Baillie. When the 1891 census was taken William and Minnie were living in Prince Albert in the North West Territories where William was a preacher. Their first two sons were born there, Herbert in 1892 and Harvey in January 1895. Their next child was born in 1896 in Toronto. By the time of the 1901 census the family had moved to Rat Portage (later called Kenora) in northwestern Ontario and Reverend Rochester was the minister at Knox Presbyterian Church. Their youngest son was born in Rat Portage in June 1902. By 1906 the family had moved again, this time to Selkirk, Manitoba, and by 1915 Reverend Rochester and his wife were living back in Toronto where he was the General Secretary of the Lord’s Day Alliance.The three oldest boys served in the First World War. Harvey and Ernest Marshall were officers in the army and they both died in Europe. Herbert Cubley served with the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Air Force and he was seriously injured while training in Canada.
The war started in August 1914 and Harvey was the second of the Rochester boys to enlist, signing up in Toronto in April 1916 with the 204th Battalion. He was working as a salesman at the time and living at home with his parents at 22 De Lisle Avenue. Two months after enlisting he married Beatrice May McLaughlin in Toronto, on 30 June 1916. Beatrice was born in Toronto in 1893, the youngest daughter of Alexander and Margaret Jane McLaughlin. She had a sister Ella and a brother Herbert.
Harvey was given a commission as a Lieutenant in the 204th and he signed his Officer’s Declaration at Camp Borden in August. After training over the winter he left for the UK with his unit in March 1917, embarking from Halifax on the SS Saxonia. In England he was transferred to the 2nd Reserve Battalion. While he was training with them his son Donald Harvey Rochester was born in Toronto in August 1917. Harvey spent six months with the 2nd Reserve before being assigned to the 54th (Kootenay) Battalion and sent to France. He joined his new unit in October as they were moving to the Ypres Salient in Belgium, for the Battle of Passchendaele (26 October-10 November 1917). The 54th served as a reserve battalion during the 16-day operation. Harvey’s younger brother Ernest was with the Canadian Field Artillery and he was killed near Passchendaele on 26 November.
Harvey was granted two weeks of leave in January 1918 and that spring the Canadians were holding a long sector of the front line near Lens in France. In the summer the 54th Battalion was at full strength, undergoing periods of rest and intensive training that would serve them well in the upcoming months. The final period of the war started on 8 August with the Battle of Amiens and it was probably then that Harvey earned his Military Cross. From the War Diary of the 54th Battalion, Battle of Amiens, August 1918: Two platoons ‘under Lt. G.H. Rochesterand Lt. H.F. Birmingham advanced in extended order in the attack on their objective ‘They were met by very heavy and concentrated fire from enemy machine guns in front and on both flanks, and, as the ground over which they were advancing was absolutely devoid of cover, the rate of advance slowed down somewhat. Both platoon commanders had their men well in hand and with great coolness commenced working forward section by section under their own covering L.G. and rifle fire until their objective was reached. Lt. Birmingham was mortally wounded in the head by M.G. or rifle fire. Lt. Rochester thereupon took over command of both platoons and organized a defensive line which was maintained under very heavy M.G. fire and laterally artillery fire. ‘All ranks behaved most steadily and courageously under very heavy fire and their conduct throughout the operation was deserving of the highest praise. ‘Special mention of the names of Lts. Rochester and Birmingham (died of wounds) should be made. They exposed themselves time and again in steadying and encouraging their men and to their courage and coolness was due in a large measure, the success of the operation.’
Harvey was away on a course from 29 August until 16 September and when he rejoined his unit he was appointed Acting Captain. Later that month the Canadians were on the outskirts of the city of Cambrai and all four divisions took part in the Battle of Canal du Nord/Bourlon Wood (27 September-1 October 1918). The battle has been referred to as the most strenuous few days in the history of the 54th Battalion. Harvey was wounded during the fighting on 27 September, one of 134 casualties suffered by his unit that first day. He died of his wounds the following day.
From his Circumstances of Death record: ‘On the night of September 27th 1918, he was leading his Company in an attack on a machine gun nest that had been doing considerable damage. The operation was near completion, he having reached within 25 yards of the objective when he received a machine gun bullet through the abdomen. He was speedily removed to No. 38 Casualty Clearing Station where he died the following day.’
Harvey is buried in Sunken Road Cemetery in the village of Boisleux-St. Marc, France. He was awarded his Military Cross posthumously on 2 December 1918. He’s commemorated on the Cenotaph in Kenora and on the Kenora Legion War Memorial, along with his younger brother Ernest. Harvey is also listed on the memorial plaque of Kenora and Keewatin High Schools and on the memorial plaque of the 204th (Toronto) Battalion.
Harvey was survived by his wife Beatrice and their son Donald Harvey. When the 1921 census was taken Beatrice was living with her parents in Toronto. Donald attended the University of Toronto and graduated in 1941 with a degree in mining engineering. He went on to have a distinguished career in the Canadian military, including service in Europe in the Second World War, in Korea, the Aleutians, Indochina and the Middle East. Colonel Donald Harvey Rochester, OBE, CD, passed away in Chilliwack, British Columbia in August 1997, shortly before his 80th birthday. Beatrice had died in Toronto in 1974, at age 81.
By Becky Johnson
Grave marker photo courtesy of Wilf Schofield, Canadian Virtual War Memorial.