Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthApril 22, 1892
Place of BirthPrince Albert, Saskatchewan
Marital StatusMarried
Next of KinGladys Sabina Rochester (wife), 1427 - 11th Avenue West, Vancouver, British Columbia
Trade / CallingChief Clerk, CNR
Service Details
Regimental Number34500 & 153284
BattalionNo. 44 Wing
ForceAir Force
BranchRoyal Air Force (Canada)
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentVancouver, British Columbia
Address at Enlistment1427 - 11th Avenue West, Vancouver, British Columbia
Date of EnlistmentNovember 27, 1917
Age at Enlistment25
Theatre of ServiceCanada
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathMay 14, 1975
Age at Death83
Buried AtChapel Hill Memorial Gardens, Smithville, Ontario

Rochester, Herbert Cubley

When the First World War started aircraft technology was relatively new and airplanes were used mainly for observation. Major advancements were made over the next four years but flying was still dangerous and more pilots were killed and injured during training and reconnaissance than in combat. Second Lieutenant Herbert Cubley Rochester joined the Royal Flying Corps in November 1917 and six months later he was seriously injured in a training accident.

Herbert was the oldest son of Reverend William Marshall Rochester and Minnie May Cubley of Toronto, Ontario. William was born in Burnstown, Ontario and his wife 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 on 22 April 1892 and Harvey in 1895. Their third child was born in 1896 in Toronto. At the time of the 1901 census the family was living in Rat Portage (later called Kenora) in northwestern Ontario, where 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 all served in the First World War and were commissioned as officers. Herbert survived the war but George Harvey and   Ernest Marshall were both officers and they died in France and Belgium.

At the time of the 1911 census Herbert was 19 years old, living in Winnipeg, Manitoba and working as a clerk for the Canadian National Railway (CNR). Within a few years he had moved to Vancouver where he was employed as chief clerk to the assistant general manager of the CNR. On 26 November 1917 he married Gladys Sabina Umpleby in Vancouver and his father was there from Toronto to assist in the wedding ceremony, which took place at Gladys’ home. Sadly, Herbert’s brother Ernest was killed that same day near Passchendaele in Belgium, but it would take some time for the news to reach the family. Gladys lived in Vancouver with her mother Eliza and stepfather William Bassett Morgan. She was born in 1896 in Leeds, Yorkshire, England, the daughter of Thomas Umpleby and Eliza Chapman, and she had immigrated to Canada around 1909.

Before getting married Herbert had made plans to join the Royal Flying Corps and he enlisted on 27 November in Vancouver. The following day he headed east to Ontario to begin his training. He became an instructor at Camp Borden, one of the training centres for the Royal Flying Corps. Built in 1917, the Borden airfield was the largest RFC flying station in Canada. On 1 April 1918 the RFC and the Royal Naval Air Service were amalgamated to form the Royal Air Force and Herbert was transferred to RAF (Canada) as a Pilot Cadet. His promotion to 2nd Lieutenant was announced in the 18 June 1918 edition of the London Gazette (pgs. 7211-7212): ROYAL AIR FORCE. The following Cadets are granted temp. commns. as 2nd Lts. (A. & S.) :- 2nd May 1918 Herbert Cubley Rochester. The commission was temporary as it was subject to the approval of his commanding officer.

On 25 May 1918, three weeks after his promotion, Herbert was seriously injured in a flying accident at Camp Borden. According to his RAF casualty card he was in a Curtiss JN-4 (Canadian) at 500 ft when it began spinning and nose-dived into the ground. He suffered ‘fractures, sprains and bad shock.’ The pilot cadet with him at the time, E.L. Sewell, escaped with minor injuries. The Curtiss JN-4 (Canadian) was a biplane that had been developed in early 1917 and it was the first aircraft to be mass-produced in Canada. It was used for military training in both Canada and the U.S.

Herbert was admitted to Toronto General Hospital where he recovered from his injuries. Following his discharge he had further treatment as an outpatient at Hart House in the University of Toronto. While he was recuperating his brother Harvey was killed in France, six weeks before the Armistice. Herbert returned to the RAF in December 1918 and he served with No. 44 Wing, HQ Canada until his demobilization in July 1919.

When Herbert returned to civilian life he continued his career with the CNR. His father passed away in 1949 and his mother in 1953. They are both buried in Thornhill Community Cemetery in Thornhill, Ontario. Herbert and his wife lived in Montreal for many years and in 1957 they went on a two-month trip to the UK. Herbert died in Guelph, Ontario on 14 May 1975, at age 83, and Gladys passed away in Kitchener in July 1976. They are buried at Chapel Hill Memorial Gardens in Smithville, Ontario. Their obituaries mention two children, Kathleen Hobbs of Montreal and William of Guelph. Herbert’s youngest brother Reginald became a mechanical engineer. He spent some time living and working in the U.S. and he died in California in 1986, at age 84.

By Becky Johnson

Rochester-Herbert-97 Rochester-Herbert-9 Rochester-Herbert-Cubley-2 Rochester-Herbert-98 Rochester-Herbert-99

Obituaries and cemetery photos courtesy of Hamilton Branch – Ontario Genealogical Society

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