“The power of history is in the personal, so… every person’s story must be told.”
– R.H. Thomson
The Little Ancestors picture shows a total of five brothers, two of whom the tales have been told. Here are the stories of the other brothers plus a famous reporter officer.
Pte. Arthur Little 451258 (1875-1933)
Arthur Little, eldest of the Little siblings, enlisted at Camp Niagara along with his youngest brother Ed on June 30, 1915. One remarkable feature of his attestation paper shown below is that he apparently lied about his age, stating born in 1878 (day and month are correct to his birth record). This made his apparent age as 37, when in fact he was 40 years old. It’s not clear why he did this, as the CEF regulations allowed for eligible recruits 18–45 at the time.
Another noteworthy item is the designation of Maud Little as his next of kin. Arthur’s marriage certificate shows that he wed Maud Cornfield, a widow, on July 3, 1915, three days after enlisting. A bachelor to that point, Arthur inherited a ready made family, as Maud already had five children ranging in age from 11-19. Arthur survived the war, but never had any children of his own.
Arthur’s attestation paper shows that he was assigned to the 81st Battalion, which is another oddity as this regiment wasn’t authorized until July 10, 1915. Arthur was actually first assigned to the 58th Battalion with his brother Ed, as indicated on the information card below from his service file. The 81st was used as a reinforcement battalion, and was eventually absorbed by the 35th Reserve Battalion.
It’s unknown if the three Little brothers were able to spend any time together during their training period in Niagara, given assignment to different battalions. As the ‘big brother’, it would have been awkward for Arthur to be outranked by his two NCO siblings.
Arthur embarked on the SS “Olympic” from Halifax to England on Apr 28, 1916 with the 81st Battalion. He was transferred to the 4th Canadian Mounted Rifles (CMR) Battalion and was taken on strength upon arrival in France 7 Jun, 1916. The 4th CMR was part of the 8th Brigade commanded by Brig.-General Williams, which in turn was assigned to the 3rd Division of the Canadian Corps, commanded by Maj.-General Mercer. The 3rd Division also included the 9th Brigade and Ed Little’s 58th Battalion.
Arthur and many more reinforcements were needed following heavy losses at the Battle of Mount Sorrel Jun 2-3, 1916. “There was no comparison between the gunfire of April and June, which was the heaviest endured by the British troops up to that time. For four hours a veritable tornado of fire ravaged the Canadian positions for half a mile west of Mount Sorrel to the northern edge of Sanctuary Wood. The full fury fell upon the 8th Brigade. Hardest hit was Brig.-General Williams right hand battalion, the 4th Canadian Mounted Rifles in front of Armagh Wood. The trenches vanished and the garrisons in them were annihilated. …In all the 4th Mounted Rifles suffered 89 percent casualties – of 702 officers and men only 76 came through unscathed.”
Both Brig.-General Williams and Maj.-General Mercer failed to return from their reconnaissance mission in the Mounted Rifles area on June 3rd. Williams was wounded and taken prisoner. Mercer was also wounded and then killed by shrapnel. He remains the most senior Canadian officer ever to die in combat. During our war history tour in fall 2018, we visited General Mercer’s grave marker (pictured below) at Lijssenenthoek Military Cemetery near Poperinge, Belgium.
The summer of 1916 was evidently used for reforming the 4th CMR Battalion, along with replacing its brigade and division commanders. It doesn’t appear that Arthur was involved in any significant battles before he stepped in a shell hole while marching in France, reinjuring an old fracture to his right leg on 21 Sep, 1916. He was given initial treatment in France, landing back in Shorncliff, England 18 Oct, 1916. He was in and out of treatment over most of the next year, until he was finally sent back to Canada from Liverpool on 14 Aug, 1917.
The Proceedings of a Medical Board record shown below indicates that he could not do much marching on account of re-injury of an old fracture. The Particulars of Discharge document dated 29 Oct, 1917 stated he was discharged on ‘Compassionate Grounds’ as opposed to being physically unfit. They came up with the seemingly arbitrary 15% extent that the disability would prevent his earning a full livelihood (as a lumberman), with only 1/3 due to service. This determination was presumably used to prorate the already modest military disability pension that Arthur would be eligible for.
Arthur apparently lead a quiet life following the war, dying fairly young at age 58 of intestinal problems in 1933 per the death card below. While he certainly had his health challenges, he was fortunate not to have fought in some of the horrendous battles that his 4th CMR engaged in both before and after his service. The most famous member of that storied battalion joined the unit shortly after Arthur’s leg injury took him out of the war.
Major Gregory Clark MC 681565 (1892-1977)
Although he’s out of print now, readers of a certain age will recall journalist and author Greg Clark, who spent 34 years with the Toronto Star and wrote a humorous column for the Star Weekly, which weekend magazine I used to deliver as a kid. What I didn’t know until recently was that Greg was a WW1 veteran with a distinguished record, and a war correspondent in WW2. While certainly not one of my ancestors, he helps perpetuate the 4th CMR Battalion’s story, including the Canadian Corps signature victory at Vimy Ridge where he received his Military Cross citation. So with the blessing of Flowers of the Forest website blog publisher Rick Law, I’ll forge ahead.
Greg was a reporter when he enlisted with the 170th Battalion CEF on March 27, 1916 in Toronto. Note that his regimental number is scratched out on his attestation paper below. Apparently commissioned officers don’t need them – Greg started out as a lieutenant despite having no prior militia experience. In one of his articles in the fine collection ‘War Stories’, the diminutive Greg tells how he finagled his way past being too short to meet the minimum CEF height standard of 5’3” (Cook, 2014). Page 2 of his attestation paper pegs his height at 5’ 2 ½”, so with rounding up, he evidently made the grade.
The 170th Battalion was another reinforcing battalion, with many recruits coming from the 9th Mississauga Horse Militia Regiment, and was absorbed into the 169th Battalion in December 1916.
Greg Clark married Helen Scott Murray on August 15, 1916, just days before he shipped overseas. He did not see his bride again for over 2 years. His record indicates that he arrived in Liverpool, England on 30 Aug, 1916 ahead of the main body of the battalion, thence to Shorncliff for training. He proceeded to France on 22 Nov, 1916 where he joined the 4th CMR Battalion.
Greg relates a self-deprecating tale in ‘War Stories’ of his initial joining with the 4th CMR, where he was assigned to D Company, 16th Platoon as a very green officer. Humour, humility and humanity were his watchwords, very uncommon characteristics for British officers of the Great War, given the existing class system of that era.
According to one of his articles called ‘Sneaky’ in his War Stories book, there was another Lt. Clark in the 4th CMR. Upon meeting Greg, one of the soldiers in his platoon suggested there was a unique opportunity for a successful night raid, from which the new lieutenant could gain some notoriety. The solider told him to have one of the two platoon sergeants deliver the message to his superiors, stating “the officers always do what the sergeants suggest.” This Clark did. The Major in command authorized the raid, advising his new lieutenant to follow the sergeant’s lead. The raid was well executed, differentiating Greg as ‘Sneaky’ Clark from the other lieutenant of the same name.
Greg and his replenished battalion were fortunate to be part of the extensive training program that the entire Canadian Corps undertook in the winter preceding the attack at Vimy Ridge April 9, 1917. “It was the first occasion on which all four divisions of the Canadian Corps attacked as a composite formation. The Canadian achievement in capturing Vimy Ridge owed its success to a range of technical and tactical innovations, very powerful artillery preparation, sound and meticulous planning and thorough preparation.” Lt. Greg (‘Sneaky’) Clark received a Military Cross citation for ‘conspicuous gallantry’ for his actions at Vimy, authorized by Maj.-General Lipsett.
There was a heavy cost to the victory. “The some 100,000 Canadians who served there suffered more than 10,600 casualties, nearly 3,600 of which were fatal.” The three images below are taken from the Veterans Canada website, and include some of Lt. Greg Clark’s thoughts after Vimy.
Lt. General Julian Byng, Commander of the Canadian Corps and later Governor General of Canada, issued his congratulations to his troops on May 4, 1917. He closed the letter with the following: “The training undergone during the winter has borne its fruit and it is this training coupled with the zeal and gallantry which are so conspicuous within all ranks of the Corps, that will continue to gain results as potent and far-reaching as those which began with the capture of Vimy Ridge.”
We visited the magnificent Vimy Monument atop Hill 45 near Arras, France while on our war history tour fall 2018. Carved on the walls of the monument are the names of 11,285 Canadians who died in France whose final resting place was then unknown. The Tomb is located at the rear of the monument, serving as the Vimy remembrance cenotaph.
Much of the 100 hectare Vimy battlefield memorial park is off-limits to ensure public safety due to risk from unexploded munitions that still litter the landscape. A herd of sheep are used to keep the grass grazed down, pictured below. Every Canadian who is able should visit the Vimy Memorial, and take in the guided tunnel tour there as well.
Greg Clark received a series of promotions between March and June, 1918, which resulted in his new rank of Captain with Adjutant responsibilities. As such he was involved with much of the battalion’s communications and ‘was the principle reason for the high quality of the 4th CMR Regimental Diary.” He was promoted again to Major in October 1918 during the final 100 days of the war. From there it was back to England and finally home to Toronto to finally be reunited with his bride again.
After the Great War, Greg became a leading correspondent and reporter. He befriended and mentored a young Ernest Hemingway, who said that Clark was the best writer on the paper. In later life, Hemingway called Clark ‘one of the finest short story writers in the English language’.
Greg found himself back in Europe in WW2 as a well seasoned reporter. Sadly, his only son Lt. James Murray Clark was killed in action near Rouen, France on Sept 17, 1944 while serving with the Regina Rifles. Gregory Clark was subsequently awarded Office of the Order of the British Empire for his service as a war correspondent.
Rather than become melancholy by dwelling on the great human loss that he experienced first hand in the two world wars, Greg turned to humour in his later writings, which he is best remembered for. “In 1967, this diminutive writer of great note was made one of the initial Officers of the Order of Canada, awarded – for the humour which he has brought to his profession as a newspaper writer and radio commentator.”
The final article in Greg Clark’s War Stories (1964) collection is called ‘None Else of Name’. It, along with ‘The Prayer’ and ‘One Block of Howland Avenue’ are all worthy reads if they can be found. “They resonate as the insights and memories of a toughened gallant veteran who bore the scars, yet emerged with enhanced compassion, dignity and still-effective sense of duty. Free of bombast and triumphalist cant, Clark’s work is long overdue for a modern compilation.”
 Bethune, Brian. 2018. The Act of Remembering, Maclean Magazine Nov 2018, p. 92
 Libraries and Archives Canada. https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/military-heritage/first-world-war/personnel-records/Pages/search.aspx
 Nicholson, Col. G.W.L. 1962. Canadian Expeditionary Force 1914-1919. pp. 148/149. Queens Printer, Ottawa
 Clark, Gregory. 1964. War Stories, Ryerson Press, Toronto
 Veteran Affairs Canada – The Battle of Vimy Ridge Pamphlet. Veterans.gc.ca
 Morrison, Maj.-General Edward. 2017. Morrison – The Long-Lost Memoir Of Canada’s Artillery Commander In The Great War. Edited by Susan Raby-Dunne. Heritage House Publishing, Toronto