Pte Ralph Dusenbury, MM

Pte R Dusenbury



Dec 12, 1895

Born at Brighton ON 

NOTE:  Although the online attestation paper at the LAC website suggests that his last name may be spelled as “Dusenburg”, it is clear that his name is spelled with a “y” on the end.


Nov 5, 1914

Attested at Kingston ON 

Ø      No 59281

Ø      Next of kin given as Mrs May Dusenbury of Brighton ON (mother)

Ø      Occupation given as “Labourer”

Ø      Previous service given as “Petawawa Camp”

Ø      Religion given as “Wesleyan”


May 6, 1915

Embarked SS Metagama at Montreal for England


May 15, 1915

Disembarked at Folkestone England – pay sheets record him as being in “C” Coy.


Sep 14, 1915

Embarked for France and Disembarked at Boulogne


Feb 1, 1916

Attached to 250th Tunneling Coy, a British Engineering Company attached to the Canadian Corps.


Apr 10, 1916

Attached to 2nd Tunneling Coy


May 6, 1916

Given 7 days “Field Punishment No 1” for refusing to obey an order given by an NCO


May 31, 1916

Pay deduction of $7.70 for “Field Punishment No. 1”


Jun 2, 1916

Reported missing after action in the field.  The same day he was reported as a prisoner of war at Dulmen.  The trench he was in was being held by the CMR and was over run by Germans during the night.  250 prisoners were taken by the Germans.


Jul 21, 1916

Struck Off Strength


Sep 7, 1916

Officially reported that he was being held at Lager No 3, Munster


Aug 10, 1917

Reported as being escaped and proceeding to England via first boat


Aug 11, 1917

TOS EORD at Seaford after reporting from Headquarters and detailed to the Depot Coy

 On arrival in England, he was interviewed and debriefed by an Intelligence Officer and that is below.


Aug 28, 1917

On command of the Canadian Discharge Depot for discharge


Sep 15, 1917

Embarked SS Metagama and ceases to be on command of CDD Buxton and is SOS on proceeding to Canada from Liverpool for discharge


Sep 26, 1917

Proceedings on Discharge

 Ø      Noted as member of 21st Battalion

Ø      Noted as “Returned to Canada for disposal of Military Authorities – authority AG 3b.2-D-778, dated Aug 11, 1917 (escaped prisoner of war)

Ø      Noted as having served 8 ½ months in France


Sep 26, 1917

Declared “fit for duty” at MD No 3, Kingston ON


Oct 9, 1917

Medical Board at Discharge Depot, Quebec, Que. found no disability or medical problem and declared him fit for all duty.  He is declared by Headquarters Authority “must not be permitted to return overseas under any circumstances”


Nov 1, 1917

Transferred to Special Service Battalion, #3 SS Coy, from Casualties


Nov 7, 1917

Absent without leave, forfeits 7 days pay and 120hrs detention.  Changed to 5 days detention and forfeit 10 days pay


Dec 14, 1917

Promoted to Corporal


Jan 21, 1918

Reverts to permanent grade of Pte.


Jan 25, 1918

Medical Board at Fort Henry Kingston found him in good health and fit.


Jan 28, 1918

Proceedings on Discharge

 Ø      Discharged as a “Special Case” at Fort Henry, Kingston ON

Ø      Noted as being member of No. 3 Special Service Co.

Ø      Reason for discharge given “as special case, Auth HQ.649-D.2442 January 17, 1918, 3 MD 88-D-111 dated Jan 21, 1918.”


Feb 12, 1918

Letter from OC No 3 Special Services Coy to ADMS (Assistant Director of Medical Services) MD No 3, Kingston

 Ø      Reason for discharge – “Special Case”

Ø      Authority for discharge – “3 MD.88-D-111 dated Jan 21, 1918

Ø      Date of discharge Feb 12, 1918

Ø      Intended residence – Brighton ON

Ø      Pay adjusted to Feb 12, 1918


Mar 13, 1919

On application for a War Service Gratuity he gave his address as 18 Degrassi St., Toronto – he declared that the only post service pay he has received was $100 from MD #3 at Kingston


Jul 24, 1919

Address given as “General Delivery, Buffalo NY”


Jan 27, 1920

Awarded the Military Medal – London Gazette No 31759

 This was awarded for his act of bravery in escaping from the POW camp.
Thank you to Steve St Ament for this information


Oct 5, 1921

Medals sent to 679 Rhodes Ave, Toronto


May 8, 1978

Records were reviewed by Canadian Pensions Commissioner to establish eligibility for Prisoner of War Compensation



NOTE:   There is an undated page in the file that records a gun shot wound with the bullet penetrating the left thigh, left forearm and left eye.  This is recorded on an otherwise blank page.  There are no medical records to indicate any hospitalization or even admittance to a Casualty Clearing Station.  Medical Boards conducted prior to his discharge make no mention of the wounds or scars from such wounds.  The note also mentions 6 weeks leave.  There is no record in the file of him being granted 6 weeks leave at any point.

 In the personal accounts of his ordeals, there is no mention of being wounded.

 At this time it is my assumption that this page has been inadvertently misfiled by Archives personnel and the record belongs to another soldier. 


What follows is a transcript of the debriefing that took place when he arrived in Engalnd after his escape.

I was captured at Ypres on June 2nd, 1916, with about two hundred other men.  I was not wounded and I saw no acts of brutality on the part of the enemy. 

We spent the night in the village just behind the line, and were given coffee and bread.  The next morning we were put on the train, forty in a cattle truck.  On the way I saw no Red Cross nurses and we were not ill-treated in any way.  We arrived at Dulmen after one day on one night’s journey. 

At Dulmen there were three camps.  We slept in huts and the accommodation was good.  There was plenty of drinking and washing water and the lavatory accommodation was also good.  We did no work and there were opportunities for recreation.   They were mostly French prisoners here.   We were fairly well treated, and I saw no acts of violence committed by any officials of the camp—even the sentries treated us well. 

We were allowed to write four postcards and two letters a month.  The food was of indifferent quality, but not bad.  For breakfast we had coffee and bread (ten to a loaf), for dinner a poor kind of soup, and for supper soup again. 

There was no religious instruction.  Whilst I was in Dulmen our parcels had not yet begun to arrive. 

I went to Duisburg at the end of July.  It was a small camp, holding 125 prisoners altogether.  Ten were British, five Russians, and the remainder French. 

The food was about the same as at Dulmen, and the sleeping, lavatory, and washing accommodation was good. 

Neither here nor at Dulmen was there any lice or epidemic. 

We worked from six to six at pick and shovel work, making a foundation for a factory, for which we were paid a mark a day.  None of the prisoners refused to labour, and we worked alongside German workmen. 

I saw and heard of no brutality to prisoners.  The punishment for offences was dark cells. 

Our parcels began to arrive about September, after which they arrived regularly. 

We were transferred to Munster from Duisburg because the Germans in charge of us did not think we did sufficient work.

There were sixty Englishmen here, the remainder French and Russians. 

The food here was about the same as a t Duisburg. 

I saw no men knocked about by the Germans and no brutality of any kind. 

On January 20th I was transferred to Neubeckum, which is a work lager. 

There were thirty prisoners altogether—all British.  We were under the charge of a Gefreiter and one military sentry and two civilians. 

We were lodged in an old inn, in three rooms, then in a room. 

There were no fires in the sleeping rooms, but one in the “living room”. 

We had the same variety of food as we had had at other camps, but it had deteriorated in quality and quantity.  Our work was in a stone quarry.  At first we worked from 8 to 4.30, but from the beginning of March the time was changed to from 6 to 6. 

In February the postern considered Private Campbell, of the Buffs, was not working hard enough.   The quarry-master covered Campbell with a revolver while a civilian postern knocked him about.  He hit him with his fist.  Campbell had no opportunity of complaining of his treatment to an officer, for we never saw an officer. 

In March I threatened to hit the postern with a pick.  I was taken back to the lager that night, fetched out into the open and three men set on to me (two military and one civilian).  They hit me with fists and rifles, and kept me outside until 2 o’clock in the morning, returning at intervals to give me another hammering.  The Gefreiter on this occasion was drunk. 

We were often threatened by men with revolvers.  Posterns were often drunk during the day, and frequently called us names and provoked us. 

There were also eight Italians (interned) working in the quarry.  They were civilians who had been in Germany at the outbreak of war. 

I escaped on the 18th July 1917.  Eleven men had previously attempted to escape, but had been caught. 

Three of us ran off from the quarry at dinner time; the sentry was inside the hut having his dinner, and all three of us got right away. 

We were over 100 kilometres from the frontier.  We each had food, and we had a map and compass, which we had bought from the Italian civilians. 

We traveled by night and slept in the day in woods and hedges, crossed two small rivers and found no guards on the banks. 

During the time I was a prisoner I worked side by side with Germans.  The German workmen were not much better fed than we were, and looked starved, and we could not have lived without our parcels.  The sentries often tried to buy bread and butter from us. 

I could not speak German, and none of the sentries spoke English.  All the sentries were of military age, and they never talked about the war except to say that they were sick of it.  Many sentries had to go up for re-examination. 

I saw three Englishmen who were working in a munition factory Beckum.  They said they were forced to do so. 

The sentries said that England was starving on account of the U-boats.  The English prisoners were in excellent spirits and never believed those stories. 

Many French prisoners were on parole.  I saw very few Belgians, and no reprisal prisoners. 

The Germans seemed rather depressed, although some of them are still confident of victory. 

I received no letters for the last four months, and my letters home were not received for the last six months.  Parcels came regularly, and I had one the night before I escaped. 

There was never any stoppage in the delivery of parcels.  The tins were taken out of the parcels, a number put on, stored, and when we required anything the tin was opened and we were given the contents on a plate.  The biscuits the men now receive are very good indeed.


He also gave an interview to the Kingston newspaper


Kingston Daily Standard August 14, 1917 


Pte. Dusenbury, Brighton, Had Thrilling Experience 

Buried Food in Field to Victual Themselves 

Pte. Ralph Dusenbury and Pte. H. Henderson (not a 21ster) two Canadian prisoners of war in Germany have escaped from their prisons and are now in London. Pte. Dusenbury is an original 21st Battalion boy, having enlisted here on November 5th. 1914. He went through the heaviest part of the early fighting and was taken prisoner at Sanctuary Woods in June, I916. 

Speaking to the Canadian Associated Press the men said they had a pretty rough time. The last few months they had been working in quarters. No actual brutality to the prisoners took place so long as they worked hard. Being in the pink of condition, Henderson, and Dusenbury were able to do this. The food, however, was insufficient. The parcels from the Red Cross arrived, mostly in good shape, and except for these the prisoners would certainly have gone near starvation. "We had resolved for a long-time to try getting away" said Henderson. "Those parcels from home came in awful hardy and we managed to save something out of them, for nearly a couple of months, hiding the stuff about the camp when we went out in working parties, taking good care to remember where we had put them all. "It was hard lines not to be able to eat the food some days, but we had made up our minds that this was the only way of victualling ourselves, for an eighty mile journey to the frontier. One night we were out a bit later than usual, so just as darkness was coming we slipped off with out causing an alarm. We went for our hidden parcels and found them all right, although some were rain soaked. We could not be guaranteed against this. We did very well on the whole, for we met nobody who asked us any questions. Of course, we did not travel in daytime. Our food gave out, but we got along with turnips from' the fields and fruit from the orchards. Once we found a friendly chicken who went the rest of the journey inside us. It was good fun, the weather being fine. When we crossed the frontier a guard came up, but he was not a bit surprised to find us. We were sent to Rotterdam, and treated very kindly, being fitted out with new clothes, especially boots, ours having been worn to bits. 

'"A private of the Royal Scots Fusiliers got away with us. We should not have done so well if we had not thought it all out well in advance.  "Things seem to be going badly for the German civilians." 

Pte. Dusenbury was a resident of Brighton, Ont., and received his early training at Barriefield camp.


Return to Tribute list