Howard James Thornton

Nov 25, 1898

Born in Kingston, Ontario to Samuel W. and Laura Catherine (nee Moxam) Thornton

His family moved to the United States while he was a youth


Oct 4, 1915

Entered Canada by train at Cornwall, Ontario with a friend (Fred Atkinson) from Auburn, New York, USA

Attested into the 154th Battalion CEF in Cornwall, Ontario

Ø  Number 633097

Ø  Next of kin given as Samuel Thornton, father, Auburn, New York, USA

Ø  Previous occupation given as Clerk

Ø  No previous military experience given

Ø  Religion given as Church of England

Ø  Assigned to “D” Company

On attesting he lied about his age, stating that he had been born November 25, 1896.

The battalion trained in the Barriefield Camp, Kingston, Ontario

His friend Fred, who also joined the battalion, trained with him in “D” Company.  Fred Atkinson was eventually transferred to the 38th Battalion and survived the war


May 1, 1916

Appointed to the provisional rank of Corporal


Oct 25, 1916

Appointed to the rank of Acting Corporal

Embarked the SS Mauretania in Halifax, Nova Scotia



Oct 31, 1916

Disembarked in Liverpool, England and the battalion proceeded to Bramshott to continue training


Nov 24, 1916

Admitted to the Connaught Military Hospital, Bramshott, with a diagnosis that reads VDG (Venereal Disease Gonorrhea)


Dec 7, 1916

Discharged to duty from hospital


Jan 6, 1917

Reverted to the rank of Private


Jan 31, 1917

Transferred to the newly formed 6th Reserve Battalion in East Sandling.  Shortly after the formation of the battalion it was moved to Seaford to train reinforcements for the front.


Apr 17, 1917

Transferred to the 21st Battalion


Apr 18, 1917

Arrived at the CBD (Canadian Base Depot) in the Rouelles Camp, Havre, France as part of a draft of 85 reinforcements from England and TOS (Taken On Strength) the 21st Battalion


May 21, 1917

After leaving the base depot, Private Thornton joined the 21st Battalion in the support trenches near Vimy Ridge


Nov 3, 1917

During the night of November 2-3, the 21st Battalion moved into the front lines at Passchendaele.  Almost immediately they came under an intense attack by German Storm Troopers.  The attack was eventually repelled but Private Howard James Thornton had been among those killed in action.  He was buried in a field near the battalion’s headquarters at Crest Farm. 




A Google street view of the location as it looks today


When the war ended, the Imperial War Graves Commission, the forerunner of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission attempted to locate his remains to be reinterred in a nearby cemetery, however his identifiable remains could not be located.  This was most likely a result of the constant artillery shelling in the area for another year of the war.  Consequently, Private Thornton’s name is listed on the Menin Gate in Ypres, Belgium for those who were killed in Belgium during the war and have no known grave

Following the war, the British War Medal, Victory Medal, Plaque (Dead Man’s Penny) and Scroll were sent to his father, Samuel Thornton, 445 Averill Ave., Rochester, New York, USA

The Memorial Cross was sent to his mother, Mrs. Laura Thornton, at the same address


Howard Thornton is honoured on the Memorial Wall in Kingston, Ontario

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