Harry White Wilmer, MM


 

Jan 27, 1890

Born at La Plata Maryland, USA

 

1913 Graduated from the University of Maryland as a member of Phi Kappa Sigma Fraternity, Alpha Zeta Chapter

 

1914 Employed by Fidelity and Investment Co, New York, NY

 

Nov 7, 1914

Attested into the 21st Battalion at Kingston Ontario 

Ø      Number 60077 (temporary number 927)

Ø      Next of kin given as L Allison Wilmer (father) of Leonardtown, Maryland, USA

Ø      Previous occupation given as Lumberman

Ø      No previous military experience given

Ø      Religion given as Church of England

Ø      Assigned to “H” Company

o       This was later reorganized into “D” Company

 

May 6, 1915

Embarked the RMS Metagama at Montreal Quebec

 

 

May 15, 1915

Disembarked at Devonport England and proceeded to the West Sandling Camp near Hythe Kent

 

Jun 25, 1915

Appointed to rank of Lance Cpl with pay

 

 He wrote a letter back to Mr. Jack Matthews in La Plata from West Sandling Camp September 5th, 1915 on 21st Battalion letterhead:

Dear Jack,

I feel sure you will be surprised to hear from me, however I trust the surprise won't be an unpleasant one. There is hardly ever any time for letter writing for we have been very much on the go since our arrival in England last May.

At last our training is at an end, and we are ready for the front. The King and Lord Kitchener inspected us Thursday and I understand the whole Division made a wonderful showing.  We leave for France next Thursday to do our little part in the great struggle and honestly I can hardly wait to get there. We all feel extremely bitter towards Germany on account of her many unpardoned atrocities, and I know when the time comes we shall go at them with all the strength we possess.

I wish you could see our Camp. We are situated on a very high hill overlooking the English Channel two miles away, and all around us are smaller hills and little valleys and hedgerows everywhere and they are always green for the sun is never too hot to parch them. It is truly a beautiful country, and the people are fine.

I was up in London a while ago for several days with one of the fellows in our company whose home is there. It was my first leave of absence and I truly enjoyed it. We spent most of the time sight seeing, but what I enjoyed most of all was the little touch of home life which as you know has always appealed to me. The people there think a whole lot of the Canadians on account of their brave fight at the battle of Ypres where they saved the left flank of the British and French Armies.

I declare they stop you on the street and ask you to go to the theatre or take an auto ride. Was down to Ramsgate to see the damage done by a Zeppelen (sic) in a recent raid, and on the way back stopped at Canterbury to see the old Cathedral there.

Mary Allison frequently sends me a new photo of little Warren Trowbridge and he is certainly a great looking kid. She also gives me detailed accounts of how he is progressing and the number of pounds he weighs which certainly amuses me for really I don't know much a baby should weigh. I know how happy she is, and indeed it makes me happy too at the thought of it.

When you get the chance please write to me for it would certainly afford me a great deal of pleasure. I think of you and all "back home" ever so often and while absent in body I am forever there in spirit. Good luck and happiness to you always, and my love to all at "Iduln."

Sincerely

Harry White

A letter to the address below will reach me in France.

# 4 Company, 21st Canadian Battalion
4th Infantry Brigade,
2nd Canadian Division

To War Office,
London, England
Reg. No. 60077

The letter was supplied courtesy of the Southern Maryland Studies Center, College of Southern Maryland, Louise Stone Matthews Collection, and transcribed by Stephen Ellacott

 

Sep 14, 1915

Embarked the St Seiriol at Folkestone

 

Sep 15, 1915

Disembarked at Boulogne France and proceeded to St Omer

 

Mar 16, 1916

Promoted to rank of Cpl to replace Cpl Evans 59310, who was killed in action

 

May 28, 1916

Granted 10 days leave

 

Jun 7, 1916

Granted a 2 day extension to his leave

 

Jun 26, 1916

Received shrapnel wounds to left shoulder and head while in the front line trench.  He was rendered unconscious for a short time and was treated at the CCS (Casualty Clearing Station)

 

Jun 27, 1916

Transferred to No 13 General Hospital at Boulogne

 

Jun 30, 1916

Surgery performed to remove shrapnel balls and bone fragments

 

Jul 2, 1916

Invalided to England aboard the Hospital Ship Cambria

 

Posted to CCAC (Canadian Casualty Assembly Centre) while in hospital

 

Jul 3, 1916

Admitted to the Military Hospital at Bagthorpe, Nottingham

 

Aug 25, 1916

Transferred to the King’s Canadian Red Cross Convalescent Hospital at Bushey Park, Teddington

 

Aug 29, 1916

Transferred to the Military Convalescent Hospital at Woodcote Park, Epsom

 

Oct 11, 1916

Awarded the Military Medal per London Gazette #29780


 

Oct 12, 1916

Discharged from hospital and recommended for sick leave to Canada

 

Oct 14, 1916

Granted sick leave to Canada until November 25, 1916 

Embarked the RMS Ascania at London

 

Address while on leave - 4 Revell St, Annapolis, Maryland, USA

 

Oct 27, 1916

Disembarked at Montreal Quebec

 

Nov 25, 1916

Leave extended to January 6, 1917

 

Jan 6, 1917

Leave extended to February 8, 1917

 

Jan 20, 1917

Discharged from the CEF in Canada as “a special case”
 

Although there is no copy of his discharge papers in the file, his post discharge pay was sent to him at 4 Revell St, Annapolis, Maryland, USA

 

Oct 10, 1918

At this point I do not have the records or details of his service, but he joined the United States Army with the rank of Lieutenant and went to France with the 20th Aero Squadron, known as The Mad Bolshevik Squandron, as an Observer, flying in Dehaviland DH-4 aircraft number 32904.

 

On October 10, 1918 his aircraft was hit by an "Archie" while over the German lines at a height of eleven thousand feet. The plane was seen to turn and start gliding towards the American trenches, but, at about six hundred feet, they apparently encountered a strong German barrage which riddled his plane with bullets and killed both him and his pilot, Lieutenant William Clarkson Potter.  They were both buried by the Germans at Barricourt, Ardennes, near Stenay.  Following the war, both remains were transferred to the Suresnes American Cemetery and reburied side by side.

The above is taken from The History of the American Field Service in France at http://net.lib.byu.edu/estu/wwi/memoir/AFShist/AFSTC.htm#TC.

Above left is a photo of his pilot, Lt WC Potter who was killed with Lt Wilmer, right, and they are buried side by side
The photos above are from The History of the 20th Aero Squadron by Clarence G Barth

Above is a photo of the crosses erected in the original graves for Harry Wilmer and his pilot.  The photo is taken from Lost Eagles by Blain Pardoe and credited to The National Museum of the United States.   Below are the permanent crosses that currently mark their graves in their final resting place, the Suresnes American Cemetery.


Suresnes American Cemetery, Suresnes, France, plot B, row 17, graves 2 and 3.
Photos of the current headstones courtesy of the Suresnes Cemetery staff and reproduced here with their permission

 

Another eye witness, pilot William S Holt of the 20th Sqn, described what he saw in a 1980 interview:

"Little Willie Potter.....I remember so clearly seeing him go down.  Potter was right over on my right wing and I was looking over there and the Germans were coming in.  I saw this one particular German plane come in and turn - and Potter's gas tank burst into flames.   The plane turned over and it went down.  Poor little fellow!  It is traumatic.  I had seen others go down befoe, but this was the most vivid.   (Potter's observer) Harry Wilmer was a Canadian.  Why he was in the American Army, I do not know.  He had been on the ground with the British Army and had won a Military Medal."

In addition there is this entry from "Over the Front", Volume 22, League of WW1 Aviation Historians:

"On 10 October, Ltn Leibfried and Vzfie Trautmann downed DH-4s of the 20th Aero Squadron DH-4 No 32904 flown by 1st Lt WC Potter and 1st Lt HW Wilmer (KIA) over the forest by Fey-en-Haye."

 

Dec 10, 1923

1914-15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal were sent to his father, L Allison Wilmer, c/o Wilmer & Ching, Leonardtown, Maryland USA 

Because he was discharged from the CEF and serving with the American Expeditionary Force, there was no Memorial Cross issued. 

The American Legion at 6330 Crain Highway, La Plata Maryland is officially named The Harry White Wilmer American Legion Post 82.

  

 

I would like to thank Stephen Ellacott for his assistance in researching this hero.  Stephen has uncovered most of the photos for this tribute and much of the information contained here.  The photo at the top of this page  is from his colleciton, taken from the May 8, 1919 edition of the New York Times.


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