William George Crouch DCM

Rank: 
Company Sergeant Major
Regimental number: 
11303
Unit at enlistment: 
4th Battalion
Force: 
C.E.F.
Volunteered or conscripted: 
Volunteered
Survived the war: 
Yes
Wounded: 
Yes
Cemetery: 
Farringdon Cemetery, Brantford, Ontario
Awards or decorations: 
Distinguished Conduct Medal
Commemorated at: 
Grace Anglican Church
Birth country: 
England
Birth county: 
Kent
Birth city: 
Dartford
Address at enlistment: 
12 Balfour Street, Brantford, Ontario
Next of kin address: 
12 Balfour Street, Brantford, Ontario
Trade or calling: 
Blacksmith
Religious denominations: 
Church of England
Marital status: 
Married
Age at enlistment: 
34
Gallantry medals: 
Yes

Letters and documents

BX April 20, 1915

Sergeant William George Crouch Reported Ill

Sergeant George Crouch, who went away with the first contingent from the Dufferin Rifles for the First Canadian Contingent, is reported to be ill in the base hospital, though his condition is by no means serious. Sergt. Crouch was a very well known figure here. He was an active member of the Dufferin Rifles, and was well known as a football referee. His friends were greatly relieved to hear the news, as it had been reported that he had been wounded and sent back to the base hospital.

London Gazette: 30204
Date: July 26, 1917
Honour or Award: Distinguished Conduct Medal
Authority: R.O. 2967, Currie, June 26, 1917
Name: Crouch, William George (772111)
Unit: 4th Battalion

Details: For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He went forward with a party to establish an advanced post. The party came under heavy fire, and the officer in charge was wounded. He took charge and held the position until relieved.

BX August 31, 1917

Bruce Stipe and William George Crouch Reported Wounded

Bruce Stipe, numbers among the wounded and gassed, as does William George Crouch. Private Bruce Stipe enlisted on July 18, 1915 and was wounded on Oct. 17, 1916. This time he has been both wounded and gassed.

BX June 25, 1915

Sergeant William George Crouch Has Returned on Furlough - First Member of Dufferin Rifles to Come Back From the Trenches

With the enviable record of having devoted several of the best years of his manhood in the service of his King, Sergeant George Crouch, a veteran of the south African war, who afterwards served with the Imperial forces for four and a half years in India, and who at the outbreak of the present war was among the first to volunteer and be accepted in the active service company of the Dufferin Rifles, has returned to the city, having been invalided home as being physically unfit for service. On his arrival at Quebec on Sunday last he was granted three months furlough pending his discharge and though he expects to remain in Brantford with his wife for at least some months, his future plans indicate that he may again offer his services in the defence of the Empire.

Every inch a soldier, brawny and apparently in the very pink of physical condition, Sergeant Crouch recently conversed with The Expositor last evening and with frequent reference to a worn-out and ragged pocket diary, related briefly but most interestingly, his activities of the past ten months and some of the experiences which he encountered as a member of the Dufferin Rifles Company in the "Mad Fourth" Battalion.

After Valcartier

Following the long training at Valcartier camp the Brantford Quota embarked on S.S. Tyrolia on September 25, stopping at Gaspe Bay for seven days. After an uneventful voyage of 19 days at sea, the Canadians arrived at Plymouth on October 14, where after a wait of seven days in the harbor, disembarkation was commenced, and the trip to Bustard Camp, Salisbury Plain, completed on October 23.

Remaining in the mud at Salisbury until February 8, 1915 the greater part of the First Canadian Overseas Contingent proceeded to Avonmouth where it embarked for St. Nazaire in France, two and a half days being occupied in crossing the channel by a round about way, in order of course, to avoid the underwater craft. Two days later, the colonial Tommies were billeted. Sergt. Crouch being one of many soldiers allotted to an old school house, where they slept comfortably on the floor.  On February 17, they left for Erkighan where after a short march; they were given their first taste of the trenches, being located on the flank of the Royal Scots. This sojourn lasted for only 24 hours, when they were again taken out and advanced to the well known town of Armentieres, and later to Bac St. Maur, where they spent one night billeted in a large carpet factory, resting quietly between the machinery, which needless to say, was idle. One blanket and a water-proof sheet served as the only comforters for each soldier.

 The Trenches

Commencing with March 1, the Canadian soldiers were given their turn in the trenches regularly, with four days in and four days out. During the battle of Neuve Chapelle which will be recalled as having been costly, but extremely successful for the Allies, the Fourth Battalion, under Col. Labatt was held in reserve, and during its progress the Brantford men, though they were supposed to be enjoying their four days' rest after their turn in the trenches, hourly expected to be called into the thick of the fight. However, they evidently were not needed, and it was several weeks later that the Canadian contingent was given its opportunity to show the world its true mettle.

The Trench Warfare

Speaking of the life in the trenches Sergeant Crouch stated with regret that he was unable to tell his experiences of any of the big battles of the war. He had been ordered back from the front on account of his health before the battle of Langemarck, and his battalion had not taken part in the Neuve Chapelle fighting. Bombarding and cannonading had, however, kept up its untiring roaring practically throughout all the time he spent in the trenches.

In answer to a query Sergeant Crouch explained that the fresh troops always entered the trenches at the dusk of evening. When the rested soldiers were within 500 yards of the trenches, the men formed single file and as they marched into their places, the wearied soldiers whom they came to relieve, would in turn march in single file a distance back to their billets, usually about three miles in the rear of the first line.
 
Stress of Night Duty

From dusk until 11 o'clock, the trenches were a veritable hive of industry. Parties were sent out by the Allies and Teutons alike to gather in wood, and during that period an armistice was unofficially but mutually agreed upon. Soldiers were despatched to the front of the trenches, to make repairs to the defence works or to strengthen the wire entanglements. It was during this period that the food and provisions for the next day were brought in from the transports in the rear. At frequent intervals, declared the returned soldier, the Germans, who were evidently nervous or overly cautious, would send up brilliant rockets which would serve to light up the ground between the two lines of trenches, and during the life of these lights, the men who were working above ground would immediately drop to the ground to hide themselves from the German snipers, who by their ability to shoot have won the respect of the British Tommies. The Prussians were found to be especially unfriendly in this regard, and in contrast to their fellow soldiers, the Saxons, who would fraternize more freely with their enemy, they would accept every opportunity to pepper away at the Allies' soldiers during these night armistices. Throughout the weary hours of the night, "listening posts" were despatched to duty in front of the trenches, these working in pairs, so that one man may return to the commanding officer or sentry and warn his fellow soldiers of any activities among the Germans. Every man is expected to "stand to," and be prepared with bayonet fixed for surprise attacks, which however are usually preceded by artillery fire at the break of day.
 
Sent to the Rear

After five weeks of trench and billet life, during which he participated in but little of the heavier fighting of the war, Sergt. Crouch was taken sick on April 4. On this date he took leave of his comrades in the Dufferin Rifles, and was sent back through Calais and Boulogne to Estaires and thence to Rouen hospital. Rouen is the headquarters of the French Derby and on the ground formerly occupied by the racetrack are now located extensive hospital accommodations for the wounded and disabled soldiers. Two weeks later he was sent to the Royal Victoria hospital at Netley England, where there were 2000 British wounded being tenderly cared for. 

While at Netley, Sergt. Crouch saw many pitiful sights, among them being one British Tommy who thought he had lost both his legs, an eye and four fingers off one hand was bright and happy as though he had not a care in the world. There were also 270 German wounded at Netley, and these men were treated just as well as the British. The German officers were given the same fare as British officers, and the German soldiers as British soldiers.
 
Germans Were All Ages
 
Among the number of Teutons, who were being cared for at Netley, Sergt. Crouch stated that he saw many men whom he would swear were at least 70 years of age, and others whom he was sure could not have been more than 15 or 16 years of age.
 
Back to Canada
 
Following a month's sojourn at Netley, and a two weeks' sick leave, the Brantford soldier was sent on to Shorncliffe, where he was attached to the 12th Battalion which is used to supply drafts for the depleted battalions in France, on the same day on which Crouch returned from sick leave.

After remaining at Shorncliffe for one week, Sergeant Crouch was given half an hour's notice that he would sail on the S.S. Missanabie from Liverpool on June 11, together with Private T.D. Webb, of Brantford and 12 other Canadians in command of Major Ross, of the Gordon Highlanders of Vancouver.

The trip back to Canada proved uneventful, although there were rumours that the periscope of a submarine had been seen, and the ship went about 200 miles out of its regular course to avoid the underwater craft. In consequence, it took 12 days to make the homeward voyage. Many icebergs were seen. On arriving at Quebec on Sunday last, they were met by the military authorities of the ancient citadel, whither they were conveyed. There the Canadians were again examined and Sergt. Crouch was granted three months furlough, pending the granting of his discharge. While in Quebec they were visited by the Duke and Duchess of Connaught, and Princess Patricia, who conversed with the disabled soldiers and talked of their experiences. Leaving Quebec on Tuesday night, Sergeant Crouch reached Brantford on Wednesday evening, and is now resident at his home, 12 Balfour Street.
 
Thoroughly Content
 
Speaking generally of his treatment by the British and Canadian military officials, and by the officers at the front, and the men on board steamer, Sergeant Crouch was in every respect thoroughly satisfied with the kindly and considerate treatment which he had received. He expressed himself most strongly as being disgusted with those chronic kickers who had found fault with every little inconvenience which had been encountered under active service condition.
 
Has Souvenirs
 
In addition to a number of cartridges and pieces of shell which he collected during his sojourn in France, Sergt. Crouch managed to keep his bearskin coat, which was worn by the British Tommy during the cold and damp of the winter campaign in the trenches. He has also a number of interesting papers and souvenirs, which he has collected and which will in later years, prove of the greatest value to him as relics of the Great War.
 
Met Many Brantford Boys
 
Asked if he had seen any of the Brantford boys during his meanderings of the past few weeks, Sergeant Crouch stated that he had run across many of the Duffs who had been wounded at Langemarck, and who had recovered sufficiently at Netley hospital to enable them to rejoin the ranks in the 12th Battalion at Shorncliffe. Among these were Sergeant E. H. Prior, Privates Babcock, E. Hooper, Bob McCartney, Frank Betts, P. Baker and Lance-Corpl. J. Dockray. He had also seen Private Ernie Edwards at the Canadian hospital, Netley, England.

BX May 24, 1966

William George Crouch Dies; Veteran of Boer War

George Crouch, a decorated war veteran, and school attendance officer in Brantford for 42 years, died Sunday at his home, 175 St. George Street.  He was 84 years old.

Mr. Crouch, who was born in Gillingham, Kent, England came to Canada and to Brantford in 1906.  He and his wife, Margaret, were to have celebrated on Monday their diamond wedding anniversary.

Mr. Crouch was a veteran of the South African War (1899-1902) and of the First World War.

During the First World War, while serving with the Fourth Battalion, C.E.F., he won the Distinguished Conduct Medal for bravery at the Battle of Vimy.

For his service in the South African War he received the Queen’s and King’s medals.  He had three bars to the Queen Victoria Medal, and two to his King Edward VII Medal.

At one time he was a champion walker, and an expert rifleman.  He won the Ontario and the Dufferin Medal, and more than once narrowly missed getting on Canada’s Bisley team.  For many years he was a competitor in the Governor-General’s rifle contests in Ottawa.

He served with the Dufferin Rifles and later with the Dufferin and Haldimand Rifles, in the non-permanent militia.  He was a member of the Springboks Association, Branch 90 of the Royal Canadian Legion, the Ex-Imperial Club, Ozias Lodge, the sergeants’ mess of the 56th Field Regiment, and a member of St. Stephen’s Anglican Church.

Surviving besides his wife are one daughter, Mrs. Bristol (Margaret) Coombs, of Brantford, two sons, Ronald of Brantford and Raymond of Vancouver, six grandchildren, and six great grandchildren.

Mr. Crouch is resting at the Beckett Funeral Home for service on Wednesday at 3.30 p.m.  Interment will be in Farringdon Burial Ground.  Rev. R.J. Crocker of St. Stephen’s Church will officiate.