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Corporal William Maybury: Hero of Vimy Ridge and Hill 70
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    Corporal William Maybury: Hero of Vimy Ridge and Hill 70

  • Article and image courtesy of littleimmigrants.wordpress.com.

  • Written by: Roy MacGregor

    They say the good die young, but losing your life twice by the time you’re 25 seems a bit much. Still, this is Will Maybury’s story: the good young man who fought, and died, for the country that abandoned him. He was a “bastard” – the result of “immoral relations” – and belonged, until the authorities took him away, to “a drunken family, the grandmother included.” At least that’s the way the official documents once described him. Today, the broken family he helped put back together prefers to think of him as a “hero.”


    It is hard for anyone today to imagine the horrors of the 25th year of his short life. He commanded a small group of men who fired mortars from the heart of battle. In the spring of 1917, he helped take Vimy Ridge. In summer, he fought in the Battle of Hill 70. In the fall it was Passchendaele. By then he would have known his luck was running thin, if not altogether out.

    Corporal Will Maybury was hit by shrapnel at Passchendaele on October 28, 1917. He died from his infected wounds five weeks later.

    But then, it was always hard to tell whether Will Maybury was very lucky or very unlucky. He was born in Sheffield, England, in 1892 to an impoverished widow who had taken in a roomer. A sister, Elsie, followed two years later and, six more years later, brother George was born.

    They were undernourished and illegitimate and, eventually, the authorities moved in and shipped Will, 11, and Elsie, 9, off to Canada where they became two of the many thousands of “Bernardo Children” sent to the colony to serve as farm helpers and domestic servants – some would say “slaves.”

    They both ended up in Ontario, but in different communities, and did not see each other for 10 years, by which time little George had also been shipped out to Canada.

    They were apart yet thrived. Annual “check-ups” found them well and happy in their new land.

    By 1914, Will and Elsie had reconnected and were living in the same small town of Brussels. They had also tracked down George, and Elsie had sent the little brother photographs of her and Will picnicking with a young man and woman. Will seems a ham, even wearing his girlfriend’s hat in one photo. In the last picture, he is in uniform, looking very serious.

    He went off to train in England, using his downtime to travel to Sheffield in the hopes of tracking relatives. It is not known what he found there.

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