Sixteen months after the outbreak of the First World War, Charlie enlisted with the 39th Battery, Canadian Field Artillery, at Lethbridge, AB on December 8, 1915. The unit—the second of four batteries recruited in the area during the war—became part of the 10th Brigade CFA in January 1916 and made its way to Saint John, NB the following month. Personnel departed for overseas aboard SS Missinabie on March 2 and arrived at Portsmouth, England 10 days later.
10th Brigade CFA was attached to the 3rd Canadian Division and crossed the English Channel to France on July 13. Three days later, the Brigade departed by train for Belgium’s Ypres Salient, where its personnel entered the forward area before month’s end. Charlie’s battery served with the 10th Brigade in the Ypres Salient’s trenches for two months, relocating to the Somme region of France in early October. The units provided artillery fire in support of Canadian Corps attacks on Regina Trench, a fortified German position located on Thiepval Ridge. Following its capture in early November, the 10th Brigade CFA moved northward to the Arras area, where personnel served in the line throughout the winter of 1916-17.
While Charlie’s unit was in the line on April 9, 1917, its guns played no direct role in the Canadian Corps’ attack on Vimy Ridge. Personnel moved forward several days later as Canadian artillery units established operations in several towns below the newly captured ridge. During the ensuing weeks, German artillery targeted No. 39 Battery’s position on several occasions, one “other rank” (OR) killed and five OR wounded during the late May tour. Throughout their time in the line, artillery crews targeted specific locations in the German forward area. On June 13, 10th Brigade batteries commenced a week-long “special programme of night, harassing fire,” and responded to calls for retaliatory shelling when requested.
Fatalities continued as both sides targeted their opponents’ artillery units. Major A. B. Stafford, the 39th Battery’s Commanding Officer, was struck by enemy fire on June 24 and died of wounds before day’s end. The following day—June 25, 1917—as Major Stafford was laid to rest at Noeux-les-Mines, the 10th Brigade’s war diary reported one OR killed by artillery fire. Gunner Charles Hugh Fraser was the day’s lone fatality. Charlie was laid to rest in Écoivres Military Cemetery, France.
|Gunner Charlie Fraser's headstone, Écoivres Military Cemetery.|