Great-Uncle Hector was the fifth of eight children born to my great-grandparents, George Hector Wilson and Rosa Charlotte Mary (nee Cadiz) Wilson of #8 Marli Street in Port of Spain, Trinidad, descendants of Irish colonials. His birth date: January 18, 1897.

Hector’s father, a Port of Spain businessman, became ill when Hector was young and could no longer support the family. In 1910, his eldest sister, Milly, my paternal grandmother, travelled to Salmon Arm, British Columbia to work for the Harrigans, family friends, as an au pair to their children. She was twenty at the time and their sixteen-yearold brother, Charlie, travelled with her. Hector followed in May of 1912, at age fifteen, with their sixteen-year-old sister, Evelyn, who later completed her qualifications in nursing at Revelstoke. The boys found work on the farms and orchards around Salmon Arm, possibly for their mother’s sister Doris, known as Dordie. and her husband, Colthurst Smith, who had come to Salmon Arm from Trinidad in 1905.

In January of 1914, his father died back home in Trinidad. When World War I was declared on August 5th, 1914, the British Columbia Horse, a militia cavalry regiment based in Vernon and Nicola Lake south of Kamloops, prepared to go into active service. Hector, now aged seventeen, joined up and trained with them as they ramped up recruiting at Nicola Lake. Hector, no doubt, enjoyed the cheers and boxes of apples that met the train carrying his regiment and their horses as it passed through Salmon Arm on August 27th on its way to Valcartier.

Still half a year away from his eighteenth birthday, he was too young to enlist. Perhaps his siblings, who were likely among the crowd at Salmon Arm, thought he would be sent back home.

When they arrived at Valcartier, the regiment was informed that they were to be disbanded and their members would be absorbed into other units. Hector, along with other determined riders, including his commanding officer, Charles Flick, enlisted with Lord Strathcona’s Horse. He lied on his form, dated September 22nd, 1914, giving his birth year as 1896, allowing him to qualify for enlistment. He gave his uncle, Co Smith of Salmon Arm as his next of kin. His mother, in New York with his brother, Percy at the time and later back home in Trinidad, was not added to his record until some time later. She was likely unaware of his rash enlistment.

Thanks to hard work in the orchards, at 5’9” and 155 pounds, with a dark complexion, grey eyes, dark brown hair, and a 37” chest with 2 1/2” expansion, he was found fit to serve. The examining doctor gave his apparent age as twenty. Eight days later, the Regiment rode through darkness, rain, and mud to Quebec City, singing along to the regimental band playing “It’s a Long Road to Tipperary”. Little did they know that the conditions of that first ride as a regiment would be the first of so many such rides they would endure over the next four years.

At Quebec, they waited their turn to embark on their ship to England. The SS Bermudian was one of thirty-two transports escorted by seven warships that made up the Grand Fleet of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, which would carry nearly 30,000 soldiers and equipment across the Atlantic. The embarkation for this first fleet of the Canadian Expeditionary Force took nearly a week. In the midst of the chaos, cavalry regiments had the added challenge of loading their horses into the holds of the ship. This was done by placing each horse in a cage, which was then hoisted onto the deck on a pully, a very stressful experience for the horses and their devoted riders. The Bermudian cast anchor on September 30th and sailed up the St. Lawrence River. Soon, re-anchored in Gaspé Bay, the troops were read the following message from the Governor General, HRH the Duke of Connaught:

On the eve of your departure from Canada I wish to congratulate you on having the privilege of taking part, with the other forces of the Crown, in fighting for the Honour of the King and Empire. You have nobly responded to the call of duty, and Canada will know how to appreciate the patriotic spirit that animates you. I have complete confidence that you will do your duty, and that Canada will have every reason to be proud of you. You leave these shores with the knowledge that all Canadian hearts beat for you, and that our prayers and best wishes will ever attend you. May God bless you and bring you back victorious.

The voyage took a full two weeks, filled with scheduled activities from 5:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Taking care of their horses had to be fitted in amongst drills, lectures, sports, and daily bathing through a stream of seawater delivered with a fire hose hooked up to a pump. In the evenings, leisure was encouraged, with regular evening concerts.

Originally bound for Southampton, the fleet was redirected to Plymouth due to concerns that there were U-Boats in the area. Although unprepared, on October 14th, 1914, the people of Plymouth turned out in cheering crowds to welcome this first contingent of Canadians. The various regimental bands on board the fleet responded, joined by loudly cheering and singing soldiers. After two more days on board, the regiment finally disembarked with their mounts and soon boarded a train for Pond Farm on Salisbury Plain.

The weather was beautiful the day they arrived at their camp, but rain began the very next day and didn’t let up for three months. Hector’s service record shows that he remained healthy while many of the men became ill from various maladies, including an outbreak of viral meningitis. The horses suffered as well, knee-deep in mud and shivering for much of the time. The men trained and slept under canvas until finally, in January, they gratefully moved to billets in nearby towns. Then in March the regiment moved to Maresfield Camp in Sussex and began predeployment intensive training which included dismounted infantry skills.

After half a year of training in the mud, no doubt spring found the troops restless and impatient. This might explain Hector’s first field punishment, which was recorded on April 19th, 1915 at Maresfield for refusing to obey an order. He was docked seven-days’ pay and, according to the, would have been assigned extra labour duties.

On May 4th, 1915, the regiment boarded the SS Onward at Folkstone, without their horses. The need for infantry was dire and cavalry not so much, so the men would serve dismounted to support their comrades. They arrived in Boulogne near midnight, then marched three miles to camp.

They first came under fire on May 22nd, 1915, at Festubert. They fought at Givenchy in June and were subsequently transferred to the line at Messines, where they remained until January 1916.

Technological changes during WWI caused leadership to constantly rethink the best means of exploiting the skills and manpower of the cavalry. In February 1916, the regiment’s horses were shipped over from England. Mounted training took place through winter and spring before the regiment was sent to the Somme front in June. There they served in support of the infantry, building trenches and roads, and doing reconnaissance, but prepared to move forward on little notice.

While in France, but always while the regiment was in reserve, ready to move up to the front when called, Hector got into trouble four more times. He was insolent to an NCO twice. He was absent from work for two-and-a-half hours in the middle of a day. He was late for morning parade, and he hesitated and refused to obey orders. On each of these occasions, he was sentenced to “Field Punishments #1”, which, in addition to loss of pay and extra labour, according again to the War Museum website, involved being chained to a post or a wheel for two hours a day for the duration assigned. One might think that even a young adult would learn to mind their superiors with a punishment like that.

Despite these incidents, he was still twice granted leave to visit England, once for eight days in January of 1916 as the regiment awaited the return of their horses after their seven months as infantry soldiers, and once for ten days in September of 1917.

In March 1917, the regiment gained recognition for their part in the pursuit of the enemy, retreating to the Hindenburg Line on the Somme front. Training behind the lines resumed in July and continued until November 8th, when Hector moved forward with his regiment to prepare for the Battle of Cambrai, known as the first major use of tanks in battle. The army engaged on the 20th and had some success that day. They mowed over the German Hindenburg Line but were unprepared for, and slow to respond to, the strength of the German counterattack. Mounted and ready to push through the anticipated break in the German line, the cavalry was eventually sent back to their camp after the army failed to achieve their objective. On the 27th, they were moved further back to make winter camp at Montecourt.

Suddenly, at 9:30 in the morning on November 30th, while the men were on exercise, orders were received to return to the front immediately. The enemy had counterattacked and recaptured ground that the allies had taken on the 20th. By 11:45 a.m., Lord Strathcona’s Horse were at the rendezvous point and commenced a mounted march to Villers Faucon. After riding more than twenty kilometres, they moved into line between the Royal Canadian Dragoons and the Ambala Brigade that night.

The next day, at 3:15 in the afternoon on December 1st, Hector’s squadron came under heavy machine gun and artillery fire in their attempt to seize the road between Gauche Wood and Villers Guislain. Fourteen men were killed and eight wounded, including Hector. He suffered a gunshot wound to the head, causing a compound fracture to his skull.

Six days later, he was transferred to the #10 General Hospital at Rouen, miraculously surviving what was likely a grueling train trip. Unfortunately, two days later he died of his injuries. It was December 9th, 1917 and Hector was just short of his twenty-first birthday.

Hector would never return to Trinidad, where his mother, Rosie, a sister, May, and two brothers, Hugh and Will, still lived. Nor would his family in his adopted home in Salmon Arm, B.C. ever see him again. Left behind there, were his eldest sister, Milly, who married George Holmes in 1915 and raised a family on their orchard in Broadview, now part of Salmon Arm; also, his sister, Evelyn, who graduated from nursing in Revelstoke, worked until retirement in New York, where their brother Percy had settled, but returned to live out her retirement with her sister in Salmon Arm; a third sister, May, joined them after a life’s work in Port of Spain, Trinidad. His brother Charlie would marry Barbara Gibbons in Salmon Arm in 1929. They eventually emigrated to her home in England. Milly, George, Evelyn, and May are all buried in the Mount Ida Cemetery, along with Hector’s aunt Doris Smith and her husband Colthurst, who Hector had given as his nearest relative when he enlisted.

Instead, Hector is buried in the Saint Sever Cemetery Extension, Rouen, France. His grave number is P.V.0. 12A, and the inscription on his cross says, “At Rest”. His name is inscribed on the cenotaphs in Salmon Arm, B.C. and Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.

Great-Uncle Hector – You are not forgotten.

Guest Blogger Cindy Kilpatrick

2nd edition for November 2020 and guest post for the Archives Room at R.J. Haney Heritage Village and Museum



Want to discover more about Salmon Arm's history? Take the new walking tour by
On This Spot. Download the free Ap at and click on Salmon Arm. 

Want to view original documents? The attestations records for W.W. I soldiers are online. See Hector's military record here.