Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Ackery in the Army

When he returned to Vancouver, Ackery got a job as an elevator operator at the Hudson's Bay store. (Years later, he could still name the goods sold on each floor.) But you know the lure of battle kept calling to him.

On November 29, 1916, at the age of 17, Ivor/Ivan enlisted again, saying he was 18. He was sent to Victoria with the 143 Battalion. This was a unique collection of men called the B.C. Battling Bantams - the unit was made of men not tall enough to qualify for regular military service.

The Southland picked Ackery and his unit up in Halifax on February 17, 1917 and ten days later, the men were in Europe. Ackery was transferred to the 24th Reserve Battalion at Seaford and by April, he was with the troops on the way to Calais. Then the men were stuffed into boxcars and shipped off to the front.

“Before we left England,” Ivor/Ivan later recalled, “I had been assigned to the Fighting 47th Battalion, 10th Infantry Brigade, a great battalion from New Westminster.”

When the battalion arrived at Chateaux de la Haie, where the 4th Canadian Division was stationed, Pte Ivor Ackery was assigned the duties of a dispatcher. He would run messages from headquarters to the front and he eventually ended up at Vimy Ridge.

“The trenches at Vimy,” Ackery said, “became as familiar to me as the streets of my home town, because it was our job to know them like the backs of our hands, and to be able to move through them with speed.”

Considering that 60 percent of the battalion never came home, this was not a cushy, behind the scenes assignment. It was dangerous. Vimy Ridge is well known for its ferocity and for the valor of the Canadian soldiers. There are some who say that this battle is what made Canada a country and no longer a sleepy outpost of the British Empire.

Even though he was surrounded by blood and violence, Ivor's humanity remained.“On one occasion I was detailed to escort a German prisoner from the front line back to the battalion HQ. He was just a kid, too. He showed me his mother’s picture in a little locket he had, and started to cry. I put my arm around him to try to comfort him, then took him to the back of the line and never saw him again. We shook hands before parting, and I shall never forget him.”

A glimpse into Ackery's future career was also shown during war.“a group of soldiers from the 3rd Division who got up a troupe [to visit the troops] to do skits and songs and dances and even female impersonations . . . The troupe stayed together after the war and were well known in Canada as a touring musical-comedy show. I would play them at the Strand Theatre in Vancouver in the 1930s.” This group was known as the Dumbbells.

Ivor's mother was worried sick about her 17 year old son and she sent a copy of his birth certificate to the army who removed young Ackery from the lines. He was sent to England where he was assigned to the Young Soldiers Battalion and was with them in northern Wales when the armistice was signed. He sailed for Canada nine months later, once again aboard the Southlands. Ivor would have returned home sooner but he had to spend some time in a military prison for going AWOL. He had been partying too enthusiastically.

Thanks goes once again to The History of Metropolitan Vancouver website for the above information.

I hope you find the beauty around you.


  1. I like Ivor/Ivan he had moxie with a great character and honor. Not many have that anymore.

    1. He was quite a character as you will see as his story continues!