Remember Me

Remember Me

By All Accounts.

This is the story of Charles Roy Bailey.

Charley was the half brother of my paternal Grandmother; Vida Valerie Lloyd. A couple of decades ago I came into possession of 88 letters Charley had written to his family in Canada during WW1. Thankfully, his sister VV (my grandma) carefully saved some of her brothers letters.  In the late 1970's she gave them into the keeping of my brother Michael Fletcher Perrin, who was interested in researching and writing the story of Charley Bailey.  Michael tragically took his own life in 1984 ~ but that's another story.

That's the trail that led me to Charley and the small cardboard box that held those letters.

Being the 100 year centenary of the start of the First World War; now is the time.  I will publish each of his letters here; 100 years to the day on which they were written.  


My research into Charley’s life has taken me on a fascinating and disturbing study of those years from the early 1900’s to the outbreak of World War 2.

Charley was born December 29th, 1892 in Portage La Prairie, Manitoba to Jennie Howie and Charles Bailey Sr.  The young family lived in High Bluff Manitoba Canada.

Before he was a month old, Charley’s father was killed in an accident while chopping wood in 30 below weather just outside of High Bluff.

http://goo.gl/48I2fP


Charley's father is buried at St Margaret's Anglican Cemetery, Portage la Prairie, Manitoba.  This photo and transcription of the verse is courtesy of Find a Grave volunteer; Ken. The poem under Charles particulars reads: 
 

A faithful friend, a husband dear,
A tender parent lieth here;
Great is the loss we here sustain,
But hope in heaven to meet again.
It makes sense then that young Charley formed a strong bond with his mother. They were on their own for the first 6 years of Charley’s life. It was the 1890’s in Manitoba. No records have surfaced telling where Jennie and her young son lived for those years or if they moved in with family who lived nearby; which is quite likely.

Charley’s mother (Jennie) married Marmaduke Thomas Lorenzo Lloyd June 7th, 1898. Young Charley and his step-father developed a close relationship.
This is apparent in his letters home and from what my Grandmother told me: “Charley used to say Mother and Mr Lloyd. He grew very fond of my father. He was approximately 6 years old when his mother and mine married my father. Charley got almost anything he wanted; bike, pony, etc.”


Charley’s little sister Vida Valerie was born in 1899. Charley often refers to VV as his ‘big sister’. His letters show an older brother who is comfortable teasing and joking with a sister he obviously loves dearly. 

As a young man, Charley loved to play hockey. He was after all, a Canadian boy from the Prairies. VV wrote “He played a wonderful game of hockey. The Dauphin team played all the teams around. Today he would be playing for Canada. He once was skated into and wore a nasty scar on his right cheek the rest of his life.”

Photo-postcard of Charley with his Brandon College Hockey team 
dated 1910.

At 21 years of age with a sense of duty and a spirit of adventure, Charles Roy Bailey signed on to the 1st Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force.

Charley served in France and England with the Canadian Army Medical Corps. He volunteered on August 11th 1914 and was discharged April 24th, 1919

At wartime hospitals in France and England, he worked primarily as a medical dispenser. He also served as an operating room assistant, did a short stint with the Sanitary Police and was attached to the Forestry Corps in France toward the end of the war.

In this collection of 88 letters we see World War One through the eyes of a young Canadian; an only son and a beloved brother. We see his transformation from an eager young man to a war weary soldier. We feel his frustration and loneliness are touched by his determination and his pride. Many of his letters finish with the words "remember me".

Charley's letters were written primarily to his Mother. There are some to his sister VV and a few to his father. His letters are those of a young man writing home to his Mom coupled with the strict censorship imposed on soldiers missives from the front.

Back in Canada, during the war years, the Lloyd family operated a number of hotels and did some farming in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

From the treasure trove that is the National Archives of Canada come the Regimental Documents of CR Bailey from 1914-1919. Here is another side to the story. Charley’s WW1 records are peppered with disciplinary actions against a young man who breaks out of barracks, disobeys orders, is drunk and disorderly and late or absent from parades. He was confined to barracks and has his pay docked for a few days or a few months. These transgressions are not generally mentioned in his letters home though he does share a few of his antics.

This collection of personal letters is a fascinating glimpse into one man’s story.

Charley describes some sight-seeing on one of his leaves and talks about visiting ‘his’ bear at the London Zoo; a battalion mascot and the bear we now know as Winnie-the-Pooh.

Charley knows in a given week that he is dealing with thousands of wounded ~ we know the outcome of these terrible battles. In five years of letters there is barely one that does not say “And surely this war will be over soon!” We now know how many years he and the world had yet to endure. (1)

Charley Bailey ~ served Canada in the Great War from the first days to the last. He was among the first to land on French soil and one of the last to leave England in 1919. He returned to civilian life in one piece. CR Bailey was a proud recipient of the ‘Mons Medal’ (now known as the 1914 Star.)

Charley did marry at the tail end of the war; a young woman by the name of Mabel Hyde of Buxton England whose family owned the White Lion Hotel there. 

In one of his letters Charley says that Mabel has a beautiful singing voice and that she was touring wartime hospitals entertaining the wounded men. A letter to his mother reveals a growing sense of expectation from Mabel’s family for Charley to ‘do the right thing’.

Mabel and Charley’s marriage failed. There is no record of why it failed exactly but Charley’s letters do shed considerable light on his attitude towards women and his feelings about marriage and children.


We do know that those post WW1 years were especially difficult for veterans. War vets were on their own for the most part with no support mechanisms to monitor their psychological health or aid their re-integration back into civilian life. 

Little is known of Charley’s character from this time period. His sister does refer to “his low times, which were many” and his letters and war records suggest a bohemian attitude toward life in general. 

How would a druggists job at a downtown pharmacy have satisfied this 5 year veteran of over-seas service?
One can just imagine his young wife and the potential for discontent with post war Manitoba, coming as she had from a fairly comfortable urban lifestyle in England.

Mabel’s mother came over to visit the newlyweds in Canada and it was her mother who escorted Mabel back home to Buxton. Had Mabel involved herself in the Suffrage movement so prevalent in the Manitoba of that era? Did Charley really believe that ‘women are like pets’ and did that have anything to do with the failure of their marriage? These are things on which I can only speculate.

From V-V’s brief account of her brother’s life, we find Bailey working (and working very hard according to his sister) a piece of soldiers settlement land (in the early 20’s after Mabel’s departure) around Peachland British Columbia. 

Charley's family had moved to Kelowna BC towards the end of the war.  

Early in 1925, after the birth of his sister’s first child, Charley sailed to England once more, vowing to 'see if he still had a wife'. He never returned to live in Canada.

He ran a successful business called the ‘Sun-Ray Institute’ in England and Scotland during the 30’s and had two or three shops going; one in Hull and one in London that we know of. These were cutting edge medical centers using heat lamps and massage and touting curative treatments for everything from ‘rheumatism to falling hair’. Treatments were offered on site or in your own home.

After Mabel, and during his ‘Sun Ray’ period, came Elizabeth Baxter (2), a Scottish lass. Betty called her Bailey ‘Bill’ and if there is one gem in this collection of letters it is her letter to Charley’s mother written after Charley’s death in 1942. 

Elizabeth's letter is the key to Charley’s post war life when he finally left Canada for good. Charley spent what would be the last years of his young life with Betty in Lanarkshire, Scotland. They had fled war torn London just the year before. (3) 

Charles Roy Bailey died at 6:30 AM, February 9th, 1942 of Myocardial Disease. Elizabeth died a few years later in 1945, she was 44.
The horrors of the 2nd World War must have been especially devastating to the generation that fought the first.

________________________________________
Footnotes

(1) “For a nation of eight million people Canada’s war effort was remarkable. A total of 619,636 men and women served in the Canadian forces in the First World War, and of these 66,655 gave their lives and another 172,950 were wounded. Nearly one of every ten Canadians who fought in the war did not return.” From Veterans Affairs Canada
(2) Charley’s Death Certificate names an intimate friend; E. Baxter present at his death. Elizabeth Baxter ~ Charley’s Betty.
(3) May 10th, 1941 – On ‘The Saturday’ the heaviest and last major air raid on London 1400 civilians were killed.