By Dan Rankin
On Sept. 15, 1916, two half-brothers who gre up in Stratford died on the same day, fighting in the same First World War battle in northern France.
Last Saturday, just two days past the 100th anniversary of the deaths of Samuel Monteith Loghrin and Donald Monteith Jeffrey, dozens of their descendants and distant relatives gathered in the rain in Stratford to pay their respects and remember their sacrifice.
The memorial ceremonies began at the Stratford cenotaph. Jane Loghrin McGrath read about her ancestor, Samuel M. Loghrin (1876-1916), while Donald Giles Jeffrey – who farms southwest of St. Marys near Bryanston – gave a short biography of the late Donald M. Jeffrey (1893-1916).
Over 125 people of all ages gathered afterwards at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church for a luncheon and historical presentations, including an engaging musical performance by Nova Scotian “oral HERstorian” Rosalee Peppard. Peppard’s presentation featured songs from the era as well as letters written between Loghrin, Jeffrey and their mother.
Both men were killed fighting on the first morning of the Battle of Flers–Courcelette.
“At 6:34 am, a second German trench was captured,” McGrath said. As Loghrin’s battalion advanced towards the trench, soldiers “noticed a party of the enemy apparently ready to surrender. Capt. S.M. Loghrin went forward to accept their surrender and, when doing so, was killed by a bomb thrown by one of the enemy… this foul act of treachery was observed by the men of his company, with the result that none of the occupants of the trench were allowed to escape alive.”
Jeffrey told the assembled crowd that he had been named after his uncle Donald, Donald Thistle Jeffrey (born in 1917) who had in turn been named after Donald Monteith Jeffrey, months after his death. “Both of my uncle Donald’s died as a result of war and neither married or had children,” he said. He also told the story of how the late Donald M. Jeffrey was a clerk living in Niagara Falls, who “apparently didn’t write home a lot,” when he enlisted in July 1915 as a private.
Roughly 10 minutes prior to Samuel’s death, Jeffrey said, “witness statements report that as Don came out of the trench his captain was hit and dropped to the ground. Don was running to aid his captain when a shell dropped in the spot where he was last seen. His body was never found.”
Summing up her speech, McGrath said, “here we stand, 100 years later, to mark their memory, two men we didn’t even know but whose lives still fill us with pride.”
“Donald Jeffrey’s story is just one of thousands of similar tragic stories that came out of this war,” Jeffrey said. “This story, however, is our story, and as long as we are alive we will remember him, and his sacrifice will never be forgotten.”