Route to the Past # 204                      Norsworthy Brothers                                     November 8, 2010

As the days lead up to Remembrance Day, our hearts and minds should be drawn to those men and women who have served Canada in the pursuit of peace. More than 60,000 paid the ultimate price during World War One; the ‘fortunate’ returned home to fight their own personal hell for the remainder of their days. Four native-born sons of Ingersoll were examples of both of these groups. Not only were they brothers in arms, they were blood brothers –Edward, Stanley, Alfred and John Norsworthy.

These were the four sons of James and the late Mary Jane Norsworthy. James had emigrated from Devonshire England in 1852 and by 1878 was well enough established in Ingersoll to wed Mary Jane Cuthbert of West Oxford. Four sons and daughter Helen grew up in their large brick home at 250 King Street East.  Sadly, Mary Jane died in 1891 at the young age of 38.

Born in 1879, Edward Cuthbert was educated at Toronto’s Upper Canada College and pursuing the family business as banker and insurance broker in Montreal. When war broke out he was one of the first to enlist with 13th Battalion of the Royal Highlanders of Canada-- the famed Black Watch.

Siblings Stanley Counter, Alfred “Fred” James, and John Weldon were also working in Montreal. All four brothers had belonged to the same militia unit prior to the war; a surviving family photo shows the four handsome young men resplendent in their Highland uniforms.

Edward shipped out with the 3rd Brigade of the 1st Canadian Division in September of 1914. Made up of volunteers from the 13th Battalion, the Royal Montreal Regiment, the 48th Highlanders and the Canadian Scottish, this division saw action from April 1915 to the war’s end. It was this division that faced the first German gas attack in April 1915. It was this division which stood firm while all others around fled. It was during this attack that Major Edward C. Norsworthy was struck in the neck by a bullet and yet continued to rally his troops. He was later bayoneted and died from his wounds.

Back at home James had a bronze bust of his fallen son mounted on top of the prominent family gravestone. It can still be seen today gazing across the Ingersoll Rural Cemetery towards his boyhood home.

Edward’s body would have been hastily buried in a military grave. In 1922 a letter arrived in Ingersoll for James stating that while doing exhumation work in Flanders a body had been uncovered and identified as that of his eldest son. It was respectfully re-interred at the Tyne Cot Cemetery along with that of 12,000 other Commonwealth troops.

In 1916, James’ second son Stanley was stationed in England when he married Georgina Maud Villiers Sankey. The following year, she gave birth to a son they named Edward Cuthbert. A member of the 42nd Battalion, Major Stanley Norsworthy was wounded and awarded the Military Cross for gallantry. He lived until 1966.

Meanwhile, Lieutenant Fred Norsworthy was serving in the 73rd Battalion just days prior to the 1917 battle for Vimy Ridge.  According to the Canada War Diaries for March 29th of that year, “the enemy’s artillery was again very active….About 12:30 one peculiar shell dropped immediately above the Orderly Room..which continued to burn even when placed in water…. About one o’clock a shell struck the Orderly Room, crushing it in and instantly killing the Assistant Adjutant Lieut. A.J. Norsworthy, one orderly room clerk, one of the pioneers, and wounding another orderly room clerk.”

When Fred’s original grave marker was replaced, it was brought back home to the family plot. A bronze plaque also describes how “his dauntless courage and cheerfulness under most trying conditions won the admiration of his superior officers and his men.”

It only remains to state that the fourth brother, John Weldon, who had been born in Ingersoll a year before his mother’s death, attained the rank of Lieutenant in the No. 6 (McGill) OS Battery Siege Artillery. Like his older brother Stanley, he managed to survive the hostilities and live a ‘normal’ life as a veteran of the Great War. He lost his final battle in 1975.

 

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