Sapper Norman "Earl" Campbell
2nd Battalion, Canadian Railway Troops
Norman "Earl" Campbell was born March 22, 1895 in Vaughan Twp.
Earl was the 6th child of Jerome Campbell and Martha (McMurchy). The family lived south of Nobleton and moved to Kinghorn where Earl and his siblings attended the Kinghorn Public School.
In February 1916, Earl was recruited into the 127th Battalion, York Rangers. He was sent overseas in 1917. He returned to Canada in 1919 after suffering a wound and gas inhalation when his gas mask became entangled in barbed wire.
Between 1916 and 1919, Earl sent over 100 pieces of correspondence, including letters, postcards, and photographs to his family in King Township. Through this correspondence, Earl captured the conditions of living in the trenches, the sights and sounds of constant bombings, and sadly news of friends and comrades that were killed or injured. Earl's letters also capture the events that were happening at home in King Township. We are fortunate that Earl's family, first his sister Merelda, then Earl's own children had the foresight to preserve this precious correspondence.
In 1925 he married Hazel Gambrill and lived on W ½ of Lot 8, Con. 4, King Township. Earl and Hazel had five daughters - Clara, Gloria, Gerry, Earlene and Shirley. During the 1930s he began a silver fox farm, which he named "Vimy Ridge" Fur Farm. Earl was an avid sportsman, playing soccer and he won a medal in speed skating competitions. Earl sold the farm in 1967 and built a new house on a reserved two acres. In his later years, Earl was the caretaker of the King City Cemetery. Earl died March 14th, 1971.
Earl attended Kinghorn public school and was taught by Walter Rolling
. As a young child Earl had difficulties pronouncing the word "yesterday" instead it became "yekerday" and from that he was labelled with the nickname "Yek". Throughout the letters Earl refers to himself as "Yek".
Jerome and Martha's family: |
Photo taken from Dugald & Katharine Campbell
& their descendants
|Susannah "Merle" ||born June 15, 1884|
|Martha "Merelda" ||born February 28, 1886|
|Mary Marjorie ||born June 8, 1888|
|Barbara Margaret ||born April 12, 1891|
|Harold Jerome ||born February 19, 1893|
|Norman "Earl" ||born March 22, 1895|
|Albert "Archibald" ||born January 10, 1897|
|Mary "Pauline" ||born November 26, 1900|
|Florence "Flossie" Eleanor ||born August 4, 1902|
Brothers Harold and Earl
Earl was not the only Campbell son to fight in the Great War.
On May 22, 1915 Earl's older brother Harold, born February 19, 1893, joined the Royal Canadian Dragoons of Toronto at the age of 17. Although Harold was too short to be a "regular" he would be allowed to stay if he played the bugle. Undaunted, he said he could. In May of 1915 Harold enlisted in the Van Doo's and was sent overseas. He saw action in Belgium and sustained head and leg wounds from shrapnel and was sent back to Canada.
After his discharge, Harold took a job as a salesman for Maclean's magazine. He married Katie Irene Miller.
the youngest Campbell boy, born January 10, 1897 was drafted under the Military Service Act of 1917. In May of 1918 at the age of 21, Archibald was assigned to the 1st Central Battalion. In Merelda's letter to Earl dated May 30, 1918 she writes
"Archie has to go. He went to Niagara to train yesterday. We are going to do everything to get him off. Have a lawyer employed & are doing everything the poor dear boy does not want to go. It seems so hard to see boys who do not want to go be forced to. Conscription would have been a good thing if they had left it as they promised to before the election, promised to leave one able-bodied man on 100 acres but they are not doing it."
Fortunately, for Archie the war ended before he was sent overseas. During the 2nd World War Arch was a member of the reserve army. Archie married Minnie Bottomley.
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Earl's cousin Lorne Campbell was the one responsible for recruiting Earl into the 127th Battalion.
Lorne was born Nov 28, 1897, enlisted in the 127th Battalion, York Rangers, January 6th, 1916 and went overseas on the Olympic that August. Lorne was part of the 2nd Battalion of the Canadian Railway Troops.
In January of 1917 the battalion was sent to France. Lorne had become fascinated with air warfare and in May of 1918 he transferred to the Royal Air Force and started his training in Hastings, England.