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Percy Chambers, soldier and pilot

Private Chambers in No. 7 Platoon (made up of men from the 36th Peel Regiment), 4th Battalion Brock to Currie, 345.

When Percy Chambers visited some friends in West Toronto, before the outbreak of the first world war, he joined the 36th Peel Regiment as a private. He came from Pontypool in the Kawarthas, and had worked on the family farm before becoming a medical student at Belleville College. He was the youngest of a large family. His father had died in 1911, and his mother moved to Toronto by the end of the war.

Percy was one of the original group of volunteers from the regiment who assembled at Ravina Rink before going to Valcartier. There he was attested into the 4th Battalion on September 22nd, and was a bugler in “F” Company, with most of the other Peel volunteers. He went with them to France in February 1915. The Canadian Division’s first major action was at Ypres in April, when the enemy released large amounts of poison gas for the first time. It cost the 4th heavily: they numbered a thousand when the battle began, and 188 when it ended. They gained two nicknames there: the Fighting Fourth and the Mad Fourth.

Percy was shot in the hand, and sent back to England to recover. He spent five months in the Canadian Convalescent Hospital in Monks Horton, he was transferred to the 12th Reserve Battalion. He made his way to the Ruffy-Bauman School in Hendon, where he learned to fly on the primitive Caudron biplane. He must have done this as a civilian, since his flying certificate, awarded in October was made out to Mister P.W. Chambers.

It wasn’t until the next year, however, that he was struck off strength of the Canadian army, to join the Royal Flying Corps. He joined 22 Squadron, which boasted a number of Canadian flyers. The squadron had just moved to France to carry out reconnaissance and photography missions over the front lines. During the battle of the Somme, it flew fighter patrols as well.

British and Canadian observers and pilots of No. 22 Squadron RFC with a Bristol F2b at Vert Galant aerodrome,  near Amiens. 1st of April 1918 Each of them had brought down at least three German aircraft. Pinterest

In July 1917 the squadron began to replace its FE.2s with faster and more capable Bristol F.2 Fighters. Captain Chambers was piloting one of these when his formation attacked five enemy aircraft, at Arleux. He must have been hit, and his plane was last seen diving through the clouds and landing behind enemy lines. He was reported missing, then the Toronto papers reported the news that he had survived and was a prisoner of war. But he was wounded again, and had died of his wounds on August 13th, weeks before the reassuring reports were published in the Canadian newspapers. He is buried in Douai community cemetery.

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