Jaffray Eaton

  Biography

    Jaffray Eaton was born June 6, 1886, in Owen Sound, Grey, Ontario to Christopher and Annie Emma (née Jaffray) Eaton. Christopher was the co-owner of the Eaton Malt Company, a local brewery,1 and the family was well-known in the area. In his youth, Jaffray would attend the Owen Sound Collegiate Institute, and was going on to earn a BA in 1907. Prior to enlisting in the army, though, he was working as a manufacturer.

 

    Jaffray attested for service on October 6, 1915, in Owen Sound. Just over a year prior, Christopher Eaton, his father, had died of pneumonia, leaving Jaffray the sole earner for the both himself and his mother. On the attestation forms, the widowed Annie E. Eaton is listed as her son’s only next-of-kin. Mrs. Eaton would later be known as the co-founder of the Grey Rooms - a club for Grey County soldiers - in London, Ontario.2

 

    At twenty-nine years old, Jaffray was found “fit for service” following a medical exam. He was 5’10”, with brown hair, grey eyes, and a fair complexion.3 He also had three scars: one on his left shin, another on his left forefinger, and a vaccine scar on his left arm. Jaffray's service forms were officially signed off by Lieutenant Colonel N.N. Stewart on October 20, 1915. Following this, he was assigned to the local Owen Sound unit, the 147th Battalion.

    Jaffray Eaton was a Lieutenant with the 4th Canadian Mounted Rifles when he was killed during the attack near Passchendaele. The Regimental War Diaries record that around the time of Jaffray Eaton’s death:  

    The Battalion was assembled in the front and in the rear of the original line by 5:45a.m... At zero hour the barrage was laid down sharp on time, but was erratic and not uniform, causing a number of casualties in the left leading company.

    Simultaneously with the barrage, a heavy rain commenced which greatly enhanced the difficult conditions of the ground. At zero hour the enemy opened a light barrage on the front line and supporters and a heavy machine gun fire on the front.

    Four officers and a number of other ranks become casualties almost at the outset.Jaffray Eaton was officially announced “killed-in-action on October 26th, 1917” at the age of 30 while serving near Passchendaele.3  Jaffray Eaton was only one of many soldiers who lost their lives during the attack near Passchendaele. The battle of Passchendaele was a muddy battlefield of loss and pain.

    “The Ypres area of Belgium, where Passchendaele is located, was the scene of several First World War battles".6 The Canadian Corps, a 100,000 strong fighting formation, was ordered to the Passchendaele front (east of Ypres) in mid-October of 1917.”7 Jaffary Eaton was among these men ordered to travel to Passchendaele. Canadian Commander Lieutenant-General Arthur Currie “tried to avoid having his men fight [at Passchendaele]”.4 After he “inspected the battlefield and was shocked at the conditions,”but Currie “was overruled”by his superiors.4 So the Canadian Corps went on to Passchendaele discovering the deathly conditions for themselves. “The mud, flat terrain, and relative lack of preparation time and artillery support [made] Passchendaele a far different battlefield than the one the Canadians encountered at Vimy Ridge.”4 “The mud at Passchendaele slowed all movement to a crawl, and left advancing troops exposed to enemy fire for longer periods of time during attacks” and the “unceasing rain and shellfire reduced the battlefield to a vast bog of bodies, water-filled shell craters, and mud in which the attack ground to a halt.”4 Many men often referred to “the ridge of Passchendaele [as] the definition of hell.”5 Even “after months of fighting, Passchendaele ridge was still stubbornly held by German troops,” but eventually “Canadian soldiers succeeded in the face of almost unbelievable challenges.”6 After Canadian soldiers finally were able to take Passchendaele after such a long time, many wondered “what happens next?”5           

    After Jaffray’s death several medals were awarded to him for his service to Canada. Lieutenant Eaton received the “Victory Medal, a Plaque and Scroll, the British War medal and the Memorial Cross in 1921”, which were all given to his mother Annie Eaton.3 Jaffray also had a “will located in Owen Sound [along with some] belongings”, but an address was not stated.3 Although an address was not stated Jaffray’s mother “lived in Owen Sound [before moving to] Upper Tooting, London, England” so it was possible that his will and belongings resided with her.3 Jaffray Eaton was also “memorialized at the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial” after his death in the First World War, and to this day Jaffray Eaton does not have a known grave.3

           

  Sources

1. "In Memoriam [Lt. Jaffray Eaton]," 4th Canadian Mounted Rifles 1914-1919

2. "Exhibits [Grey Battalions in the Great War]," Grey Roots Museum & Archives, accessed January 2, 2015, http://www.greyroots.com/exhibitions/virtual-exhibits/grey-battalions-1/

3. "Digitized Service File," Library and Archives Canada, RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box 2813-41

4. Photographed War Diary Pages, The Regimental War Diaries of the First World War, accessed December 29, 2014, http://data2.collectionscanada.ca/e/e046/e001127478.jpg

5. Huntly Gordon, The Unreturning Army (Aberdeen, Great Britain: University Press, 1967), [Page x (Foreword)]

6."The Battle of Passchendaele [First World War, Historical Sheets]," Veterans Affairs Canada, last modified December 8, 2014, http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/history/first-world-war/fact_sheets/passchendaele

7. "Canada and the First World War-Passchendaele," Canadian War Museum



Above: Military portrait of Jaffray Eaton
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