June 13, 1894 or 1895 - May 13, 1955
Fernand Pilon, born at Upton, Québec, appears to have been one of those individuals who just had to join the Canadian Expeditionary Force. It seems he very much wanted to be part of this great enterprise. Was he eager to show his courage? Did he seek adventure in distant lands? Did he see this as an opportunity to visit the land of his ancestors? Were his friends joining up and egging him on? We will never know the reason, but Fernand tried to enlist more than once.
At his first attempt in Drummonville, Québec in March of 1916, Fernand gave his date of birth as June 13, 1895. At that time he was rejected because he "Cannot see to read at 10 feet nor count the letters." His eyesight must have been very bad, certainly dangerous to himself and others in situations of combat where it was important to be able to identify his target. But then, it could be argued that he did not have to be put into a front line combat situation. For someone with his zeal, there must have been other valuable tasks he could perform. However, this was not the opinion of the medical examiner who flatly turned him away.
But Fernand was determined. In June of 1916, he once again presented himself at a recruiting depot in the city of Toronto, Ontario, and this time was gladly accepted into the 198th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, also known as the Canadian Buffs. At the time, it was noted that he had slight defects in his vision, but it was not sufficient to turn him away. This time, his birth date is given as June 13, 1894; a little older and wiser perhaps.
Nearly eight months would pass before Fernand would finally sail for England at the end of March, 1917. There he would stay until February of 1918. Why such a long stay in England? What training was he involved in? The only hint is that upon his arrival in England, he was transferred from the 198th Battalion to the CETD, the Canadian Engineers Tunneling Depot. Finally, Fernand landed on French soil, at Étaples, on February 14, 1918, and three days later joined his new unit, the 2nd Canadian Tunnel Company.
In early April of 1918, Fernand took a day off, as it were, being absent from the evening of the 4th until the late afternoon of the 5th. For this he forfeited 2 days of pay and spent 5 days in detention. Where did he go? Had he met someone from Canada that he knew? Had he met someone from France that he wished to know better?
In early July of 1918 he was transferred to the 11th Battalion of Canadian
Engineers and in August they found themselves involved in the Battle of
the Somme where, on August 22, 1918, Fernand was seriously wounded in the
left leg. A bullet had ripped through his left thigh and fractured
his femur. The war was over for Fernand and barely one week later
he was back in England, but this time in a hospital. By November,
when an Armistice was signed, was he able to celebrate along with
the others? His convalescence continued in England until early May
of 1919 when he finally sailed home and was discharged shortly after arrival
in June of 1919.
about Fernand Pilon
Important events of Fernand Pilon's military carreer, as recorded in his personnel file
The account of the action in which Fernand was wounded on August 20, 1918
Medical information relating to Fernand Pilon's wounds
Fernand Pilon's ancestral line and his family (sisters & brothers)