Early Vimy ca­su­alty had burn­ing urge to serve

The Chatham Daily News - - NEWS - TOM VILLEMAIRE — Tom Villemaire is a writer based in Toronto and the Bruce Penin­sula.

Daniel Ea­ton was only one of the many Cana­di­ans killed at Vimy Ridge.

He didn’t start out as a sol­dier — by 1896 at the age of 27, he had worked on a com­plete sur­vey of the Labrador Penin­sula, draft­ing much of the fi­nal re­port and es­tab­lish­ing him­self as a lead­ing Cana­dian ge­ol­o­gist.

The tall, hand­some, self-ed­u­cated ge­ol­o­gist and en­gi­neer was bril­liant and driven. His fu­ture seemed as­sured — rock solid, you might say.

But he re­signed, to join the army, with no war to march off to, just a burn­ing urge to serve.

Ea­ton had been a mem­ber of the mili­tia since 1887 when he was still liv­ing at home, at Sal­mon River in Nova Sco­tia.

But dur­ing his time as a ge­ol­o­gist with the Ge­o­log­i­cal Sur­vey of Canada, he’d moved out of the province and was liv­ing in Ot­tawa. He joined the Ot­tawa Field Bat­tery, en­ter­ing as a sec­ond lieu­tenant. He was made full lieu­tenant in 1894, cap­tain by 1896 and ma­jor later that year.

This is in­cred­i­bly fast for non­wartime, even for the mili­tia. When he joined the Per­ma­nent Force, he took a re­duc­tion of rank, but still en­tered as a full lieu­tenant.

The Boer War led to his first overseas post­ing and in Jan­uary 1900 he was South Africa-bound with the Royal Cana­dian Ar­tillery.

Ea­ton was loaned to the Bri­tish army for spe­cial ser­vice, work­ing for Gen­eral Robert Stephen­son Smyth Baden-Pow­ell. (Yes, the Lord Baden-Pow­ell who later started the Boy Scouts.)

He re­turned to Canada af­ter his year of ser­vice but im­me­di­ately vol­un­teered again and headed back to South Africa only to have peace de­clared shortly af­ter his ar­rival.

Ea­ton wrapped up the war as a cap­tain. He was se­lected as the first colo­nial of­fi­cer to be ac­cepted at the Staff Col­lege at Cam­ber­ley, Eng­land in 1902. He re­turned to Canada three years later, a ma­jor.

In 1905 he was made as­sis­tant di­rec­tor of op­er­a­tions and staff du­ties at the Depart­ment of Mili­tia and De­fence in Ot­tawa. In 1908 he be­came di­rec­tor of mil­i­tary train­ing. Ea­ton re­turned to reg­i­men­tal duty in 1911, tak­ing over B Bat­tery of the Royal Cana­dian Horse Ar­tillery out of Kingston.

When the First World War erupted in 1914, Ea­ton jumped at the op­por­tu­nity to serve overseas. He was with the Cana­dian Ex­pe­di­tionary Force in 1915, set­ting up his B Bat­tery in France. In the spring of 1916, he was given com­mand of 8th Brigade, Cana­dian Field Ar­tillery and then later com­mand of 3rd Di­vi­sional Ar­tillery. In May, he was made lieu­tenant colonel and re­turned to com­mand of the 8th Brigade, Cana­dian Field Ar­tillery which was in Eng­land at the time and brought it to France. It wasn’t long be­fore they were en­gaged in bat­tle at Ypres.

The at­tack on Vimy Ridge was planned for the fol­low­ing spring, Easter of 1917, and Ea­ton’s ar­tillery was to play a key role. Ea­ton was vis­it­ing his bat­ter­ies on April 8, the night be­fore the first bar­rage in the bat­tle, when a Ger­man shelling took place, a piece of shrap­nel rip­ping into his guts. He died three days later.

His body is buried at the Bar­lin Com­mu­nal Ceme­tery Ex­ten­sion in Bar­lin, France.

Lieu­tenant Colonel Daniel Isaac Vernon Ea­ton.

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