Bay Roberts soldier long gone, but not for­got­ten

Pte. Gra­ham Cros­bie lied about age to en­list in 1915, died a year later at age 17

The Compass - - Front page - BY AN­DREW ROBIN­SON

Remembrance Day 2018 co­in­cides with the 100th an­niver­sary of the end of the First World War.

While it would have been a re­lief for many in New­found­land and Labrador to see the war con­clude, it proved all too costly for fam­i­lies. The con­flict claimed many lives, with the stag­ger­ing death toll re­sult­ing from the Bat­tle of Beau­mon­tHamel nearly wip­ing out the en­tire Royal New­found­land Reg­i­ment.

Among the ca­su­al­ties of that con­flict was Pte. Ge­orge Gra­ham Cros­bie of Bay Roberts. The young solider, who went by his mid­dle name, was wounded in the bat­tle on July 1, 1916 and suc­cumbed to his in­juries two days later. Cros­bie had lied a year ear­lier about his age (an ar­ti­cle on The Rooms web­site said he de­clared his age to be 19) in or­der to en­list and was only 17 when he died.

Though his life may have ended in France, the young man’s mem­ory has lived on over the years. Harold Cros­bie is Gra­ham’s nephew. He is the son of Gra­ham’s youngest brother Bill.

Hav­ing re­cently turned 76, Harold has car­ried on a tra­di­tion that orig­i­nated with Gra­ham’s mother Mary, who would cut fresh flow­ers to lay in remembrance for her son on Me­mo­rial Day.

“Ev­ery July 1, even be­fore the roads were paved there, she’d cut flow­ers out of her gar­den,” said Harold, who also vis­its the ceno­taph in Bay Roberts on Remembrance Day each year to hon­our his un­cle. “She would walk down over the pot­holed roads and ev­ery­thing else and she’d go down and lay (the flow­ers).

“My fa­ther con­tin­ued do­ing that, and for some rea­son or other, while I was grow­ing up, (Gra­ham’s death) didn’t af­fect me that much. I guess you’re young and fool­ish and ev­ery­thing else and things don’t sink in. But as we get older and time starts to run out, this stuff be­comes very im­por­tant to you … Now I do the same thing,” he said. “My wife will go out and cut fresh flow­ers and make up a bou­quet, and ev­ery July 1st we’ll go down and place them on the war me­mo­rial.”

Gra­ham’s par­ents, Wal­ter and Mary Cros­bie, died when Harold was quite young, so the only in­for­ma­tion he could re­ally get about his un­cle came from his fa­ther Bill.

Harold has in his pos­ses­sion sev­eral keep­sakes from his un­cle’s ser­vice, in­clud­ing medals, pho­tos and reg­i­ment pay book. Look­ing at a picture of Gra­ham in a uni­form, he’s still struck by how young his un­cle looked.

“You can tell they were only boys,” he said. “When I look at my own grand­kids — I’ve got two past 16 years of age — it came to my mind so of­ten, my un­cle (their) age was in a for­eign land fight­ing. I think that when they went off, they thought it was some­thing ex­cit­ing. They did not re­al­ize what they were get­ting them­selves into.”

Last Novem­ber, Harold fi­nally trav­elled to France to visit his un­cle’s grave (there’s also a fam­ily me­mo­rial for him at the St. John the Evan­ge­list Ceme­tery in Co­ley’s Point). Ac­com­pa­nied by his wife Bar­bara, it was an emo­tional ex­pe­ri­ence.

“It was hum­bling,” he said. “And just to know I was able to get there and ful­fill a life­long dream that I wanted to do.”

Harold also ap­pre­ci­ates the on­go­ing ef­fort put in by dif­fer­ent groups to en­sure younger gen­er­a­tions con­tinue to re­flect on what peo­ple like his un­cle did.

“They’re do­ing a great job through the schools,” he said, not­ing mul­ti­ple grand­chil­dren in his fam­ily have com­pleted projects on Pte. Gra­ham Cros­bie.

“You can tell they were only boys.”

— Harold Cros­bie

CON­TRIB­UTED PHOTO

Harold Cros­bie, left, and his wife Bar­bara at the gravesite of Harold’s un­cle, Pte. Gra­ham Cros­bie, in Rouen, France.

CON­TRIB­UTED PHOTO

Pte. Gra­ham Cros­bie of Bay Roberts lied about his age in or­der to sign up with the Royal New­found­land Reg­i­ment in 1915.

COM­PASS FILE PHOTO

Peg Se­naca, left, and Harold Cros­bie place a wreath at the ceno­taph in Bay Roberts hon­our­ing their late un­cle, Gra­ham Cros­bie, dur­ing the 2018 Me­mo­rial Day cer­e­mony.

AN­DREW ROBIN­SON — THE COM­PASS

Pte. Gra­ham Cros­bie was awarded the Vic­tory Medal, left, and the Bri­tish War Medal for his ser­vice in the First World War.

CON­TRIB­UTED PHOTO

Pte. Gra­ham Cros­bie in uni­form with the Royal New­found­land Reg­i­ment.

AN­DREW ROBIN­SON — THE COM­PASS

Pte. Gra­ham Cros­bie’s pay book. He signed up for a daily pri­vate soldier’s rate of $1.10.

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