Alfred and Charles Prescott

The conductor said, ‘No—you survived the war and I won’t let you get killed jumping off my train!’”

Private Alfred Prescott survived hailstorms of bullets and artillery shelling and even an outbreak of mumps. So it’s ironic that he would be upbraided for tempting death while on a post-war train trip home to Ontario.

It happened in March 1919, following his honourable discharge from Canadian army. He and his mates were taking the train back to Port Perry, Ontario and Alfred was especially eager to return to see his girlfriend. So eager, that as the train neared its destination, he attempted to jump from the moving train.

“Father and some of them wanted to jump off,” said Herb, Alfred’s son. “But the conductor said, ‘No—you survived the war and I won’t let you get killed jumping off my train!’”

When Alfred finally arrived home, he learned that his true love had chosen another. “He found out his girlfriend was married,” said Herb. “But eventually he met and married my mother.”

Alfred and his cousin Charles Prescott both enlisted in the 182nd Battalion in Port Perry on March 27, 1916. The ship that carried them to England suffered an outbreak of mumps, and upon their arrival, their battalion was disbanded. Alfred was assigned to the 116th, while Charles went to the 58th Battalion. Paid a dollar and ten cents per day for their service, both men saved and sent twenty dollars per month to their mothers back home.

Alfred fought at the Battle of Amiens and in later years told his son Herb that as the Canadian troops “came over the hill, they were shot before they could shoot back.”

Tragedy struck in September of 1918. On the third of that month, Charles was hit by a German artillery shell and killed. “He was sent to the 58th and father never saw Charlie again,” said Herb.

Just one month later, Alfred was shot in the arm during the Battle of Boulogne Woods. When the Prescott family received a letter informing them of Alfred’s wound, they feared it was a death notice. “They were afraid to open it,” said Herb.

Alfred recovered from his wound quickly, and returned to the 116th at Mons on November 8, 1918, just in time to celebrate the Armistice three days later with his mates. “They had a big party with bonfires, wine and bands,” said Herb.

Alfred Prescott spent the remainder of his life farming near Port Perry, and died in 1982 at the age of ninety-two. In 2007, Herb and his family travelled to France and Belgium to visit Canadian battle sites, monuments, and cemeteries. As Herb spoke about visiting "Vimy Ridge" Ridge, his voice choked with emotion. “It just makes you cry,” he said. “It’s the ages that got me, boys seventeen, eighteen, nineteen-years-old. They never had a chance to live their life.”

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