Alcombrack Brothers

“The bodies of the dead soldiers were stacked like firewood.”

Herbert Elmer Alcombrack of Ontario was the first to enlist on June 23, 1916. His younger brother, Leonard Leroy Alcombrack followed on July 29, 1916. Leonard, a private in the 1st Tank Battalion, was on his way to England as part of a tank reinforcement draft on the HMT Victoria but died of the Spanish Flu on the ship on October 11, 1918. He was buried at sea.

Herbert served as a private in the 68th Battery in England and France, including at Vimy Ridge. He kept a diary of his close encounters while at war. “Because our guns of the Horse Artillery were of the smallest caliber of all the guns, we were deployed at the most forward shooting area. Sometimes ‘shorts’ from the larger guns would fall and explode near us, so we called ourselves the suicide club,” Herbert wrote.

Another time he and fellow troops were eating in the ruins of a French farmhouse when a shell came through the wall and took the head off a soldier next to him.

He also wrote about war’s awful sights, such as gruesome deaths of humans and animals alike. “We watched as a Cavalry unit charged the enemy through a narrow gap, the men and horses were decimated by enemy machine gun fire. The artillery could have done the job without the heavy casualties,” he wrote. “The bodies of the dead soldiers were stacked like firewood.”

Herbert served in the Second World War for two months before we was sent to a hospital for two months and discharged. He died in 1953 at age sixty-eight.

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