Hubert Arthur Bessent

Hubert Arthur Bessent was a man who fought selflessly for his country and returned a broken man who would come to lose everything.

Hubert Arthur Bessent was a man who fought selflessly for his country and returned a broken man who would come to lose everything.

At the time of his enlistment in November 1915 he had a baby and wife, Mary Elizabeth May (née Reed). He joined the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery (RCHA) but was discouraged to discover that the RCHA wouldn’t be going overseas for some time. So, in January 1916, he transferred to the 45th Battery, 9th Field Artillery Brigade, the unit with which he would spend the remainder of the war.

That April he was promoted to bombardier and was sent to a signaler’s course. On April 12, 1917, Bessent was awarded his first Military Medal for gallant and meritorious service. Under heavy fire on the morning of April 9, this non-commissioned officer laid a telephone line to an advanced observation post at Vimy Ridge. The route was exposed to heavy howitzer and field gun fire and the line was repeatedly cut. With great perseverance and devotion to duty, Bessent patrolled the line and repaired all the breaks and in spite of heavy fire maintained communication throughout the day and following night. His commanding officer stated that, “This NCO has been faithful and untiring linesman. He did especially good work at the Somme and has received no previous reward.”

In August he was promoted to sergeant and in February 1918, he was appointed battery sergeant major of the 45th Battery.

Within two weeks he added a bar to his Military Medal for moving the battery’s horses out of the enemy’s line of fire and giving them protective gas masks and capes, through high explosive and poisonous gas shelling. He thereby maintained the mobility and operational ability of his unit. He was himself seriously burned by mustard gas during this action and spent three weeks in hospital.

During his service, Bessent sent his family money but the War Office misread her address and she didn’t receive money until May 1917. Then, she moved and she only received the money intermittently, causing financial hardship for the family.

In 1919, he became a police officer in Toronto but his family remembers him always as flighty and drifting from job to job. His family believes his behaviour could have been caused by shellshock.

Times were tough for Bessent. He bought a lot on Cedarvale Avenue tried to build a house. He only completed the basement where they all lived for a few years with several animals. Unable to make ends meet, Bessent never completed the house.

On October 16, 1922, Bessent left his job as a police officer and became a fish monger. One day in May 1923, he left to sell fish and never returned home.

On October 26, 1930, the police picked Bessent up in Nashville, who had been wandering around dazed and who had lost all memory of past events. He was later diagnosed with amnesia from post-war psychosis. He didn’t know why he was in Nashville or how long he had been there. The London, England-born man secured illegal entry in 1930 but his family didn’t have money for Bessent and ultimately decided he should return to England.

When deportation day came, the whole family went to the train station to see him off. His eldest daughter, Connie, wouldn’t say goodbye.

Bessent arrived in England on April 25, 1931, never to see or hear from his children again. He would send his daughters letters but his wife burned everything.

On August 28, 1941 Hubert married Phyllis Marjorie Perkin. Hubert had stated he was a widower and changed his name from Bessent to Bessant.

He died from a heart attack on December 25, 1963.

Although his relationship with his family remained scarred for the rest of his life, his granddaughter Laureen Parsons thinks of him differently. “I believe he was a great, loving and honorable man until the War destroyed his soul and changed his life forever,” she said.

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