Private Ambrose Gunning, about 28 years old, son of an Irish Catholic farmer, single and a wagon driver from Tottenham, was among the first to join the Canadian Expeditionary Force at the outbreak of the First World War in 1914.
More than 66,000 Canadians lost their lives in that war. Private Ambrose Gunning was one.
The Second Battle of Ypres became infamous for its major use of poison gas. The battle began on April 21, 1915. During the next four days, in its first major encounter with the enemy, the Canadian Expeditionary Force suffered over 6,000 casualties. Gunning fought on. A month later, a failed Canadian attack, near the French town of Festubert, cost the Canadians another 2,500 men. One was Ambrose Gunning of Tottenham.
From May 23 to the 29, Private Gunning and his buddies jumped in and out of their trenches to fight. The regimental war diary noted: “May 27, bombardment continued with even greater severity.” It is thought he was killed on the 27th.
Ambrose Gunning has no known grave. He is commemorated, along with 11,000 other Canadians with no graves, with his name on the Vimy Memorial. He is also perpetually remembered by his town with his name on the Tottenham Memorial and by Gunning Crescent in Tottenham.
Then there is the story of Tottenham’s Frank Carroll. He served in the Second World War in Italy, France, Belgium, and Holland.
Although about 47,000 Canadian soldiers lost their lives in the Second World War, Carroll came home. But he would never forget the memory of his buddies.
For the last two decades of his life, he began visiting Tottenham’s cenotaph, every single day, to pay his respects.
Nov. 8, 2016, 93-year-old Carroll passed on, three days before the yearly November 11 service he so faithfully attended. We will always remember the sacrifices of our brave service men and women.
By Rochelle Burns, PhD, Social Historian
Tottenham War Memorial, erected 1920, with Ambrose Gunner’s name on it. Photo credit: Ontario War Memorials