Postcard from the front

Jason Lichti (right) speaks with East Zorra-Tavistock Fire Chief Scott Alexander following the Remembrance Service at the Legion on Sunday afternoon, November 9, 2014. Both men’s ancestors were members of the 168th Battalion, 22nd Oxford Rifles.

Story courtesy of the Tavistock Gazette, November 12, 2014

At 6 feet, Jason Lichti is taller than his great, great grandfather, but there are similar family features that are too obvious to miss.

Jason’s great great grandfather, Louis Henwood Nettleton of Woodstock, served in the 168th Battalion, 22nd Oxford Rifles, (“A” Division)during the First World War. Pte. Nettleton returned home, but many of his comrades didn’t.

Jason Lichti attended the Remembrance Services at the Tavistock Legion on Sunday and shared a new depth of meaning to the sacrifices local soldiers made during the First World War.

“My great grandmother (Pte. Nettleton’s daughter) showed me his war things that she kept in a box when I was a young boy,” Jason said. “My passion grew from there and I still remember that day.”

He was later given a few things of Pte. Nettleton’s when Jason was a teenager. “I started researching and collecting from there,” he said. Jason contacted the National Archives in Ottawa and for a small fee they copied all the papers in Pte. Nettleton’s file and sent them.

Pte. Nettleton was born in Brantford, Ontario, on January 1, 1890, He was approved for overseas service in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (C.E.F.) on February 22, 1916 after 2 years of training at Woodstock, Francis Camp, London and at Camp Borden. The blue-eyed, brown-haired young man stood 5 ft. 9.5” tall, and served as a teamster driving ammuni-tion wagons to the front.

Jason has been collecting memorabilia about Pte. Nettleton from family members over the past fifteen years. Mr. Nettleton had a daughter, Sarah Love, whose daughter was Carol Huston, whose daughter is Jason’s mother, Nancy Lichti.

He shared the items in a display at the services at the Tavistock Legion Hall. An ammunition belt, helmet, riding crop and spurs were all part of the glass-cased display he has put together in memory of Pte. Nettleton. Postcards sent home from Europe illustrate the devastation from some of their assaults. A photo album also traces his training days and the soldiers who were his comrades in arms.

It wasn’t until Jason was able to do research with historian Mrs. Susan Pellow at the Tavistock and District Historical Society Museum and Archives that he was able to piece together more of his story. One photograph shows four soldiers at ease in training. The first man is unknown, but standing shoulder to shoulder with Pte. Nettleton, who returned home safe from war, are Herbert Spencer Weston and Pte. Douglas Buchan, who both were killed in action.

Pte. Weston, uncle of the late Ben Weston, was in the 168th Battalion, Co. A, 3rd Battalion. Born on March 1, 1890 at Kingston on the Thames, England, he enlisted on February 29, 1916 in Woodstock. He came to Canada in 1902 with a group of 199 Dr. Barnardo children, including his older brother Fred. The brothers worked on farms near Tavistock, later moving to Woodstock where Fred opened a bakery. Herbert worked for him until Fred came to Tavistock. Herbert secured work as a carpenter. He was a member of and a faithful worker in the East End Mission and a popular member of the local Y.M.C.A. He died at Passchendaele, Belgium on November 6th, 1917.

Pte. Buchan was born in Bristol, England on March 3, 1897. At 5 ft. 7”, he had a dark complexion, brown eyes and black hair. Naming his occupation as “farmer”, he was also accepted into the C.E.F. on February 19, 1916. He was first reported Missing in Action, August 30, 1918, later confirmed Killed in Action when the 1st Canadian Division captured Upton Wood. He is buried at Upton Wood Cemetery which contains 226 graves and commemorations.

Along with the photo album, Jason also has his great great grandfather’s wallet with a driver’s licence that expired in 1966. He has bullets from his rifle and hand gun as well as coins collected from different countries he visited during the war. There is a Christmas Pass from 1918 for leave into Paris, his shaving kit and mirror, and pay books from his military service.

Along with attestation papers and enlistment records, Jason is getting a clearer picture of the battles in which he fought. “I have researched WWI and WWII for many years,” Jason said. “I’ve read several books, subscribed to magazines, watched documentaries and explored the internet. My next goal is to get to Europe and explore the battlefields, memorials and cemeteries.”

Remembering these brave Canadians is an honour and a privilege that should never be taken lightly. We owe them our freedom.

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