By Sandra Eaton, BA’66
Lance-Cpl. Japheth Hounsell, was my uncle, my mother’s much older brother. Their ancestral home in Pound Cove, Bonavista Bay, N.L., was where I spent every summer until I turned 14.
Japheth enlisted in the Newfoundland Regiment on Feb. 23, 1916, and joined his battalion in France on July 21, not long after the devastation at Beaumont-Hamel. His regiment was sent to Ypres, and on to the Somme. By April 1917, he was a signaller serving on the Western Front during the three-month- long Battle of Arras. There, at Monchy-le-Preux, he became one of the legendary Monchy Ten.
Official records note that this small group of men, ‘represented all that stood between the Germans and Monchy, one of the most vital positions on the whole battlefield.’ All 10 were honoured for their bravery.
On April 14, 1917, an attack on the German line failed and the Germans counterattacked. Newfoundland and British losses were significant and it appeared hopeless, but in a last-ditch effort to save the day, the headquarters staff, including Japheth, were sent into action. There were 20 at the start, but only 10 survived the initial advance. These 10 men held off the enemy (who were in far greater numbers) for hours until relief came. Official records note that this small group of men, “represented all that stood between the Germans and Monchy, one of the most vital positions on the whole battlefield.” All 10 were honoured for their bravery.
Almost a year later, in 1918, Uncle Japheth was killed. The document from the British War Office that hung in the dining room said he died on April 13, buried by the enemy somewhere near Baillieul, east of Arras, France. I remember King George V, in a resplendent gold trimmed military uniform, glaring down from the wall in a black frame. Whenever I looked at it, I wondered what made my uncle decide to leave his home to go and fight so far away.
Sandra Eaton was born near Wesleyville, Bonavista Bay North. She taught communications at Georgian College in Orillia, Ont. for over 30 years, and is now happily retired in Orillia.