World War One   Samuel Unitt  78th Battalion Canadian Expeditionary Force  1916  1917  1918  The Somme   Vimy Ridge  Passchendaele  Amiens Valenciennes  Armistice Winnipeg Grenadiers  Flanders  Canada  Trench Warfare 

World War One: A distant memory

Pte. Samuel Unitt 78th Bn, and the CEF in Flanders Fields 1915-1918




Samuel Unitt, a Canadian signalman in Flanders




My Grandfather, Samuel Unitt enlisted in the 100th Winnipeg Grenadiers, a militia battalion, sometime after the outbreak of the First World War. The battalion then was renamed the 78th Overseas Batallion, "The Winnipeg Grenadiers," and he   "attested" (i.e. volunteered for overseas duty in France).

Samuel Unitt was born in Redditch England and emigrated to Canada when he was 17.  He was 21 when he joined the call for volunteers after the original BEF (British Expeditionary Force) in France had been decimated by the tremendous losses of the 1914 Campaign.  Canada was automatically involved in the War based on being part of the Commnwealth. Great Britain was building up for a huge offensive in 1916 to break through the German trenches.   In England the "pal" regiments answered the call, in Canada 30,000 men immediately enlisted.

The 78th Battalion  reached France by August 1916 and was then attached to the 12th infantry brigade of the newly formed 4th Canadian division of the Canadian Corps.

Samuel Unitt's attestation papers



Where is Redditch England?










Canadians laying cable 1918. (1)






















  The Winnipeg Grenadiers
My Grandfather's battalion was involved in a number of famous actions, sadly I have little personal details from him as he passed when I was seven years old. Hopefully some other tidbits turn up as I post things here. The main point of this website is to share a few of his historical gems, handed down to me. The first being the Armistice note of 11/11/1918, the second being the "Demuin Map" of Lieutenant S. L. Honey, an officer of  the Winnipeg Grenadiers who fell in battle, earning the Victoria Cross. Along the way my adventure of researching these materials has given a renewed respect for these soldiers who fought and died so many years ago in the "War to End All Wars."


The 100th Winnipeg Grenadiers 1915. They are wearing the Oliver pattern gear that would be exchanged later for British gear. (� 2006 Jeff Jonas)
This photo is labeled "Ypres station". Tons of bales of hay for the cavalry and draught horses that pulled the
artillery, are ready to be unloaded.
(� 2006 Jeff Jonas)
Photo labeled  "B" coy Hd Qrs Passchendaele"
(� 2006 Jeff Jonas)

Fortunately, my Grandfather survived the battle of the Somme, where his friend and neighbor, Raymond Woodfield perished. My Grandfather was gassed, most likely at the Somme, or Passchaendaele, or Vimy Ridge, these were famous actions where his Battlaion was heavily engaged . I have many links to the 4th Division's activity at these battles that I will post later. I am actively seeking his war record so I might pin down these details.

On leave in England.      Mustering out.

Samuel was in the signals detachment and was trained to operate a high tech Morse code transmitter known as a Fullerphone, for which he received certification for in June 1917: (how do I know this? Here is his certificate of training).

Training certificate for Samuel Unitt:

Here is what the Fullerphone looked like, and how it operated:

The Fullerphone allowed clean communication line that the enemy could not  simply listen into.  Older phone and wire signals passed through cables that lay over the broken landscape of  the torn up landscape. Ditches filled with water and mud, allowed the signals to be simply picked up by listeners nearby, or infiltrators could simply tap into the lines and hear the whole message. The Fullerphone had a closed circuit that made it impossible to listen in except if closed at both ends.  The Allied Fullephones put the Germans in the dark and they were completely taken by surprise when the Allies struck in August 1918.   Basically my Grandfather was a pioneer of the forward observer that would make technology, maneuver, and firepower rule the modern battlefield from then on. In fact his training certificate notes a special ability: Aeroplane Contact Work, cutting edge stuff for 1917.

The 78th Battalion was involved in the famous 100 days offensive where the Australian and Canadian Corps drove the Germans back from the Amiens salient to Mons. The first day of this assault was called "The Black Day of the German Army," by the German Supreme Army Commander, Ludendorrf.  The 78th later occupied Germany and garrisoned the Black Forest region. I hope these artifacts inspire others to search for the truth in history that the occasional primary documents can reveal.

More Unitt family Photos:


  The Armistice Message 11/11/1918
This is the actual message received at B company Headquarters telling the troops that the war was finally over.

  Here is an interesting side light to this message.
  The Grandaughter of Private Martyn who receiuved the message and signed the note sent me
  this message:

Hi Jeff, 

I read the page again and your grandfather was in the signals detachment. I haven't yet determined what Danny did, but since he took the message and called himself a "signal operator", I would assume they were in the same detachment, and most likely knew each other.

Anyway, my great-grandfather, Denis Edgar "Danny" Martyn, was also a Winnipeg Grenadier in WWI, which is how I got to your page. Thank you for posting so much information! I've just started (this morning, in fact), researching the WWI Grenadiers. As I was looking through your page, I was intrigued by the Armistice Message that you've scanned. It was written by my great-grandfather, and he was very proud for his whole life that he was the signal operator who took the message. I was wondering if you could tell me where you found this document, and if you have any other sources (online or otherwise) I should check out? 

I thought you might like to know some history of the author of the document on your wall. Danny Martyn's Attestation papers say he isn't married in 1915, but he did marry my great-grandmother immediately (the day before) leaving for France. Their first son was born while he was away. After the war he returned to Canada and saw his son for the first time. He was a talented singer and dancer, and sang on stage (semi-professionally) in Canada. We actually have an old (very scratchy) recording of his singing to a baby (my father, his grandson), which you can listen to here if you want:

I feel very fortunate that considering Danny was born in 1896, we have a recording of his voice as well as a sample of his handwriting, from your scanned message. Thank you for posting it. 

His son, Francis Denis Ford Martyn, was also a Winnipeg Grenadier, in WWII. He was captured in Hong Kong on Christmas Day, 1941, and was liberated in 1946 after the war. He married my grandmother, whom he met in Jamaica, the previous posting for the Grenadiers before going to Hong Kong. During his imprisonment, Ford kept a secret diary of their treatment, diet, and grueling schedule working in coal mines. This diary was turned over to the government and used in war crimes trials against the Japanese. He was very proud of that his whole life, and later donated the diary to the library in Ottawa, where it still is today.

When my father was young the whole family emigrated to the US and became citizens. FDF and his wife Helen lived in Phoenix until their deaths. I'm not exactly sure when Danny passed away, but my father knew him well, so it seems he had a long life.

I don't know if you're interested in any of that, but from your site it seems like you would appreciate that bit of history, especially since a part of it is on your wall. 

Thank you again for the site, and your miniatures really are lovely! 

Best wishes to you!
Allison Martyn






























World War One miniatures























Nurse Cavell's execution

The last bloody days at the Somme September - October 1916
In the weeks that followed the three Canadian divisions again and again attacked a series of German entrenchments.
The final Canadian objective was that "ditch of evil memory," Regina Trench. It repeatedly defied capture, and when the first three divisions were relieved in the middle of October, Regina Trench was closer, but still not taken."

 Raymond Woodfield killed at the Somme 1916:


Raymond Woodfield photo labeled
"Died of Wounds October 16th 1916"



  Lieutenant S.L. Honey  (Victoria Cross):





Lt. Samuel Lewis Honey served in "B" coy. with   my Grandfather, I know this because I have his  map.

His is a quite inspiring story, as he rose up through the ranks to become an officer.

He was one of the two posthumous Canadian Victoria Cross winners in the 78th Bn. during the 100 days campaign.
(in progress)


  The "Demuin map", and the Black Day of the German Army:






    This trench map covers the area of Demuin at 1:20,000 scale. It details the actions of the initial attack of the Canadian Corps on August 8th, 1918.
Battles such as the Somme, Passchendaele, Cambrai, and Vimy Ridge, may be more famous for their mass suffering, but the attack here was one of the most famous victories in World War One and directly led to the Germans surrender.

This was Lt. S.L. Honey's map and my Grandfather kept this above all the others that he could have taken as a souvenir.

Interestingly the map also delineates where the first tank vs. tank battle in history occurred, south of Villers-Bretaneux along the Cachy Switch, in April of 1918.

 Passchendaele July-November 1917

The 78th Winnipeg Grenadiers had brought the battleline to the edge of Passchendaele on October 30th.
The Canadians regrouped & the 28th was moved up to continue the attack.

Alex Ross recalled: 
"It was the one job we went into with no real heart.
I had never seen my men so depressed as we moved into the Salient.
They knew what the Salient was like, always had been like.
It was the graveyard of everybody."


  Trench Warfare 1915-1918: (in progress)

  Tanks: Breaking the Stalemate (in progress)

  Nurse Edith Cavell: Why They Fought


Nurse Edit Cavell was executed by the Germans in 1915 for smuggling Allied soldiers out of Belgium. Britain's media labeled this act an atrocity, and she became a symbol of the atrocities of the "Huns".  Like many others my Grandfather enlisted when he heard that the Germans were committing these acts in Belgium.




Gassed by John Singer Sargent (1856-1925). Imperial War Museum, London.


  World War One's cost:

65 Million individuals served in World War 1, from Palestine to Gallipoli to the Western Front. 8.5 Million soldiers were killed and 30 Million were wounded.  8.9 million troops were raised by Britain, Canada, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand. Of these, 900 thousand were killed, 2.3 Million wounded.

Canada provided 595,000 soldiers, approximately 13.5% of the male population of Canada at the time.
Ofthese, 418,000 served overseas. 37% (155,799) were wounded, 14% (60,383) died. Approximately 11,285
Canadians who served in Europe in World War One have no known grave; their names are inscribed on the
Memorial at Vimy. 40,000 Americans volunteered to serve in Canadian units before the USA entered the war in 1917. (2)

Using the photograph above of the volunteers of the Winnipeg Grenadiers as a typical example. There are 49 men and officers. Of this group eighteen would have likely been wounded, seven killed, one of the dead possibly would never have been identified or found. A friend of mine summed things up in a most eloquent fashion:

"Thanks, Jeff, I've enjoyed your research. I really admire these unremarkable looking young men who knowingly faced such a terrifyingly high percentage of death, and still did exactly what they were called upon to do. Today's silver and bronze star recipients cannot even remotely fathom those kinds of odds."


  In Flander's Fields:
One of the most compelling war poems ever was written by a Canadian serving in France:


  Uniforms and Gear of the CEF:


Cap badge if the 78th Overseas battalion.
Each battalion had its own distinctive regalia,
purchased at the expense of the battalion. (JJonas Collection)

Click here for a link to other CEF cap badges

Click here for UK cap badges

Click here for Australian cap badges



Canadian collar tabs (from ebay)
Canadian service award (from ebay)
Canadian Service Dress, Jacket of a Staff Sergeant of engineers
(Military Illustrated July 1990)

A wound stripe:

More uniform info:


  Other CEF World War One links:

54th Battalion, includes diary:

13th Battalion, Hangard Wood:

72nd Battalion:
MG Company at Vimy Ridge:

85th Battalion:

73rd Battalion:

World War 1 Canadian actions on film:
(1) The signals photo is from the above movies.

10th battalion signals:

A farewell Dinner:


Unit Histories:

Battalion Photos:

Evolution of the Canadian Corps:


A Tribute Video


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