Lieutenant Frederick Ambler Heather MC. MM. is another of the Okanagan’s Decorated Fallen in the First World War (FWW), and another officer that rose from the ranks with the 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles (BC Horse). Fred was born to Thomas and Emily H. (nee Ambler) Heather in Woolwich, Kent, England, on March 3, 1888, one of four boys and seven girls.1 In England, Fred served in the King’s Royal Rifles for three years and the Middlesex Yeomanry for six months. He emigrated to Canada, landed in Kelowna about 1910, and enrolled in the 30th British Columbia Horse regiment soon after. A 1912 Kelowna Record newspaper shows him billing the City for parks work, and by 1914 he was a contractor for customs clearing and freighting.2
Fred enlisted as a Private (107267) in the 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles (BC Horse) on December 8, 1914, with four years of service in the Militia. He was 26 years old, stood 5’4” tall with a ruddy complexion, brown eyes and hair, a vaccination scar on his left arm, and two silver fillings. He was promoted to Sergeant on December 1, 1914, married Jean Stuart Edith Eleanor Stirling in Kelowna on December 31, 1914, and sailed for England in June 1915. By late 1915 Jean had settled in London and gave birth to their daughter, Rosalynd Jean Heather.
Of interest to genealogists are the discrepancies originating with the attestation forms. According to Library and Archives Canada, there are two service files for the number 107297: Frederick Ambler Heather and Albert Edward Holmes. Both have stroked out service numbers. Smith Holmes was discharged in Victoria in May 1919 after serving in the 2CMR and the 1st Battery, Canadian Field Artillery in France. Fred’s regimental number 107267 is used throughout his file, which was dropped when he was commissioned a Lieutenant in 1916. One form shows 107294 corrected to 107267. How or when 107294 became 107297 is unknown. Another is the change of his middle name from Ambler to Amblec, which might have started with the original enlisting clerk’s interpretation and cursive writing style.3
Original attestation form in 1914 [l] and 1916 copy [r] with revised service number.
His medical records show he was ‘slightly’ wounded but remained on duty while serving as a Sergeant in early June 1916. This was when he earned the Military Medal decoration and a commission as a Lieutenant, effective June 29, 1916. In November 1916, the 2nd CMR was in front of Vimy Ridge, and Fred was tasked to lead a raid on German trenches on the night of November 20. Details of this raid are described elsewhere. However, he would earn a Military Cross decoration4 for this action:
He went on leave from July 9 to July 17, 1916, to see Jean and Rosalynd, followed by a one-month course in August. As a Lieutenant (Lt). he suffered another wound and remained on duty on September 15, 1916. There is no mention of what type of wounds they were, but he went on leave from 4 to January 18, 1917.
Three months later, the four Infantry Divisions of the Canadian Corps successfully attacked and captured Vimy Ridge on April 9, 1917. The book 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles (BC Horse) in France and Flanders states:
“April 10, 1917. During the actual assault our losses were not severe, but as is often the case after an attack, our casualties were greatly increased while consolidating and holding the captured positions. Lieut. J.E.H. Christie was killed very early in the day; Lieut. A.G. Pimm, battalion signals officer, while directing the laying of a telephone line, was mortally wounded and died a few hours later, and Lieut. Fred Heather M.C., M.M., was killed instantly by shell fire while directing his men in the consolidation of the outpost line. Lieuts. R. Lees, R.J. Darcus and J. Mayer were wounded during the assault, while in the evening Capt. J.L. Gray M.C., was gassed by gas shells. Forty-four other ranks were killed and one hundred and forty-nine wounded during the day.” 5
In 1921 Jean received Fred’s medals: the Military Cross, the Military Medal, the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal, and the commemorative plaque and scroll. She married J.H. Beatham, of Baree, Mt. Morgan, Australia and moved there. Rosalynd stayed in England. Fred’s mother, Mrs. Emily Helen Heather, of London, received the silver Memorial Cross. Frederick Ambler Heather MC, MM, buried in Ecoivres Military Cemetery near Mt. St. Eloi, France, was remembered by friends, and his name is on the Kelowna Cenotaph.
2] Service file lac B4219-5025, RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box 4219 – 25
3] Attestation form on https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/military-heritage/first-world-war/personnel-records/Pages/item.aspx?IdNumber=454328
4] Excerpt London Gazette Supplement 29898 January 10, 1917 pg. 464
5] 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles (30th BC Horse) in France and Flanders, Lt Col G. Chalmers Johnston DSO MC, Ch. 5 Pg. 47 OMM-B-3640