My Great Uncle
DAVID JEFFERY ALLAN
David was born March 31 1887 in Woodbridge Ontario, the 8th child of nine and 4th son of David Allan,a carpenter and millwright, and Susanna Jane Jeffery. Opportunities for young men were limited and the Canadian West was opening up and luring many away from Ontario.
David’s older brother, Robert had already moved to Manitoba, soon to be followed by their father, David Sr. who settled the family on a farm near Hullett, about 6 miles north of Killarney, Manitoba. Here was a land of fertile plains and endless blue skies dotted with small lakes.
It is here that David jr. completed his early education graduating from Killarney High School.
Killarney Elementary and High School – no date http://www.mhs.mb.ca
By 1902, western Canada was expanding rapidly with people seeking opportunities with the railroad and also through the federal government’s land grants. The grants were part of government policy to settle the West in order to prevent American incursion. Homesteads of one hundred and sixty acres of land were offered by the Dominion Land Act of 1872. They were created as the Dominion Government wanted British Columbia to join the Dominion and B.C. would only do so if there was a transcontinental rail line built joining them to eastern Canada. The Dominion Government agreed to this term.
The Dominion Lands Act stipulated the improvements (cultivation, building construction, etc.) that had to be made to a land grant before a homesteader would receive a Letters Patent from the Crown.
When a homesteader filed an application, the local Dominion Lands Office screened and validated the claim, and sent an inspector to the property to confirm that the improvements had been made.
Within the first three years of homesteading:
- reside on the land for at least three years, and for at least six months during each of those three years;
- construct a dwelling of a minimum size of 18′ x 24′. The first homes of many settlers were tar-paper, log, or sod shacks (whatever material was readily available), of the minimum size;
- cultivate a specified number of acres. The number of acres changed over time, but ranged between 15 and 50 acres. Oxen were the favored animal to assist with breaking and cultivating the land. While this may not sound like too large a task, it must be remembered that, in order to till the land, all rocks and stones had to be removed, any trees cut down, and stumps removed. Motorized farm equipment was rare in those days. In some areas of Canada, there were enough stones to form dividing lines along the edges of the fields, when moved from the fields! Clearing the land for cultivation was a daunting task;
- plant a further 10 to 30 acres of crops (again, the number of acres varied at different times);
- plough a fireguard to protect farm buildings.
The whole process prevented speculators from buying up large amounts of land. Land agents inspected homesteads to ensure that improvements were made annually.
In 1905, David was awarded a land grant located near Asquith, Saskatchewan. He farmed his land for the next 4 years and then decided to move on. In 1910, at the age of 23, he entered Manitoba College (then known as Wesley College) later part of the University of Manitoba.
On the 1911 census, David was listed as a laborer on the farm of his older brother Alfred. He was probably helping his brother out during the summer break from college.
In 1913 Wesley College amalgamated with Manitoba College and was renamed United College. While at college, David participated in a variety of activities – track and field, football, and the college newspaper “The Gleam”
As part of the Argonaut track and field team, he came within 1/2″ of an old high jump record. He was also a member of the football team that won the intercollegiate trophy in 1913.
David graduated from United College in 1914 with a Bachelor of Arts. To quote from his yearbook:
Dave is, without doubt, one of the best all-round men who ever entered the college. In every phase of college life, he has taken an active part. As a sport he ranks with the best; this is quite apparent from his record in this line. He has twice been a member of inter-collegiate track championship teams, and on one occasion won the Tier Cane. In other branches of sport he has on many occasions held up the prestige of his college.
Dave is not only a sport, he is a brilliant student. In his third year he captured the hundred dollar scholarship in English and on every exam he has taken a creditable standing.
Those who know him best love him most. He is sociable to the core, possesses a very pleasing manner which continually kept him entangled with the fair sex.
A man of such well-balanced qualities and all-round attainments it is difficult to find, and we wish him in his profession of Law the bounteous fulfilment of the promise his college career has given.
After graduation David was assistant registrar of the university for one year. But the storm clouds of war that had been broiling in Europe finally erupted in June of 1914 and WW1 began. At first Canada was not involved but the country soon joins the war to aid Britain.
In 1915, David was studying law. But like so many other Canadian young men he felt the need to do his part in the war effort. He enlisted on Aug 2, 1915 in the Canadian Expeditionary Force as a member of the 43rd Battalion, Cameron Highlanders who were recruiting and mobilizing in Winnipeg. They were a part of the 79th Cameron Highlanders. As a Lieutenant, David was seconded for duty with the Royal Flying Corps. Squadron 70 from Mar 25 1917 to Sept 12 1918. On Feb 2 1918, while part of 87th Squadron, he crashed his C4372 Avro on take-off during training but was not injured. While practising landings in Hesdin France, he crashed his Dolphin C4177 but again escaped injury.
His mission was to be an observer. To quote from Military History Online:
Air reconnaissance operations during the First World War were not for the feint of heart. The mortality rate among pilots and observers during the Great War is legendary. Air crews fell victim to mechanical failure, weather, ground fire and air-to-air combat. It was not even unheard of for reconnaissance aircraft to be struck and obliterated by the very artillery rounds they were directing. Life in the air was turbulent, confined and freezing cold. Often, airmen who had just returned from a reconnaissance mission were so numbed and dazed from prolonged exposure, that they literally had to thaw out before they could report their observations in a coherent and intelligible manner.
David served in France and was wounded on June 15 1918 near Amiens when his airplane, a Sopwith Dolphin # C3865 was hit and he crashed and overturned, barely making it back to friendly territory. A couple of months later, the Battle of Amiens started which was a turning point in the war.
The author of the following is an unknown Australian soldier who was a friend of David’s. It is the story of David’s harrowing experience and long recovery from his injuries.
GLIDING THROUGH HADES
“Armistice Day again with its recollections of the Great War. This morning I heard a brilliant man speaking and one sentence stays with me, “That nation is the greatest which has the most heroes and the most tales of heroes to recount to its youth.” This afternoon, while reading the latest copy of the Wide World, my mind turned to the most dramatic escape from death recounted personally to me from the Great War and I thought the tale of two other British heroes might well be added to the common store and through no channel better or more fitting than the Wide World.
A____ had been a freshman in my senior year at a Canadian University. I knew him slightly in spite of the abyss which yawns between freshman and senior, because we specialized in the same course – athletics, in which he was graduated with honours. About the time of his graduation the Great War broke out and he disappeared, as for that matter did all the other unmarried University men. In 1919 our paths crossed again and we became more intimate. When he recounted the following tale to me he had just married a beautiful and sparkling young lady to whom he had been engaged prior to his enlistment. My wife and I had been entertained by A’s at dinner. The ladies had withdrawn, and in the contented interval that comes with cigars I recalled some vague rumor of a long hospital period for my friend and asked him if it were true and how it happened. His story I will give in his own words as nearly as I can. It is four years since he told me and some of the details I may have forgotten, but the main facts I could never forget.
“Yes”, as he flicked the ash from a cigar, “I was in the hospital alright – eighteen months in a plaster caste with a broken neck and sundry other parts of my skeleton also, not usually deemed so serious. I suppose I’m a lucky man to be here tonight”, and he gazed for a silent moment about his charming home. “It was back of Armiens, Villiers Breligny, to be exact, that I got mine. I had left the infantry in January 1917, and joined the air force, which seemed to offer more variety. I suppose I achieved a measure of success as I eventually was made a flight commander. At the time I tell about we were flying a Sopwith “Dolphins”. Although they later became obselete, these machines were then the fastest, highest fliers we had. They were single-seater scout machines, built for fighting. Our chief aim at that time was to keep the German behind his own line to prevent observation. Our flights were usually in the morning and evening, since that was the most favorable time for observation work.
“However, on this particular day in June of 1918, my flight was ordered up immediately at 1 O.K. I will remember that I was properly sore as for some reason I had not yet had lunch. Three of us composed the flight, myself as leader and Mc. and C. forming the V. There were lots of German scouts up, but they were making no attempt to cross over. After doing sentry go the given time we started homeward. We were then at 17,000 feet and twelve miles behind the German line. I was not expecting any trouble, although of course, one never had any fire-side sense of security. Eternal vigilance was the only guarantee of safety, for things happen quickly in the air. However, there were no enemy planes threatening and although I made the stereotyped changes of direction out of deference to Archie, I never really took serious thought of any danger from that quarter.. When one flies three miles high it is the wildest chance any gunner is able to plant a piece of metal the size of your fist close enough to do any harm. Of course, like a puppy chasing sparrows, Archie was always trying in the most noisy and energetic manner, but I’m afraid we rather took his salutes as one those senseless formalities which seem to make up the life military. No doubt the German officers realized the airmen were all officers even if only swine hounds, and the regular salvos were tributes to our rank.
“But even a random shaft sometimes finds its mark. There was a crash, a jar to the machine, the engine stopped. I lost control. Down I swooped – then the machine would straighten out till speed was lost, then drop again. You may imagine I was experimenting frantically with the joy stick, and at last I found she glided properly, only with the joy stick far forward to the left. The steering apparatus, as well as engine, had been seriously injured. When I came out I got straightened into a glide, the altimeter showed 12.000 feet. I had fallen one mile already of my precious three. A hasty survey showed a bit of shell had come through the floor and neatly clipped off the magneto. My power was hopelessly gone and I was twelve miles behind the German lines. It takes some time to tell, of course, but you think quickly and act quickly in the air or then you are not an aviator very long. I had fortunately been pointing home when I came out of the spin. An aeroplane, of the type I was in anyway, is supposed to cover a mile for every thousand feet of altitude in gliding, so I could see at once I had a bare chance of making the British lines. I can’t say that I relished the prospects very much. Somewhere below me, every few hundred yards was a German battery and the nearer I got to the front line the more of them there were, and after them came the machine guns, several lines of trenches filled with German riflemen who were going to have a keen bit of sport that morning. No doubt many of them had been forced to pass up the annual trip to the marshes, or wherever they do shoot in Germany, the same as we had, but this would be quite like old times. Perhaps, though, I would have a bit of luck and light farther back than now appeared likely, and anyway, I had to come down somewhere, so I kept her pointed for the lines.
Then thousand feet – then nine – eight – seven, and the miles of fields passed behind me. The usual little pocket handkerchiefs those fields were when I started that glide, but they grew and grew as the trenches approached. Buildings loomed up – roads became distinct – figures of men finally became discernible. It wasn’t so bad at first either. Maybe Jerry was giving me all he had and doing poor shooting, or perhaps he thought I must land in German territory anyway and refrained to some extent from wasting ammunition; or perhaps I was so busy trying to get every last foot out of my glide that a lot went on I never noticed. Of course the wings were hit time and time again, but nothing serious.
And then came six thousand and five – the edge of the shell torn area. Here and there the big fellows had made their craters and then further out the shell holes grew closer together, the trees were blasted until at the front line trench No-man’s Land and beyond our front line: the earth was churned into that mess of pot holes and craters which marked the bull’s eye for both sets of rival gunners. And as I drifted forward and the machine sank lower, my heart sank with it. The best I could hope for would be to land in that series of pits. Imagine driving an automobile at seventy miles an hour off a level road across a field of ditches, stumps, stones, holes, wells even. In so doing you would have some advantage over my lot, because the centre of gravity is low and the car by some freak may not overturn, but with the top heavy aeroplane there was no hope. She must certainly turn a somersault. Perhaps I might not even make the German front line and all my chance taking must be wasted.
At 2000 feet I had to make the most important decision I have ever made or ever will make. If I turned I could still reach the level fields behind the German front lines. A landing there was practically as safe as at my own aerodrome. It meant capture, of course – imprisonment- but the War was over for me – there lay safety – and finally sometime there would be peace and then home. Ahead nothing but a landing crash sooner or later, this side of the German lines. perhaps in No’man’s Land, perhaps, with the best of luck, just beyond our own front line. That is if no trap-shooting Fritzie scored before that moment came, otherwise – curtain.
I don’t know yet just why I went ahead. I realized fully that my chance of escaping that merciless hail of shell and bullets and making a landing that would not leave me a crushed and shapeless mass, was about one in a million, even if Jerry did not register a direct hit with his artillery on the wreckage (which he was bound to attempt) before I got away. I suppose it’s like a race, you have to go until you hit the tape. Anyway I tried it. I crossed the last German trench at less than 400 feet and if Fritzie had spared me previously, he certainly did not then. Machine guns – rifles – revolvers, even his empty tomato tins I believe – he let me have them all. Talk about “the mouth of hell”. In my college days my crowd may have come to its feet on occasion to bring me to the finish with all the raucous inspiration such a crowd is capable of (which is considerable) but, to do Jerry justice, he had them beaten forty ways. I will say it was a whole hearted reception. The plane must have been riddled although I never saw it after, I suppose that during that twelve-mile glide more evil minded metal was loosed in my direction than at the whole “Light Brigade” at Balaclava. Anyway there was enough.
As I dropped the last few hundred yards I had made my preparations for landing. In front of me were the butts of two machine guns and all the glassed-in instruments. I tightened my belt to the limit so I should not be smashed head-first into that. The shell-holes were about the size of a loaded wagon of hay, and my intention was to slow up all I could, then turn the nose of the machine up and pancake into a hole. The landing speed is seventy miles, and there was a twenty-mile wind behind me. My wheels barely cleared our front line where I picked the shell hole and tried my stunt. At the last moment I saw I was going too fast and would hit the far side of the crater, A frantic effort to lift her over into the next was unsuccessful – the steering gear would not respond, I remember striking and no more until I awoke in the hospital six days later,
I had lit just behind the Australians and they sent me out in charge of an orderly who was still with me when I became conscious. He told me the machine struck, bounced and crashed on its back thirty yards further on. I presume it was smashed to flinders. I was fortunately removed at once. The belt had kept me out of the guns but the pressure broke several ribs and my head snapped forward so hard my neck was broken. The three top vertebrae were cracked. In addition, they were crushed together. I am three-quarters of an inch shorter today than before that crash. The Australians rescued me at once and started me to the hospital packed in sand bags. When I wakened I was strapped in bed, head, arms and body to my hips and that way I remained for weeks. Later, the doctors provided me with a plaster cast which kept my head absolutely rigid for over a year. I have, as you see, pulled through with a comparatively minor disability, much to the astonishment of the doctors, I have thought.
What happened the rest of the flight – well, they both stuck with me in formation, until 4000 feet. Mc___. then, like a sensible fellow went home. C____, who was a fool-hardy chap, (although I appreciated his action) stayed with me till the crash. He it was who told me later the altitude when crossing the last German trench. C___ was at 400 and I was lower still. Even after the crash he circled twice to view the wreckage, then turned to the aerodrome and reported the crash as hopeless. As a result, like Mark Twain, I had the chance to announce later that the reports of my death were greatly exaggerated.”
That was A’s story. I suppose I made some banal comment, but as I viewed his charming wife and cosy home I mused, as I did again today, of the price he offered and almost paid, for the privilege of hitting the tape. The sole reward, a race well run – a work well done.
And what of C___, who could have shirked that blasting inferno, yet took it all, that he might see the finish of his flight commander ( for so it must have seemed to him)! I have heard of no more conscious choice of almost certain death than made by these two young men, – particularly A__. It is pleasing to think that in spite of fearful odds they both escaped.”
David spent many months in a field hospital, then was transferred to a hospital in England, and finally, when he was well enough to travel, returned to Deer Lodge Hospital in Winnipeg to complete his recovery. He was discharged from the military in Winnipeg on April 15 1919.
He resumed his law studies at the University of Manitoba, being called to the bar in December 1921 after graduating the same year with honors and the degree of LL.B. He enters partnership with Alderman E.D. Honeyman with offices in the Paris Bldg. in Winnipeg.
While still at university, he married Marjorie Hopper Munroe on Feb 21 1920 in the RM of East Kildonan. Her father, a descendant of the original Lord Selkirk Settlers, was a former secretary-treasurer of East Kildonan and Munroe Street is named after him. On the 1921 census, they are living at 252 Machray Avenue. Their daughter Barbara Munroe was born in 1923, followed by son Stuart Jeffery in 1928.
David’s agricultural interests and skills switched to horticultural ones. In 1927, he was president of the West Kildonan Horticultural Society. At this time, the couple were living on Munroe Avenue in East Kildonan. David became an expert horticulturalist as proven by being awarded the Shaughnessy Trophy in 1927 for the most beautiful home grounds in Greater Winnipeg.
He also had a keen interest in politics. From 1924 – 1928, he served as a councilor for the municipality of East Kildonan (now a suburb of Winnipeg.) In 1928, he was elected by acclamation as reeve. He campaigned again for mayor in November 1930 and was elected, gaining 923 votes of the total 1698 votes cast. In 1931 he was re-elected with a count of 912 of the 1276 votes cast; again in 1932 it was 945 of 1064 votes cast; but he lost the election in 1933 by 1255 to 1013.
During his tenure, the Great Depression on the Prairies began. It was a very difficult time to be a mayor. The crash of the stock market in 1929 produced widespread poverty and this was compounded by the severe drought and dust storms in the Prairies during the 1930’s. He devoted much of his time to unemployment relief. Council was buying clothing for relief and paying rent on some homes. By the end of 1931, more money was being paid out for relief than was coming in through taxes. By early 1933, 36% of the population of East Kildonan were living in unemployed households. The crime rate increased and many empty homes were vandalized.
Not all was doom and gloom though. In July of 1930 East Kildonan, along with the rest of Manitoba, celebrated the Diamond Jubilee of Manitoba’s entry into Confederation in 1870. David participated in the festivities that included a parade, a sports program, singing and dancing. It was a brief respite.
In 1931, the premier of Manitoba, John Bracken, held a conference on the unemployment situation in the Legislative Building attended by representatives of cities, towns, suburban and rural municipalities. David was among the speakers. He spoke on behalf of the suburban municipalities.
In 1934 David and his family are living at 223 Munroe Ave.
After his election defeat, David needed to find new employment. On May 1, 1934, the Hon. J.S. McDiarmid, head of the Department of Mines and Natural Resources, announced the appointment of David as assistant deputy minister. Four years later, in 1938 David became the Superintendant of Indian Affairs and Trusts for Canada. During his tenure in this position, he is made an honorary chief by the Blood Indian Tribe in Alberta
He lived in Ottawa from 1938 – 53. Upon retirement, he moved back to Winnipeg and by 1954 he is living at 3E-281 River Avenue, according to the Henderson Directory of that year.
He died 3 Dec 1956 in Vancouver while visiting his son Stuart and was buried in Mountain View Cemetery. His wife Marjorie died in Montreal in 1958, and daughter Barbara passed away in 2006 in Cleveland Ohio. His son Stuart is still living.