Alfred Thornton

Information about birth

Date of birth:
Place of birth:
Columbia Falls, Montana, United States of America

General information

Last known residence:
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Church of England

Army information

Canadian Expeditionary Force
Service number:
Enlistment date:
Enlistment place:
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
 —  Canadian Infantry, 49th Bn. (Edmonton)  (Last known unit)

Information about death

Date of death:
Place of death:
Vine Cottages, Passchendaele, Belgium
Cause of death:
Killed in action (K.I.A.)


Poelcapelle British Cemetery
Plot: X
Row: C
Grave: 17

Distinctions and medals 2

Points of interest 4

#1 Place of birth
#2 Last known residence
#3 Enlistment place
#4 Place of death (approximate)

My story

Alfred Thornton was born on 11 April 1894, the eldest son of Thomas and Cora Thornton in Columbia Falls, Montana, USA. By 1916, he was living with the whole family in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, where he worked as a carpenter. On 13 January 1915, he enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force where he was assigned to the 49th Battalion of the Canadian Infantry (Edmonton) of the 7th Brigade of the 3rd Canadian Division.

After the first attack on 26 October 1917 on the heights near Passchendaele, the 3rd and 4th Canadian Divisions went at it again on 30 October. The battered battalions that had shared in the blows on the first day had been withdrawn. The 3rd Division attacked with the 8th Brigade on the left and the 7th Brigade on the right. From Bellevue, they moved further up the spur, towards Goudberg and Meetcheele, northwest of Passchendaele. The 7th Brigade moved from Bellevue towards Meetcheele. Two battalions led the attack: the Patricias on the right and the 49th Battalion on the left. The condition of the terrain played tricks on the attackers. The Patricias dragged through the mud to Meetcheele. The barrage had done little or no damage to the German pillboxes. The goal line was reached at the cost of heavy sacrifices. Eight out of 10 officers and six out of 10 men were killed, wounded or missing. To the left of the PPCLI, the 49th advanced towards Fürst Farm. Even before the attack began, the battalion was hit by its own fire. German artillery also hit the battalion at their starting positions. Fürst Farm was taken, but a further advance over open and muddy terrain proved impossible. One by one, the men fell prey to German snipers. The 49th was hit unusually hard. Eight officers were killed and eight wounded, 118 men were killed, 280 wounded and 29 men were missing from the 22 officers and 569 men who went to the front. Many of the battalion's fallen would eventually have no known grave. At the Menin Gate lie no fewer than 122 boys of the 49th Battalion killed on 30 October 1917.

Alfred Thornton, aged 23, was killed on 30 October 1917. He was buried at Vine Cottages near the Goudberg. One of the few from his battalion, Alfred was identified after the war and reinterred in 1919 at Poelcapelle British Cemetery, Plot X, Row C, Grave 17.

Files 2

Sources 5

Census of Canada, 1916 (Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa (LAC), RG 31).
Sources used
McCarthy Chris., Passchendaele. The Day-by-Day Account (London, Unicorn Publishing Group, 2018), 153-154.
Sources used
Personnel Records of the First World War (Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa (LAC) RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box 9674 - 40).
Sources used
War diaries - 49th Canadian Infantry Battalion (Edmonton Regiment) (Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa (LAC), RG9-III-D-3, Volume 4940, Microfilm T-10747, File 440).
Sources used
War Graves Registry: Commonwealth War Graves (Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa (LAC): RG150, 1992-1993/314, Box 39-244; Box: 50).
Sources used