Historical Plaque Properties

 

Percival F. Spencer - Builder - Soldier
82 Princess Street
1916

Percival Franklin Spencer was born in the village of Milverton on October 4, 1885. He was the son of Henry William Spencer and Martha Mary Meech. The couple were married in Melcombe Regis, England on December 26, 1870.


Ten years after their marriage and with four young children Henry and Martha made the momentous decision to emigrate to Canada in search of a better life for themselves and for their family to come. Henry came from a family that for generations had been masons and bricklayers. Indeed, when he was twelve years of age the records show that Henry was apprenticed to his father as a mason’s assistant. It was therefore not surprising that upon arrival in Canada Henry continued to practise the trade.


Percival continued in his father’s footsteps as a bricklayer and joined his father’s company when Henry formed a construction business. Percival and his father built the house at 82 Princess Street, which was completed in early 1916. As the house was placed in Percy’s name it appears the plan was either that he marry or would just use it as his principal residence. Either way the plan was interrupted by the clouds of war and the house was leased out as an income property.


On April 4, 1916 Percy enlisted in the Canadian Army and was shipped overseas to England. Apparently, Percy took a reduction in his rank from corporal so that he could be posted to France in February 1917. His first big engagement was at the Battle of Vimy Ridge. The Canadian Corps was given the assignment of dislodging the German forces from the ridge which commanded the Arras Valley. This task had already cost the French army more than one hundred thousand killed and wounded and had resulted in failed attempts by other allied armies.


The Canadian Corps under the command of Julian Byng, who would become Canada’s Governor General, and Sir Arthur Currie meticulously planned the operation down to the platoon level using new techniques of warfare which proved successful. Some historians argue that Canada was born as a nation on the bloody fields of Vimy. Percy was in the thick of the battle during which more than ten thousand of his comrades were killed or wounded and somehow survived.


The next major battle for Percy was Passchendaele where the Canadian Corps, now under the command of Sir Arthur Currie were tasked with relieving the Australian and New Zealand forces who had suffered high casualties but had failed to dislodge the German forces. Currie, who had been promoted to lead the Canadian Core, was skeptical about the pending battle and estimated that he would lose 16,000 men either killed or wounded. Nonetheless the Canadians attacked and through some bitter fighting under horrible conditions were successful in removing the Germans. The casualty list of Canadian dead or injured would number 15,654, not far off Sir. Arthur’s grim estimate.


Percival Franklin Spenser was killed in action on August 7, 1917. He is buried in the Canadian war cemetery at Vimy Ridge.


The house at 82 Princess Street remained in Percy’s estate until it was sold in 1920.