3rd Class Trooper, South African Constabulary – Anglo Boer War
Captain, Remount Department, Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force
Quartermaster Sergeant, 1st Canadian Tank Battalion – WWI
- Queens South Africa Medal with clasps Cape Colony, Orange Free State, Transvaal and South Africa 1902 to 2331 3rd Cl. Tpr. E.C. Laver, S.A.C.
Edwin (or Edward in some reports) Laver was born in Glastonbury, Somerset on 3 September 1881 and was the son of Edward Laver, a Farmer and Cattle Dealer and his wife Jessie. According to the 1891 England census an 8 year old Edwin was a school boy in the house of his parents at 8 Edgarley Road, Glastonbury. There was quite a disparity between the ages of his siblings starting with Robert, 17 and followed by John, 15, Wilfred, 6, Irene, 4, and Gwendoline, 3. The family was a prosperous one with General Servant, Mary Carter in attendance as well as a Butler and any number of farm servants
Ten years later at the time of the 1901 England census the picture was somewhat altered – the family had moved to Northover House in Glastonbury where Mr Laver was styled as an Auctioneer, Valuer and Cattle Dealer. Edwin was no longer a youth at the age of 20 and, for the most part, the siblings had remained at home as well in what was obviously a very close knit family. Northover House, the family home, was a large establishment with its seven bay ashlar front, with angle pilasters and porch, probably dating from the early 19th century, though the south wall contains a mullioned window somewhat earlier in date. The house was certainly standing in 1802 when George Tuson, solicitor, moved there, though its proximity to the gaol in the town was thought by his clerk to render it 'not in a very desirable situation'.
Whatever it was that induced a 20 year old Edwin to seek his fortune elsewhere the Anglo Boer War provided him with the opportunity. Raging since October 1899 the war pitted the might of the British Empire against two small Boer Republics in faraway South Africa. The call to create a South African Constabulary had come in late 1900 after it was found that the Imperial troops were hard-pressed to counter the fast riding Boer Commandos which infested the Veld in what was the Guerrilla phase of the war. Now that the capitals of Bloemfontein and Pretoria had fallen there was also an urgent need for a Police Force to man the occupied territories.
Laver answered this call on 13 November 1901 when he completed the Application Forms to join the S.A.C. Confirming that he was 20 years and 2 months old he was described as being 5 feet 10 inches, weighing 158 pounds with a dark complexion, grey eyes and brown hair. His overall appearance was deemed to be “smart”. As was required he provided the names of two referees – Robert Bath Esq. of the Hollies, Glastonbury and Dr Doidge, J.P. of the High Street in Glastonbury. Signing the Articles of Agreement on 20 November 1901 Laver became, with no. C2331, a 3rd Class Trooper in the ranks of the S.A.C. and, having arrived in South Africa on 18 January 1902, set about his duties as part of the “E” Mobile Troop stationed at Heidelberg in the Transvaal.
The war ended on 31 May 1902 but the vast majority of the S.A.C. recruits had signed up for a period of at least 3 years and thus it was that they “soldiered on”. On 1 September 1904 Laver was promoted to the rank of Corporal and, on 1 January 1905, he was transferred from the Eastern Division to the Northern Division. The wheels fell off a few months after that when, on 18 May 1905, he was reduced to the ranks on account of misbehaviour. This was followed, rapidly thereafter, by his dismissal from the S.A.C. on 19 June 1905 on the grounds of being “unsuitable for police work”. His discharge papers rated his character as “Indifferent” and he was discharged to his address at P.O. Oshoek.
But of what crimes had Laver made himself guilty? The first infringement had taken place at Carolina on 9 April 1903 when he had been found to be “Absent from Camp” for a day – on this occasion he was deprived of one day’s pay. This was followed on 8 October 1903 at Ermelo where he was “Absent from Parade thereby delaying the patrol moving off” and “Drunkenness in Town”- for these misdemeanours he was fined a total of £3. And then there was the incident at Oshoek on 14 May 1905 when he had been found “Absent from evening stable parade” and “Drunkenness in Camp” – this last episode is what cost him a reduction in rank.
Having parted company with the S.A.C. there was nothing to keep him in South Africa and he appears to have returned to his paternal home. His Queens Medal had been issued off the roll on 5 August 1903.
Laver could easily have drifted off into the sunset and never been heard from again but he was a resilient chap. No doubt thirsting for adventure he appears to have made the move to Canada sometime after as he boarded the “Teutonic” at Montreal on 8 July 1911 headed for Liverpool and a visit home. He was described as being a Clerk by occupation on the ships manifest. World War I erupted onto the world stage in August 1914 and Laver, having made Canada his new home, was not long in enlisting.
On 16 September 1914 he completed the Attestation Paper for service with the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force confirming that he lived at 600 Beresford Avenue, Winnipeg and that he was a Financial Agent by occupation (He worked for Sun Life in Canada). He claimed, erroneously, to have been with the South African Light Horse in the Boer War and, at the age of 33, was 5 feet 11 inches in height with a dark complexion, grey eyes and dark brown hair. He had an appendectomy scar by way of distinguishing characteristics.
Having been found Fit by the Doctors he was assigned to the Canadian Remount Department with the commissioned rank of Lieutenant. Having been sent to England he was taken on strength of the remount Depot at Romsey Heights on 30 April 1915 and then later at the Shorehampton Depot.
Promotion to Captain came on 8 January 1916 and on 9 February he was transferred to the Divisional Train before being taken on strength and posted to the C.A.S.C.T.D. on 3 May 1916 – he had already entered the Western Front theatre of the war on 14 January 1916.
According to his Certificate of Service issued at Ottawa on 24 July 1919 he had worked in the Remount Depot Squadron in Canada, England and France and had been struck off strength on 3 October 1917 as surplus to requirements.
Undeterred Laver returned to Canada where, at Winnipeg on 1 May 1918, he completed another set of Attestation papers on this occasion for service overseas with the 1st Tank Battalion C.M.G.C C.E.F. Deciding that his chances of seeing some action would be improved if he were deemed younger he claimed to have been born on 3 September 1883 – a full 2 years younger than he actually was. Of course the other “side effect” to his re-enlistment was that he was no longer a commissioned officer. This set of Attestation Papers gave his address as 266 Furby Street, Winnipeg. His wife’s names – Gertrude Rose Laver – appear as next of kin with her address provided as London Joint Bank, 5 Princess Street, London, England. Still claiming to be a Financial Broker he confirmed 3 years 3 months service with the 6th Battalion, C.E.F.
This Battalion, known as Fort Garrys, was authorised on 10 August 1914, and embarked for Britain on 29 September 1914. It formed the nucleus of the Remount Depot on 20 January 1915, and the remainder of the battalion's personnel were absorbed by the Canadian Cavalry Depot, CEF, on 6 March 1915 to provide reinforcements for the Canadian Corps in the field. The battalion was disbanded on 5 April 1918 which could account for Laver attesting for the second time less than a month after the unit was disbanded.
Initially a Private with no. 2765192 Laver was promoted to Acting Corporal on 23 May 1918 and to Acting Sergeant 5 days later at Ottowa on 28 May 1918. On 3 June he embarked for England aboard the S.S. “Cassandra” disembarking there on 21 June. Whilst in Bovington camp in England he was promoted to Acting Quartermaster Sergeant with pay. Laver would appear to have arrived back too late to be sent to the front as there is no indication in his record that he crossed the Channel. On 30 May 1919 he was discharged from the army. He was awarded the British War and Victory Medals the whereabouts of which are unknown.
Having returned to Canada he passed away on 26 June 1959 in Winnipeg at the age of 78 having undergone a change in his name – on this occasion he was known as Edwin Chester Laver.
The following user(s) said Thank You: djb, Brett Hendey
I have taken the liberty of rewriting this report now that the fully digitised WWI file has been made available by the Canadian authorities and I have had sight of it.
What I found contained therein fundamentally changed my opinion of Laver. Having been found unsuitable during the Boer War he had been a Captain of Remounts in WWI but what swung the scales in his favour (in my estimation) was that, having been deemed surplus to requirements as an officer, he came back fighting as a Non Com which redeemed him in my eyes.
I often find it quite surprising just how many fellows cut their teeth in the South African Constabulary and then went on to further things and on many occasions, achieved commissioned rank, although, given the way the world was plunged into the abyss by madmen, I suppose a fellow had rather more opportunity than he would otherwise have had.