Brussels and the Military
During Brussels long history its residents have volunteered and in some cases died for their country and their freedom.
In 1866, the threat of Fenian Raids was a real fear for Huron County settlers. The Fenians, a group of rebel Irish immigrants in the United States, had formed in 1857 to secure Irish independence from Britain. By the end of 1865, they had split into two factions intent on invading Canada. The
idea was to use it as a base of attack against Britain. One of the wings crossed the Niagara frontier on June 1, 1865, defeating Canadian militia men at Ridgeway before withdrawing.
The village of Ainleyville put together a corps of volunteers. They were led by Captain James S. Vanstone. John Leckie was Lieutenant and George R. Ross was Ensign. Among the 60 volunteers were: Robert, Charles and William Ainlay, George Alcock, Thomas Bernard, Henry Cardiff, Harvey Chapman, William Clark, Alexander and Donald Ferguson, two James Gibsons, Francis Kelly, Ben McDonald, James McIntosh, Alex McNair, Alexander Moore, William Morton, Thomas Rice, James Smith, Bishop Ward, Thomas Watson and William Wright.
These men marched to the cliffs at Bayfield to wait for an attack. It never came.
There were many false alarms and many occasions when the Huron Volunteers were sent back and forth to repel attacks that never happened.
The men finally returned home and disbanded. The foundation was laid, however, for the Huron Regiment, which volunteered and fought with distinction in both world wars. Men from Brussels (Ainleyville was renamed in 1872) formed part of the 2nd Contingent of the 33rd Battalion in World War I and were part of the "Fighting 61st" in World War II.
The 161st Battalion, comprised of men from all walks of life in Huron County, was organized at the end of 1915. Recruiting offices were established in several towns and the men were trained as they enlisted. Two Brussels brothers, Joe and Fred Thuell enlisted in early January, 1916. Their brother Roy had signed up the previous December. A total of 71 men from Brussels and the surrounding area were members of the 161st.
They trained in Brussels that winter, then went to Wingham, which was the A Company headquarters. The Company Commander was Major Sinclair and the Battalion Commander was Colonel Coombs of Clinton.
The Battalion assembled in London for a short period of time, before leaving for Camp Borden. In October of that year they mobilized and set sail from Halifax for Southampton, Eng. They were dispatched from there to Shornecliffe.
In the Nov. 11, 1981 issue of The Brussels Post, Fred Thuell, who was 16 when he arrived in England, recalled his experience. Because of his age, Thuell was transferred to the 34th Boys Battalion in Shoreham, Eng., where he spent a winter as batman for the Battalion adjutant. From there he went to the Western Ontario Regimental Depot in Bramshot, Eng., then to the 25th Reserve Battalion, a reinforcement battalion for the Second Pioneers in France.
After developing a throat infection Thuell was quaranteened in Bramshot for several weeks. After recovering, he was transferred to the Fourth Reserve Battalion in Bramshot, then put on draft to the First Battalion in France. He was later sent to Purfleet outside London, Eng. and attached to the Battalion 13th Canadian Railway Troops. Their responsibility was the delivery of supplies and ammunitions, and to lay light gauge track for the railway. In early December he arrived in France, where he spent the remainder of the war.
In the Post account, Thuell told reporter Debbie Ranney that he had seen active combat all through his service. "We would lay this light gauge railway and the enemy would blow it out with artillery."
He said there was a lot of rain and the soldiers had little protection, other than the muddy trenches.
The most dangerous situation, Fred recalled was at Amiens Front, known as Death Valley. Their colonel had unwisely set up camp on the edge of a valley. The enemy spotted their tents and immediately opened artillery fire, blowing them off the edge of the cliff.
Forced to evacuate the battalion dug into the side of the cliff for protection. Several troops were lost.
On Nov. 11, 1918, Thuell was in Valenciennes, France, eight miles from the Belgian border. He was eventually transferred to England in February 1919, where he served as driver for the command pay office until September. He returned home on Sept. 22, 1919.
Thuell's brother Roy, who was 20 when he arrived in England, was wounded at Passchendale. A bullet, which passed through his right lung, severed a nerve in his spine, leaving him a paraplegic. Joe, who was 17 when he came to England, was wounded at Arras, France, when shrapnel went through is forearm. Fred escaped with stomach ulcers and shell shock.
The names of the brave men who fought and died for their country appear on the cenotaph, located outside the Brussels Royal Canadian Legion Branch.
In honoured and loving memory of the men of the Brussels, Morris and Grey area —
A. Baron, M. Bunston, G. Cameron, H. Campbell, P. Cramsey, R. Cunningham, G. Davis, C. Denboro, W. Denman, L.E. Dobson, B. E. Elliott, R. Evans, R. Fay, W. Forbes, G. Forrest, F. Gerry, S. Hemsworth, F. Hogan, C. Jackson, A. Kerr, L. Lawson, W. Lott, R. Lucas, W. Mayberry, J. McCallum, L. McCracken, B. McDonald, C. McDonald, M. McGuire, N. McGuire, L. McKinnie, J.R. McKinnon, A. McLean, A. McLeod, E. McLeod, C.E. McMillan, W. Noble, J. Passmore, E. Raymond, J. Richardson, J. Rowland, W.F. Scott, L. Strachan, J. Strick, T. Sullivan, G. Thaneer, R. Thompson.
Peter Baker, Russell Barnard, Monty Brothers, Fred Burchell, Lyle Evans, King Hastings, Lloyd Hood, Harold Huether, Willis Machan, Ross Machan, Arthur McLean, Allan McKay, Gordon Nichol, Joseph Nicholson, Roy Pierce, Robert Prest, Lewis Russell, Jack Speir, Ross Whittard, Russell WIlson, Chester Wintle, Archie Young.
In February 1979, the idea of a Royal Canadian Army Cadet Crops in Brussels began to take shape.
On a Tuesday evening, members of the 1943 Norwell Secondary School Cadet Corps in Palmerston were at the Brussels Legion to demonstrate drills, first aid and radio communications. Parents and children learned about fieldcraft, fundamentals, foot drill, marksmanship and orienteering.
Lt. Rose Marie Vandenberg, a Brussels resident, who was the main force in trying to get a corps established in Brusels said the aim of the Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps is to promote physical fitness, good citizenship and interest in the Canadian Armed Forces.
On Tuesday, May 1, the area cadet inspector, Warrant Officer Rafters and area cadet officer, Lt. Brecklemann, officially approved the Brussels Cadets Corps, which was sponsored by the Brussels Legion. The sponsoring committee was Al Nichol, chairman, Glen Bridge, Ted Elliott and John Sims.
Commanding Officer was Rose Marie Vandenberg. Kang Yoon, Carl Graber and Elaine Nichol were the civilian instructors.
Inspection to check on the Corps' progress was done on a six-week basis.
During the official visit the inspecting officers checked to see if the Corps met parade qualifications and inspected the quarters.
When interest was first shown in starting a cadet corps in Brussels there were 20 cadets. By May that number had increased to almost 50. They hailed from Brussels, Blyth and Belgrave.