“He was 17 when he enlisted,” said Denise Beaton, who is a Beaton by marriage, and is the family genealogist.
She helped “recover” the names of the five men from the Clarence-Rockland area who died overseas as part of the Canadian contingent fighting as part of the Triple Entente during what is now known as World War I. At the time it was called the Great War, and also the War to End All Wars.
The role that men from Clarence-Rockland played in the Great War has been unknown for the most part. No records exist at either City Hall or the Rockland Museum of the men who fought overseas, and either died there or came home to their families when the armistice was declared.
Denise Beaton knew the Beaton family history, which included Sean Beaton, Douglas’ grandfather, who served as a magistrate and later a member of Rockland town council for 15 years. It was common knowledge among most of the Beatons today that Douglas Archibald Beaton had gone overseas as a member of the Royal Highlanders, also known as the Black Watch. His Black Watch cap badge is a treasured family heirloom.
Young Douglas Beaton enlisted at the Rockland recruiting office, underwent his training with the 77th Regiment of the company in Ottawa, then boarded the troop ship that crossed the Atlantic, avoiding the German submarine “wolf packs.” The troop ship arrived in port at England just two days after Beaton celebrated his 18th birthday.
His unit took its place in the trenches on the British and French side of No Man’s Land. A sniper bullet killed him while he was on morning sentry duty.
Douglas’ younger brother, Stanley, also tried to go overseas as part of the Canadian contingent. He was 17 but lied about his age when he enlisted in February 1917. His true age was later discovered while he was going through training in Ottawa and Stanley Beaton was sent back home to his family.
His older brother, although 17 when he enlisted, was close enough to his 18th birthday that the military authorities then may have decided to all his enlistment to go through. Now he rests with other Canadian soldiers in a grave at a military cemetery in Belgium. His name is now part of the Rockland Cenotaph, to remind present and future generations that Clarence-Rockland suffered its own losses from the War to End All Wars.