Private Chester Covell Buck

This is part of a series of essays about the First World War casualties commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in Indiana.

The Buck family plot

Chester Buck provides another example of a man enlisted for service with the Canadian Expeditionary Force who probably should have been turned away. Diagnosed as insane after arriving in England, he returned to Canada but died in Alberta soon after his arrival.

Chester Covell Buck was born on 26 January 1885 at Plymouth, Marshall County, Indiana the third child and eldest son of the five children of Ira and Charlotte Buck; he was named for his grandfather.[1]

Private Chester Covell Buck

In 1909 Chester Buck emigrated to Canada, where he worked as a timekeeper at one of the mines near Cranbrook in British Columbia before moving to Edmonton, where he was employed by Swift and Company, the US-based meat-packer, as a bookkeeper. He enlisted for service with the Canadian Expeditionary Force on 16 February 1916 and joined the 202nd (Sportsman’s) Battalion, which had just been raised; he was allocated the regimental number 231153. The Battalion trained at Camp Sarcee in Calgary until October 1916 and Private Buck sailed with the Battalion for England from Halifax, Nova Scotia on 23 November 1916 onboard the SS Mauretania.

On its arrival in England the Battalion moved to Camp Witley, near Bramshott in Surrey, destined to be broken up to provide reinforcement drafts for battalions in France.

Buck had been employed in the orderly room since his enlistment and it is evident that he was not fully fit for front-line service. On 24 March 1917, Buck was admitted to hospital and diagnosed with ‘general paralysis of the insane’ (general paresis). He was ordered to Moore Barracks, Shorncliffe for further treatment. There a medical board decided that he should be returned to Canada and discharged as unfit for further duty. He sailed for Canada on the SS Letitia on 18 June and, on his arrival a week later, was sent immediately to hospital.

On 13 July 1917, Private Buck was admitted to Ponoka Asylum Hospital, Alberta, where he died of ‘exhaustion’ on 7 December 1917. His remains were returned home and he was buried in Old Oak Hill Cemetery, Plymouth. His grave is near the northern edge of the cemetery near Oakhill Avenue, in Lot 783, a family plot that also includes his mother and sister Kate. He is commemorated on a memorial cross at the nearby World War memorial, on the Marshall County memorial at the County Courthouse, and in the Indiana Gold Star Honor Roll.[2] He is commemorated also on page 209 of the Canadian First World War Book of Remembrance; that page is displayed on 11 and 12 May.

The Canadian Book of Remembrance showing the entry for Private Chester Covell Buck

His brother Ira also served during the First World War. His sister Kate served in Switzerland as a stenographer with the American Red Cross.

Mike Collins at Oak Hill Cemetery, Plymouth for the information about the correct designation of the location of Chester Buck’s grave and for the photograph of the gravestone.

1. (Back) Ira Dawson Buck (25 April 1858-5 January 1937) married Charlotte Moriah Perry (January 1857-1915) on 12 November 1878: Harriett Mary (later Bartlett) (9 February 1881-16 May 1964); Ada Louise (later Flenner) (February 1883-21 June 1934); Kate Margaret (22 December 1886-12 February 1934); and Ira Dawson (19 June 1893-5 November 1960). Chester Covell Buck’s middle name appears in all records to be spelled differently from that of his grandfather, Chester Covel Buck.
2. (Back) Oliver, J W (Ed). (1921). Gold Star Honor Roll. A record of Indiana men and women who died in the service of the United States and the allied nations in the world war. 1914-1918. p 432. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Commission.

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