Private Henry Alfred Peno

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

Henry Peno was born in Georgia, Vermont in 1885 the eldest of the nine children of Peter and Josephine Peno, both of whom had also been born in Vermont.[1] He worked as a labourer at a concrete company and later with the Central Vermont Railway engine shops at St. Albans. On 28 October 1907 he married Rena Martin in St. Albans. Their son, Roy, was born the following year and a daughter, Dorothy, was born in 1910.[2]

Peno travelled to Canada in December 1916. He returned home briefly in January 1917 (informing his wife that he was leaving her) and enlisted at Renfrew, Ontario on 11 January. He joined the 240th Overseas Battalion, which had been raised in the region in June 1916, and joined ‘A’ Company, being allocated the service number 1042779. The following month in Renfrew he married bigamously, causing some confusion amongst the pay staff after his enlistment![3]

This relatively small reinforcement battalion, comprising a little under 400 all ranks, sailed from Halifax, Nova Scotia on 4 May 1917 aboard SS Megantic and disembarked in England on 14 May. The battalion was immediately absorbed by 7th Canadian Reserve Battalion at Seaford and Peno remained there under training until posted to 156th (Leeds and Grenville) Canadian Infantry Battalion (also at Seaford), part of the newly raised 5th Canadian Division. Finally posted for overseas service to 2nd Canadian Infantry Battalion in 1st Canadian Division, he joined its reserve battalion at Witley Camp in Surrey before embarking for France on 18 January 1918. He did not, however, join his battalion (contrary to later newspaper reports). After a short period at the Canadian Base Depot he was posted to the Canadian Corps Reinforcement Camp, where he arrived on 21 January. There, he reported sick on 18 February and was despatched to 5th Canadian Field Ambulance, diagnosed with bronchitis. Transferred via a casualty clearing station to No. 22 General Hospital at Camiers and then to No. 73 General Hospital at Trouville, he was evacuated to England on 8 April, where he was diagnosed as suffering from tuberculosis at No. 4 London General Hospital. After a period in early June at Canadian Special Hospital, Lenham (which dealt with tubercular patients), he was evacuated to Canada aboard the HMHS Araguaya on 26 June 1918. After his arrival in Canada he was treated at Kingston Military Hospital (at Queen’s University) before being sent on leave pending discharge.

He was discharged (for further treatment under the control of the Invalided Soldiers Commission[4]) from No. 3 District Depot, Kingston, Ontario on 27 August 1918. His first wife had travelled to Kingston and she took him back to St. Albans on 29 August. The period after his return home was characterised by considerable strains within the family, largely around the custody of his daughter, which continued after his death. He died of tuberculosis on 2 December 1918 at his parents’ home. His funeral service was held at the Holy Angels’ Church and he was buried in Mount Calvary Cemetery, St. Albans with his son. Firing party honours were provided by Company ‘E’, Vermont National Guard.

There followed a legal action as his wife attempted to secure items of his estate (dismissed) and custody of his daughter from his parents. His wife remarried in July 1919 and again in 1923.

Private H. A Peno is commemorated on page 484 of the Canadian First World War Book of Remembrance; that page is displayed on 14 October. For his brief war service in France he was awarded the British War Medal 1914-20 and the Victory Medal. His medals and memorial plaque and scroll were sent to his widow and the Memorial Cross was sent to his mother.

Two of his brothers served during the First World War, with very different records:

George served with the Vermont National Guard. He enlisted at Montreal in November 1916 for service with the Canadian Expeditionary Force and joined 245th Overseas Battalion. He deserted soon after his enlistment and in January 1917 was struck off as being ‘illegally absent’. In February 1917 he re-enlisted, this time in Renfrew and, like his brother, joined 240th Overseas Battalion. He too (re)married in Renfrew the ceremony on 9 March 1917 being witnessed by his bother Henry and Henry’s new wife.[5] Prior to the unit’s departure for France, he deserted again and returned to the United States where, in June 1917, he enlisted into the United States Army at Fort Ethan Allen, Vermont and joined 2nd Cavalry; he deserted in August that year. He was apprehended in Canada in December 1917 and taken on strength of No. 3 Special Service Company in Kingston before being transferred to the Railway Construction and Forestry Depot at Brockville, Ontario until warned for overseas service in February 1918. He immediately deserted again and was struck off strength.

Peter served in the early years of the war with Company ‘B’, 1st Vermont Infantry, National Guard. He enlisted in June 1917 into the United States Army for overseas service. With a large detachment from 1st Vermont Infantry, he joined 103rd Machine Gun Battalion in 26th Division, serving in Company ‘C’. He sailed from Hoboken, New Jersey on 3 October 1917 on board the SS Grand Republic and served in France with the division until April 1919. He was wounded in action twice—on 23 July 1918 near Belleau Wood during Aisne-Marne Offensive, and on 28 September 1918 during the attack at Riaville and Marchéville-en-Woëvre at the end of the Battle of Saint-Mihiel. Private 1st Class Peter C. Peno was discharged in April 1919.

1. (Back) Peter Frederick Peno (also spelled on records as Penno or Pino) (13 June 1856-29 October 1929) married Josephine Parah (also spelled Para and Paro) (later Lumen) (7 November 1868-January 1948) on 12 March 1886 at the French Church (Holy Guardian Angels Church), St. Albans, Vermont: Calista (later Marvin) (14 February 1890-NK); George (3 February 1895-30 July 1956); Peter Charley (1 November 1897-15 July 1977); Joseph Louis (23 April 1902-17 March 1981); Mary Rosanna (later Belisle, later Comen) (23 April 1902-30 September 1978); William Frank (surname changed to Pinault) (14 February 1905-3 September 1964); Jennie (24 December 1906-26 December 1906); Clara May (later Caisse) (2 November 1910-30 November 1995); Clarence (1910-1955).

2. (Back) Henry Alfred Peno married Amber Rowena Martin (later Peno) (later Cross) (later Harris) (22 September 1889-15 September 1945) on 28 October 1907 at Holy Guardian Angels Church, St. Albans: Roy Alfred (15 September 1908-11 August 1914) (the grave marker is incorrectly inscribed ‘1906-1913’); Dorothy Ellen (later Harris) (c1910-NK).

3. (Back) His second wife is recorded in his personnel file as ‘Hattie Delodge Peno’ of Renfrew, Ontario. No other details are known.

4. (Back) The Invalided Soldiers Commission was part of the Department of Soldiers’ Civil Re-Establishment. Upon discharge all officers and soldiers passed to the control of the Commission if they required ‘medical treatment on account of their suffering from tuberculosis, epilepsy, paralysis or other diseases likely to be of long duration or incurable, or on account of their being mentally deficient or insane’. See: Department of Soldiers’ Civil Re-Establishment. (May 1918). Report of the Work of the Invalided Soldiers’ Commission. Ottawa: J De L Taché.

5. (Back) George’s first bride was 16-years-old Viola Rosa Ford (March 1899-NK), whom he married in 1915 in St. Albans, Vermont. His second bride was Jane Armaline McIntyre (later Peno, later Bondy, later Baxter) (25 September 1900-NK).

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