King Edward’s Horse
Although it may not be possible to trace the service records of very many of our Orange brethren in World War I, it may be possible to gain insights into what their War service was like by looking at the units in which they served and seeing what happened to them.
In cases where we know only that they were in the Grenadier Guards or the Coldstream Guards this information may be too generalised to allow us to find out very much, but where service was in a rather more specialist unit some more specific information is available. A good example of this is the unit known as King Edward’s Horse.
The King’s Colonials
According to the Roll of Honour in the 1915 Grand Lodge Report, Bro T C Wetton, who was a member of Wycliffe Loyal Orange Lodge 752 which met in Balham, was a member of 2nd King Edward’s Horse.
King Edward’s Horse was formed in November 1901, which makes it seem very much a reaction to the Second Boer War still being fought at that time. It was originally known as the 4th County of London Imperial Yeomanry (King’s Colonials). Its personnel seem to have been originally composed of men who had strong links to Britain’s Imperial possessions overseas but who were living in London. Four squadrons were formed, each with its own distinctive character. A Squadron was the “British Asian”; B Squadron was the British American, composed of Canadians; C Squadron was the Australasian Squadron, composed of Australians and New Zealanders; and D Squadron was the British African, composed of South Africans and Rhodesians. In 1902 the New Zealanders formed their own squadron, and the Australasian Squadron changed its name to the Australian Squadron.
The Regiment did not see service in the Second Boer War and, in 1905, its name was changed to The King’s Colonials (Imperial Yeomanry). In 1908 it became part of the Yeomanry in the Territorial Force and in 1909 the squadrons lost their specific affiliations with the various parts of the Empire. On the death of Edward VII the Regiment was renamed again, this time as King Edward’s Horse (The King’s Overseas Dominions Regiment), and in 1913 it was transferred from the Yeomanry to the Special Reserve.
When war broke out in 1914 the Regiment was mobilised in London and sent out to France in April 1915. At this time a Second Regiment was raised, and this was the 2nd King Edward’s Horse, of which our Brother Wetton was a member. This was achieved largely through the efforts of a man named John Norton-Griffiths, who was an extraordinary character whose story is well worth telling. He was such a swashbuckling patriot that he earned the nicknames “Empire Jack” and even “Hell-Fire Jack”.
Norton-Griffiths was born on 13th July 1871 in Somerset. His origins seem to have been quite modest, and his father was a Clerk-of –Works. His youth is described as “unsettled” and his education as being “generally wasted”. He left home at the age of
17 and spent a year as a Trooper in the Life Guards in 1887 – 1888. At some stage, like many restless young Britons of that time, he seems to have moved to the colonies.
He had taken part in the Jameson Raid and on the outbreak of the Second Matabele War in 1896 he enlisted in The British South Africa Police, where he was made a Sergeant and put in charge of a troop of scouts.
Norton-Griffiths also served in the Second Boer War, and rose to become Captain Adjutant of Lord Roberts’s bodyguard. If Norton-Griffiths spent any time at all in the company of Lord Roberts, as it seems he must have, then he would undoubtedly have come under the influence of Roberts’s profoundly patriotic outlook. At the end of the War, Norton-Griffiths became, literally, an Empire-builder by being awarded contracts to carry out large-scale engineering projects in Africa and South America. He mined gold on the Ivory Coast and built a railway in Angola. Presumably it was at this time that he became seriously wealthy.
At the General Election of January 1910, Norton-Griffiths stood for Parliament and captured the seat of Wednesbury for the Conservatives. When the Great War broke out in 1914, Norton-Griffiths raised the 2nd King Edward’s Horse at his own expense, said to be £40,000 in the currency of the time, and he was commissioned Major in the Regiment. He used the knowledge of engineering that he had gained before the War to advise the Allied forces on the construction of fortifications. He has been described as touring the front in a battered Rolls-Royce which always carried a sizeable stock of fine wines. When the War settled into the period of trench warfare, both sides began to use tunnelling under their enemy’s lines to plant and detonate large amounts of explosives. Norton-Griffiths had anticipated this development and in early December 1914 had written to the War Office to suggest methods that the British Army could use which he had adapted from tunnelling methods his companies had used when driving tunnels for sewage in Liverpool and Manchester.
Norton-Griffiths’ letter was initially ignored, but German tunnelling attacks became such a threat to British positions that, on 12th February 1915, he received a telegram instructing him to report to the War Office. Norton-Griffiths met Kitchener personally, and demonstrated the method of “clay-kicking” using a coal shovel from the room’s fireplace. Norton-Griffiths was sent immediately to France to consult with Army leaders there, up to and including Sir John French, the Commander of the British Expeditionary Force. In a hectic series of meetings and demonstrations of the “clay-kicking” method, Norton-Griffiths won the support of the Army commanders in France.
Norton-Griffiths was accustomed to taking decisions and acting at a much faster rate than the Army hierarchy, and he immediately began to recruit tunnellers from his companies in the north of England. He persuaded the War Office that these specialist troops should be spared the usual induction routines of the British Army and be put to work straight away doing what they did best. The first of them were in action digging tunnels for the British Army by 21st February 1915, a mere nine days from Norton-Griffiths receiving his summons to the War Office.
Norton-Griffiths also began to transfer men skilled in mining from regular line units. Soon his efforts brought into being The Royal Engineer Tunnelling Companies.
Before handing over the project, Norton-Griffiths handed over the beginnings of a plan for extensive mining under the Messines Ridge. This was eventually to bear fruit in June 1917, when the detonation of huge mines under the German positions on Messines Ridge brought about one of Britain’s most spectacular victories during the whole period of trench warfare. Norton-Griffiths was awarded the DSO, mentioned in dispatches three times, and was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel in 1916.
In August 1916 Romania entered the War on the side of the Allies. After initial successes in invading Transylvania, the Romanian Army was overwhelmed by a ferocious counter-attack by the Central Powers. As the Romanian Army retreated it became apparent that Romania’s extensive oil fields would fall into the hands of Germany and her allies. The Rumanian government set up a commission to destroy its oil fields but the Allies soon noticed that nothing was being done. Norton-Griffiths was summoned to see General McDonough, Director of Military Intelligence, who gave him the job of going out to Romania to achieve the task of sabotaging the oil fields before they could be captured. Norton-Griffiths asked, “What regiments do I take?”, to which McDonough replied, “You go alone, but you may take your batman.”
Norton-Griffiths went by destroyer to Bergen in Norway, travelled through Sweden and Finland into Russia, and on into Rumania. He reached Bucharest on 13th November 1916. The Rumanian government refused to help him and officials of Standard Oil and Royal Dutch tried to buy him off. Nothing daunted, Norton-Griffiths went on to Ploesti. At Targoviste he was helped by employees of the British-owned Consolidated Oilfields. Trenches were dug leading to the refinery and filled with petrol. Norton-Griffiths personally set fire to it and sent the whole area up in flames. He then proceeded to smash and destroy equipment in a 20-mile radius. When challenged by Rumanians he would produce his revolver and tell them, “I don’t speak your blasted language! My Chief is the War Office; if you want me to stop cable them!” He often carried with him a sledgehammer that he had first used to smash a main dynamo.
As the Germans advanced their cavalry scouts fanned out in front of the main force. Norton-Griffiths escaped them only by the speed of his motor car. The main German advance was directed towards Bucharest, which bought him time. He stormed through the Dambo Vita, Prahova, Campina, Doltana, Comarnic and Tzintea valleys, blowing up the refineries with gelignite. At Ploesti he waited until refugees and wounded had been evacuated, then he set explosives, flooded the area with petrol, and then set light to it. The resulting fireball was so intense it almost sucked him into it, and gypsies in a nearby encampment were said to have choked to death. Besides the obvious tactic of setting them on fire, he also poured cement down the wells and filled tanks with nails. Over an area of 200 square miles he is said to have destroyed 70 refineries and thousands of tons of crude oil. The German General Ludendorff is said to have remarked of Norton-Griffiths, “We must attribute our (oil) shortages to him”.
Norton-Griffiths also destroyed much of Rumania’s grain stocks to prevent the Germans seizing them. At Braila he destroyed 54,000 tons of wheat. Returning home through Russia in January 1917, he was awarded the Order of St Vladimir by the Tsar (only weeks before he was forced to abdicate by a revolution) and back in the United Kingdom he was awarded a KCB.
In 1918, with the War over, Norton-Griffiths returned to the UK. At the General Election of that year he did not seek re-election for Wednesbury but stood instead for the new constituency of Wandsworth Central. This he won, and he held the seat in General Elections in 1922 and 1923. He stood down at the General Election in 1924. He was made a Baronet in 1922 and, although a keen supporter of Liverpool Football Club, he was a Director of Arsenal between 1928 and 1930.
It seems that even a World War had not calmed Norton-Griffith’s taste for adventure overseas and, eventually, he went back out to the Empire in search of further challenges, and he settled in Egypt. This time, however, his business ventures were not so successful. In 1928 he became involved in a plan to increase the height of the Aswan Dam, but the venture was unsuccessful and funds ran out.
Norton-Griffiths was staying at the Casino Hotel near Alexandria, and it was his custom, every morning, to row out from the beach and bathe in the sea. He followed this routine on the morning of 27th September 1930, but this time he did not return. His rowing boat was found empty and a search was organised. His body was found floating in the water with a bullet-wound in his temple. The Coroner’s Court reached a verdict of suicide, but Norton-Griffiths had lived too much of a colourful life not to have made enemies and there were inevitably rumours of foul play.
Norton-Griffiths’ body was taken home to England and he lies buried in the grounds of Mickleham Church in Surrey. In 1901 he had married Gwladys Wood, with whom he had four children, - a daughter Ursula; a son Peter, who succeeded his father as second Baronet; a daughter Phoebe; and a son Michael, who was killed in action in World War II. Gwladys died in 1974 at the age of 101. Ursula was the mother of Jeremy Thorpe MP, who achieved a brief period of notoriety in the 1970’s as a dog-killer.
The 2nd Regiment
The 2nd King Edward’s Horse was formed in London on 10th August 1914 and, in December of that year it replaced the Essex Yeomanry in the Eastern Mounted Brigade of the 1st Mounted Division in Essex. On 1st February 1915 it transferred to the Canadian Cavalry Brigade at Maresfield in Sussex and, on 4th May 1915, it went with the Canadian Mounted Brigade to France. It was attached to the 1st Canadian Division until September 1915. The Canadian Cavalry Brigade served in a dismounted role at this time and was known as “Seeley’s Detachment” after its commander Colonel J E B Seeley.
On 27th January 1916 the Regiment re-formed as a two-squadron cavalry regiment. RHQ and A Squadron remained with GHQ Troops while B Squadron went to the 56th
(London) Division as divisional cavalry, where it remained until 30th May 1916. In June 1916 the Regiment was joined by a Service Squadron of the 21st Lancers to form the XIV Corps Cavalry Regiment. This unit was broken up in August 1917 (the XIV Corps was soon to be redeployed to Italy) and on 5th August the 2nd King Edward’s Horse left France for Wareham in Dorset. Most of the men of the Regiment were soon absorbed into the new Tank Corps.
The 2nd King Edward’s Horse formed a Reserve Squadron which crossed to Ireland in July 1915. It expanded into a Regiment and was based at Kilkenny. This may explain a rather strange case of “friendly fire” that claimed the life of Second Lieutenant Basil Henry Worsley Worswick. Lieutenant Worswick had joined the Regiment in August 1914 and had served in France as a trooper. He was offered a commission and returned to England in September 1915, and was gazetted on 2nd October 1915. He went to Ireland to serve with the Reserve Squadron at The Curragh. In April 1916 Irish Republicans started a rebellion in Dublin. On the night of 29th April a patrol from the 5th Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers, stationed in Guinness’s Brewery, arrested William John Rice and Algernon Lucas on suspicion of being rebels. These men were then shot, apparently because CQMS Robert Flood, commander of the patrol, decided that he had no means of securing prisoners. Rice and Lucas were, in fact, employees at the brewery who were carrying out a routine inspection. Later in the night, Second Lieutenant Worswick and Cecil Dockeray, also an officer in the 2nd King Edward’s Horse were also killed by Flood and his men.
Flood was later court-martialled and charged with the murder of the four men. His defence was that he believed the men to be rebels and that his patrol was too small to guard them. On this he was acquitted. The bodies of Worswick and Dockeray were buried in the grounds of Dublin Castle and, apparently, forgotten. The bodies were discovered in 1962, exhumed, and taken to Grangegorman Military Cemetery for re-interment.
The Regiment was officially disbanded in March 1924. In a debate in the House of Commons on 20th November 1918, R P Houston, MP for West Toxteth, asked, “Is the Under-Secretary of State for War aware that the 2nd King Edward’s Horse was a Regiment raised by private subscription and effort at the beginning of the War, and subsequently adopted by the War Office as a British Regular Cavalry unit; whether he is aware that the men who originally enlisted in this regiment were Britons from overseas who, in many instances, abandoned their positions at the call of duty;
whether the men of this Regiment have experienced hard fighting and distinguished themselves and are now entitled to prompt discharge and conveyance back to the foreign lands from which they came …?”
To which he received the reply, “I am aware of the facts mentioned in the first two parts of my Hon. Friend’s question, and I am pleased to acknowledge in this House the gallant and distinguished service rendered by the 2nd King Edward’s Horse.” Not unnaturally, Norton-Griffiths spoke for the Regiment he himself had called into being, by saying, “As the person responsible for raising this Regiment, may I ask the Right Hon. Gentleman to give his most favourable consideration to these men, who came to
this country in answer to a cable that was sent broadcast over the world …”, and he received the assurances he had sought.
Thomas Charles Wetton
Our Brother Wetton was born Thomas Charles Wetton in Dalston, London, in 1876. His father, Albert Edwin Wetton, was a bookbinder, and his mother, Fanny Bourne Marrison, was an accountant’s daughter. In the census of 1881, both parents were registered as deaf and dumb. In 1880 a brother, John Edgar, was born. In 1891, Thomas was shown as living with his maternal parents, Thomas and Francis Marrison, at 32 Bethnal Road, Hackney. He was described as a “scholar”.
The Second South African War broke out in 1899, and Thomas joined the Royal Army Medical Corps, serving as a stretcher-bearer. Thomas began to write articles that appeared in newspapers back in the United Kingdom. Eventually he wrote a book, “With Rundle’s Eighth Division in South Africa”. This is said to be largely a journal of Wetton’s time with the RAMC in the Orange River State. In an edition dated 3rd December 1904 The Spectator magazine carried an article bemoaning the fact that the British armed forces were largely starved of expenditure in peacetime so that, whenever the country found itself at war, the fighting men who were in the first contingents to go overseas had to buy time with their blood while the deficiencies in preparation were hurriedly made good. The article had this to say, -
Mr. Wetton's account of the sufferings of the Eighth Division, that commanded in the South African War by Sir Leslie Rundle, and the photographs which illustrate his book, will recall much to the memory of his comrades that is more pleasant in reminiscence than in actuality, while few who read his record of personal experiences, first as a hospital orderly, and then as a trooper of Imperial Yeomanry, will challenge his statement that the private soldier of to-day is quite surprisingly the gentleman, tender-hearted, uncomplaining, ever cheerful, and, withal, a lion in the field. In this respect Mr. Wetton's estimate, even when every allowance is made for the vast improvement that has taken
place of recent years in the character of the rank-and-file of the Army, is at once more humane and more just than the Duke of Wellington's.
As the Spectator article mentions, Thomas transferred to the 34th Battalion Imperial Yeomanry. This gave rise to a second book, “Reminiscences of the 34th Battalion Imperial Yeomanry” which was published by Sidney and Bartlett in 1907.
When the Second South African War broke out in 1899 the British Army soon realised that it needed men who could ride hard and shoot straight – in other words, fight the Boers with their own methods. The Imperial Yeomanry recruited men who were associated with county volunteer and yeomanry regiments. They could ride and shoot, and were often from a social class that could afford to pay for their own equipment. When the first contingent arrived in South Africa they soon found that they did not possess these qualities to the same degree that the Boers did, and they suffered some bloody defeats. They persevered, however, and began to earn a good reputation. A second contingent that went out later does not seem to have been of the
same calibre, and there were many complaints about them. Chiefly, it seems that they were not given sufficient in-country training to allow them to take on the Boers.
A third contingent of Imperial Yeomanry was sent out, but only after much more extensive training was given them. This delayed their arrival in South Africa until hostilities were virtually over. It was this third contingent that included Thomas Charles Wetton. The 34th Battalion of Imperial Yeomanry was raised in 1901, comprising the 151st, 152nd, 153rd, and 154th Companies. Wetton joined the 151st Company. The 34th Battalion had a large contingent from the Pembroke Yeomanry. They missed the main fighting but are said to have done good service patrolling the Zulu border. The “Reminiscences” are said to describe mainly policing duties. They stayed in the country until well into 1903, dealing with the messy aftermath of a bitter guerrilla war.
After the end of hostilities in South Africa Thomas moved to Canada, specifically Winnipeg in Manitoba, and developed an interest in photography. There is a photograph in the archives there of the Canadian Pacific Railway Station in Winnipeg, said to have been taken by T C Wetton in 1905. A photograph dated 1912 is titled “Looking West on Portage Avenue from Main Street” and credited to T C Wetton. In 1913 the Winnipeg Free Press published a book, “Advertising western Canada in England: What the English newspapers say about Mr T C Wetton (Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society), of the Winnipeg Free Press.” Wetton’s status as a FRGS is interesting, as some of the senior officers of the Loyal Orange Institution of England were Fellow members at that time.
Thomas did not remain in Canada for the whole of this period, but crossed and re-crossed the Atlantic several times. Records show that, on 23rd December 1910, he arrived in Liverpool from St John’s, New Brunswick via Halifax, on board the “Empress of Britain”, his occupation shown as “free press”. On 10th May 1912 he left Liverpool for Quebec aboard the “Victorian” belonging to the Allan Line. (This would have been only a few weeks after the tragic loss of the Titanic along with so many of its passengers and crew. It must have been a sombre crossing in the shadow of that disaster). On 22nd December 1912, Thomas arrived at Glasgow from Portland, Maine, aboard the “Scandinavian”, also of the Allan Line.
Thomas had by no means turned his back on the old country. In 1907 he had applied for employment as an assistant at the Royal Observatory, with what success we do not know. In 1911 he lived for a time at 6 Worsley Road, Hampstead, and was described as a “Journalist and Lecturer”.
It may well be that Wetton was one of those who returned from the Dominions to the United Kingdom in 1914 in order to volunteer for service in the Great War. As we have seen from the exchanges in Hansard, Norton-Griffith’s “cable that was sent broadcast over the world” caused many such men to return home and enlist in the 2nd King Edward’s Horse. Thomas enlisted in the 2nd Regiment on 4th May 1915, at the age of almost forty. What a coincidence it was that, having such close ties with Canada, his unit was soon a part of the Canadian Cavalry Brigade.
The “Canadian Great War Project” website has the War Diary of the 2nd King Edward’s Horse for the period 9th June to 31st October 1915. On 7th August 1915 it records Trooper Watton as being wounded near Neuve Eglise. This may be someone with a similar name, or it could possibly be our Bro T C Wetton, whose name was misspelt by a staff officer working under great pressure in atrocious conditions.
Brother Wetton’s name appears in the Grand Lodge Report of the Grand Orange Lodge of England for 1915 on the Roll of Honour, being a list of names of Orangemen (and one Orangewoman) who had volunteered for service in the War. His lodge is shown as “London LOL 725”, which I take to be a misprint that should be “752”. LOL 725 was meeting in St Helens in Lancashire, while “Wycliffe” LOL 752
was meeting in London. Misprints were not uncommon in Grand Lodge Reports of that time. LOL 752 seems to have come into being at the start of the twentieth century, a time of great expansion for the Orange Order in London. For most of the twenty-odd years of its existence it met in Balham in south London and it was part of District Lodge No 87 (South London). There was also a Ladies’ Lodge in Balham, the Arbuthnot LLOL 116. 752 seems to have had quite a distinguished membership, though that was not unusual for London lodges at that time. One of its members was Rev H G Woodley of St Andrews, Taylor Road, Wallington, Surrey. Also a member was a Bro A J Knight, who held a BSc. Given Brother Wetton’s military connections, he would have felt at home in the company of another of the members, a Lieutenant-Colonel R J Watson. This may have been Colonel Watson of the Worcestershire Regiment, whose son was to win the Victoria Cross in World War I.
It would seem quite likely that Brother Wetton had joined the Orange Order during his stay in Canada, as the Order was at that time a major part of Canadian society. On returning to the United Kingdom he may have joined LOL 752 to keep his connections with the Order.
The London Gazette has two references to T C Wetton, which may give an insight into his activities at the end of the War. The edition of The London Gazette for 23rd November 1920 has a T C Wetton, of the Service Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment being made Lieutenant. The edition of 28th January 1921 has him relinquishing his commission on his completion of service on 16th January 1921, and he retained his rank of Lieutenant.
It seems that Wetton’s soldiering did not end when the guns of the First World War fell silent. British troops were sent to Russia to try to salvage something from the chaos of the Russian Revolution. In Russia there was a bitter civil war being fought out between Communist “Reds” and anti-Communist “Whites”. Finland, which had been part of the Russian Empire, had gained its independence, but a war between Red and White factions broke out here as well. The book “Women in Finland, 1890-1930” includes the story of Aini Kauppinen in her own words, -
My father had been murdered by the whites and I was told that they were now after me. I had heard that two of my brothers had managed to escape to the “Murmansk Legion” in northern Russia. I left Rovaniemi on foot and walked across Finland alone. I was only seventeen at the time, cold, hungry, and terrified. I only walked at night and hid during the day. There were many times I was nearly
caught … I found my brothers and hundreds of other Finns who had joined the British forces and were serving a Canadian Lieutenant. He fell in love with me and insisted I marry him and move to Canada. I absolutely refused unless he agreed to bring with him my brothers, and all other Red Finns who could not return to Finland because they would be executed.
The book next says, -
Aini Kauppinen was as good as her word and married Lieutenant T C Wetton only after the Red Finns were safely in England and had been promised passage to Canada. Oskari Tokoi was best man.
The mention of Oskari Tokoi is relevant because a letter from Tokoi to “Lieut. T C Wetton” has survived. It is dated 22nd April 1922 and appears to be written from Fitchburg, Mass. Wetton’s address is 524 Spence Street, Winnipeg. Tokoi appears to have been arrested under a deportation warrant and held in $1,000 bail. The grounds for his deportation seem to be charges that he was an Anarchist. It appears that Wetton helped him to resist this. Tokoi says,
I have received word from my attorney, Mr George E Roewer of Boston, that the deportation warrant issued against me a few months ago, under which I was arrested here on the 31st December last, and held in $1,000 bail, is interrupted by the Department of Labour in Washington … I am happy in thinking of the great and very valuable assistance you rendered me and wish to thank you most sincerely for it. I have received your letter of a recent date and was pleased to learn that you and Aini are getting along pretty well.
Tokoi is a significant figure in Finnish history. He was one of the Finnish signatories to the Treaty with the Soviets in 1918 which recognised Finland’s independence from Russia. The Murmansk Legion was composed of Finns who had fought with the Reds in the Civil War and fled to the Murmansk area of Russia. Here they switched sides to support British forces against German-supporting White forces. Fitchburg, Mass., had a Finnish community. Tokoi settled there, and when he died he was buried there.
The Grand Lodge Report for 1919 says, -
It will be astonishing news to many of the Brethren present that Orange Lodges have been held in Siberia. No one, even in his wildest pre-war dreams, ever envisioned an Orange Lodge meeting on the banks of the Lena or the Obi, or on the hurricane-swept plains of a country popularly associated with everything barbarous and remote from civilisation; yet such is the fact. Orange Lodges met, and may still be meeting, in those regions penetrated during the War for the first time by British troops. It may be truly said that the Orange Order is now so world-wide that on it the sun never sets.
Could this be an indication that, even in the frozen wastes of a Russia plunged into Civil War, brethren like T C Wetton were still maintaining their lodge activities ?
Thomas’s marriage to Aini was reported in “The Winnipeg Tribune” of 25th August 1920 in the following terms, -
Lieutenant Thomas C Wetton was married last week at St Thomas Church, Portsmouth, to Miss Aini Knuppim (sic) of Hovunlemi (?), North Finland. The bride wore the Finnish costume, a red corselet over white chemise, and red and white striped shirt, with a white wrap, over which a veil was draped. She was given in marriage by Colonel V Warren, (commanding the Finnish Legion in North Russia). The bridesmaids were Miss F K M Old (sister to the bridegroom) and Miss Illdegaar Numiner, Finnish friend. The Groomsman was (illegible) Tokoi, Finland’s ex-Prime Minister. Other British and Finnish officers were present, also Prof A Cotter of Helsingfors University. Finnish soldiers (Finnish Legion) under Lieutenant K Itae, formed a guard of honour. A reception was held afterwards at the YMCA. Lieutenant Wetton met the bride in North Russia and she travelled alone from North Finland to Portsmouth, where the ceremony took place.
In fact, we may see something of the wedding even today, on the internet, on an old British Pathé newsreel captioned “Picturesque War Bride Miss Aini Kauppinen, who served as a nurse in Finland, married to Lt T Wetton. Finnish soldiers formed Guard of Honour”. This can be found at http://www.britishpathe.com/video/finnish-war-bride .
Thomas and Aini went to live in Canada. Thomas worked for a time as a teacher to the Canadian Indians. The Dominion of Canada Annual Report of the Department of Indian Affairs for the year ended 31st March 1926 shows him to have worked at the St Peter’s School, St Peter’s Reserve, in the Clandeboye Agency. There were only 5 boys and 7 girls as pupils, and the school closed on 30th April 1925.
Thomas and Aini seem to have had a happy family life. When their son Thomas Peter Edwin Wetton died on 12th October 2006 The Winnipeg Free Press carried an obituary that said he “grew up in a very loving home that revolved around a deep faith and love of God and country, which he always carried with him. He proudly followed his father’s footsteps, serving his country during the Second World War”.
Thomas and Aini continued to take an interest in Finnish affairs for the rest of their lives, particularly after Soviet Russia attacked Finland in 1939. The Winnipeg Tribune of 4th December 1939 has an item which reads, -
Sunday evening, a non-partisan group met informally at the home of T C Wetton, Suite 1, Morecambe Lodge, and elected a committee to raise funds, obtain publicity and help the cause in any way possible. The Committee laid plans for a radio broadcast on the Finnish national holiday, Wednesday, December 6th, and for a mass meeting, probably to be held Sunday in a downtown auditorium. It will supervise a fund to be called the Western Canada Defence Fund for Finland, which will be used to assist Finnish Red Cross and refugee work.
The Winnipeg Free Press of 1st August 1940 had the following, -
Finnish Committee Expresses Gratitude For Aid
Appreciation at the generous support given to the raising of funds for relief of war sufferers in the Finnish-Russian conflict is expressed by members of The Finnish Relief Committee of Winnipeg, and the Finnish Consul-General.
Including some received from Saskatchewan and amounts from Western Ontario, considerably more has been sent to the Consul-General for transmission to Finland. Members of the Committee, including Lieut. T C Wetton, President, and Aini Wetton, Treasurer …
Kaarina Brooks wrote an autobiographical account of her migration from Finland to Canada in a book entitled, “The Diary of a Little Finnish Immigrant”. In the entry for Monday, 10th September 1951 she wrote, -
Mrs Wetton took us to school on the first day. She is a big Finnish lady who helps Finnish immigrants. She has a very small husband who speaks just a few words of Finnish, He’s a Canadian.
Thomas continued to cross the Atlantic quite frequently, even in his old age. On 30th May 1953 he arrived at Southampton from Quebec on the Cunard liner Setinia, and left Southampton for Quebec on 30th July 1953 on the Cunard liner Scythia. While in London he had been staying at 90 Southview Road, Hornsey, declaring his occupation to be “Secretary”. It is possible that Thomas was visiting London at this time for the Coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
Thomas died on 27th January 1957, and was buried in Brookside Cemetery, Winnipeg. Aini died on 4th June 1984 and is buried nearby.
The King’s Colonials
As an interesting postscript, I will like to mention that, after the end of World War I, the 1st Regiment of King Edward’s Horse continued to live on in the form of a Masonic Lodge, The King’s Colonials Lodge No 3386, formed in 1909 for members and ex-members of the Regiment. With the passing of time those members of the Lodge who had served in the Regiment began to die out, and Lodge membership was made available to those with an interest in the Regiment. The Lodge continues many of the traditions of the Regiment. The Worshipful Master of the Lodge is the only person now entitled to wear the regimental tie. The Lodge is custodian of the property of the Regiment, including silverware valued at several thousands of pounds, all of which is stored in secure vaults at Haileybury College, appropriately so given the College’s long connections with the British Empire. Members of the Lodge continue to tend regimental graves and to lay wreaths at regimental memorials in London and France.
I would like to express thanks to Brother James Lockwood, who assisted in research for this paper.
M E Phelan, 12th March 2014