Yate South Gloucestershire Part 1

This family of Caters. One of those that played its part in shaping British and perhaps too Canadian history. Born of Gloucestershire, of Iron Acton and Yate but folk who served and died. One in a war of the old guard in South Africa; and three in a war of a newer age made in Europe. Their memorial and grave may be marked with a Canadian leaf but the grief in their loss was rooted in England.


Sometimes you can come across the social history of a family that is perhaps all-encompassing. It justifies its own account. After writing of Yate and the goodbyes to the war-dead of that small town in South Gloucestershire, the memorial to the Caters there seems to merit just that.


The memorial that catches my eye is perhaps a little broken – it is showing its age, the cross has fallen from its top and it perhaps is not as clear as it once was. But it tells of family. It tells of service and family commitment, duty and loss.

On one side the raised stone platform, it reads:


In loving memory of Lance Sergeant A. F. Cater 1st Canadians and Lance Corporal Hubert Cater 1st Canadians Both killed in France Sept 22nd 1916. Aged 23 and 21 years. All of this parish and the beloved sons of J. and S. Cater


And on the other side it reads:


In loving memory of Lance Sergeant W. J. Cater 3rd Grenadier Guards Died at Pretoria July 16th 1900 aged 25 years Also Private A. L. Cater 111th Battalion Canadians Died of wounds in France October 2nd 1918 aged 31 years


And on the front, perhaps the final piece of this family’s story:


John Cater and Sabina his wife …28th January 1941 Aged 93 and 88 years The parents of four sons …

Well what about the family? John Cater had been a railway signalman by trade; and he and his wife Sabina had 12 children.


William John Cater


William John Cater was the oldest son, born in Iron Acton not far away in 1875. Inside Yate Parish Church is a brass memorial plaque:

To the memory of Lance Sergeant William John Cater 3rd Batt. Grenadier Guards of this parish who died of fever at Pretoria July 15th 1900 aged 25. Having fought at the battles of Belmont, Graspan, Modder River and Magersfontein

It goes with the memorial on the side of this grave and memorial. William’s three younger brothers would also die but in a different war and a different continent.


Albert Francis Cater


Lance Sergeant Albert Francis Cater, A/2044 1st Canadians (Western Ontario Regiment), killed in action September 22nd 1916, aged 23 years.


Albert Francis Cater was born in 1893 in Yate. He attested for the Canadian Expeditionary Force in January 1915 at Galt, Ontario where he was working as a tinsmith. He was transferred from the 29th to 35th Battalion before reinforcing the 1st Battalion. He arrived in England and then France in 1915. He was promoted twice in June and July 1916 after deaths in the battalion. On September 22nd 1916 he was killed in action in the first wave of attack at Courcelette and was killed by machine gun fire near the enemy trench. He was 23 years old. His body was never recovered.


Hubert Cater


Lance Corporal Hubert Cater, A/2040 1st Canadians (Western Ontario Regiment), killed in action September 22nd 1916, aged 21 years.


Hubert Cater was born in 1895 in Yate. In 1912 at the tender age of 18 he left for Canada from Bristol for work as a labourer; he was joining his brothers in Canada. He enlisted at the same time as his brother Albert and ended up arriving in France in 1915. He had home leave to England in May 1916. He suffered a shrapnel wound to the forehead on the 9th September 1916 for which he had four days in hospital. But within ten days, Hubert Cater was reported missing on September 22nd 1916 after the attack at Courcelette. The next day he was reported as having died in action on that day. It is likely that the two brothers were near each other in the offensive that claimed their lives.


Both Hubert and Albert have no known grave and are named on the Vimy Memorial. A memorial to the many missing Canadians. There are 59 men who died on the 22nd September 1917; just two of them are brothers – Albert and Hubert Cater. Canadians by enlistment and British by birth; and a grief which extended across the Atlantic through both nations. I wish I could say that there weren’t many brothers, family members who died the same day, same battle, same year, same war – but there are, there were too many.


Archibald Leonard Cater


Private Archibald Leonard Cater, 730648 18th Battalion Canadians, died of wounds in France, on October 2nd 1918 aged 31 years. He was buried at Bucquoy Road Cemetery, Ficheux just outside Arras in France. Around that time the 22nd, 30th and 33rd Casualty Clearing stations were based in the area; casualties were buried in this cemetery.


Archibald was born in Yate in 1887. He left Bristol bound for Halifax, Nova Scotia in Canada’s northwest in 1911 as a farm labourer. In March 1916, Archibald attested and his address given was Galt, Ontario.


In October 1916, he arrived in England via SS Tuscania at Liverpool. He arrived with the 111th Battalion Canadian Expeditionary Force but he seems to have been transferred to the 17th Reserve battalion after problems with his feet. He was then re-transferred to the 111th Battalion and then transferred to the 35th Reserve Battalion at East and West Sandling in Kent. He was briefly with the Canadian Casualty Assembly Centre in December 1916. By April 1917, he was then moved again to the 4th Battalion Reserve before finally settling with the 18th Battalion. He arrived at Le Havre in Normandy, France and from then went to the front at the end of May 1917.


He was granted home leave to his family in early January. After which he had a spell in hospital and then returned to the 18th Battalion. He died of wounds at No. 30 Casualty Clearing Station on the 2nd October 1918. He had been wounded on the 1st October in operations and died the following day. The Canadian divisions had been involved in the Battle of the Canal du Nord and Cambrai in 1918; it seems that Archibald was probably injured in this action.


John and Sabina received a pension from the Canadian War Office for the deaths of their three sons during the war. But were ineligible for the War Gratuity despite a plea written by someone on the application form for Hubert Cater:

Two brothers of deceased also killed in action. L/Sergt. Albert F. Cater 1st Battalion Date of death 22/9/1916 Private Albert Leonard Cater 18th Battalion Date of death 2/10/1918 Pension granted on the behalf of the death of the three sons

The fact that Archibald’s name was incorrect on the form perhaps speaks volumes about the time.


Their brother Sidney was also living in Canada, specifically in Toronto. Noted on Hubert’s next of kin apart from his father and mother in Yate, was his brother Sidney in Toronto. A policeman.


George Cater, an older brother also served. He remained in Britain, serving with the Grenadier Guards like the eldest brother William. But he was also called up in 1914 and served from 1916. He survived.


This family of Caters. One of those that played its part in shaping British and perhaps too Canadian history. Born of Gloucestershire, of Iron Acton and Yate but folk who served and died. One in a war of the old guard in South Africa; and three in a war of a newer age made in Europe. Their memorial and grave may be marked with a Canadian leaf but the grief in their loss was rooted in England.


Their names lie on the war memorial in the lych gate of the church. There are also two men called Cater on the majestic war memorial in Galt, Ontario, Canada – A. Cater and H. Cater.