Updated: 16 Nov 2015 - added photo and posting with 1st Depot Battalion, NB, 1918
Fred was the only child of Robert MAY Jr. and Henrietta Farrer STEWART. There is some confusion about the year of his birth. His baptism record says he was born 18 Oct 1883 in Charlottetown PEI, but was baptized 16 Dec 1880 (3 years earlier). His parents were married in 1879, so either year could be true, but Fred’s military records confirm his birth in 1883. When Fred was less than six months old, his father died in Apr 1884 at the age of 32. According to a brief biographical note published in the Charlottetown Guardian in 1934, his father Robert MAY Jr. was born in St Malo, Brittany, France where Fred’s grandfather Robert May Sr. served as the British Vice Consul. Robert Sr retired to St Helier Channel Islands then emigrating to PEI sometime before his son Robert’s marriage in 1879. Fred descends from a proud and distinguished line.
Fred’s mother Henrietta was dealt a double blow when her father died the same year as her husband. She was left to raise her young son alone; she never remarried. Her STEWART ancestors were originally from Scotland via London who became well-to-do land owners in PEI. Henrietta was born in Charlottetown in 1848.
Mabel wanted a family of her own, but tragically their only child was stillborn. Fred’s in-laws made him feel more than welcome, resulting in his peace being continually interrupted with visits from his many ANDREW nieces and nephews and other relatives. There were family picnics, gatherings and outings to contend with, as well as at least one family trip to Nova Scotia to visit Mabel’s oldest brother. Fred was often enlisted to chauffeur visiting relatives in his horse and buggy or sleigh, and later his automobile. And we can be grateful that he had an interest in photography. As the first one with a camera, he was counted on to capture family events on film.
My Aunt Harriet (ANDREW) CLARK once told me a wonderful story about her Uncle Fred MAY. He liked to dress up his nephews and even his wife in his army uniform. She said he was scared of kids and didn’t know how to act with them. Harriet used to visit them a lot and help out with baking, dusting and looking at photo albums to avoid dusting! At first, she was intimidated by her Uncle Fred until she discovered his weak point: shortbread. One day he came into the kitchen to sneak some of the shortbread she was making and whispered in her ear "Don’t tell your aunt!" Harriet realized he was just like a big kid, and was better after that.
Captain Fred MAY is second from the right, shown with his fellow officers of the 26th Battalion before leaving New Brunswick for England.
26th Battn. Officers, 4/15. (Left to Right) :
Capt. A.O. Dawson, Capt. Alex McMillan, Major A.E.G. McKenzie, Lt. E. Alban Sturdee, Lt. Col. J.L.McAerty, O.C. Capt. (Rev.) E.B. Hooper, Capt. W.R. Brown (Adjutant), Capt. F.F. May, and Lt. Gordon M. Johnston.
(From Fred MAY’s photo albums, in his own handwriting.)
The 26th Battalion website says that their original battalion of 1250 left for the battlefront in France on 13 Jun 2015 and fought in many major battles. Included is a fairly detailed overview of this battalion’s movements and engagements published originally on newsprint. The battalion sailed for Britain aboard the Caledonia steamship and trained in Kent England where they were reviewed by the King of England on 2 Sep 1915 at Beachborough Park near the camp grounds. Camp was broken Sep 13, and they crossed from Folkestone, landing at Boulogne Sep 14. They took a train from Pont-aux-Birque to Wisernes then marched to Renescure then to Bailleuil, 5 miles back from firing line. The 26th Battalion first located at Kemmel-Vierstadt near Poperinghe and Ypres in Belgium, on the right hand side of this spur in the German line. They began fighting in trenches Sep 21 2015.
Fred’s portrait is included at least three times on the 26th Battalion’s website. One caption reads:
Captain F.F. May who was wounded in the early months of the unit’s occupancy of the front line, when a high explosive shell demolished a dug-out in which he was seated. He is now Deputy Chief Recruiting Officer for New Brunswick and hope to return to the front with the new army.
Capt. F.F. May, a reliable officer of C company soon after the crater fight was seriously wounded by a shell explosion. He is only now fully recovering from the effects of the wounds, and it is expected that he will take an imporant appointment in the new army.
27 Oct 1915, K & L Trenches:
“Major E.E.G. McKenzie, Capt. F. F. May and Lieut. F. E. Lockhart with 50 men from the Battn. attend an inspection by His Majesty the King at the village of Loere [?] His Majesty was accompanied by his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales.” ...
1 Nov 1915, Scherpenberg:
“Very rainy. Battn attended baths at Westontre [sic]. Capt. F. F. May wounded.”
Once Fred was fit to travel, he would have been transported back to Canada, and likely continued his convalescence at the hospital in Charlottetown PEI. The family thinks this may be where he met his future bride Mabel ANDREW, who was a nurse in training there at that time. Once recovered, Fred returned to New Brunswick where he continued to serve in his new army postings. He probably made frequent trips over to PEI. I don’t believe he saw any further action overseas. From family photos we know that in 1918 Fred was the Commanding Officer of Company "A", 1st Depot Battalion, New Brunswick. This battalion was formed on 15 Apr 1918 to provide reinforcements for the 26th Battalion and other reserves, and at least some of their training was held at Camp Sussex.
At some point Fred’s mother returned to Charlottetown and then became ill. She passed away after the war on 14 Dec 1920, and Fred arranged a private funeral for her two days later, with burial at St Peters Cemetery in Charlottetown. On the same day as her funeral, another notice was published in the Personals section of The Charlottetown Guardian:
HOME AGAIN - Major F.F. May has returned to Charlottetown, and we understand that he intends to reside here in future. Major May went overseas with the original 26th N.B. Battalion.
The Second World War brought further changes to his life. Nearby farms in North St Eleanors were taken over to build an air base (including the farm of his brother-in-law Harry ANDREW). Nephews and many young men from the area went off to fight for our country and freedom. It must have been so hard to go through the strife of war yet again, even from the sidelines.
Fred left a wonderful legacy in the form of photo albums, some of which are now in my care. While he usually gave vague captions such as "The Missus" for family photos, he was much more diligent about giving detailed information for a fair number of military photos. Many are now quite faded with age, so I am in the process of scanning them all. I am hoping to create a separate military page on this website to display and share these wonderful images of Fred's military life.
MAY, FREDERICK FARRER - Soldiers of the First World War - Library and Archives Canada site
The 26th Battalion, New Brunswick - St John Free Public Library site
26th Battalion - Canadian Expeditionary Force Study Group site
War Diaries of the 26th Battalion - Canada at War site
WWI Battles - First World War site
Ypres Salient, Poperinge - Great War site
Canada and WWI - Veterans Affairs Canada site
1st Depot Battalion, New Brunswick Regiment - guide to resources, Collections Canada site
Further military photos from Fred MAY's albums can be found on our military page.
"52 Ancestors" is a reference to the "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks" challenge I am participating in.
Reference the No Story Too Small blog by genealogist Amy Johnson Crow for more details.
It is giving me the much needed incentive to write and publish my family stories.