STEELS, Alfred Ernest

1st World War
Date of Birth
Date Attested
Attested at
Dryden, Ontario
Original Unit
Date of Death
Age at Death
Biographical Summary

DIVISIONAL UNIT:        2nd Canadian Infantry Division
                                             6th Infantry Brigade
                                             31st Battalion  -  Alberta
                                             Canadian Infantry Corps
SERVICE NO:                   439000
DATE OF BIRTH:            February 10, 1883  
                                             London - Ontario
DATE OF DEATH:           April 6, 1916                        33 years     2 months
MEMORIAL:                    Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial – Ypres
                                             West Vlaanderen – Belgium
                                             Panels 24 – 28 - 30
PARENTS:                         Mr. Philip & Martha Jane Steels – Dungannon - Ontario
Occupation:                        Woodsman                           Religion:     Church of England
Enlistment:                         February 15, 1915 – Dryden – Ontario into 52nd Battalion
Enlistment Age:                 32 years

Following his enlistment and training Private Steels arrived in Montreal and boarded the SS Missanabie and embarked from Canada on September 4, 1915 arriving in England on September 13, 1915. He was Taken on Strength by the 12th Reserve Battalion – No. 1 Company based at Shorncliffe. For the months of October, November and December he also worked as a cook and earned .50 cents a day more. He transfers to 31st Battalion, goes overseas into France and then joins his unit in the field on March 24, 1916.
April 6th proved to be a very hard day as communications had difficulty with the Company on the right. The enemy artillery fire was continually cutting the communications wire and the Battalion had to use runners. The Battalion had been under continuous enemy artillery fire from 11:00 pm April 5th until 6:00 pm on April 6th. “D” Company was right; “C” Company was centre; “B” was left and “A” Company was support. All the day while under shell fire “D” Company had helf their ground and positions but the enemy seems to have occupied two craters on their front. Many of the trenches have been flattened and pulverized and the men cannot move along these trenches. At one point 150 of the enemy rushed No. 4 crater and the rifle fire from the Battalion turned this enemy advance. No. 6 crater was the right of the Battalion front
This battle in the area of Mont St. Eloi and the area was pock marked with craters. There was much confusion as to what crater was what number. The Battalion had information there was 6-7 craters but in fact there were 17. The men were exhausted and the craters were filled with the dead and wounded.
This confusion at British Headquarters worked its way to Brigade Headquarters and then to the Battalion level and it caused many deaths. 
Private Steels was killed in action performing his military duties during this very confusing and bloody day of fighting
One account of the day comes from the Royal Canadian Medical Corps who were nearby. It states that there is a terrific enemy bombardment coming down on our positions in front of St. Eloi and that the enemy is using trench torpedoes and shells of all sizes. They say 100s of shells are bursting each minute. The wounded tell of an enemy attack being repulsed on the front and that the right front is dealing with the enemy being in a crater. All the wounded to this point are walking wounded. One of the stretcher bearers has shrapnel in his back and it is dressed and works 48 hours even with his wound. Many dead and wounded are at the front. After dark 70 bearers will assist with movement of wounded from the right front to Voormezeele. Medical personnel state front line trenches are next to non existent and as daylight ends and night takes over it is raining very hard.