Column: Steveston soldier flies alongside Billy Bishop

Ralph Barr Carter was a strapping 6-foot tall, fair-haired and blue-eyed Methodist when he enlisted as a private soldier with the Canadian Expeditionary Force on March 22, 1915.  Age 22, and listing his professional calling as stage-hand, Ralph Carter must have show some strong leadership skills, as he was quickly promoted to Corporal just a few months in July, likely while still in basic military training.

Carter enlisted with the 11th Canadian Mounted Rifles and arrived in England aboard the SS Lapland on July 25, 2016 as an acting Sergeant, and posted to a military base in Shornecliff.

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Rising quickly up the ranks once again, Carter was commissioned as a Lieutenant on August 7th, 1916, and assigned to the general officer’s list.  Soon after, he was transferred to exciting and dangerous work as an observer in the Royal Flying Corps.  There is no evidence that Carter ever served in the field in France prior to transferring to the Flying Corps.

On the evening of August 19, 1917, at the height of the Battle of Hill 70,  Lt. Carter took off on board Bristol Fighter A7172 with pilot Captain Carlton Main Clement, a 21-year old Military Cross recipient from Vancouver.  He, like Carter, had been promoted through the ranks from private infantryman to pilot officer.  Also flying on that same evening patrol was another notable Canadian ace, Billy Bishop.

In that company a fight was a foregone conclusion.  A7172 joined battle as dusk gathered over Flanders, and when the fight was over, Lt. Carter and his aircraft did not return.

Initially listed as missing, Carter was ultimately reported dead by German Red Cross and believed to be buried near Zandvoorde, a village in West Flanders. The location of his grave is unknown.

Death notification and personal effect information was sent to his mother care of Post Box 4, Steveston BC.

Son of Samuel Bell and Emily Lavinia (née Barr) Carter, and step-son of Andrew Grieve Waddell of Steveston, British Columbia.  Brother of  Bayard Marshall Carter and Stanley Bell Carter.  Lieutenant Carter is commemorated on the Cenotaph at Richmond City Hall, on page 214 of the Book of Remembrance, First World War in Ottawa, and the Arras Flying Services Memorial just south of  Vimy, France.

 

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