Regiment: Canadian Infantry 46th Battalion, South Saskatchewan Regiment
Service no: 87169
Date and place of birth: 9 May 1886 in Midhurst, Sussex
Date and place of death: 9 March 1917 in France
Francis John Tallant was the son of Maurice Henry Tallant and Edith Wyles Tallant, nee Cartwright, who had married in 1884. He was christened in Easebourne, Sussex, on 14 June 1886.
Edith Wyles Tallant died in 1888 in Midhurst.
In 1891 Maurice Tallant (36), widower, goods merchant and miller was living with his children: Edith D (6), Francis J (4) and Ethel (3) in Vanzell Road, Easebourne, Midhurst. Living with them were Mary Gardener (34), housekeeper, and Katherine R Chevett (?) (16), servant.
In 1900 Maurice Tallant married Mary Jane Leigh.
In 1901 Maurice H Tallant, (46), seed merchant and Mary J Tallant (32), authoress, were living at Leigh Croft, Warblington.
In 1901 Francis John Tallant was 14 and listed as a boarder at a school in Petersfield.
Francis Tallant also attended Midhurst Grammar School but no records have been found to confirm this.
Records show that Francis Tallant emigrated to Canada in 1903 and in the 1906 census he was living in Saskatchewan, was ‘single’ and ‘head’ of the household, but appears to be living alone.
In the 1916 census he was 30, single, and still living in Saskatchewan as a lodger in the household of Charles N Leer (42), Marie Leer (36) Jessie Leer (16), Elva Leer (14), Homer Leer (11) and Bernice Leer (5).
In 1916 Maurice Henry Tallant is also listed in the Canadian census, also living in Saskatchewan. He was 61 and living with him were: Mary Tallant (42), Maurice L Tallant (14) and W E Clive Tallant (8).
Prior to his enlistment Francis Tallant appears to have taken a homestead in his own right and gives his place of residence as Waseca.
Francis John Tallant enlisted at North Battleford and was a member of the Canadian Infantry (Saskatchewan Regiment). He appears to have enlisted in March 1916.
The 46th Battalion was authorised in Canada on 7 November 1914 and embarked for Britain on 23 October 1915. The Battalion was initially stationed in Bramshott before arriving in France in August 1916 as part of the 10th Infantry Brigade of the 4th Canadian Division. Each company took its turn in the trenches during five days of ‘field training’ before taking their place on ‘The Line’, one soldier was killed and nine were wounded in the course of the exercise.
The Battalion sustained fourteen more casualties during the thirty days fighting at Ypres before moving on to St Omer and into the front line battle on The Somme.
David Lloyd George, the UK War Minister, wrote: ‘The Canadians played a part of such distinction …. that whenever the Germans found the Canadian Corps coming into line, they prepared for the worst’.
The 46th provided eight platoons for The Battle of Ancre Heights (1-18 November), and suffered losses: 14 killed, 36 wounded and 2 missing. On 23 November they were ordered to relieve the 73rd Battalion. The 46th was only able to field one man for every ten yards at the Front. They were relieved on 19 December and the Battalion moved to Vimy Ridge, where they stayed until replaced by the Middlesex Regiment in April 1917.
During the time at Vimy Ridge the 46th accomplished their most famous achievements which earned them the nickname of ‘Suicide Battalion’. Vimy Ridge, a high plateau above the Arras and the Nord-Pas-de-Calais, had been in German hands for the majority of the war and there was an impasse between the two opposing sides with their respective trenches only yards apart.
Francis John Tallant fell in the lead up to the final attack by the Canadian Corps: the first time all four divisions were used together, a highly successful operation and a turning point in the War.
The Regimental Diary for 9 March 1917 10pm states:
‘Battn.still in Supports on working parties. Snipers class is being held daily under Musketry NCO.
No 887169 Pt Tallant was wounded while on working party this night.
Weather dry and clear’.
In WW1 the Battalion lost 1,433 men killed and 3,484 wounded: a casualty rate of 91.5% over a twenty seven month period. Several VCs were awarded including the last one of the war, given posthumously to Sergeant Hugh Cairns for his actions at Valenciennes on 9 November 1918. The battalion was finally disbanded on 30 August 1920.
Death and commemoration
Francis John Tallant was killed in action and is buried at Villiers Station Cemetery, Villiers-au-Bois, grave reference VII.E.20.
He is commemorated on:
- The Canadian Virtual War memorial: ‘In memory of Private Francis John Tallant March 9, 1917’
- Page 336 of the First World War Book of Remembrance.
- The National War Memorial, Ottawa (the Book of Remembrance held in the Peace Tower)
- The Saskatchewan WW1 Memorial, Regina, Sascatchewan and the Saskatchen Virtual memorial, the latter with the inscription: ‘They gave all that we might live in peace and security’.
- The Waseca Memorial Cairn, Waseca, Saskatchewan which carries the inscription: ‘They shall not grow old as we that are left grow old’.
He is also listed on the Board at Midhurst Rother College and on the Easebourne War Memorial.
Bramshott Common is now a Canadian Memorial Planting where Maple trees have been planted in memory of those Canadian soldiers who served and fell in both World Wars and were stationed there prior to embarkation.
Vimy Ridge and 107 acres of surrounding countryside is now a memorial to the battle which took place there in 1917. An impressive white stone monument dominates the skyline with the names of those who fell inscribed on its plinth.
Both of these areas have been given to the Canadian people in perpetuity as a memorial and in gratitude to those who died in both world wars.