100 Years Ago: Gunner Ralph Coon Killed in Action, Circus Held at Y.M.C.A.

The Intelligencer April 5, 1918 (page 2)

“A Brave Soldier and True Comrade. Mr. and Mrs. D. E. Coon, of the fourth concession of Sidney, received further particulars of the death of their son, Gunner Ralph A. Coon, in letters from some of the members of the 16th Battery, of which he was a member. Ralph went overseas in December, 1915.

The following is one of the letters received: France, February 10, 1918. Dear Mrs. Coon,—The sad news of your son Ralph’s death no doubt long since reached you. However, at the request of the boys of the battery I am writing you this letter with a view of giving you the particulars of how your son and our comrade met his death. From men who were with Ralph when he met his unfortunate end I gleaned the following particulars.

It was on the morning of February 6th, about 7 a.m., when a shell from the German lines came over. Ralph was asleep at the time, and it is our belief that he never knew what happened to him, even though it was two hours before he died. From the gun position he was at once removed to a dressing station close by. Despite the heroic efforts of the doctor there was nothing could be done to save his life. He never regained consciousness. …

In a little cemetery far back from the firing line we buried him the day after he was killed, and, Mrs. Coon, I can safely say the funeral was one of the most impressive ones I ever saw in this country. Practically every member of this big unit turned out to pay homage to one of our bravest soldiers and truest comrades. Our army chaplain conducted the service and in addition to his two cousins, the other pall bearers were A. Bde. J. Lummand, and Gunner L. Smith.

Yesterday two of the gunners made a long trip to a well known little French town, where they succeeded in purchasing a truly beautiful monument. This will be suitably engraved and erected in the course of the next few days. It is customary to erect crosses over the graves of the fallen battery boys, but in Ralph’s case, he was so popular that twelve of his most intimate friends got together and secured a monument.

Well, Mrs. Coon, I guess there is little left to say, so in concluding, permit me to express to you the heartfelt sympathy of every officer and man in the battery, and when you lost your son Ralph we here lost one of the truest, bravest and most popular boys the battery has ever known.

If there is anything further you desire to know please write me and I will feel it more than a duty to answer your letter immediately. I remain, yours truly, A.-Bde. J. Trimm.”

[Note: Gunner Ralph Addison Coon died on February 6, 1918. He is commemorated on Page 388 of the First World War Book of Remembrance.]

The Intelligencer April 5, 1918 (page 4)

“Unique and Amusing Circus at Y.M.C.A. Dingaling & Bungaling Brothers celebrated Country Circus is in the city and is creating considerable excitement and interest not only among the younger citizens, but even with the grown up population. It is rightly termed Belleville’s classy circus. It opened in the Y.M.C.A. building last night and the attendance was such that nearly every apartment of that spacious building was filled.

Previous to the opening of the large show in the gymnasium the side show was a source of great attraction and curiosity. …  Hundreds visited this important feature of the circus, and were edified and pleased with all presented to gaze. Whilst the big show was in progress in the assembly room a minstrel show took place, and the programme was such as to delight all who attended.

At a few minutes after 8 o’clock the grand entry took place. …  The grand entry was a spectacle of surpassing beauty, a galaxy of acrobats, tumblers and gymnasts and gorgeous costumes, funny clowns, weird freaks and ferocious animals, and a stupendous moving tableau. A most entertaining programme was then carried out consisting of boxing drills, gymnastic dancing by a class of young ladies was thrilling and bewildering. …

Six young men gave a fine exhibition of work on the parallel bar. They won hearty applause by their swiftly evolving tricks which were something new, novel and unique. A band of soldiers of the soil wielding rakes and hoes in wonderful evolution and in perfect unison to music, was much enjoyed. …  Every part of the programme was well carried out by those taking part, there being not a dull moment. The performance will be repeated this evening, and those unable to witness it last night should avail themselves of the opportunity to do so.”