Waterloo Region Generations
A record of the people of Waterloo Region, Ontario.

Ernest Ralph "Punch" Keffer

Male 1896 - 1916  (20 years)


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  • Name Ernest Ralph "Punch" Keffer 
    Born 29 Jul 1896  Hespeler (Cambridge), Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location  [1, 2, 3
    Gender Male 
    Interesting war, misfortune, military, story 
    Military WW1  [3
    • Keffer, Ernest Ralph. Private. Enlisted January 7, 1915 at Guelph with 34th Infantry Battalion. Transferred to the 9th Reserves in England, to 4th Battalion to 1st Battalion in France. Methodist. Born July 29, 1896 at Hespeler, educated at Hespeler Public School and Galt Collegiate Institute. He was killed September 19, 1916 at Courcelette in the Battle of the Somme after serving in the trenches from February to September. Mr. Wellington Keffer, Hespeler, Ontario is his father.Fred Keffer, Hespeler, Ontario.1a

      1aKeffer, Ernest Ralph: Grace Schmidt Room Digital Collection. (2016). Vitacollections.ca. Retrieved 15 May 2016, from https://vitacollections.ca/kpl-gsr/2913269/data?n=1
    Keffer, Ernest Ralph. Private.
    Keffer, Ernest Ralph. Private.
    Enlisted January 7, 1915 at Guelph with 34th Infantry Battalion. Transferred to the 9th Reserves in England, to 4th Battalion to 1st Battalion in France. Methodist. Born July 29, 1896 at Hespeler, educated at Hespeler Public School and Galt Collegiate Institute. He was killed September 19, 1916 at Courcelette in the Battle of the Somme after serving in the trenches from February to September. Mr. Wellington Keffer, Hespeler, Ontario is his father.Fred Keffer, Hespeler, Ontario.




    Keffer, Ernest Ralph: Grace Schmidt Room Digital Collection. (2016). Vitacollections.ca. Retrieved 15 May 2016, from https://vitacollections.ca/kpl-gsr/2913269/data?n=1
    Religion 1911  Hespeler (Cambridge), Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location  [2
    Methodist 
    Military 1914  WW1 Find all individuals with events at this location  [4
    WW1, Private, 34th Battalion / 9th / 4th / 1st Battalion 
    Misfortune 1916 
    killed in War 
    Occupation 1916  Hespeler (Cambridge), Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location  [3
    weaver 
    Residence Hespeler (Cambridge), Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location  [4
    Eby ID Number Waterloo-82023 
    Died 19 Sep 1916  Courcelette, , Picardie, France Find all individuals with events at this location  [5
    Buried Vimy Memorial, , Pas De Calais, France Find all individuals with events at this location  [5
    Person ID I82023  Generations
    Last Modified 29 Sep 2019 

    Father Wellington Keffer,   b. 16 Jan 1862, Vaughan Twp., York Co., Ontario Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 17 Mar 1940  (Age 78 years) 
    Mother Ellen Priscilla "Ella" Warren,   b. 10 Jul 1868, Brantford, Brant Co., Ontario, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 1961  (Age 92 years) 
    Married Apr 1890  [6
    Family ID F21398  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsBorn - 29 Jul 1896 - Hespeler (Cambridge), Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsReligion - Methodist - 1911 - Hespeler (Cambridge), Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsOccupation - weaver - 1916 - Hespeler (Cambridge), Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsResidence - - Hespeler (Cambridge), Waterloo Region, Ontario, Canada Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsDied - 19 Sep 1916 - Courcelette, , Picardie, France Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsBuried - - Vimy Memorial, , Pas De Calais, France Link to Google Earth
     = Link to Google Earth 

  • Photos
    Ernest  Keffer
    Ernest Keffer
    image from KPL
    Ernst Keffer
    Ernst Keffer
    Waterloo Region Record 7 Nov 2015

  • Notes 
    • Remembering brothers-in-arms: 'No nobler, grander death than this'

      CAMBRIDGE - Crowds swarmed downtown Hespeler in November, 1918. They came to celebrate, spontaneously, to mill about and absorb the shocking news: The Great War was over.

      Nellie Keffer stayed home, in no mood to embrace strangers. She kept at her household chores. Daughter Mary found Nellie washing the floors.

      "Aren't you coming downtown?" Mary asked her mother. "Everybody's there."

      "It's all right for them," Nellie replied. "They've got somebody coming home."

      Nellie Keffer had two sons who answered Canada's call to arms. Both died in battle on the Western Front. Both were denied known graves.

      Ernest Keffer enlisted first. He was a fun teen. His family called him Punch. Frank Keffer followed his younger brother to war two months later. He was more studious. They were killed in 1916, four months apart....

      Ernest enlisted in January 1915 when he was 18. The war was five months old and it was still generating more excitement than dread. Few Canadian soldiers had reached European battlefields. Nobody from this region had been reported killed in action. Ernest volunteered in Guelph, leaving his job as a weaver in a Hespeler factory. Canada assigned him to the 4th infantry battalion.

      Frank enlisted in March 1915 when he was 21. He had moved to Western Canada to teach and was attending university in Saskatoon when Canada's call to arms persuaded him to interrupt his studies. He volunteered in Saskatoon and was assigned to help reinforce an elite regiment, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry. The regiment, the first Canadian unit to see action overseas, recruited 1,300 men directly from universities....

      Both brothers held the rank of private. Sent overseas, they settled into the misery of trench warfare, battling poison gas, enemy shells and bullets, as well as lice, rats, mud and even army discipline. In 1915 Frank was sentenced to 10 days of field punishment after being insolent to a superior. He was likely placed in fetters or handcuffed for up to two hours per day but was still allowed to move freely....

      Frank, 22, was killed in action in trenches at Maple Copse, a wooded area where combat uprooted trees, showering the battlefield with deadly slivers and stakes. The chaos of battle rendered the exact date of his death unknown; he was killed some time between June 2 and 4.

      After overrunning most trenches at Mount Sorrel, the Germans halted to consolidate. Their failure to exploit their momentum gave Canada time to regroup and to counterattack the next day, effectively stopping the German advance.

      Hespeler learned of Frank Keffer's death within two weeks. The Hespeler Herald newspaper consoled his parents Nellie and Wellington, a textile designer. The couple had five other children. "Frank was an exceptionally fine boy and a splendid type of Canadian manhood and had a most promising future ahead of him. He died the death of a hero, fighting for his country and worldwide freedom, and after all, there could have been no nobler, grander death than this."

      A casualty record suggests Frank was buried on the battlefield beneath a board bearing his name. The location of his grave was later lost, his remains never recovered.

      Four months later, Ernest Keffer was helping to hold the front line at the Somme battlefield in France. Cook describes it as a "wasteland of ruined farmers' fields; scummy, water-filled shell holes, and acres of unburied corpses."

      The Somme battle began in July 1916. It was largely a stalemate. But in September 1916, Canadian troops captured the village of Courcelette. It was a well-regarded victory and the Germans wanted the village back. On Sept. 19, 1916, Ernest's 4th battalion twice defended Courcelette, fending off German counterattacks in heavy rain.

      Canada began the day with its own plans to attack, but cancelled them after bombarding the Germans. At 7: 30 p.m. the enemy attacked and "succeeded in obtaining a footing in one trench," capturing a Canadian machine gun and overcoming its crew, the battalion's war diary states.

      Canadian soldiers held in reserve counterattacked right away. They reached the captured trench, found the Germans gone, and took back the trench. Both sides fired shells at each other for the rest of the night.

      It was a minor skirmish. Ernest Keffer did not survive it. Casualty records reveal he was killed in action near Courcelette. There's no record that he was ever buried.....

      Outhit, J. (2015). Remembering brothers-in-arms: 'No nobler, grander death than this' | TheRecord.com. TheRecord.com. Retrieved 9 October 2017, from https://www.therecord.com/news-story/6085655-remembering-brothers-in-arms-no-nobler-grander-death-than-this-/

  • Sources 
    1. [S143] Census - ON, Waterloo, Hespeler - 1901, Hespeler (Village) D-1 Page 24.

    2. [S392] Census - ON, Waterloo, Hespeler - 1911, Div. 20 Pg. 8.

    3. [S157] Military - Canada - World War I - Attestation papers.
      Ernest Ralph Keffer Birth Date:29 Jul 1896 Birth Location: Hespeler, Ontario Relative: W Keffer Regiment Number: 412771

    4. [S1890] Military - ON, Waterloo, Kitchener - Kitchener Public Library WW1 Soldiers Card Index Soldier Information Cards - World War One.

    5. [S2443] Military - Canada, War Graves Registers (Circumstances of Casualty).
      Ernest Ralph Keffer Death Date: 19 Sep 1916 Rank: Private Unit: 4th Battalion Service number: 402771

    6. [S2208] Census - ON, Waterloo, Hespeler - 1891, Section 1 Page 38.