#669707 Company Sergeant Major Lawrence Ducharme Pridham was born 25 January 1890 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, the son of Richard Pridham (of the Post Office Department in Winnipeg) and Odile Antonia “Nellie” Ducharme. His grandfather was a veteran of the Fenian Raids of 1866 and his great-grandfather Edwin Pridham served as a Captain with the Grenville Loyal Sedentary Militia in the 1830s.
On 7 May 1909 he married 19-year-old Mary Pearl Van Loon of Alliston, Ontario. They had one son Richard (Dick) Walter born in 23 October 1910 at St Michael’s Hospital. At the time they were living at 32 Rowanwood Ave, Toronto and Lawrence’s occupation on the birth record was shown as “boiler fitter”. A daughter Evelyn Florence was born c1914 in Manitoba (as per 1921 census.)
About 1913 he joined the Queen’s Own Rifles in which he served as a Private until enlisting with the 166th Battalion (Queen’s Own Rifles) of the Canadian Expeditionary Force on 11 February 1916. The 166th trained at the newly constructed Canadian Forces Base Borden before leaving for England in October 1916 for more training. Sometime before September 1916 Lawrence had moved his family into a “6 room cottage” in Tottenham – closer to where he was training but also closer to her family in Alliston.
In 1917 the 166th were broken up as reinforcements for units already serving in France and Belgium and Pridham was eventually posted to the 4th Canadian Mounted Rifles (4CMR) in which he served in various battles and rose to the rank of Company Sergeant Major.
On 9 August 1918, a day after the Allies broke through German lines in what would eventually be called “The Hundred Days”, CSM Pridham was killed in action. He is buried at Le Quesnel Communal Cemetery Extension, Somme, France – Grave A.25.
Pridham was an articulate and voracious writer – of letters and diaries. The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada Regimental Museum was the recipient of three (of ten) volumes of his diaries and several letters that he had written to his Uncle Will in Toronto over the span of 27 September 1916 to 11 July 1918. Also donated were his photo, medals (shown above) and death certificate (below) which are on display in our First World War Exhibit.
Dear Uncle Will Letters
Below are links to twelve surviving letters Lawrence sent to his uncle William Pridham. Throughout them you will find references to his brother Hal – Harold who was a lawyer out west – and to Mr and/or Mrs R.A. who were his parents in Winnipeg. A number of the letters include notes to pass on the letter to other relatives. You will also notice that many of the envelopes have been reviewed by military censors and resealed with a tape stating “OPENED BY CENSOR”. Only one letters appears to have information erased by the censor – on page 2 of 15 February 1917.
- 27 September 1916 (Base Borden)
- 30 September 1916 (Tottenham)
- 07 October 1916 (Base Borden)
- 14 January 1917 (London)
- 15 February 1917 (France)
- 27 March 1917 (France)
- 5 July 1917 (France)
- 23 September 1917 (France)
- 31 January 1918 (France)
- 1 February 1918 (most likely from France)
- 21 April 1918 (France)
- 11 July 1918 (France)
Pridham was a prodigious diarist and made entries almost every day, some with his friend Doc. It appears that he then sent this home to his family, who he cautions to not share with anyone who is not family, lest he get court-martialed for providing information that would normally be censored in letters.
The museum has three of the ten “volumes” he wrote – all carefully number – and which include pencil sketches he would sometimes include.
We are in the process of transcribing these three volumes and posting the content here: