Tucked inconspicuously among Sarnia’s streets is Eddy Drive, the only clue to its name being a distinctive red poppy embossed on the street sign.
Eddy Drive extends only two city blocks, and most Sarnians probably don’t know its location; in fact, for 50 years, it didn’t even have a name.
In the mid-1990s, however, city council named three streets after fallen war heroes. Quinn Drive and Barclay Drive were two.
The third was Eddy Drive, named for fallen veteran William “Will” Peter Eddy, a Sarnian so eager to serve his country he enlisted twice.
Born in 1885, Eddy grew up on Christina Street and South Vidal Street.
After war erupted in 1914, records show, he served six months with the Canadian Infantry, 19th Winnipeg Rif les Regiment as First Lieutenant. He embarked for Great Britain with the 61st Overseas Battalion in April of 1915 and spent two months in Europe.
The battalion disbanded to provide reinforcements and Eddy returned to Sarnia
But not for long. Eddy, an engineer in civilian life, reenlisted at the age of 31—five years above the average age of Canadian soldiers. And to ensure he saw action, he reverted to the ranks to serve his country.
In late 1916 or early 1917, Will Eddy left for England as a gunner with the Canadian Field Artillery, 3rd brigade. Shortly after his arrival, bad luck delayed Eddy’s march to the battlefield during routine firing practice.
In a letter to his parents, Eddy explained he was thrown from a runaway horse and broke both arms.
Still optimistic, he wrote: “My right arm is pretty sore . . . it will be some time before I am fit for service” and he concluded with the hope “it will not be many months now before I am with you again.”
Mr. and Mrs. Eddy would never see their son again.
In October of 1917, Eddy got his wish and made it into combat in France. Nearly a year later he was fighting in the 2nd Battle of Arras during Canada’s final Hundred Days Campaign in September, 1918. The Hundred Days Campaign was the last three-month period of fighting that marked the “beginning of the end” of the Great War.
Canada played a critical role in the series of victories and advances, but at an exorbitant cost. Twenty percent of Canada’s wartime casualties occurred during those three months.
That dismal ratio, unfortunately, held true for Sarnians. At least 33 died during this period. Gunner Will Eddy was one of them.
Intense, brutal combat characterized the ten days of fighting with Canadian troops assigned to overtake Germany’s heavily fortified Hindenburg Line to the east of Arras. On Sept. 2, 1918, one day before the battle ended, 32-year-old Will Eddy was in the thick of the fighting when an enemy shell burst nearby. He never had a chance and, mercifully, died instantly.
Like thousands of other soldiers, Eddy has no known grave, but he is memorialized on the Vimy Memorial in Pas de Calais, France.
And Sarnia also memorialized a local war hero by giving his name to a quiet road at the north end of Collingwood Street.