LIEUTENANT EDWARD FOX THAIRS
8TH AUGUST 1918 AGE 23
BURIED: TORONTO CEMETERY, DEMUIN, FRANCE
No other hope, no other plea;
He took my place, and died for me;
O precious Lamb of Calvary!
He took my place, and died for me.
This is the chorus of a hymn by Eliza Edmunds Hewitt (1851-1920) an American hymn writer. The 'he' who 'took my place' is Christ who died on the cross to save mankind.
I have to say that when I first saw this inscription I assumed that 'Father' was saying that it should have been him that died, not his son. It should have been him who went to war and got killed. The background fitted, father, Colonel George Thairs, the bursar of Ridley College, Ontario, had founded the embryo OTC, the Ridley Volunteer Cadet Corps, in his very first term there in 1889. And, when the Cadet Corps came into being in 1907, Thairs continued as the Contingent Commander, fostering in the pupils a martial spirit and a respect for drill.
His son, Edward Thairs, had been a pupil at the school. In 1916 he was working as a bank clerk when he joined the newly formed 176th Infantry Battalion, the Niagara Rangers, on 7 October 1916. The regiment was based in Thairs' home town, St Catharines, Ontario. The battalion left for Britain on 24 April 1917 where it became absorbed into the 12th Reserve Battalion, which provided reinforcements wherever they were needed. At the time of his death Thairs was serving with the 3rd Battalion Canadian Infantry, which took part in the capture of the town of Demuin on 8 August 1918, the day Thairs was killed.
Despite the fact that I can see that "He took my place" is a quote from a hymn, I don't discount the fact that Colonel George Thairs did actually feel that it should have been him that died rather than his son. After all, why wouldn't he?