2582 Private Frederick James Caton, AIF Pioneers
AIF Memorial Plaque: 2582 Frederick James Caton
Memorial Plaque named to FREDERICK JAMES CATON, who was killed in action 26th October 1917 at Zonnebeke, Belgium.
Frederick James Caton was born in Preston, Lancashire, England in 1881. He served with the Royal Engineers from 1900, including a period spent in Singapore. He married Elizabeth Nottingham in Preston in 1908, and came out to Australia in 1912.
Caton enlisted in the AIF in 1916, and saw service on the Western Front with 1st Battalion, Australian Pioneers from January 1917. Between May and October 1917 he was in the UK suffering from various ailments, not returning to his unit until 23rd October, just three days before he was killed in action, on 26th October 1917. At the time the pavement of the Ypres-Zonnebeke Road was deeply covered in mud, and the 1st Pioneers were employed in digging it out and repairing it after 25 October 1917. They also remade “Smith’s Road” between Westhoek and Zonnebeke, creating a partial “corduroy” road of planks. On the day Private Caton died, it was raining and the men were being constantly bombarded with mustard gas. He is buried in Belgian Battery Comer Cemetery, Ypres, grave 13.D.3.
There were various observers to his death, with the consensus being that that he was struck by a piece of shrapnel from a German shell:
Private McCarthy no.3696, Ward 34, Harefield, 23/1/1918:
At Zonnebeke, he was killed by a bit of shell just in the back of his head. He was bending over working and it went under his helmet, killing him at once. An officer went up with a party to bury him but I did not see his grave.
The photograph of Frederick Caton and his wife, Elizabeth, is courtesy of the Australian War Memorial AWM2019.1067.1