The Sacramento Union dated May 28, 1918, quotes a letter from Percy, addressed to his Parole Officer in 1917:
"I have enlisted in the Canadian army here; at first it was more for an adventure, as it did not seem possible that this enormous and useless expenditure of lives and resources could or would continue much longer. When I return I want to resume my interrupted program and prepare to matriculate at the university. While here I received a letter from my father and also from you in which you stated you would like to hear from me so that you could include my name in your report and help me on my way toward an honorable discharge from the school. That cheered me immensely and I hope I can remain in good standing. I want you to understand that I will act in good faith with you and that is my earnest desire to prove myself worthy in every respect. I remain, your friend, Percy Blanchfield."-
|Historic Photo of soldiers who fought in the Battle for Hill 70 (Canadian Govt)|
Sadly, Percy would not return home from the war, but would face his fate at the Battle of Hill 70 near Lens, France. The article in the Sacramento Union goes on to state that Percy was "instantly killed on a battlefield." According to Captain Howard of his company, Percy stood post in a "gallant manner during all the ten days fighting."
Percy Blanchfield's body remained in France, on the outskirts of Lens, where a small grave was marked by a white cross at the time. He was the first former Preston cadet to die in a war. Canadian Veterans Affairs records state that Percy Joseph Blanchfield, Military Service # 826820, died on August 27, 1917. His name, along with thousands of others who died during that battle, has now been inscribed and honored by a memorial in Pas de Calais, France.
The Ione Valley Echo states that in 1918, twenty-five boys from Preston volunteered to be recruited into the military and were brought to Fort McDowell, on Angel Island in San Francisco. Unfortunately, due to their commitments, all were rejected and sent back to Preston, though three of the twenty-five boys ran away. This set back didn't deter other wards from wanting to be involved in the war effort though.
In WWI alone, there were approximately 148 boys that were on parole from Preston who went to serve their country. In between WWI and WWII, a number of boys joined the services. According to the "Preston School of Industry: A Centennial History," 378 boys who were former wards were serving in different branches of the military by WWII.
Because of the strict military training and discipline instilled in each cadet while at Preston, this better prepared many of these boys for military life. I am sure there were many more young men from Preston who went to war during WWI and WWII, some who many have even sacrificed their lives to serve their country. Whatever mistakes they had made earlier on in their youth would now be forgiven and forgotten the very moment they made the decision to think of someone other than themselves. Let us never forget this chapter in Preston's history as a positive one. ----
From Chapter 14. Cadets Who Served In The Military, from the book "If These Walls Could Talk: More Preston Castle History," by J'aime Rubio. www.jaimerubiowriter.com
Copyright © 2017 J’aime Rubio, Author ISBN-13: 978-1548569907 ISBN-10: 1548569909