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Sunday, 25 June 2017

Remembering Gunner Charles Hugh Fraser—KIA June 25, 1917

Charles Hugh “Charlie” Fraser was born at Guysborough Intervale, Guysborough County on October 19, 1890, the oldest of Clara Ann “Annie” (McPherson) and Daniel Joseph Fraser’s 10 children. Around 1908, the family relocated to Taber, AB, where Charlie worked as a cook.

Sixteen months after the outbreak of the First World War, Charlie enlisted with the 39th Battery, Canadian Field Artillery, at Lethbridge, AB on December 8, 1915. The unit—the second of four batteries recruited in the area during the war—became part of the 10th Brigade CFA in January 1916 and made its way to Saint John, NB the following month. Personnel departed for overseas aboard SS Missinabie on March 2 and arrived at Portsmouth, England 10 days later.

10th Brigade CFA was attached to the 3rd Canadian Division and crossed the English Channel to France on July 13. Three days later, the Brigade departed by train for Belgium’s Ypres Salient, where its personnel entered the forward area before month’s end. Charlie’s battery served with the 10th Brigade in the Ypres Salient’s trenches for two months, relocating to the Somme region of France in early October. The units provided artillery fire in support of Canadian Corps attacks on Regina Trench, a fortified German position located on Thiepval Ridge. Following its capture in early November, the 10th Brigade CFA moved northward to the Arras area, where personnel served in the line throughout the winter of 1916-17.

While Charlie’s unit was in the line on April 9, 1917, its guns played no direct role in the Canadian Corps’ attack on Vimy Ridge. Personnel moved forward several days later as Canadian artillery units established operations in several towns below the newly captured  ridge. During the ensuing weeks, German artillery targeted No. 39 Battery’s position on several occasions, one “other rank” (OR) killed and five OR wounded during the late May tour. Throughout their time in the line, artillery crews targeted specific locations in the German forward area. On June 13, 10th Brigade batteries commenced a week-long “special programme of night, harassing fire,” and responded to calls for retaliatory shelling when requested.

Fatalities continued as both sides targeted their opponents’ artillery units. Major A. B. Stafford, the 39th Battery’s Commanding Officer, was struck by enemy fire on June 24 and died of wounds before day’s end. The following day—June 25, 1917—as Major Stafford was laid to rest at Noeux-les-Mines, the 10th Brigade’s war diary reported one OR killed by artillery fire. Gunner Charles Hugh Fraser was the day’s lone fatality. Charlie was laid to rest in Écoivres Military Cemetery, France.

Gunner Charlie Fraser's headstone, Écoivres Military Cemetery.
Bantry Publishing’s “First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume I: 1915 - 1917” contains a detailed summary of Charlie’s family background and war service, along with 71 other profiles of personnel who died in uniform during the first three years of the war.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Remembering Private Charles Burton Langille—KIA June 22, 1917

Charles Burton Langille was born at Liscomb, Guysborough County on November 15, 1894, the second son and youngest child of David and Margaret Ann (Lang) Langille. Margaret passed away sometime after Charles’ birth, and as David worked as a sea captain in the local fishery, the children were dispersed to several local homes.

Sometime prior to 1914, Charles ventured west, finding work as a cook in British Columbia. He also enlisted with the 5th Canadian Garrison Artillery, a Victoria militia unit. Following the outbreak of the First World War, Charles commenced training with the 11th Regiment Canadian Mounted Rifles at Vancouver, BC on February 25, 1915. One month later, he attested for overseas service with the unit, but was discharged as “medically unfit” on August 2.

Determined to serve overseas, Charles travelled to Calgary, AB and eight days later enlisted with the 50th Battalion. In mid-October, the unit travelled to Halifax and shortly afterwards boarded SS Orduna for the trans-Atlantic voyage. Upon landing at Plymouth, England on November 4, the 50th made its way to Camp Bramshott. One month after arriving in England, Charles was hospitalized for treatment of influenza and pneumonia. He remained under medical care for more than two months, finally rejoining the 50th’s ranks in early February 1916.

Following its overseas arrival, the 50th Battalion was assigned to the 4th Division’s 10th Brigade. The unit crossed the English Channel to France on August 9 and commenced regular rotations in Belgium’s Ypres Salient before month’s end.

In early October, the 4th Division relocated to the Somme region of France, where the 50th’s personnel participated in a series of attacks on Regina Trench, a German stronghold located along Thiepval Ridge. In late November, Charles was hospitalized a second time, on this occasion for treatment of enteritis. He spent two months recovering before rejoining the 50th's ranks near Carency, France in mid-January 1917.

On the morning of April 9, 1917, the 50th and its 10th Brigade comrades occupied support positions behind the 11th and 12th Brigade units as the Canadian Corps launched their historic attack on Vimy Ridge. The two Brigades faced the day’s most difficult assignment—removing opposing forces from Hill 145, the ridge’s highest location. While German soldiers withstood the early morning barrage and inflicted significant casualties on two 11th Brigade units, an early evening attack by two Companies of the 85th Battalion succeeded in securing the hill’s western slopes.

The following afternoon, the 50th’s personnel assisted in clearing German soldiers from the remnants of Hill 145, as the unit sustained the first significant casualties since its Somme engagements. On April 12, the battalion took part in a successful attack on “the Pimple,” an elevated location adjacent to Hill 145 and the final section of the ridge still in German hands.

Charles came through both engagements without injury, only to be hospitalized with a case of mumps on April 13. He returned to the 50th’s ranks at Château de la Haie on June 7 and five days later entered support positions with his mates. On June 19, the 50th relieved the 85th Battalion (Nova Scotia Highlanders) in front trenches near Liévin. Two days later, Allied forces fired a combination of gas canisters and “Stokes shells” at a section of the German line opposite the 50th’s location. German forces responded with trench mortar and artillery fire, inflicting a total of 33 casualties on the battalion.

While Charles came through the exchange of fire without injury, he was not so fortunate the following day. While the 50th’s war diary described June 21 as “fairly quiet,” with “occasional shelling of front line and support areas,” the unit nevertheless suffered 20 more casualties, two of which were fatalities. Private Charles Burton Langille was one of the two “other ranks” killed in action during the day’s exchange of fire. He was laid to rest in Cabaret-Rouge Cemetery, Souchez France.

Pte. Charles Burton Langille's headstone.

Bantry Publishing’s “First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume I: 1915 - 1917” contains a detailed summary of Charles’ family background and military service, along with 71 other profiles of Guysborough County’s fallen First World War personnel.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Remembering Private Philip Sydney Beals & Private John Rhynold—KIA & DOW June 19, 1917

On June 19, 1917, two First World War soldiers with connections to Guysborough County were killed or died of wounds while serving with two separate units.

Philip Sydney Beals was born at Billtown, Kings County on July 4, 1889, the oldest of three children in the family of Reverend Frank H. and Annie (Smith) Beals. Several years after Philip’s birth, Rev. Beals became Pastor of the Baptist congregation at Canso, Guysborough County, where Philip’s two siblings, Helen and Carlyle, joined the family.

Private Philip Sydney Beals.
By 1901, the family had relocated to Digby, Annapolis County, where Phillip completed his grammar school education and went on to complete a Bachelor of Science degree at Acadia University. On June 30, 1914, he married Mabel Bateaux Easson, a native of Factorydale—near Berwick—Kings County. The couple settled at Morristown, near Mabel’s home, where Philip took up farming.

Following the outbreak of the First World War, Philip initially enlisted with the 14th Independent Field Battery, Royal Canadian Artillery, Halifax. In early 1916, military recruiters canvassed the province, in search of soldiers for the Nova Scotia Highland Brigade. Philip enlisted with the 219th Battalion at Berwick, NS on March 2, 1916 and departed Halifax aboard SS Olympic on October 12.

Before year’s end, significant Canadian Corps casualties incurred at the Somme during the autumn of 1916 led military officials to dissolve two of the Highland Brigade’s four battalions. Philip’s 219th was one of the two units whose soldiers were dispersed to other battalions. On December 28, he was transferred to the 85th Battalion (Nova Scotia Highlanders), the Brigade’s senior unit. On February 10, 1917, he crossed the English Channel to France with his new unit and commenced preparations to enter the line.

Due to its lack of combat experience, in the weeks prior to the Canadian Corps’ historic attack on Vimy Ridge, the 85th was attached to the 4th Division’s 11th Brigade as a “working unit.” When the 11th Brigade’s soldiers failed to capture Hill 145 during the initial assault on the morning of April 9, two of the 85th’s companies entered the line late in the day and succeeded in dislodging German forces from the hill’s western slopes in an early evening attack. While Philip’s “A” Company was not part of the action, the following morning, he and his comrades joined their 85th colleagues atop the ridge.

Shortly its Vimy debut, military officials assigned the 85th to the 4th Division’s 12th Brigade, where it commenced a regular rotation in the line. On the night of June 15, “A” and “B” Companies relieved their “C” and “D” counterparts in the Liévin Sector’s front trenches. Four days later, “A” Company participated in an operation to clear German forces from a “triangle of trenches” adjacent to its line, in conjunction with an Imperial regiment to its left.

The soldiers vacated their position prior to a massive artillery barrage, which commenced at 2:30 p.m.. Four minutes later, the Company re-occupied the front trenches and dispatched a small party into the triangle, to ensure that German forces had been removed from the targeted area. While there were no casualties during the operation, German retaliatory artillery fire commenced at 2:40 p.m. and continued into the early evening. Private Philip Sydney Beals was one of five “other rank” (OR) fatalities inflicted in the bombardment, “instantly killed by a high explosive shell.”

Philip was laid to rest in Cabaret-Rouge British Cemetery, Souchez, France. His bereaved widow, Mabel, never re-remarried and spent her remaining years at Morristown, Kings County, where she passed away on June 23, 1962.

*****

Private John Reynolds [Rhynold] was born at Canso, Guysborough County on January 5, 1883, the third of Margaret Louise (Haines) and Anthony Reynolds’ five children and the couple’s second son. John was married with four children when he enlisted for service with the 40th Battalion at Camp Valcartier, Quebec on July 13, 1915. The unit departed for overseas on October 18, 1915 and arrived at Plymouth, England nine days later.

Within weeks of his overseas arrival, John was transferred to the 17th Reserve Battalion (Nova Scotia). He remained with the 17th for six months, finally receiving a transfer to the Canadian Machine Gun Corps (CMGC) on June 23, 1916. John immediately reported to the CMGC Depot at Crowborough, where he completed his training. In mid-December 1916, he crossed the English Channel to the CMGC Depot at Camiers, France. On January 22, 1917, John was assigned to the 9th Canadian Machine Gun Company (9th CMG) and joined his new unit in the field four days later.

John served with 9th CMG at Vimy Ridge, its guns providing barrage fire in support of the 7th Canadian Brigade’s attack. The unit’s three batteries fired an estimated 334,000 rounds during the day’s advance, suffering only two “other ranks” (OR) slightly wounded. The unit served in the Vimy area throughout the spring of 1917, returning to trenches near the ridge on the night of June 14/15 for a routine tour in the line.

As the tour progressed, German artillery subjected 9th CMG’s position to scattered daytime shelling that intensified after nightfall. On the night of June 18/19, the unit endured particularly heavy fire along its section of the line shortly after midnight. Two OR were killed, while three others were evacuated to No. 7 Casualty Clearing Station (CCS) for treatment of their wounds.

Private John Reynolds was one of the three wounded OR. He “died of wounds (gun shot wounds, multiple)” at No. 7 CCS on June 19, 1917 and was laid to rest in Noeux-les-Mines Communal Cemetery, Noeux-les-Mines, France.


Philip’s and John’s stories are among the 72 profiles included in Bantry Publishing’s First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume I: 1915 - 1917, available for purchase online at bantrypublishing.ca .

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Remembering Private Arthur McCallum—Died of Wounds June 4, 1917

Arthur McCallum was born at Ogden, Guysborough County on April 20, 1895, the third of James and Bridget (Fitzgerald) McCallum’s seven children. Sometime after 1911, Arthur relocated to Pictou County, where he found employment as a blacksmith.

Pte. Arthur McCallum.
On February 26, 1916, Arthur enlisted with the 106th Battalion (Nova Scotia Rifles) at Pictou, NS and departed for England with the unit in mid-July. Following the 106th’s dissolution, Arthur was transferred to the 87th Battalion (Canadian Grenadier Guards) on December 10, 1916 and joined his new unit near Frévillers, France three days later.

Throughout the winter of 1916-17, Arthur served a regular rotation with the 87th, which was part of the 4th Canadian Division’s 11th Brigade. On the morning of April 9, 1917, Arthur was in the line as the 87th’s soldiers went “over the top” toward German positions atop Hill 145, the ridge’s highest elevation. The 87th and its Brigade mates, the 102nd Battalion, suffered heavy casualties throughout the morning as German forces atop the ridge held out against the assault. The intervention of two 85th Battalion companies later in the day turned the tide of battle and dislodged enemy forces from Hill 145’s western slopes.

Arthur was not injured in the fighting and remained in the line until the night of April 11, when the 87th’s remaining personnel retired to billets. The unit suffered seven Officers killed and one wounded, while 110 of its “other ranks” (OR) were killed, 157 wounded and 25 missing following three days’ fighting at Vimy Ridge.

Within weeks of his Vimy experience, health issues disrupted Arthur’s service. On April 30, he was evacuated “sick” and admitted to the 7th Convalescent Depot, Boulogne. Medical personnel initially determined that Arthur was suffering from myalgia in his legs and transferred him to the 7th Convalescent Depot, Écault. Arthur spent the remainder of the month recovering his strength and was discharged to No. 3 Rest Camp, Boulogne at month’s end.

A June 2 Medical Board determined that Arthur was “fit for duty.” Two days later, he began the journey back to the 87th’s camp, travelling by train to Étaples on the morning of June 4. Upon arriving at Étaples shortly after mid-day, Arthur began the march to No. 4 Canadian Base Depot, a distance of less than one mile. Within minutes, he felt weak and was unable to proceed any further. Taken into the kitchen of a nearby bakery, Arthur rested for several hours before several soldiers arrived to escort him to his quarters.

His companions later reported that Arthur complained of pains in his leg and nausea as he made his way toward camp. Upon arrival, an orderly assisted him up the steps and into the Orderly Room, where he collapsed. Arthur was immediately carried by stretcher to the medical tent, where a Medical Officer “failed to find any sign of life.” Private Arthur McCallum was pronounced dead at 10:00 p.m. June 4, 1917.

A subsequent inquiry failed to determine a specific cause of death, although its report emphatically stated that Arthur was “in no way to blame…. It would appear that he was in a debilitated condition on leaving the Details Camp, Boulogne, and was overcome on the journey from there to the 4th Canadian Base Depot, Étaples.” Private Arthur McCallum was laid to rest in Étaples Military Cemetery, Étaples, France.

A detailed account of Arthur's story is one of 72 profiles published in "First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume I: 1915 - 1917," available for purchase at Bantry Publishing's website.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Guysborough County Enlistments—May 1917

Ten individuals with connections to Guysborough County, Nova Scotia enlisted with Canadian Expeditionary Force units during the month of May 1917:

1. William Reynold Harris was born at Whitehead, Guysborough County on April 2, 1891. Reynold, as he was known to family, was the third of five children and the elder of two sons in the family of William Steven Teed and Mary Elizabeth (Conway) Harris.

On May 1, 1917, Reynold enlisted for military service with the 1st Regiment, Canadian Garrison Artillery at Halifax, NS. At the time, he was working as a book-keeper and living in Halifax. Reynold also held the commissioned rank of Lieutenant. He subsequently attested for overseas service with the Canadian Field Artillery at Halifax on January 23, 1918.

Reynold arrived in England on June 21, 1918 and was attached to the Reserve Artillery Depot, Witley, Surrey as a “Conducting Officer.” The following month, he was “attached pending instructions” to the Composite Brigade, Canadian Reserve Artillery. With the exception of five days Reynold spent in France in mid-August, he served in England for the duration of the war.

On December 10, Reynold was assigned to Borden Regimental Group for duty, returning to Camp Witley at the end of January 1919. He was dispatched to Ripon for return to Canada on March 29 and departed for Halifax aboard SS Empress of Britain on July 3. Eight days later, Reynold arrived at Halifax and was discharged from military service on July 16, 1919.

On September 12, 1922, Reynold married Gertrude Eleanor Journey in a ceremony held at Weymouth, Digby County. He worked as an accountant during the post-war years. Reynold Harris passed away at the Victoria General Hospital, Halifax on May 19, 1948 and was laid to rest in Weymouth, NS.


2. Joseph Ernest Worth was born at Ogden, Guysborough County on October 29, 1897, the second child and second son of Edward King and Catherine Ann “Kellie” (McCallum) Worth. “Ernie,” as he was identified in the 1901 and 1911 censuses, enlisted with No. 3 Company, Canadian Forestry Corps (CFC), at Truro, NS on May 9, 1917. He departed from Halifax aboard SS Justicia on June 25 and 10 days later arrived at Liverpool, England.

Ernie spent five weeks at the CFC Base Depot at Sunningdale, after which time he was assigned to the newly organized No. 72 Company, CFC on August 11. The following day, he crossed the English Channel with his new unit and made his way to Bordeaux District of France, where No. 72 CFC commenced operations in the nearby “Landes de Gascogne,” a large pine forest southwest of Bordeaux. One month later, Ernie was admitted to hospital for treatment of bronchitis. He returned to duty on November 9 and served without further incident for the remainder of No. 72 CFC’s time in France.

Pte. J. E. Worth's headstone, Seaford Cemetery, Sussex, England.
Ernie returned to England on January 18, 1919 and prepared to return home. Before month’s end, however, health issues surfaced. He was admitted to No. 14 Canadian General Hospital, Eastbourne on January 29, 1919 for treatment of influenza and pneumonia. Ernie’s condition rapidly deteriorated and he died at 3:00 a.m. February 4, 1919. He was laid to rest in Seaford Cemetery, Sussex, England.


3. Gertrude White Paget was born at Hazel Hill, Guysborough County on July 23, 1891, the third of Frederick William and Eliza Maude (White) Paget’s six children. Frederick, a native of Leeds, England, was employed at the Commercial Cable Company as a telegraphist, while Eliza was born at Sherbrooke, Guysborough County. Frederick passed away at Canso on May 10, 1910, leaving Eliza to care for several young children.

Gertrude, a graduate nurse, enlisted with the Canadian Army Medical Corps at Montreal, QC on May 9, 1917. No further details are currently available on her military service. Following the war, Gertrude relocated to San Francisco, California, where her younger brother, Hilton—also a First World War veteran—resided. she spent several years in Hawaii before returning to San Francisco in 1930. Gertrude never married. She passed away in Siskiyou County, California on May 24, 1941.


4. William “Willie” Croft was born at Gegogan, Guysborough County on January 2, 1896 and spent most of his childhood years in the home of his grandparents, Henry and Hannah (Melman) Croft, Sonora. Willie enlisted with the Howitzer Brigade Ammunition Column at Halifax on May 21, 1917, at which time he listed his mother, Alice (Croft) Swaine, Duncan St., Halifax as his next of kin.

Willie departed Halifax on November 26, 1917 aboard SS Megantic and landed at Liverpool, England 11 days later. He remained in England for ten months, finally crossing the English Channel to France on October 8, 1918. Four days later, Willie reported to the Canadian Corps Reinforcement Camp, where he awaited further orders. On December 26, 1918, Willie was attached to the 3rd Canadian Divisional Ammunition Column as a driver.

Willie returned to England on February 20, 1919 and departed for Canada aboard SS Olympic one month later. He was formally discharged from military service on March 31, 1919. Following his return to Canada, Willie worked as a “fish handler” in Halifax. On March 1, 1935, he married Mary Kathleen Elizabeth Woods, a native of Charlottetown, PEI. No further information is available on his later life.


5. Mary Lillian Cameron was born on December 8 1894 to Frederick A. and Laura (Condon) Cameron, Canso, Guysborough County. Mary Lillian enlisted with No. 4 Canadian General Hospital, CAMC at Montreal, QC on May 22, 1917. A detailed summary of her war service and later life is available on this blog.

Lt. Mary Lillian, Cameron, CAMC.

6. James Leo McDonald was born on October 29, 1893 to John Neil and Catherine (O’Brien) McDonald, Auld’s Cove. Jimmy, as he was known to family, spent his childhood years in Mulgrave, Guysborough County and enlisted with No. 3 Nova Scotia Forestry Company at Truro, NS on May 25, 1917. A detailed summary of his war service and later life is available on this blog.

Pte. James Leo McDonald, CFC.

7. John Henry MacKinnon was born on July 29, 1878 to Patrick and Bridget McKinnon, East Erinville, Guysborough County. John was living at Riske Creek, Chilcoten, BC when he enlisted with the Revelstoke Forestry Company, CEF at Revelstoke, BC on May 25, 1917. Almost 39 years old at the time, John was six feet tall and weighed 170 pounds. While his attestation stated his occupation as “farmer,” other documents in his file state that he was a “rancher.”

On June 25, John departed Halifax aboard SS Justicia and arrived in England 10 days later. He spent two months at the Canadian Forestry Corps’ Sunningdale Headquarters before being assigned to No. 73 Company on September 6. One week later, John’s Company crossed the English Channel to France and commenced work in the CFC’s Bordeaux District.

Within months of his overseas arrival, John began to experience soreness in his knees and ankles. He was admitted to hospital at Marseilles on January 14, 1918 and transferred to No. 57 Canadian General Hospital, Boulogne one week later. Medical staff identified the problem as osteoarthritis and John was invalided to England at month’s end. Following his admission to King George Hospital, Stamford St., London, John developed a severe case of nephritis (kidney inflammation).

On March 19, John was transferred to No. 16 Canadian General Hospital, Orpington, Kent, where medical staff determined that John’s health issues made it continued military service impossible. On June 3, he departed for Canada aboard HMHS Neuralia and returned by train to British Columbia, where he was admitted to a Vancouver military hospital on June 9. John was discharged from military service as “medically unfit” at Victoria, BC on August 13, 1918.

John returned to the Riske Creek area and resumed his civilian employment. According to the 1921 Canadian census, he was living in a Cranbrook, BC boarding house and working as a “teamster.” John married sometime afterward, although the date, location and bride’s full name are currently unknown. John Henry McKinnon passed away prior to May 8, 1932, the date on which Canadian officials shipped his British War and Victory service medals to his widow, Myrtle, who was living at 15118 Braile St., Detroit, Michigan at the time.


8. James Emmett Strachan was born on May 13, 1896 to James A. and Bridget Ann “Annie” (Ryan) Strachan, Auld’s Cove, Antigonish County. James enlisted with No. 3 Forestry Company at Truro, NS on May 26, 1917. He listed his occupation as “lumberman (scaler)” at the time of his enlistment. No further information is currently available on James’ military service.

Following the war, James established residence at Mulgrave, Guysborough County, where he worked on the Intercolonial Railway. On November 23, 1923, he married Mary Frances Kennedy, a native of Mulgrave. Several years later, the couple departed for the United States and settled at Detroit, Michigan, where they raised a family of six children. James passed away in Michigan in March 1979.


9. Edward Edmund Bearse [Barss] was born on January 1, 1893 to Harris and Mary Bearse, Guysborough, NS. Edward enlisted with the Canadian Army Medical Corps at Edmonton, AB on May 31, 1917. Edward departed from Halifax aboard SS Scotian on November 26, 1917 and arrived at Liverpool, England 11 days later.

Edward Edmund Bearse in civilian life.
On February 9, 1918, Edward was transferred to the 185th Battalion (Cape Breton Highlanders), but was subsequently re-assigned to the 17th Reserve Battalion on February 23, following the 185th’s dissolution. On March 25, Edward was assigned to the Royal Canadian Regiment (RCR) and immediately departed for France. He joined the RCR in the field before month’s end.

Edward served with the RCR for the duration of the war. On November 19, he was admitted to No 57 Casualty Clearing Station with a case of “ICT” [inflammation of connected tissue] in his right toe. Two days later, he arrived at No. 18 General Hospital, Camiers and on December 6 was invalided to England, where he spent one month in hospital before being discharged on January 8, 1919. On May 2, Edward was “struck off strength” to Canada and was formally discharged from military service at Halifax on May 17, 1919.

Following his overseas service, Edward spent several years in Detroit, Michigan, where he met Irene Olive Van Horn, a native of Kingston, MI. They married in Michigan in 1923 and the following year returned to Guysborough, where Edward operated a trucking business. The couple had no children. Edward passed away at Guysborough Memorial Hospital on September 9, 1964. His widow, Olive, entered the Milford Home for Special Care in 1993 and passed away there on June 4, 2007 at 101 years of age.


10. William Vernon Langley was born at Isaac’s Harbour, Guysborough County on June 13, 1898, the second to Harvey and Florence (Cook) Langley’s four children. Florence died of tuberculosis on February 29, 1910, while Harvey was accidentally “killed in the Lumber Wood at Upper Caledonia by a falling limb” on January 12, 1912.

Vernon, as he was known to family, subsequently relocated to Pictou County, where his older sister, Vera, resided. On May 31, 1917, he enlisted with the 105th Battalion Draft at Halifax, listing Vera as his next of kin. He had logged 16 months’ service with the Halifax Composite Battalion prior to his attestation with the Canadian Expeditionary Force.

Vernon departed Halifax aboard SS Olympic on June 2, 1917 and arrived in England one week later. On November 15, 1917, Vernon was transferred to the 26th Battalion (New Brunswick) and immediately departed for France. He served with the 26th throughout the winter and spring of 1918, and saw action at Amiens and Arras (August 1918) during the beginning of the final push that eventually brought fighting to an end.

On the evening of September 19, the 26th returned to the trenches near Bullecourt, France. Sometime within the next 24 hours in the trenches, Vernon received shrapnel wounds to his right leg and elbow and was evacuated for medical treatment. He was admitted to No. 54 General Hospital, Aubengue, Wimereux, France on September 21 and spent six weeks recovering from his injuries.

Luckily, his wounds were not serious and Vernon was discharged to No. 7 Convalescent Depot, Boulogne on November 2. Released from medical care two weeks later, he reported to the Canadian Corps Reinforcement Camp but never rejoined the 26th’s ranks, as fighting had ended by that time. Vernon proceeded to England on March 28, 1919 and departed for Canada aboard SS Celtic on May 7. He was discharged from military service at Halifax on May 22, 1919.

Several years after returning to Canada, Vernon departed for the United States, where he became a “naturalized citizen” at Chelsea, MA in 1939. His sister, Vera, later married Orris Cooke, another Isaac’s Harbour First World War veteran. No further information is available on Vernon’s later life and passing.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Remembering Private Arthur MacKenzie—Died of Sickness May 13, 1917

Arthur MacKenzie was born at Canso, Guysborough County on November 12, 1897, the eldest of David and Maria (Uloth) MacKenzie’s six children. Following the First World War, soldiers became a regular sight in and around the community, as personnel from two militia regiments—the 94th Victoria Regiment (Argyll Highlanders) and 78th Pictou Highlanders—guarded the Commercial Cable Company offices at Hazel Hill and several other strategic sites in Canso town and vicinity.

Pte. Arthur MacKenzie
On April 4, 1916, Arthur enlisted for service with the 94th Victoria Regiment. Authorized on October 13, 1871, the militia regiment was based at Baddeck, Victoria County, but had established eight Companies throughout western Cape Breton prior to the outbreak of the First World War. In the aftermath of Britain’s August 4, 1914 declaration of war on Germany, the 94th mobilized its 377 soldiers and commenced protective duties at strategic locations along the Cape Breton and Canso coastlines.

Upon enlistment, Arthur was assigned to “G” Company and immediately placed on the unit’s payroll, receiving a wage of $1.00 and a field allowance of 10⍧ for each day’s service. According to the 94th’s records, Arthur became a full-time soldier throughout the following year, setting aside his previous occupation as a fisherman for regular militia duty. As spring approached, however, health problems interrupted his military service.

Pte. Arthur MacKenzie's headstone.
On March 15, 1917, Arthur was hospitalized for treatment of diphtheria, a highly contagious disease transmitted through respiratory droplets. Military barracks’ damp, crowded conditions meant that illness frequently spread from soldier to soldier. While Arthur initially showed signs of improvement, he developed “symptoms of myocarditis” in late April. His health rapidly declined and Arthur died of heart failure on May 13, 1917. Private Arthur MacKenzie was laid to rest in Fourth Hill Cemetery, Canso, dressed in his “Uniform, Serge [and] drab.”

Bantry Publishing's First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume I: 1915 - 17 contains a detailed description of Arthur's story, along with profiles of 71 other Guysborough soldiers who died in uniform during the war's first three years. Copies are available for purchase online at bantrypublishing.ca .

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Remembering Sergeant Alexander Hugh Cameron, MM—Killed in Action May 7, 1917

Alexander Hugh Cameron was born at Caledonia, Guysborough County, NS on February 28, 1891, the fifth of Daniel Angus and Margaret A. Cameron’s nine children. Sometime after 1911, Alexander relocated to Alberta, where his older brother, John Angus, was employed as a school teacher.

Alexander enlisted with the 56th Battalion (Calgary Highlanders) at Calgary, AB on June 15, 1915, while John Angus joined the 63rd Battalion (Loyal Edmonton Regiment) two weeks later. Before year’s end, the brothers reunited when Alexander obtained a transfer to John Angus’s unit. Following a winter’s training in Western Canada, the 63rd traveled by train to Saint John, NB and departed for overseas aboard SS Metagama on April 22, 1916.

Upon arriving at Liverpool, England on May 5, the Cameron brothers traveled with their comrades to Shorncliffe Military Camp. Within two months of its overseas arrival, the 63rd was disbanded and its personnel dispersed to existing units. John Angus, a commissioned Lieutenant, remained in England until late June 1917, when he was transferred to the 31st Battalion. Alexander, however, made his way to the forward area shortly after the 63rd’s dissolution. On June 29, 1916,  he was assigned to the 29th Battalion (BC)—part of the 2nd Canadian Division’s 6th Brigade—and immediately departed for France. He joined his new unit at Albert Camp, near St. Eloi, Belgium, on July 30.

Alexander served in Belgium with the 29th for six weeks, at which time the unit relocated to the Somme region of France with the Canadian Corps. While the battalion did not participate in the Corps’ September 15 attack on Courcelette, France, personnel provided “carrying parties” for front line units throughout the operation.

While its soldiers subsequently took part in the initial attacks on German defences in front of Regina Trench in late September and early October, Alexander was not part of the attacks. A solid lad who was five feet, eleven inches tall and weighed 185 pounds, Alexander completed a Lewis Gun course during that time and rejoined his comrades on October 4.

The 29th departed the Somme region following Alexander’s return and moved northward to sectors near Arras, France. During his winter service, Alexander was promoted to Lance Corporal and soon advanced to the full rank of Corporal. On February 20, 1917, he was appointed Lance Sergeant—a Corporal acting in the rank of Sergeant.

The 29th participated in the Canadian Corps’ historic April 9, 1917 attack on Vimy Ridge, its soldiers initially playing a support role while the 4th and 5th Brigades spearheaded the attack in the 2nd Division’s sector. Shortly after mid-day. the 29th’s soldiers entered the battle as the 6th Brigade carried out the attack’s second phase. Personnel succeeded in securing their objectives on the outskirts of Farbus by mid-afternoon.

Alexander’s actions at Vimy Ridge earned him the Military Medal for bravery:

“This N.C.O.[,] after completing consolidation under heavy fire and great difficulties, showed much skill in handling his Lewis Guns. In spite of heavy shell, fire, he harassed the enemy’s gunners and did splendid work in causing them to retire, leaving their guns.”

Throughout the remainder of the month, the 29th served on rotation in sectors in front of the newly captured ridge. On the night of May 3/4, its soldiers occupied a section of a newly established line beyond the village of Fresnoy and endured “heavy artillery fire” as they set about consolidating the position. By May 6, “[the] men [were} beginning to show [the] strain of continual bombardment,” although casualties were light.

Conditions were “cloudy” on the morning of May 7, but the weather improved as the day progressed. During the evening hours, 19th Battalion arrived to relief the 29th’s soldiers. As they were retiring from the line, their location “came under heavy enemy shelling during [an enemy] attack to recapture Fresnoy.” Three of “B” Company’s Lewis Gun crews remained in the line with the 19th’s soldiers and assisted in defending the position. During the fighting, “two guns were put out of action, and of the third crew, all but No. 1 were killed or wounded.”

Sergeant Alexander Cameron was one of six “other ranks” (OR) killed during the evening attack. His remains were never recovered from the battlefield where he fell. His name is inscribed on the Canadian War Memorial, Vimy Ridge, one of 11,285 Canadian soldiers “missing, presumed dead” somewhere beneath the battlefields of northern France.

Memorial Stone—Bethel Presbyterian Cemetery, Caledonia, NS
Bantry Publishing’s First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume I: 1915 - 1917 contains a detailed description of Alexander’s story, along with profiles of 71 other soldiers and sailors with connections to Guysborough County, all of whom died during the first three years of Canadian service on the Western Front. The book is available for purchase online at bantrypublishing.ca .