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Saturday, 30 September 2017

Guysborough County Enlistments—September 1917

Three Guysborough County natives enlisted for service with Canadian Expeditionary Force units during the month of September 1917:

1. William John Gordon “Bill” Sinclair (2204425) was born at Goshen, Guysborough County on April 7, 1888. The fifth of William and Mary (Polson) Sinclair’s 10 children, Bill was one of four Sinclair brothers who served overseas during the war. He and his younger brother, Charles Hadden Spurgeon “Charlie,” were working in ore mines near Lowell, Arizona when they registered for the United States military draft on June 5, 1917. Rather than serve with American units, both chose to return to Canada and enlist, but headed in different directions.

While Charlie returned to Nova Scotia and joined a Forestry Corps draft in October 1917, Bill travelled westward and attested with the 1st Depot Battalion, British Columbia Regiment at Vancouver, BC on September 19, 1917. Upon arriving overseas, he was transferred to the 72nd Battalion (Seaforth Highlanders of Canada) and served with the unit in France during the final year of the war.

After returning to Canada, Bill married Lucy Vinton, a native of South River, Antigonish County. The couple initially resided at Isaac’s Harbour, where Bill tended the local lighthouse for several years, but later established a farm at Abercrombie, Pictou County, where they raised a family of seven children. Bill also worked as a superintendent with the Department of Highways. Bill Sinclair passed away at Aberdeen Hospital, New Glasgow on May 30, 1962 and was laid to rest in Abercrombie Cemetery.


2. Willard Creswell Horton was born at Roachvale, Guysborough County on July 31, 1892, the second of Moses Cook and Caroline Oressa “Carrie” (Nickerson) Horton’s eight children and their oldest son. In 1911, Willard departed for Boston, MA, where he enlisted with the United States 76th Division’s 301st Infantry Regiment on September 23, 1917. He served with the 301st in France and was discharged from military service on October 21, 1919.

Willard’s younger brother, Vernon Cecil, enlisted with the 106th Battalion. He was subsequently transferred to the Royal Canadian Regiment in France on March 1, 1917. Wounded near Lens on August 23, 1917 and invalided to England, Vernon never returned to the front. Following his recovery, Vernon completed musketry training. Promoted to the rank of Corporal, he served as a Musketry Instructor in England for the remainder of the war.

Willard remained in the United States following his discharge. In the spring of 1927, he returned to Guysborough County and married Catherine Louise Morgan, a Guysborough native, in a ceremony held on March 30, 1927 at the bride’s home. The couple returned to Boston, where they welcomed a son, Kenneth, in 1929. In his later years, Willard returned to Guysborough County. He passed away in 1973 and was laid to rest in Evergreen Cemetery, Guysborough.


3. Edward Charles Cooke (2605873) was born at Isaac’s Harbour, Guysborough County on October 25, 1898 to Russell and Laurella M. (Langley) Cooke. The third child and third son in a family of 10—seven boys and three girls—Edward’s two older brothers, Byron and Orris, also served during the First World War. Edward attested with the Canadian Army Medical Corps (CAMC) Reinforcements at Halifax on September 27, 1917. At the time of his enlistment, Edward stated that he had previously served with the 82nd Regiment (Abegweit Light Infantry), a Prince Edward Island militia unit.

In February 1918, Edward was diagnosed with pulmonary tuberculosis, the result of a severe cold he developed while stationed at Camp Aldershot. He was immediately admitted to Kentville Sanatorium for treatment. On May 1, a Medical Board recommended that he remain in care for another two months. When Edward refused further treatment, he was transferred to the Casualty Company on May 17 and discharged as medically unfit on June 12, 1918.

Edward relocated to Pictou County, where he obtained employment at the Trenton steel mill. On August 29, 1918, he married Mary Ellen McKenna, a native of Antigonish, in a ceremony held at New Glasgow. The couple welcomed their first child, a daughter Margaret, in 1919. A second son, Edward, was born on October 23, 1922. The family eventually relocated to Halifax, where Edward earned a living in the merchant marine.

While he escaped the perils of First World War service, Edward’s merchant marine service placed him in a precarious situation during the Second World War. During the winter of 1942-43, Edward was working as assistant steward aboard SS Rhexener, a British merchant steamer carrying cocoa from Durban, South Africa to Britain via Freetown, Sierra Leone and Saint John, NB. Shortly after the vessel left Freetown, a German U-boat torpedoed the ship at 6:00 a.m. February 3, 1943.

The entire crew—a total of 70 men—abandoned ship in four lifeboats before the Rhexener sank. Using the stars to navigate, the survivors drifted westward for 1,200 miles. Three weeks later, the lifeboats sighted land and several days later came ashore at Antigua. In a remarkable feat of survival, only three crew members perished during the ordeal. Undaunted by this “near death” experience, Edward returned to sea, a January 31, 1945 Port of New York, NY document stating that he had served as “chief cook” aboard SS Tampico, a vessel that sailed out of Liverpool, NS, for one year.

In his later years, Edward relocated to Vancouver, BC, where his daughter, Margaret, had married and resided. He passed away there on March 4, 1968 at age 69.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Remembering Sergeant Joseph Charles Morgan—Died of Sickness September 19, 1917

Joseph Charles Morgan (222955) was born at Guysborough, Guysborough County on January 5, 1879, the second of Elizabeth Ann (Hadley) and Joseph Christopher Morgan’s four children. Joseph Christopher passed away in 1905, while Elizabeth died three years later. Joseph Charles remained at Guysborough, where he earned a living as a farmer and carpenter during the pre-war years.


Joseph commenced training with the 85th Battalion at Halifax, NS on September 29, 1915. Considerably older than the majority of the unit’s recruits—he was 36 years of age at the time—he formally attested with the unit on November 1. Joseph spent the winter of 1915-16 training with the 85th at Halifax. The January 1916 formation of the Nova Scotia Highland Brigade delayed its overseas departure for several months. Joseph’s promotion to the rank of Sergeant on April 2, 1916 suggests that his superiors were impressed with his character and leadership skills. Two months later, the 85th’s personnel relocating to Camp Aldershot for a summer of drill alongside the Brigade’s three newly formed Brigade units.

Joseph was not aboard SS Olympic as the Highland Brigade departed for England on October 12. At the first of the month, health concerns led to his transfer to No. 6 Military District Depot, Halifax. A formal medical report, completed at Camp Aldershot two days prior to the Brigade’s departure, concluded that Joseph was suffering from “chronic bronchitis” and “phthisis pulmonis [sic - pulmonalis, aka tuberculosis].” The document also stated that Joseph’s health had been “aggravated by service” and as a result he was plagued with several “chronic” conditions. The report recommended admission to a sanatorium and formal discharge as “medically unfit.”

On October 23, Joseph was admitted to military hospital, where he remained in care for one month. Officially discharged from military service on December 23, 1916, he returned to Guysborough, where Dr. G. E. Buckley monitored his health. In an April 18, 1917 report to military authorities, Dr. Buckley confirmed the military’s preliminary diagnosis of pulmonary tuberculosis.

Joseph’s family apparently had a history of the disease, which the physician attributed in Joseph’s case to bronchitis contracted due to “exposure during camp life.” The prognosis was not promising: “He is losing some flesh and, unless [his] temperature subsides, must fail rapidly.” Dr. Buckley recommended “treatment in a Sanatorium under medical supervision,” if Joseph “recovers sufficiently to travel.”

Unfortunately, Joseph’s health continued to decline as the months passed. Sergeant Joseph Charles Morgan passed away at Guysborough on September 19, 1917 and was laid to rest in the local Methodist Cemetery. His younger brother and next of kin, William Henry Morgan, Guysborough, later received a Memorial Plaque and Scroll engraved with his name.

Bantry Publishing's First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume I: 1915 - 1917 contains a detailed summary of Joseph Charles Morgan's military service.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Guysborough County Enlistments—August 1917

Two Guysborough County natives enlisted for service with Canadian Expeditionary Force units during the month of August 1917.


1. Chester Alvin Strople (2075565) was born at North Intervale, Guysborough County on December 28, 1885 [1883 on attestation papers], the son of James Robert and Mary Eliza (Lipsett) Strople. Two of Chester’s brothers—Howard Nightingale and Whitfield Raymond—also enlisted for service during the First World War.

Chester appears to have spent some time in the United States prior to the war, crossing the border from South Dakota to Fort Frances, ON in October 1912. He gave his address as “Camp Leaside,” Toronto and occupation as “farmer” at the time of his attestation with the 5th Regiment, Royal Highlanders of Canada at Montreal QC on August 6, 1917. The Montreal-based militia unit had raised three battalions for overseas service. Two battalions—the 13th and 42nd—were still deployed on the Western Front at the time of Chester’s enlistment with a draft of reinforcements destined for service with one of the RHC’s overseas units. No further details are available on Chester’s military service.

Following his time in uniform, Chester returned to the Montreal area. He was working as a shoemaker at the time of his April 30, 1919 marriage to Elodia Sybil Stanley at Montreal. The couple settled in Mercier, QC following their marriage. No further information is available on Chester’s later life.


2. James Muriel "Jim" Pride (Pryde) (2303817) was born at Sherbrooke, Guysborough County on July 28, 1897, the son of Solomon E. and Jessie (Grant) Pride. Jim enlisted with the Nova Scotia Railway Construction and Forestry Draft at Camp Aldershot, NS on August 8, 1917.

James Muriel "Jim" Pride (right).


Jim’s days in uniform were short-lived. Hospitalized at Halifax on September 11, 1917 for treatment of a perforated eardrum, a thorough medical examination determined that his hearing was significantly impaired. As a result, Jim was discharged as “medically unfit” at Windsor, NS on October 31, 1917.

Following his discharge, Jim relocated to Ontario. He was working as a machinist at the time of his marriage to Jessie Matilda Grant at Toronto, ON on March 2, 1921. Online sources indicate that Jim passed away in 1959. No further details are available on his later life.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Guysborough County's "Hill 70 Boys"

In the aftermath of the Canadian Corps’ April 9, 1917 capture of Vimy Ridge, Canadian units served in sectors near the French city of Lens throughout the spring and early summer of 1917. Meanwhile, British forces prepared for a major Belgian summer offensive known as the Third Battle of Ypres, intended to relieve the pressure of the beleaguered French Army to the south.

General Sir Douglas Haig, British Commander in Chief, desired a diversionary attack in nearby French sectors to occupy German troops there and thus prevent reinforcements being sent to Belgium. He therefore instructed the Canadian Corps to attack and capture the strategic city of Lens. Lieutenant General Sir Arthur Currie, who had been appointed commander of the Canadian Corps in June 1917, studied the area and determined that an attack on an area of high ground to the north of the city of Lens—known as Hill 70—would be of more strategic value than the largely destroyed urban area below.

Currie therefore suggested to General Henry Horne—British First Army Commander and Currie’s immediate superior—that the Canadians capture and reinforce Hill 70, thus forcing the Germans to expend men and resources in efforts to recapture the high ground. Horne agreed and Haig consented to the change of plans.

While Haig’s Belgian offensive commenced on July 31, 1917, poor weather delayed the Hill 70 assault into the following month. At 4:25 a.m. August 15, while the 4th Canadian Division launched a direct diversionary attack on the city of Lens, 1st and Canadian Division units commenced the attack on Hill 70. Ten Canadian battalions advanced along a 4,000-yard front, crashing through the German front line in twenty minutes and seizing their first objective. By 6:00 p.m., the Corps had achieved all of its objectives and personnel set about establishing a new, consolidated line.

In subsequent days, German forces heavily shelled the Canadian line and launched 21 counter-attacks, but were unable to drive the Corps from the high ground. The Canadian success at Hill 70, however, came at considerable cost. Approximately 1,500 soldiers were killed, while another 3,800 were wounded. Three soldiers with connections to Guysborough County were among the Canadian Corps’ Hill 70 fatalities.

*****

Roy Quentin Grencon (Greencorn) (715105) was born at Canso, Guysborough County on May 7, 1899, the second of Mary Jane “Jennie” (Armsworthy) and David Frederick Grencon’s 10 children. Sometime after 1911, the family relocated to Belmont, Colchester County. On December 6, 1915, Roy exaggerated his age by two years when he enlisted with the 106th Battalion at Truro, NS.

Pte. Roy Quentin Grencon
The 106th’s ranks contained a number of men from Guysborough County and communities adjacent to its borders. James Alexander Cameron (716118) was one such recruit. Born at East River St. Mary’s, Pictou County on January 19, 1897, James was the oldest of Christina (Fraser) and Angus G. Cameron’s three children. On February 14, 1916, he enlisted with the 106th Battalion (Nova Scotia Rifles) at Antigonish.

Lance Corporal James Alexander Cameron
James, Roy and their comrades departed Halifax aboard SS Empress of Britain on July 15 and landed in England 10 days later. Within two months of its overseas arrival, the 106th was disbanded and its personnel dispersed to other units. Roy and James were part of a draft of 106th soldiers transferred to the 26th Battalion on September 27. The following day, the group crossed the English Channel to France and arrived in the 26th’s camp in mid-October 1916.

The 26th Battalion (New Brunswick) was part of the 2nd Canadian Division’s 5th Brigade, where it served alongside the 22nd (Quebec’s “Van Doos”), 24th (Victoria Rifles of Canada, Montreal) and 25th (Nova Scotia) Battalions. Roy and James joined the 26th’s ranks following its costly service at the Somme, its personnel reduced to less than 300 “all ranks.” Throughout the autumn of 1916, the battalion rebuilt its ranks. Shortly after Roy and James’s arrival, the unit relocated northward, where it served in sectors near Lens, France throughout the winter of 1916-17.

On April 9, 1917, James and Roy were in the line as the 26th participated in the Canadian Corps’ historic attack on Vimy Ridge. The unit was part of the attack’s first phase, capturing its assigned sector of Zwischen Stellung—a German defensive support position—in less than an hour and suffering only “slight” casualties during the advance. The 26th served on rotation in sectors near Vimy Ridge until early June, when personnel retired to Estrée Cauchie for a period of training.

On July 1, as the 26th prepared to return to the line, James was promoted to the rank of Lance Corporal. The 26th served in sectors near Lens for three weeks, retiring before month’s end to Bois de Bouvingy for several weeks training. Personnel focused on preparing for the Canadian Corps’ second major engagement of the year—the attack on Hill 70, north of Lens.

On the night of August 14/15, the 26th returned to the line and completed final preparations for the following morning’s attack. While not part of the initial attacking wave, James, Roy and their comrades “pushed off” at 4:25 a.m. April 15, advancing behind the 22nd and 25th Battalions to a Second Assembly area “with very few casualties.”

As the soldiers went “over the top” toward their objective—a German defensive position known as “Norman Trench”—“a great deal of Machine Gun and Rifle Fire was met with and most of [the day’s] casualties took place just after leaving” the Second Assembly Area. The battalion nevertheless secured its objective and set about consolidating its position. During the day, the 26th repelled three German counter-attacks, its soldiers remaining in the line until relieved on the night of August 16/17.

Lance Corporal James Cameron and Private Roy Grencon were among the 26th’s casualties during the first day’s advance toward Norman Trench. Their remains were never recovered from the battlefield. Roy’s and James’ names are engraved on the Canadian War Memorial at Vimy Ridge, two of 11,285 Canadian soldiers killed on the battlefields of northern France and who have no known final resting place. Lance Corporal James Alexander Cameron was 20 years, six months of age at the time of his passing, while Private Roy Quentin Grencon was only three months past his eighteenth birthday.

*****

Harrington John “Hal” Barss (624382) was born at Canso, Guysborough County on February 10, 1888, the second of Sadie (Morris) and John Barss’ three sons. Sadie passed away on November 13, 1891 at age 36, leaving John to care for their young children. Hal’s grandmother moved into the home to assist, while John made a living in the local fishery.
Private Harrington John "Hal" Barss.
In 1906, John relocated to Irma, AB, where his oldest son, Fred, had established a homestead. Two years later, John obtained quarter section and took up farming. Hal and his younger brother, Layton, also obtained pieces of land nearby and established farms as the Barss family settled into a new way of life.

Following the outbreak of the First World War, Canadian officials authorized the formation of the 151st (Central Alberta) Battalion, which recruited its ranks from the Strathcona, Battle River and Red Deer areas. On January 11, 1916, 28-year-old Hal Barss enlisted with the 151st at Wainwright, AB. After several months’ training at Camp Sarcee, near Calgary, the battalion made its way across the country by train and departed for England aboard SS California on October 3.

The unit arrived at Liverpool, England 10 days later but was disbanded within weeks of its arrival. Hal was initially transferred to the 9th Reserve Battalion, St. Martin’s Plain, Shorncliffe, but was quickly re-assigned to the 16th Battalion and proceeded across the English Channel to France on November 13, 1916.

One of the first Canadian units organized for overseas service, the 16th Battalion (Canadian Scottish) initially consisted of volunteers from four Canadian Highland militia units. At the time of Hal’s arrival in early December 1916, the 16th was an experienced battalion, having served in Belgium’s Ypres Salient for 16 months and fought at the Somme during the autumn of 1916.

Hal served with the 16th in trenches near Lens, France throughout the winter and spring of 1916-17 and participated in the Canadian Corps’ historic April 7, 1917 attack on Vimy Ridge. Two weeks after the famous battle, Hal provided a detailed description of his Vimy experiences in a letter written to “Irene,” a female acquaintance (see below).

The unit served in sectors near Vimy Ridge throughout the spring and early summer months. Following a week-long break, Hal and his mates returned to trenches near Loos on August 13 as the Canadian Corps prepared for its assault of Hill 70, north of Lens, France. At 2:30 a.m. August 15, the unit’s personnel assumed their assigned positions and awaited the opening barrage. Two hours later, the battalion “leaped out of the trenches led by its pipers” and advanced behind the supporting barrage.

Personnel encountered “little or no resistance” as they captured their objective and set about consolidating their position. The remainder of the day passed quietly, as German artillery fire fell on trench positions well behind the 16th’s location. The following day, however, the guns readjusted their range and heavy shelled the unit’s line throughout the day, causing considerable casualties.

In the early morning hours of August 17, the 16th withdrew from the line and took toll of its Hill 70 losses. Two Officers and 35 “other ranks” (OR) were killed, 201 OR wounded and nine OR missing after two days in the line. Private Harrington John Barss was one of the nine “missing” OR, most likely a victim of the August 16, 1917 artillery fire. He never returned to his unit and his remains were never recovered from the battlefield.

Hal’s name is inscribed on the Canadian War Memorial, Vimy Ridge, erected in memory of the 11,285 Canadian soldiers killed on the battlefields of northern France and who have no known final resting place. A detailed version of Hal’s story, including his descriptive letter recalling his Vimy experiences, is available here.

Bantry Publishing's First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume I: 1915 - 1917 contains a detailed summary of Roy's, James's and Hal's family background and military service, along with 69 other profiles of soldiers with connections to Guysborough County who died of causes related to their service during the first three years of the war.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Remembering Private Truman Bishop Davidson—Died of Sickness August 1, 1917

Truman Bishop Davidson was born on August 2, 1885 at Isaac’s Harbour, Guysborough County, the oldest of Marcella M. “Mercy” (Langley) and Robert G. Davidson’s five children. Sometime after 1901, the family relocated to Stellarton, Pictou County, where Truman worked as a machinist in the local Intercolonial Railroad yard. Truman also became a member of the renowned Stellarton Band, a brass ensemble with deep roots in the community. In 1905, the band officially affiliated with the 78th Pictou Highlanders, a local militia unit, and was referred to as the “78th Band” during the pre-war years.

Pte. Truman Bishop Davidson
On February 19, 1908, Truman married Charlotte “Lottie” Baxter, a Stellarton native, and the couple established a home on River Street. Three children soon joined the family—Baxter Grier (1908), Truman Bishop (1910) and Isabel Josephine (1914). While family responsibilities hindered Truman’s ability to enlist, the Stellarton Band’s decision to affiliate with the 85th Battalion (Nova Scotia Highlanders) resulted in all but two of its members joining the unit.

Truman was one of 24 band members who attested for overseas service with the 85th Battalion at Westville, NS on September 29, 1915. While their ages varied, the vast majority were older than the unit’s recruits, many of them—like Truman—married with children. Following their enlistment, band members relocated to Halifax, where they played a prominent part in the unit’s recruitment campaign and played at numerous functions in the city.

The formation of the Nova Scotia Highland Brigade in January 1916 delayed the 85th’s overseas departure, as military recruiters recruited and trained three new infantry units. The band participated in a recruitment tour of mainland communities during the spring of the year and accompanied the unit to Camp Aldershot for a summer of drill and training. On October 12, the band was on board as the four battalions sailed out of Halifax harbour aboard SS Olympic and arrived at Liverpool, England six days later.

Throughout the winter of 1916-17, the band played concerts for the thousands of soldiers camped in southern England while awaiting orders to proceed to the continent. Before year’s end, military authorities dissolved two of the Brigade’s four units, but the 85th—the Brigade’s senior unit—remained intact and crossed the English Channel to France on February 10, 1917.

At the time, conventional military policy dictated that bands were not part of a unit’s regular personnel and therefore remained in England. However, the 85th’s attachment to its band was particularly strong and therefore assigned its members to stretcher-bearers with its four Companies, allowing them to make the crossing with their mates. A resourceful Quartermaster also managed to conceal their instruments among the unit’s equipment. Upon disembarking at Le Havre, the band members unpacked their instruments and led the way as the 85th’s soldiers proudly marched to nearby St. Martin’s Camp.

While the presence of Truman and his bandmates in France did not pose a problem—they were considered regular enlisted men, having been assigned to a Company for duty—their role with the unit as a band was another matter. According to Lt. Col. Joseph Hayes, the unit’s Medical Officer, until military authorities consented to the continuation of their traditional role, they were “treated as ordinary fighting soldiers and played their part as such.”

In mid-March, band director Lt. Dan Mooney and 41 OR [“other ranks”] left as [a] working party for 3rd Canadian Divisional Artillery” and were “under heavy shell fire day and night for ten days.” Before month’s end, the matter was resolved to the satisfaction of all parties and the band assumed its regular tasks, providing entertainment for the men when they were not in the line and entertaining various units encamped nearby.

On the night of April 7/8, the 85th entered the line with the 4th Division’s 11th Brigade prior to the Canadian Corps’ attack on Vimy Ridge. While temporarily attached to the Brigade as a “working unit,” two of its Companies entered the line on the evening of April 9 and captured the western slopes of Hill 145. Meanwhile, the band’s personnel remained in camp. When the tired but victorious soldiers returned to billets at Bouvigny Huts in the early morning hours of April 14, band personnel had made their bunks, lit fires and prepared hot rations for their comrades.

Following the Canadian Corps’ capture of Vimy Ridge, the 85th was permanently attached to the 4th Division’s 12th Brigade and commenced regular rotations in the line. The band continued to perform its role, as described by Lt. Col. Hayes:

“Coming out of the line or back from a ‘Show’ [battle, the battalion] was regularly met by them. During the time ‘out,’ the days were replete with Band Concerts—if the billets were scattered, they took turns with the different companies. When the Battalion went ‘in,’ the Bands [brass and pipe and drum] accompanied it as far as regulations permitted, and everyone seemed to step a little smarter, and to hold their head a little higher, as the Bands swung into the old familiar Regimental, on parting.”

The brass band also became a 4th Division fixture, entertaining each Brigade’s units during their breaks from front line duty.

Meanwhile, throughout the spring and early summer, the 85th’s soldiers served regular rotations in sectors near Lens, marching out to billets at Suburban Camp, near Villers au Bois, in early July. After three weeks of rest, training and recreation, personnel returned to line in the early morning hours of July 26. Later that same day, Private Truman Bishop Davidson was admitted to a field ambulance station in respiratory distress and immediately evacuated to No. 5 Canadian General Hospital, Rouen with bronchial pneumonia. Despite medical staff’s efforts, Truman’s condition worsened and he passed away on August 1, 1917. The father of three was laid to rest in St. Sever Cemetery Extension, Rouen, France.


A detailed summary of Truman’s family background and military service is one of 72 detailed profiles contained in Bantry Publishing’s First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume I: 1915 - 17.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Guysborough County Enlistments—July 1917

Four Guysborough County natives enlisted for service with Canadian Expeditionary Force units during the month of July 1917:

1. Whitfield Raymond Strople (1031140) was born at North Intervale, Guysborough County on September 20, 1894, the eighth of James Robert and Mary Eliza (Lipsett) Strople’s 11 children and the sixth of the couple’s seven sons. In March 1915, Whitfield departed for the United States, where he joined his oldest brother, Ralph, who was living at Cambridge, MA.

When the United States entered the war in early April 1917 and implemented a military draft shortly afterward, Whitfield completed his draft registration card at Cambridge but decided to serve with the Canadian Expeditionary Force. Returning to Canada, he attested with the 236th Battalion (New Brunswick Kilties) at Fredericton, NB on July 2, 1917. No further information is presently available on his military service.

Two of Whitfield’s older brothers also enlisted during the First World War. Howard Nightingale Strople (DOB July 4, 1887) attested with the 5th Regiment, Royal Highlanders of Canada at Montreal, QC on June 14, 1917, while his older brother, Chester Alvin (DOB December 28, 1883), joined the same unit on August 6, 1917. The Royal Highlanders of Canada recruited three infantry battalions for service on the Western Front—the 13th, 42nd and 73rd Battalions.

Following the war, Whitfield returned to the Boston area, where he worked as a “servant” in the household of Herbert Nelson, Sharon, MA. Available documents suggest that he spent some time in Seattle, WA in 1923. Whitfield passed away at Montreal, QC on May 4, 1929. Online genealogical sources claim that he died “from the effects of poison gas,” but provide no documentary evidence to support the assertion. Commonwealth War Graves Commission files contain no record of his death, indicating that his passing was never officially connected to his military service.


2. Hugh Everett Bingley (2303811) was born on May 6, 1886 at Fisherman’s Harbour, Guysborough County. Hugh was the sixth child in a family of nine and the fifth of Nicholas and Mary Ann (Potter) Bingley’s six sons. On July 3, 1917, Hugh enlisted with the New Brunswick Forestry Draft at Inverness, NS. His time in uniform was brief. He was discharged as “medically unfit” at Camp Aldershot, NS on August 8, when a thorough medical examination discovered that Hugh had severely defective vision in his right eye. He eventually settled at Halifax, and appears to have remained single throughout his life. Hugh Everett Bingley passed away at Camp Hill Hospital on January 4, 1970.


3. Nathaniel “Neil” Morrison (2330457) was born at Melford, Guysborough County on October 20, 1879, the fifth of Roderick and Euphemia (McIsaac) Morrison’s six children and the third of their four sons. An experienced lumberman, Neil enlisted with the Nova Scotia Forestry Draft at Camp Aldershot, NS on July 16, 1917. He departed Halifax aboard SS Canada on November 6. Upon landing at Liverpool, England two weeks later, Neil reported to the Canadian Forestry Corps (CFC) Headquarters at Sunningdale.

On February 28, 1918, Neil was assigned to No. 139 Company, CFC and shortly afterward departed for No. 52 District operations near Jedburgh, Scotland with his new unit. Recognizing Neil’s expertise and leadership skills, authorities promoted him to the rank of Acting Sergeant the day after his transfer. In March 1918, No. 139 Company established operations in forests near Jedburgh, where its personnel harvested and milled timber throughout the spring and summer months.

On the morning of Thursday, October 10, Neil was overseeing operations at No. 139 Company’s harvesting site. A strong wind was blowing as he stood beside a load of logs being readied for transport to the mill. Without warning, a tree about 75 feet away teetered and fell, striking Neil and one of the horses hitched to the load. Neil was immediately rendered unconscious, but had recovered somewhat by the time the unit’s Medical Sergeant arrived on the scene.

Neil was immediately transported to a nearby doctor’s residence and subsequently taken to a local hospital. He died later that evening, the blow from the tree having fractured his spine in two places. A subsequent investigation determined that the tree had fallen as the result of the windy conditions and had not been touched by CFC personnel. Sergeant Neil Morrison was laid to rest in Castlewood Cemetery, Jedburgh, Scotland.


4. John William Ryan (67300) was born at Mulgrave, Guysborough County on October 14, 1885. The second of five children child and second of three sons in the family of John and Isabel (McKeough) Ryan, John attested for service with the Canadian Army Medical Corps at Halifax on July 24, 1917.

It was John’s second attestation of the war. On November 15, 1914, he joined the 25th Battalion at Halifax and logged 13 months’ service with the unit. Discharged as medically unfit on April 30, 1917—the result of gunshot and shrapnel wounds to his left shoulder and hand—John spent less than three months out of uniform before re-enlisting.

No further details are currently available on John’s military service, but it appears that he may not have remained in uniform for the war’s duration. On February 4, 1918, John married Johanna “Hannah” Boutilier, a native of Glace Bay, at Halifax. At the time, he was working as an “oiler” aboard SS Scotia, the ferry that carried automobiles and train cars between Mulgrave and Point Tupper. John and Hannah took up residence in Mulgrave, where John continued to work aboard the ferry. He died of coronary heart disease at Mulgrave on January 18, 1935.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Remembering Private Joseph Manson "Joe" McIsaac—KIA July 21, 1917

Joseph Manson “Joe” McIsaac was born at Fox Island, Guysborough County on August 28, 1899. His mother, Sarah “Sadie,” was the daughter of Daniel “The Piper” and Jane (Watkins) McIsaac, Canso. Joe was raised in his grandparents’ home, his grandfather Daniel passing away shortly after his birth.

Pte. Joseph Manson "Joe" McIsaac
When military recruiters visited the area in the spring of 1916, Joe enlisted with the 193rd Battalion at Canso on April 1, 1916. Not yet 17 years old the time, he misreported his birthdate by two years in order to qualify for service. Joe spent the summer of 1916 training with the 193rd and its Highland Brigade mates—the 85th (Nova Scotia Highlanders), 185th (Cape Breton Highlanders) and 219th (Halifax and southwestern Nova Scotia) Battalions. On October 12, all four units departed Halifax aboard SS Olympic and arrival at Liverpool, England one week later.

Before year’s end, military authorities dissolved two of the Brigade’s four units—the 193rd and 219th Battalions—and redistributed their personnel to other units. On December 29, Joe was transferred to the 185h Battalion (Cape Breton Highlanders) and remained at Witley Camp for the duration of the winter. On May 27, 1917, he was transferred to the 25th Battalion and crossed the English Channel to France, joining his new unit in the forward area on June 15.

The first of two volunteer units recruited across the province of Nova Scotia, the 25th Battalion (Nova Scotia Rifles) departed Halifax on May 20, 1915 and four months later landed on the continent as part of the 2nd Canadian Division’s 5th Brigade. For almost one year, its soldiers served in Belgium’s Ypres Salient alongside their Brigade mates—the 22nd (Quebec’s “Van Doos”), 24th (Victoria Rifles of Canada, Montreal) and 26th (New Brunswick) Battalions.

Following several weeks’ service at the Somme, France during September 1916, the 25th relocated northward to sectors near Lens, France for the winter of 1916-17. The unit participated in the Canadian Corps’ historic April 9, 1917 attack on Vimy Ridge and was enjoying a break from the line at the Canadian Corps Rest Area near Gouy-Servins, France when Joe and 146 “other ranks” (OR) reinforcements joined its ranks in mid-June.

The 25th spent the remainder of the month training, its personnel returning to trenches near Cité Beaumont, France on the night of July 2/3. German artillery subjected its sector to “heavy shelling,” while its soldiers worked to consolidate the front line. The 25th’s war diary reported a total of 44 OR casualties during a four-day tour. There was little respite when the battalion retired to support positions, which were also within German artillery range.

On July 10, the 25th withdrew to the safety of Brigade Reserve after a “hard tour in the line.” Following several days’ rest and drill, personnel returned to the Laurent Sector’s trenches on the night of July 16/17. German artillery once again subjected its soldiers to heavy artillery fire throughout a two-day tour. Following relief, the battalion retired to support positions at Maroc on the night of July 18/19, its personnel providing nightly work parties for trench repair for several days.

The 25th’s war diary notes for July 21, 1917 described what appeared to be a routine day in the forward area: “Battalion in support at Maroc. Work Parties supplied, 16 Officers and 515 OR.” The entry makes no mention of casualties. Private Joe McIsaac’s service file, however, states that he was “killed in action at Maroc” that same day, likely a victim of German artillery fire.

Five weeks shy of his eighteenth birthday at the time of his death, Private Joseph Manson McIsaac’s remains were never recovered from the battlefield. His name is inscribed on the Canadian War Monument at VImy Ridge, France, one of 11,285 Canadian soldiers who died on the battlefields of northern France and whose final resting place is unknown.

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

Monday, 10 July 2017

Remembering Private Courtney Alban Hull—KIA July 10, 1917

Courtney Alban Hull was born at New Glasgow, Pictou County on October 6, 1897, the eldest of Joseph and Alice (Moser) Hull’s five children. Joseph was a native of Country Harbour, Guysborough County, the community in which Courtney spent his formative years. Sometime after 1901, the family relocated to Linacy, Pictou County, where Courtney later worked as a “chainman” with a local surveyor.

Pte. Courtney Alban Hull
On January 10, 1916, Courtney enlisted with the 106th Battalion at Pictou, NS. He departed from Halifax aboard SS Empress of Britain on July 15 and arrived at Liverpool, England 10 days later. Following the 106th’s dissolution, Courtney was transferred to the 26th Battalion (New Brunswick), along with 250 of his former 106th colleagues. The group crossed the English Channel to France the following day and joined the 26th in the field during the second week of October.

During the previous month, the 26th had suffered significant casualties in fighting at the Somme, after which it relocated northward to sectors near Lens, where it gradually rebuilt its ranks. The battalion served in the Lens area throughout the winter of 1916-17. As winter gave way to spring, the unit prepared for its role in the Canadian Corps’ historic attack on Vimy Ridge, France.

On the morning of April 9, 1917, the 26th was one of two 5th Brigade battalions participating in the initial stage of the operation in its sector—an attack on the German front line and a supporting defensive position called “Zwischen Stellung.” Within half an hour, the Brigade achieved its objectives, at which point the 25th Battalion (Nova Scotia)—another 5th Brigade unit—passed through its lines and onto the final objective.

While the 26th’s war diary reported “light” casualties, Courtney was wounded at some point during the day’s fighting and evacuated to a nearby field ambulance. He was admitted to No. 11 General Hospital, Boulogne on April 11, suffering from “multiple gunshot wounds.” A closer examination revealed “multiple contusions,” none of which proved serious. He spent the remainder of the month recovering and was discharged to No. 1 Convalescent Depot on May 6. Five days later, he was deemed “fit for duty” and returned to the Canadian Base Depot at Le Havre.

Courtney rejoined the 26th at Estrée Cauchie on June 7 as its personnel trained during a break from duty in the forward area. On July 2, the battalion entered Brigade Reserve near Angres and subsequently moved into the front trenches on the night of July 6/7. Personnel found the location “only in fair condition…. Companies are not linked up and parts of the line are not fit for occupation.”

In subsequent days, Allied guns conducted “harassing fire” on enemy defences, while German forces responded with artillery and mortar fire. Throughout the exchanges, personnel focused on “deepening and joining up” the intermittent front line defences. The battalion’s July 10 entry described a routine day during which artillery was active and “work was carried out improving the trenches.” The unit was relived later that night and retired to Divisional Reserve at Fosse.

While the entry makes no reference to casualties, Private Courtney Alban Hull was killed sometime during the day in what his “Circumstances of Casualty” form describes as “an attack near Lens.” He was laid to rest in Bully Grenay Communal Cemetery Extension, three and a half miles southeast of Noeux-les-Mines, France. At the time of his death, Courtney was three months shy of his twentieth birthday.

Pte. Courtney Alban Hull's headstone, Bully Grenay Communal Cemetery

Bantry Publishing”s “First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume I: 1915 - 1917” contains a detailed summary of Courtney’s family background and military service, along with profiles of 71 other Guysborough personnel who died in uniform during the first three years of Canada’s overseas service.

Friday, 7 July 2017

Remembering Private Ralph Leslie Stoutley—KIA July 6/7, 1917

Ralph Leslie Stoutley was born at Guysborough, Guysborough County on March 10, 1894, the fourth of nine children and second son in the family of James Edward Albert “Ned” and Rachel A. (Bacchus) Stoutley. Shortly after Ralph’s birth, the family relocated to Truro, where Ralph spent his childhood.

On June 14, 1916, Ralph enlisted for service with the 106th Battalion (Nova Scotia Rifles). Headquartered at Truro, the infantry battalion was one of a handful of CEF units that accepted African Canadians into its ranks, initially hoping to recruit an entire platoon. In the end, approximately 16 to 20 men of African descent joined the battalion.

One month after Ralph’s enlistment, the 106th departed Halifax aboard SS Empress of Britain and landed at Liverpool, England after 10 days at sea. When the unit was dissolved shortly after its overseas arrival, Ralph was part of a draft of 251 soldiers transferred from the 106th to the 26th (New Brunswick) Battalion on September 27. The group crossed the English Channel to France three days later and reported to the 26th’s camp during the second week of October.

Throughout the autumn and winter of 1916-17, Ralph served a regular rotation with the 26th in sectors near Lens, France. With the arrival of spring, the unit prepared for its role in the Canadian Corps’ attack on Vimy Ridge. At 5:20 a.m. April 9, 1917, the 26th and 24th Battalions (Victoria Rifles of Canada)—one of its Brigade mates—spearheaded the 5th Brigade’s attack on the German front line north of the village of Thélus, securing Zwischen Stellung within 30 minutes. The 25th Battalion (Nova Scotia)—a second Brigade mate—subsequently passed through its line and continued to advance up the ridge.

The 26th remained in trenches along the ridge for three days, its personnel assisting with construction of a new “Main Line of Resistance.” On the night of April 12/13, the battalion received instructions to advance almost 3,000 yards into an area of No Man’s Land east of a nearby railway line. At 6:00 a.m. April 13, its soldiers moved forward and established “New Brunswick Trench,” the “farthest advanced trench in the Canadian Corps area” at the time.

Throughout the remainder of the spring, the 26th served in sectors near Vimy. During an early May tour in the line, an artillery shell struck the area where Ralph was located. He was “buried by [the] shell burst, [and remained] unconscious until reaching [an] aid post.” Evacuated to No. 4 Canadian Field Ambulance for treatment, Ralph was subsequently transferred to No. 22 Casualty Clearing Station, where he was diagnosed with “shell shock.”

On May 4, Ralph was admitted to No. a Stationary Hospital, Arques, where he remainded under medical care for the duration of the month. Discharged on June 1, Ralph rejoined the 26th at Estree Cauchie two days later, as personnel trained during a break from trench duty. On July 2, the battalion entered Brigade Reserve at Angres and resumed its tours in the line.

On the night of July 6/7, the 26th relieved the 22nd Battalion in front trenches near Lens. While all personnel were in place by 2:00 a.m. July 7, the unit’s war diary reported “great” German artillery activity “shelling roads in [the] vicinity of Angres and Liévin” during the process. Sometime during the bombardment, Private Ralph Leslie Stoutley was “killed in action by [an] enemy shell.” He was laid to rest in Bully-Grenay Communal Cemetery, British Extension, Pas de Calais, France.

Pte. Ralph Leslie Stoutley's headstone, Bully-Grenay Communal Cemetery

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

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Remembering Private Leo Harold Dort—Died of Wounds July 4, 1917

Leo Harold Dort was born at Cole Harbour, Guysborough County on June 11, 1896, the second oldest of David H. and Lilla (O’Leary) Dort’s 11 children and their second son. Leo enlisted with the 193rd Battalion at Canso on April 1, 1916. Following a summer of training at Camp Aldershot, NS, he departed Halifax with the 193rd and its three Highland Brigade compatriots—the 85th (Nova Scotia Highlanders), 185th (Cape Breton Highlanders) and 219th Battalions—on October 12, 1916.

Private Leo Harold Dort

When military authorities decided to dissolve the 193rd and 219th Battalions, Leo became part of a draft of Highland Brigade soldiers transferred to the 42nd Battalion (Royal Highlanders of Canada) on December 5. He crossed the English Channel to France the following day and arrived in the 42nd’s camp at Neuville-Saint-Vaast on January 2, 1917.

Within one week, the new arrivals entered the trenches for their first tour and served with the 42nd in sectors near Arras for the remainder of the winter. As spring approached, the battalion began preparations for its role in the Canadian Corps’ attack on Vimy Ridge. On the morning of April 9, a total of 772 “all ranks” participated in the early morning assault, advancing “in drizzling rain changing to sleet” toward their objective.

While the 42nd made steady progress up the ridge, the 102nd Battalion on its left flank faced formidable resistance from German forces atop Hill 145 and failed to keep pace. Throughout much of the day, the 42nd’s left flank was thus exposed to “sniping and rifle fire,” causing numerous casualties. The 42nd nevertheless captured and held its objectives, although it suffered more than 300 casualties during three days of fighting at Vimy.

Throughout the remainder of the spring and early summer, the 42nd served a regular rotation in sectors near the newly captured ridge. On the night of July 2/3, personnel endured “very active” artillery fire during the relief process as they “occupied part of the village of Avion.” Shelling continued throughout the week-long tour, one “shoot” demolishing “all of the houses occupied by ‘C’ Company, including advanced Company Headquarters.”

A total of 15 “other ranks” (OR) were killed or died of wounds during the tour, while one Officer and 44 “other ranks” (OR) were wounded. Private Leo Harold Dort was one of the tour’s early fatalities. Evacuated to No. 6 Casualty Clearing Station on July 4, medical records indicate that he had been “dangerously wounded.” Before day’s end, Leo succumbed to his injuries and he was laid to rest in Barlin Communal Cemetery Extension, France.

Pte. Leo Harold Dort's headston, Barlin Communal Cemetery.

Bantry Publishing’s “First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume I: 1915 - 1917” contains a detailed description of Leo’s family background and military service, along with profiles of 71 other Guysborough County military personnel who died in service during the war’s first three years. 

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Remembering Private Martin Smith—Died of Sickness July 2, 1917

Martin Smith was born at St. Francis Harbour, Guysborough County on November 9, 1894, the youngest of Thomas and Mary (MacNeil) Smith’s five children. Thomas passed away sometime prior to 1901, and Martin was taken in by Rev. A. G. McAuley, Parish Priest of St. Ann’s Roman Catholic Church, Guysborough. He later accompanied Rev. McAuley to Victoria Mines, Cape Breton.

Morton Cemetery Plaque, Keileigh, England.
On June 16, 1915, Martin attested with the 40th Battalion at Camp Aldershot, NS and spent the summer training at Camp Valcartier, QC. The unit returned to Halifax by train in early autumn and departed for overseas aboard SS Saxonia on October 18. Upon landing at Plymouth, England 10 days later, the 40th travelled to Bramshott, where it spent the winter of 1915-16 training as part of the 3rd Canadian Division’s 9th Brigade.

Martin’s service with the 40th came to an end on February 24, 1916, when he was transferred to the 11th Brigade Machine Gun Section and reported to its camp at East Sandling. Following a month of training, he was assigned to the 8th Canadian Infantry Brigade Machine Gun Company (CMGC) on March 30. Two days later, he crossed the English Channel with his new unit and deployed in the Ypres Salient with its personnel during the last week of April.

Martin’s time in the line with 8th CMGC was brief. On May 4, he was “attached for duty” to the 2nd Battalion Canadian Mounted Rifles (CMR), the unit with which he served for the remainder of his time in the forward area. A former mounted infantry unit that was transformed into a regular infantry battalion in January 1916, 2nd CMR served regular rotations in the line throughout the spring of 1916.

On June 1, its soldiers hastily returned to the front trenches in response to a German attack on Hill 60, east of Ypres. Personnel immediately found themselves in the midst of a full-fledged battle, supported by a massive German artillery barrage. As some point during the day, Martin “injured [the] left side of [his] chest and [his] left hip” when he was “buried” in a shower of mud from an exploding artillery shell. While neither injury was serious enough to require evacuation for treatment, many of Martin’s comrades were not as fortunate. The unit reported one Officer and 40 “other ranks” (OR) killed, while 10 Officers and 180 OR were wounded and 23 OR missing after three days of combat at Hill 60.

Following its withdrawal from the line on June 4, 2nd CMR retired to Divisional Rest Camp at Godewaersvelde, France—adjacent to the Belgian border—where its remaining soldiers rested and trained for six weeks as the unit rebuilt its strength. Martin remained with the unit through the summer months and was formally transferred to its ranks in mid-August. Early the following month, he followed 2nd CMR southward to the Somme region of France, where the unit participated in a series of attacks on Regina Trench—a fortified German position located along Thiepval Ridge—during the final days of September.

Martin and his comrades completed a second tour near Regina Trench in mid-October, after which the unit moved northward to a “very quiet” sector of the line. 2nd CMR served in sectors near Arras throughout the winter of 1916-17. As spring approached, its personnel prepared for their role in the impending Canadian Corps attack on Vimy Ridge.

Martin was not destined to participate in the historic battle. On March 11, he was admitted to No. 9 Canadian Field Ambulance, where he was diagnosed with “pleural effusion from bronchitis.” Transferred to No. 23 Casualty Clearing Station three days later, medical personnel described his illness as “lobar pneumonia.” While initially placed on the “seriously ill” list, Martin’s condition improved by month’s end. As a result, medical personnel transferred Martin to No.. 11 General Hospital, Dannes, Camiers, where he received treatment for pleurisy.

When it became apparent that Martin required long-term care, he was invalided to England on April 20 and admitted to Keighley War Hospital, Keighley, England. Within days, Martin’s condition worsened. By May 11, laboratory tests indicated the presence of “large numbers of tubercular bacilli” in his sputum. While he received treatment “in open air” and “special nourishment,” his health continued to deteriorate. Private Martin Smith passed away from pulmonary tuberculosis on July 2, 1917 and was laid to rest in Morton Cemetery, Keighley, England.

Memorial, Morton Cemetery, Keileigh, England.
Bantry Publishing’s “First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume I: 1915 - 1917” contains a detailed description of Martin’s family background and military service, along with profiles of 71 other Guysborough County military personnel who died in service during the war’s first three years.

Friday, 30 June 2017

Guysborough County Enlistments—June 1917

Seven individuals with connections to Guysborough County enlisted for military service during the month of June 1917.

1. Harry Edward Hart was born at Middle Manchester, Guysborough County on October 21, 1887, the second son and third child of Walter Havelock and Emma Louise (Morris) Hart. Harry’s older brother, Levi “Lee,” immigrated to the United States in 1904 and Harry followed him there several years later. In 1910, the brothers were residing in a Boston, MA boarding house, Lee employed as a teamster on an ice wagon, with Harry as his “helper.”

Harry appears to have returned to Nova Scotia shortly afterward, as he was living at Manchester at the time of the 1911 Canadian census. However, he subsequently returned to Springfield, MA, where he worked as an “elevator constructor” and married Odessa R. Peart on November 16, 1916. Harry’s parents also relocated to Springfield, MA and appear to have been living with him at the time of his military enlistment.

On June 5, 1917, Harry was drafted into the United States Army. No further details are available on his military service or life immediately after the war. Sometime in his later years, Harry returned to the Boylston area with his wife Odessa. Harry passed away on December 2, 1968 and was laid to rest in Boylston United Church Cemetery. Odessa lived in the Boylston area until her passing in 1990 at age 98.

Harry Hart's headstone, Boylston United Church Cemetery.
2. Rufus Eugene Hines (1258229) was born on September 17, 1893 to Benjamin and Elizabeth “Bessie” (Giffin) Hines, Isaac’s Harbour, Guysborough County. Rufus was working as a machinist in Pictou County when he enlisted with No. 10 Siege Battery at New Glasgow, NS on June 6, 1917. He departed Halifax aboard SS Megantic on September 15 and landed at Liverpool, England 10 days later.

On November 17, Rufus was assigned to the Reserve Brigade, Canadian Field Artillery. He crossed the English Channel to the Canadian Garrison Artillery’s Reserve Depot in France on January 23, 1918. Four days later, Rufus proceeded to the Canadian Corps Reinforcement Centre.

Rufus was assigned to the 2nd Brigade, Canadian Garrison Artillery on May 21, 1918 and served in the forward area with the unit for the remainder of the war. He returned to England on March 31, 1919 and departed for Canada aboard HMT Mauritania on May 3, 1919. Rufus was formally discharged from military service at Halifax on May 14, 1919.

Following his discharge, Rufus worked as a machinist at Sydney, NS, where his mother had resided throughout his military service. On March 14, 1922, he married Mabel Frances MacMillan in a ceremony held at Sydney. Shortly afterward, the newlyweds departed for the United States, where they established residence in Chicago, Illinois. Rufus became an American citizen in 1931, by which time he and Mabel had a family of four children—sons Edward and Gordon, and daughters Ruth and Jean. Rufus passed away at Chicago, Illinois on April 12, 1957.


3. George Wesley Fanning (1258239) was born on August 11, 1896 to Isaac Henry and Emma (MacMillan) Fanning, Isaac’s Harbour, Guysborough County. George was working as a clerk in New Glasgow, NS when he enlisted with No. 10 Siege Battery at Halifax, NS on June 11, 1917. He departed Halifax aboard SS Megantic on September 15 and arrived at Liverpool, England after a 10-day voyage.

On November 17, George was transferred to the Reserve Brigade, Canadian Field Artillery. He remained in England throughout the winter and spring of 1917-18, finally receiving a transfer to the Reserve Battalion, Canadian Garrison Artillery on May 6, 1918. Exactly one month later, he proceeded to France. On July 14, George was assigned to the 6th Siege Battery, 2nd Canadian Garrison Artillery, where he served as a “signaller.”

On November 10, George was admitted to No. 22 General Hospital, Camiers with influenza and spent several months under medical care. “Invalided sick” to England on February 28, 1919, he was discharged two weeks later and departed for Canada aboard SS Orduna on May 15, 1919. One  week later, George was formally discharged from military service at Halifax.

Sometime after the war, George married Lillian Vaneta Silver, a native of Goldboro, Guysborough County. The couple eventually made their home in Halifax, where George worked as a longshoreman. Lillian passed away unexpectedly at Victoria General Hospital, Halifax on June 24, 1939, the result of a pulmonary embolism. George died at Camp Hill Hospital, Halifax on May 28, 1948.


4. Edward Burns (1030709) was born on May 8, 1897 to Robert and Ellen (Long) Burns, Salmon River Lake, Guysborough County. Edward was working as a “machinist lathe hand” at Falls Church Machinery, Boston, MA when he registered for the United States military draft on June 5, 1917. Rather than serve with the United States Army, Edward reported to the Canadian Expeditionary Force office at Boston, MA and enlisted for service with the 236th Battalion (“New Brunswick Kilties”) on June 14, 1917.

Pte. Edward Burns, Camp Valcartier, QC.
Edward made his way to Fredericton, NB shortly afterward and trained with his unit at Camp Valcartier, QC throughout the summer months. The 236th departed from Montreal aboard SS Canada on October 31 and landed in England 19 days later. On March 13, 1918, Edward was transferred to the 20th Reserve Battalion, where he remained for almost two months.

On May 7, 1918, Edward was assigned to the 42nd Battalion (Royal Highlanders of Canada) and two weeks later joined the unit’s ranks in France. Edward served with the 42nd through its tours in the line at Amiens, Arras, the Scarpe and Cambrai during “Canada’s 100 Days.” Hospitalized with a fever on November 2, he returned to the unit’s ranks five days later and remained on the continent until the 42nd crossed the channel to England on February 7,1919. Edward departed for Canada aboard SS Adriatic on March 1 and was formally discharged from military service at Halifax on March 15, 1919.

Pte. Edward Burns' CEF Pay Book.
While Edward briefly returned to his Salmon River Lake family home, he soon departed for the United States, settling in Jamaica Plain, MA. He later relocated to The Forks, north of Skowhegan, Maine, where he worked as a hunting and fishing guide. There, he met  Alphonsine “Fonzie” Nadeau, a native of Jackman, Maine. The couple married on October 8, 1929 and raised two sons, Carroll and Clarence. Edward Burns passed away at Skowhegan, Maine on March 10, 1967 and was laid to rest in Calvary Cemetery, Skowhegan, ME.


5. Howard Nightingale Strople (2075445) was born on July 4, 1887 to James Robert and Mary Eliza (Lipsett) Strople, North Intervale, Guysborough County. Sometime prior to 1911, Howard relocated to Boston, MA, where he worked as an “electric lineman.” On September 21, 1914, he married Laura E. Stanley, a 23-year-old Quebec native, at Newburyport, MA.

 On June 24, 1917, Howard attested with the 5th Regiment, Royal Highlanders of Canada, at Montreal, QC. At the time, he was living at Montreal and still employed as a “lineman.” Howard listed his wife, Laura, as his next of kin, giving her address at the time as “Gaspé, Quebec.” No further information is available on Howard’s military service. However, border crossing documents indicate that he was in Canada in the spring of 1918, suggesting that he may have been discharged as “medically unfit.” In any case, his time in uniform appears to have been brief.

Following the war, Howard and Laura relocated to Massachusetts, but eventually returned to Canada, settling in the Toronto area. Howard Strople passed away at Sunnybrook Military Hospital, Toronto, ON on May 9, 1943.


6. John Parker MacDonald was born at Sunny Brae, Pictou County on October 14, 1879, the son of Henry Cumminger and Emily M. (Smith) McDonald. Several sources suggest that he may have been born at Sherbrooke, where he spent his childhood years. Henry worked as a “lumberman” and Parker followed his father into the occupation. On February 27, 1906, Parker married Melissa Katherine “Katie” Cumming,” a native of Sunny Brae. By 1911, the couple were living at Hopewell, Pictou County, with a young son Gerald and a daughter Maxine. A third child—a son, John—joined the family in the spring of 1916.

Parker attested with the Nova Scotia Forestry Draft at Camp Aldershot, NS on June 16, 1917. At enlistment, he received the commissioned rank of Lieutenant. Nine days later, Parker departed from Halifax aboard SS Justicia and landed at Liverpool, England on July 4. John was assigned to No. 104 Company, Canadian Foresty Corps (CFC) on September 4, 1917 and served with his unit in No. 54 District, near Exeter, England, for the remainder of the year.

On January 14, 1918, Parker returned to No. 54 Base Depot, Southampton, where he was “struck off strength” on February 23 and returned to Canada, “being surplus to requirements.” He was formally discharged from military service at Halifax, NS on March 23, 1918.

Parker returned home to Hopewell, Pictou County, where he resumed work as a lumberman. In the spring of 1926, perhaps in a work-related incident, Parker suffered a ruptured bladder, which led to the development of peritonitis. Despite an operation to repair his bladder, Parker passed away at the Aberdeen Hospital, New Glasgow on April 29, 1926 and was laid to rest at Sunny Brae, Pictou County.


7. Wilfred Whitman (1031029) was born at Manchester, Guysborough County on March 29, 1897, the only child from his father Rufus’s second marriage to Nellie Gavin McDonald. Following Rufus’s death in April 1907, for unknown reasons, Wilfred’s uncle, James Whitman, took him into his home. Around 1915, Wilfred relocated to Revere, MA, where he took up residence with his half-sister, Ida, a nurse who operated a home for the sick.

By mid-1917, Wilfred and thousands of other young men faced the prospect of being drafted into the United States military. On June 16, 1917, Wilfred decided to follow a different path and enlisted with the 236th Battalion at the Canadian Expeditionary Force’s Boston, MA recruitment office. Several days later, he made his way to Fredericton, NB. Shortly after his arrival, he married Philomela “Phyllis” Ghilo, a Boston native, in a ceremony held at Fredericton on July 4.

Within days, Wilfred departed for Camp Valcartier, QC, where the 236th spent the summer and early autumn training. Meanwhile, Phyllis returned to the Boston area, where she gave birth to a son, Wilfred George, on December 8, 1917. The 236th departed from Quebec on October 31 and arrived in England after a 19-day voyage.

Phyllis and Wilfred George Whitman.
While the unit remained at Camp Bramshott throughout the winter of 1917-18 at Camp Bramshott, military officials ordered its dissolution in March 1918. Its personnel were offered a choice—a transfer to the 26th (New Brunswick) Battalion or to the 20th Reserve Battalion, which serviced the 13th and 42nd Battalions (Royal Highlanders of Canada) in France. Wilfred chose the second option and was assigned to the 20th Reserve Battalion on March 13, 1918.

One month later, Wilfred was transferred to the 13th Battalion and crossed the English Channel to France on April 19. Throughout the remainder of the month, Wilfred served in the line with the 13th, which retired to Corps Reserve in early May for an extensive period of rest and training. Two and a half months later, its personnel returned to the Arras area for a two-week rotation before relocating southward to Amiens in early August.

On the morning of August 8, the 13th participated in the first wave of the Canadian Corps’ attack on the German line, east of Amiens. Having secured its objective, its soldiers occupied support positions throughout the following week, advancing to the front trenches on the night of August 15/16. Following a day’s preparation, the unit attacked the village of La Chavatte in the early hours of August 17. Wilfred was wounded sometime during the advance and evacuated to No. 48 Casualty Clearing Station. He died of wounds before day’s end and was laid to rest in Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery, Somme France.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Remembering Private John William Swaine—KIA June 28, 1917

John William Swaine was born at Canso, Guysborough County on August 19, 1891, the second of Rupert and Jennie (Talbot) Swaine’s nine children and their oldest son. John enlisted with the 193rd Battalion at Canso on April 1, 1916 and departed for England aboard SS Olympic on October 12, 1916.

Private John William Swaine.
Shortly after arriving overseas, the 193rd was disbanded and its soldiers dispersed to other units. On December 3, John was transferred to the 42nd Battalion (Royal Highlanders of Canada) and crossed the English Channel to France three days later. He was temporarily assigned to duty with 3rd Entrenching Battalion in late December and served with the unit in the forward area throughout the month of January 1917.

On February 6, John reported to No. 10 Canadian Field Ambulance for treatment of an ulcerated foot, likely the result of working in cold, muddy conditions. Subsequently transferred to No. 16 General Hospital, Le Tréport, John spent two months in hospital and was discharged to the Canadian Base Depot at Le Havre on March 9. Two weeks prior to his discharge, John was transferred to the 85th Battalion and joined the unit’s ranks on April 13 as its personnel withdrew from their Vimy Ridge tour.

Throughout the next two months, John served routine tours with the 85th in sectors near Vimy. On the night of June 25/26, the unit returned to trenches near Avion and prepared for its first combat assignment since its Vimy Ridge tour—an assault on German positions opposite their line.

At 7:00 a. m. June 26, the 85th’s “A” and “C” Companies launched the first phase of a three-stage plan to remove German forces from an area opposite their line, capturing their initial objective with minimal losses. Personnel spent the remainder of the day consolidating the position, and awaited orders to resume the offensive.

At 2:30 a.m. June 28, the 85th’s “C” and “D” Companies commenced the second phase—an attack on the village of Éleu-dit-Leauwette, north of Avion. Once again, personnel captured their objective and prepared for the operation’s final phase, an attack on a series of “horse shoe shaped trenches” southeast of the village.

At 7:10 p.m. that evening, “C” and “D” Companies resumed the advance, one Company sustaining significant casualties from “hostile machine gun fire.” Personnel nevertheless captured and consolidated the final objective, marking “a total advance of one mile” since the offensive’s commencement.

While the 85th secured all objectives by nightfall, its successes came at a price. As the unit retired from the line on the night of July 1/2, its war diary reported a total of 24 “other ranks” (OR) killed during the tour, while eight Officers and 118 OR were wounded and nine OR were missing.

Private John William Swaine was killed in action sometime during the July 28 advance. His remains were never recovered from the battlefield. John’s name is inscribed on the Canadian War Memorial at Vimy Ridge, France, one of 11,285 Canadian soldiers who died on the battlefields of northern France and who have no known final resting place.
 
Canadian War Memorial, Vimy Ridge, France.
Bantry Publishing’s “First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume I: 1915—1917” contains a detailed description of John’s family background and war service, along with profiles of 71 other Guysborough County military personnel who died during the first three years of the war.