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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 .

Monday, 1 May 2017

Remembering Private James Arthur Hayne—Killed in Action May 1, 1917

James Arthur Hayne was born at Country Harbour, Guysborough County on August 18, 1892, the third of Viola (McNeil) and William Hayne’s seven children. Viola passed away sometime before 1911, leaving William to care for his three youngest children. By that time, Arthur—as he was known to family—was living in Red Deer, Alberta, where he was working as a miner.

James Arthur Hayne (c. 1915)
Arthur later travelled further west to British Columbia, where he found employment in a fishing camp. There, he met Lily Alice Fisk, a native of Norwich, England, a camp cook and sister of its owner. The couple married on September 12, 1914 and established residence in Steveston, south of Vancouver. Their first child, Gordon, arrived shortly afterward, followed by a daughter, Mary Frances.

The outbreak of the First World War soon disrupted Arthur’s civilian and family life. He initially enlisted with the 104th Regiment (Westminster Fusiliers of Canada), a local militia unit that provided basic instruction to soldiers interested in overseas service. On March 24, 1916, Arthur attested for overseas service with the 131st Battalion, the second overseas unit recruited, organized and trained by the 104th Regiment.

Mary Frances, Lilly Alice & Gordon Hayne.
Following seven months of training in British Columbia, Arthur and his fellow recruits made their way to Halifax by train and departed for overseas aboard SS Caronia on November 1, 1916. Ten days later, the unit arrived in England, only to be disbanded within days. The 131st’s personnel dispersed among existing British Columbia battalions. On November 27, Private James Arthur Hayne, attestation number 790031, was transferred to the 47th Battalion, the first of the 104th Regiment’s overseas units.

The day following his transfer, Arthur crossed the English Channel to France and joined the 47th in the field on December 11, 1916. He served with the unit in sectors near Lens, France throughout the winter of 1916 - 17. The battalion was part of the Canadian Corps’ planned assault on Vimy Ridge, France. As one of the 4th Division’s 10th Brigade units, its personnel were located on the left flank and played a support role in the initial April 9, 1917 attack, advancing as required to maintain contact with Canadian units on their right flank.

On the morning of April 12, the 47th’s Company “C” assisted the 44th and 50th Battalions—two of their Brigade mates—in capturing “The Pimple,” an area of high ground to the left of Hill 145 and the last location under German control, in the aftermath of the Corps’ attack on Vimy Ridge. The following day, the entire 47th Battalion occupied trenches atop the newly captured location.

For the remainder of the month, the 47th served on rotation in sectors near Vimy Ridge. On the evening of April 30, Arthur and his mates returned to the front line, in relief of the 44th Battalion. The following day—May 1, 1917—the unit’s war diary described “very active” machine gun fire as work parties improved the front and support trenches.

While the situation was “fairly quiet throughout the day,” the diary entry reported one casualty: “790031 killed in action.” Neither the war diary nor Arthur’s “circumstances of casualty” record provide any details as to the events leading to his death in “trenches south west of La Coulotte.” Arthur was laid to rest in La Chaudière British Cemetery, three miles south-southwest of Lens.

Pte. J. A. Hayne's headstone, La Chaudière Military Cemetery.
Tragically, Arthur’s widow, Lilly Alice, fell victim to the 1919 influenza epidemic that swept across Canada in the months following the war’s end. A Vancouver family subsequently adopted the couple’s two children, Gordon and Mary Frances. In 1922, when the city of Richmond, BC erected a cenotaph in honour of the community’s fallen First World War soldiers, Gordon and Mary Frances Hayne unveiled the monument whose plaque bore their deceased father’s name.

Bantry Publishing’s “First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume I: 1915 - 1917,” contains a detailed version of James Arthur Hayne’s story, along with profiles of 71 other Guysborough County natives who lost their lives during the first three years of the “Great War.” The book is available for purchase online at bantrypublishing.ca .

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Guysborough County Enlistments - April 1917

Eight individuals with connections to Guysborough County, Nova Scotia enlisted for service with Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) units in April 1917. All but one attested with No. 1 Nova Scotia Forestry Company, which canvassed the province in search of lumbermen interested in working with the Canadian Forestry Corps (CFC) in England and France.


1. Vernon Wilfrid Sponagle (2329339) was born on June 9, 1898, the eldest child of Alfred Lorenzo and Suan A. (Druce) Sponagle, Goldsboro, Guysborough County. On April 3, 1917, Vernon was living at Westville, NS at the time of his enlistment with No. 1 Nova Scotia Forestry Company at Truro, NS. No further information is presently available on his military service.

Following his discharge from military service, Vernon married Lola V. Laurie, a native of Sand Point, Guysborough County on September 14, 1918. The couple raised a family of nine children, six boys and three girls. Vernon passed away at Goldboro on November 30, 1978.


2. Lawrence Archibald Hallett (2329353) was born on February 20, 1898, the eldest child of George and Ada Belle “Bella” (Cook) Hallett, Country Harbour, Guysborough County. Lawrence was working as a fireman in Stellarton, NS when he enlisted with No. 1 Nova Scotia Forestry Company on April 4, 1917.

Lawrence arrived at Liverpool, England on July 5, 1917 and was assigned to the Canadian Forestry Corps’ No. 54 District, near Southampton, on September 1. He was transferred to No. 51 District, Inverness, Scotland on November 21, 1917 and worked with CFC units there for two and a half months.

A pressing need for reinforcements at the front resulted in Lawrence’s transfer to the Canadian Expeditionary Force for infantry service. He was assigned to the 16th Reserve Battalion on February 10, 1918 and was transferred to the 7th Infantry Battalion (British Columbia) on June 6, 1918. Lawrence crossed the English Channel to the Canadian Base Depot at Le Havre, France shortly afterward and was dispatched to the Canadian Corps Reinforcement Camp on July 14, 1918.

Lawrence departed for the 7th Battalion’s camp on August 8—the same day on which the Canadian Corps launched a major attack on the German line east of Amiens, France—but remained behind the lines during the fighting. The battalion’s soldiers withdrew to camp at Warvillers on August 10. Five days later—at approximately 10:00 a.m. August 15—several artillery shells struck the camp, landing “in the area occupied by No. 3 Company [and] wounding several men.”

Lawrence was amongst the wounded, struck in the right hand by a piece of shrapnel. He was immediately evacuated for medical treatment and invalided to England on August 19. While his injuries were minor, affecting only the flexibility of the little finger of his right hand, Lawrence remained in England for well over a year, finally departing for Canada on October 4, 1919. He was discharged from military service at Halifax on October 19, 1919.

Lawrence returned to Country Harbour and later married Lillian May Fenton. The couple subsequently raised a family of two daughters. Lawrence Archibald Hallett passed away at Country Harbour on March 2, 1967 and was laid to rest in Holy Trinity Anglican Church Cemetery, Country Harbour Mines, Guysborough County.


3. Huntley Bartley Hendsbee (2329366) was born at Halfway Cove, Guysborough County on April 3, 1903, the eldest of Silas and Effie Lavina (Snow) Hendsbee’s three children. A second son, Lindsay, died in infancy, while a daughter, Emily Muriel, was born in 1906. Huntley’s mother, Effie, died of consumption [tuberculosis] on September 5, 1909. Silas remarried shortly after her death, and two more children—Horace and Lillian Edna—joined the family in the ensuing months. Sadly, Silas died of tuberculosis on September 27, 1911, leaving his second wife, Clara, to care for four young children.

On April 7, 1917, Huntley enlisted with the No. 1 Nova Scotia Forestry Company at Truro, NS. He was 14 years old at the time, but exaggerated his age on his attestation form by four years. His considerable size may have persuaded military recruiters that he was indeed old enough to enlist—Horace was five feet, six inches tall and weighed 123 pounds at the time of his enlistment.

Huntley departed Halifax on June 22 and arrived at Liverpool, England on July 5, 1917. He and his fellow recruits made their way the the Canadian Forestry Corps (CFC) Headquarters at Sunningdale, where they awaited assignment to a CFC unit. On September 21, Huntley was assigned to No. 75 Company, CFC, and two days later proceeded to France with his new unit.

Recruited in Western Ontario and supplemented with personnel from the No. 1 Nova Scotia Forestry Company, No. 75 Company was assigned to the CFC’s No. 10 District, Marne Group. Its personnel worked alongside three other Companies, harvesting timber in the 3rd French Army Area, near Appilly, France, approximately 120 kilometres northeast of Paris.

Huntley worked in CFC lumber operations for several months before respiratory problems made it impossible for him to continue. He was admitted to hospital at nearby Noyon with a suspected case of tuberculosis, not a surprising development considering the circumstances of his parents’ deaths. Huntley was transferred to No. 7 Canadian General Hospital, Étaples, on December 30. Further diagnosis determined that Huntley was suffering from bronchitis and he was invalided to England on January 7, 1918.

Huntley spent three months in hospital, after which he was discharged to duty. By this time, authorities had discovered his actual age, a fact that eliminated any possibility of returning to France. On April 9, Huntley “slipped [on a board] while returning to [his] hut [from duty].” What first appeared to be a severe ankle sprain was later diagnosed as a fractured fibula. Huntley was once again admitted to hospital at Shorncliffe on April 11. He remained in England throughout the remainder of the year, during which time he was hospitalized on two occasions for treatment of influenza.

On July 4, 1919, Huntley departed England aboard SS Carmania and arrived at Halifax nine days later. He was officially discharged from military service on July 18, 1919. Only 16 years of age at the time, Huntley returned to Crow Harbour, Guysborough County, where he resided with an aunt. Sometime after 1921, Huntley made his way to the west coast and crossed the border into the United States. He spent several years in Washington and Oregon before departing for Australia.

Following several years at Cardiff, New South Wales, he returned to California in 1928 and subsequently married Amelia Brockriede at Los Angeles in 1929. The couple’s eldest child, Huntley Keith, was born at Oakland, CA in 1931. Huntley and Amelia eventually returned to the Whitehead, Guysborough County area, where a second child, Judith Lynn, was born in 1948. Three more children—two boys and a girl—joined the family in subsequent years. Huntley Bartley Hendsbee passed away at Half Island Cove in 1972 and was laid to rest in Bayview Cemetery, Half Island Cove.


4. John William Cumming (2329376) was born at Lower Caledonia, Guysborough County on August 5, 1890, the second of John Alexander and Isabella “Bella” (McQuarrie) Cumming’s four children and their oldest son. A lumberman by occupation, John enlisted with No. 1 Nova Scotia Forestry Company at Truro, NS on April 10, 1917. He departed Nova Scotia aboard SS Justicia on June 25 and arrived at Liverpool, England nine days later. John immediately reported to the Canadian Forestry Corps (CFC) Headquarters at Sunningdale, England.

On September 1, 1917, John was assigned to No. 119, Company, Canadian Forestry (CFC), which was part of No. 53 District, England. The Company initially harvested timber “on the Estate of the late Mrs. Grenville Morgan… and lies about halfway between Slough and Uxbridge on the main road between these places.” The forest located there had been planted by the Second Duke of Marlborough and “was often used by the late Queen Victoria in her drives.”

By June 1918, the Morgan estate’s timber resources had been harvested, prompting the Company relocated to Halton Park Estate, located in the Chiltern Hills, near the Vale of Aylesbury. Personnel established camp at Wendover, Buckinghamshire. The timber harvested at both locations was of poor quality. Due to the trees’ small stature and “twisted” growth, logs had to be cut into short lengths for milling.

With the exception of two brief hospital admissions for minor ailments, John worked with No. 119 Company throughout its time at both locations. The unit returned to CFC’s Sunningdale Headquarters in early May 1919 and John departed for Canada on June 18, 1919. He was formally discharged from military service at Halifax on July 10, 1919.

John returned to Lower Caledonia following the war. Available documents suggest he spent some time in the United States, but later returned to Nova Scotia. John was living at Sunny Brae, Pictou County at the time of his birth registration (November 4, 1940). No further information is available on his later life.


5. Joseph Pelrine (2329402) was born at Larry’s River, Guysborough County on July 19, 1899, the oldest of Thomas and Vinnie Pelrine’s eight children. Joseph enlisted with No. 1 Nova Scotia Forestry Company at Truro, NS on April 14, 1917. No further information is available on his military service. Following his return from overseas, Joseph rejoined his family in New Glasgow, Pictou County, where he worked as an electrician. No further information is available on his later life.


6. George Thomas Greencorn (2329412) was born at Whitehead on April 5, 1899, the fourth of five children in the family of George William and Naomi Spears (Hefferman) Greencorn. George’s father passed away some time before 1911, and Naomi relocated to the Goshen area. A lumberman by trade, George enlisted with No. 1 Nova Scotia Forestry Company at Truro, NS on April 17, 1917. While the surname "Green" appears throughout George's service record, Peggy Feltmate, a Canso area genealogy researcher, indicates that the surname should be "Greencorn."

George departed Halifax on June 25, 1917 aboard SS Justicia and arrived at Liverpool, England nine days later. On August 8, he was assigned to No. 123 Company, one of seven units that operating in District 54, CFC, near Southampton, England. George’s company was “formed for the purpose of doing work in connection with the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) at various aerodromes” and established its initial headquarters at Andover, Hampshire. Its work consisted of “clearing sites, ditching, draining, trimming and felling trees, hauling gravel, levelling, making culverts and drains, earthing, grading, ploughing, scraping, filling depressions, uprooting hedges, residing, cutting pickets, stripping turf, etc..”

On September 16, 1918, No. 123 Company was re-assigned to District 56, CFC and established its headquarters at Reading, England. For the remainder of the year, personnel continued their work constructing aerodromes at locations throughout the Reading area and returned to CFC Headquarters, Sunningdale on January 6, 1919.

On February 25, George departed from Liverpool, England aboard SS Megantic and arrived at Halifax eight days later. He was discharged from military service on March 26, 1919 and returned to his mother’s home in Goshen. He and his mother later relocated to the home of his brother, Lewis, who had settled at East River, Pictou County. The brothers operated a farm there in subsequent years. No further information is available on George’s later life.


7. Peter Arthur McLean Sinclair (2329411) was born on May 4, 1890 at Goshen, Guysborough County, where his parents, William and Mary (Polson) Sinclair, raised a family of nine. Three other sons—Charles Hadden, James Murray [died of sickness related to military service in 1919] and William John Gordon—enlisted with various CEF units during the First World War.

Peter attested with No. 1 Nova Scotia Forestry Company at Truro, NS on April 17, 1917. No further information is available on his military service at this time. Peter returned to Guysborough County following the war, and was residing at Isaac’s Harbour at the time of his September 12, 1931 marriage to Bessie Belle Lintlop, a native of Isaac’s Harbour. The couple later relocated to Pictou County, where Bessie Belle passed away in 1965. The couple had no children.

Peter Arthur McLean Sinclair passed away at Valley View Villa, Riverton, Pictou County in June 1991 an was laid to rest in Abercrombie Cemetery, Pictou County.


8. Harry Forrest MacDonald (1258146) was born at Sherbrooke, Guysborough County on April 19, 1898, the youngest of Henry Cumminger and Emily M. (Smith) MacDonald’s five children. Harry enlisted with No. 10 Siege Battery at Halifax, NS on April 24, 1917 and departed Halifax aboard SS Olympic on June 2, 1917.

Upon landing in England one week later, Harry was assigned to 2nd Reserve Artillery pool. On September 23, he was assigned to the 13th Brigade, Canadian Field Artillery and immediately proceeded to France. Harry joined his new unit in the field on September 29 and served in the forward area for the duration of the war.

Harry returned to England on May 10, 1919 and departed for Canada four days later. He was discharged from military service at Halifax on May 29, 1919. Harry made his way to the United States following the war, working for a time on the west coast before relocating to the New York area. He passed away at Staten Island, New York in May 1985.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Remembering Sergeant John Daniel MacDonald—Died of Wounds April 27, 1917

John Daniel MacDonald was born at Arisaig, Antigonish County on April 3, 1884, the fourth of of Donald and Flora MacDonald’s six children. Some time prior to 1911, John Daniel married Margaret Mann, a native of Mulgrave. The couple established residence in the Guysborough County community, where John Daniel worked as a locomotive fireman on the Intercolonial Railway.

Sgt. John Daniel MacDonald in civilian life.
On November 2, 1915, John Daniel enlisted with the 85th Battalion at Halifax and spent the winter of 1915-16 training on the Commons with the unit. The formation of the Nova Scotia Highland Brigade in early 1916 led to a significant delay in the unit’s overseas departure, as its personnel spent the summer training alongside their Brigade mates at Camp Aldershot. The four units departed Halifax on October 12, 1916 and arrived in England after a seven-day voyage.

While two of the Brigade’s units were dissolved before year’s end, the 85th remained intact and crossed the English Channel to France on February 10, 1917. The battalion completed introductory tours in the line with experienced units and was assigned to the 4th Division’s 11th Brigade as a “working unit” prior to the Canadian Corps’ scheduled attack on Vimy Ridge, France. Its soldiers were assigned such tasks as carrying supplies to front line units, escorting and guarding the anticipated prisoners of war, and constructing communication trenches in the aftermath of battle.

As the attack progressed during the morning hours of April 9, 1917, 11th Brigade units assigned the task of dislodging German soldiers from Hill 145—the ridge’s highest elevation—suffered significant losses and failed to reach their objective. Concerned that German control of the strategic location might threaten the success of the advance along the remainder of the ridge, military commanders called upon the 85th’s “C” and “D” Companies to complete the task.

At 6:45 p.m., the inexperienced soldiers proceeded up Hill 145 without the protection of an artillery bombardment and successfully secured its western slopes. The following morning, the 85th’s remaining two Companies joined their comrades in the newly established Canadian line atop the ridge. The battalion remained in the trenches for three days as Canadian units consolidated their hold on the strategic location, pushing German forces down its eastern slopes and through the villages below.

In the aftermath of the unit’s withdrawal from the line, John Daniel was promoted to the rank of Acting Sergeant on April 13, a testament to his character and leadership. One week later, the 85th was permanently assigned to the 4th Division’s 12th Brigade and commenced regular tours in the line. On the night of April 24, two of its Companies—one of which included John Daniel—returned to the trenches south of Avion. The following evening, personnel commenced construction of a new section of front line and communication trench.

The morning of April 26 opened with supporting Allied artillery launching a “practice barrage” at 5:15 a.m., in preparation for an attack by 1st and 2nd Division units slated for April 28. The bombardment prompted “very heavy enemy retaliation,” a number of the German shells striking the 85th’s location and inflicting 13 casualties.

Sgt, John Daniel MacDonald, 85th Battalion.
John Daniel was among the soldiers wounded during the bombardment. He was evacuated to a nearby field ambulance, where he died from his wounds on April 27, 1917. sergeant John Daniel MacDonald was laid to rest in La Chaudière Military Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France.

Bruce MacDonald's "First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume I: 1915 - 1917" contains a detailed version of Sgt. John Daniel MacDonald's story, along with profiles of 71 other Guysborough County soldiers and sailors who died during the first three years of the war. The book is available for purchase at bantrypublishing.ca .

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Remembering CSM Donald Drummond Fraser—Died of Wounds April 12, 1917

Donald Drummond Fraser was born at Sherbrooke, Guysborough County on November 14, 1895. The second of five children in the family of Alfred W. and Christina “Tina” (Murray) Fraser, Donald’s parents were Pictou County natives. The Fraser family was active in mining operations at Goldenville, where Alfred was employed at the time of his 1893 marriage.
CSM Donald Drummond Fraser.

Both Donald and his older brother, Alexander Murray, enlisted for overseas service with the 6th Battalion, Canadian Mounted Rifles, at Amherst, NS on March 30, 1915. Donald had commenced training with the unit in early February and earned a promotion to the rank of Corporal prior to his attestation. Six weeks after completing their attestation papers, the siblings were transferred to the 55th Battalion (New Brunswick) and accompanied the unit to Camp Valcartier in mid-June.

Within days of their arrival, military officials assigned the brothers to a reinforcement draft destined for the 1st Battalion (Western Ontario). The draft departed Quebec on June 19 aboard SS Corsican and arrived in England nine days later. Temporarily assigned to the 12th Reserve Battalion, both brothers received promotions in August. Donald advanced to the rank of Lance Sergeant—a Corporal acting in the rank of a Sergeant—and was confirmed in the full rank of Sergeant before months end, while Murray was appointed Lance Corporal.

Officially transferred to the 1st Battalion on August 27, Donald and Murray crossed the English Channel to France the following day and joined the 1st Battalion in the field on September 4, 1915. The 1st was one of the Canadian Expeditionary Force’s most experienced battalions, having crossed the North Atlantic in October 1914 as part of the 1st Canadian Contingent. Assigned to the 1st Division’s 1st Brigade, the unit crossed to France in early February 1915 and entered the trenches of Belgium’s Ypres Salient alongside the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Battalions—all Ontario units—before month’s end.

Throughout the winter and spring of 1915 - 16, Donald and Murray served with the 1st Battalion in the Belgian trenches. Their first introduction to major combat occurred in June 1916 at Mount Sorrel, where Murray was amongst the unit’s fatalities. Donald followed the 1st to the Somme in August 1916 and was promoted to the rank of Company Sergeant Major—his Company’s senior-ranking non-commissioned officer—the following month. He was two months shy of his twenty-first birthday at the time.

While not involved in the Canadian Corps’ major Somme battles, the 1st suffered considerable casualties during its tours near Courcelette and Regina Trench. The unit followed the Corps northward to sectors near Vimy Ridge, where its soldiers served throughout the winter of 1916 - 17. As spring approached, the Canadian units prepared for their assault on Vimy Ridge, scheduled for early April 1917.

The 1st Division occupied the right flank of the Canadian Corps’ line at Vimy, its units having to cover the longest distance to reach the village of Farbus, their final objective. On the morning of April 9, 1917, the 1st Brigade occupied support positions behind the 2nd Brigade, which launched the initial phase of the attack at 5:30 a.m. and secured its first and second objectives within two hours. The 1st, 3rd and 4th Battalions then passed through their lines and advanced toward the village of Farbus and an adjacent wooded area.

By mid-morning, the 1st Battalion had captured its final objective and set about consolidating its position. Personnel remained in the line for two days following the advance, the last of its soldiers retiring during the night of April 12/13. The 1st reported two Officers killed and four wounded during the tour, while 47 of its “other ranks” (OR) were killed, 156 wounded and 26 missing following the battle.

Company Sergeant Major Donald Drummond Fraser was one of the first day’s casualties, “severely wounded by an enemy shell immediately after his Company had reached their objective.” He was evacuated to No. 6 Casualty Clearing Station, where “he succumbed [to his wounds] on April 12, 1917.” Donald was laid to rest in Barlin Communal Cemetery Extension, France.

Fraser Memorial stone, Lorne St. Cemetery, New Glasgow, NS.
Detailed summaries of Murray and Donald Fraser’s stories are among the 72 profiles included in First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume I: 1915 - 1917, available online from Bantry Publishing.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Remembering James Arthur "Red Jim" Taylor—Died of Wounds April 10, 1917

James Arthur “Red Jim” Taylor was born on August 13, 1882 at Forks at St. Mary’s, Guysborough County. The fourth of five children raised by Mary Ann (Mason) and John William Taylor, Jim’s father was a local boot maker. It was John William’s second marriage; several years older than his bride, he passed away sometime prior to 1901.

Following his mother’s death in 1908, Jim relocated to Stellarton, where he resided with a younger sister, Bess, and worked in the local coal mines. When military recruiters canvassed Pictou County in search of recruits for the Nova Scotia Highland Brigade, Jim enlisted with the 193rd Battalion at Stellarton on March 19, 1916.

Ptes. "Red Jim" Taylor (right) & Dan C. McIsaac.
Following a summer’s training at Camp Aldershot, Jim departed for England aboard SS Olympic on October 12, 1916 and arrived at Liverpool, England six days later. When the 193rd was dissolved several months later, Jim was transferred to the 42nd Battalion (Royal Highlanders of Canada) on December 5, 1916. He proceeded to France the following day and spent one month at the Canadian Base Depot, Le Havre. On January 2, 1917, he was temporarily assigned to the 3rd Entrenching Battalion.

Following seven weeks’ service in the forward area with the labour unit, Jim received a second transfer to the 85th Battalion (Nova Scotia Highlanders) on February 24, 1917. He departed for the 85th’s camp on March 5 and joined its ranks three days later. The 85th was the Nova Scotia Highland Brigade’s senior unit. Its soldiers trained alongside the 193rd at Aldershot and its ranks contained numerous personnel from the province’s various mining communities. The unit had arrived in France on February 10, 1917 and commenced introductory tours in the trenches with experienced units before month’s end.

In the weeks prior to the Canadian Corps’ scheduled attack on Vimy Ridge, France, the 85th was attached to the 4th Canadian Division’s 11th Brigade as a “working” unit. During the battle, its personnel were scheduled to carry supplies and ammunition to front line units, escort and guard prisoners of war, and construct the communication trenches required to access the ridge, following its capture. Lt. Col. Allison Hart Borden, the 85th’s Commanding Officer (CO), nevertheless insisted that his charges prepare for combat alongside the 11th Brigade’s regular units. As subsequent events unfolded, Borden’s foresight proved most beneficial.

The 4th Division received the most challenging part of the Vimy Ridge operation—the capture of Hill 145, the ridge’s highest feature. At 5:30 a.m. Aril 9, the 11th Brigade’s 87th and 102nd Battalions went “over the top” with their 1st, 2nd and 3rd Division counterparts. While units to their right made steady progress toward their objectives, the 4th Division’s soldiers encountered fierce resistance from German strongpoints along the slopes below Hill 145.

By early afternoon, while the three Divisions on its right had secured their objectives, the outcome on the 4th Division’s frontage remained uncertain. In need of fresh troops to complete the task, Major General Sir David Watson, the 4th Division’s CO, ordered two of the 85th’s inexperienced companies to prepare for battle. “C” and “D” Companies were outfitted at mid-afternoon and made their way through Tottenham Tunnel to the same “jumping off” trench from which the 4th Division launched the morning attack.

While artillery units were initially scheduled to provide a covering barrage, military commanders cancelled the action at the last minute, lest the shells shell Canadian soldiers trapped on the hill, as well as those holding positions on its flanks. As a result, the two Companies proceeded up Hill 145 at 6:45 p.m. without artillery support. In a fierce firefight that lasted approximately 15 minutes, the 85th’s soldiers drove the Germans from the western side of the hill and down its eastern slope. They then set about establishing a new line along the crest of the ridge.

Pte. J. A. Taylor's headstone, Villers Station Cemetery, Villers au Bois, France.
The 85th lost more than 40 soldiers in the April 9 attack, while numerous others were wounded. Private James Arthur Taylor was amongst the casualties evacuated to No. 11 Canadian Field Ambulance for treatment. Jim succumbed to his injuries on April 10, 1917 and was laid to rest in Villers Station Cemetery, Villers au Bois, France.

Jim Taylor's story is one of 72 profiles contained in First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume I: 1915 - 1917, available at Bantry Publishing.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Guysborough's "Vimy Boys"

Dozens of Guysborough County natives participated in the Canadian Corps’ attack on Vimy Ridge, launched in the early morning hours of April 9, 1917. By day’s end. five of the county’s young men were among the day’s 3,598 fatalities.

*****


Sergeant Levi Martin “Lee” Hart was born at Canso, Guysborough County on March 7, 1890. Lee’s father, George Norris Wilberforce “Will” Hart, advanced to the rank of Major with the 66th Regiment, Princess Louise Fusiliers, before retiring to Canso, where he opened a mercantile business. His mother, Ella Blanche Smith, was a Halifax native whose family was actively involved in the city’s business community.

Sgt. Levi Martin "Lee" Hart
After completing his high school education, Lee obtained employment with the Bank of Montreal’s Canso branch. He subsequently worked at branches in Danville, QC and Lunenburg, NS, but eventually headed west in 1912, having accepted a position in a Weyburn, SK real estate office operated by his maternal uncle, Howard H. Smith.

Following the outbreak of the First World War, Lee continued to work in Saskatchewan, but by early 1916 he began to contemplate military enlistment. After completing an officers’ training program at a local School of Instruction, Lee enlisted with the 152nd Battalion at Weyburn on June 5, 1916. Following several months’ training at Camp Hughes, near Brandon, MB, the 152nd departed from Halifax on October 3 and arrived at Liverpool, England ten days later.

Upon arriving overseas, Lee was promoted to the rank of Acting Sergeant, but “reverted to ranks” following the 152nd’s dissolution. On November 12, 1916, Lee was transferred to the 5th Battalion (Western Cavalry). One of the Canadian Expeditionary Force’s most experienced units, the 5th first entered the Belgian trenches with the 1st Canadian Division’s 2nd Brigade in late February 1915.

Following his transfer, Lee immediately crossed the English Channel to France and joined his new unit in the forward area on December 2, 1916. He served with the 5th in the sectors near Vimy Ridge for four months and participated in the preparations for the Canadian Corps’ attack on the German stronghold. The 5th Battalion occupied the Corps’ extreme right flank in the hours prior to the assault, its objective to capture the German front line and advance to a “red line” in front of a second defensive position.

At 5:30 a.m. April 9, 1917, the 5th’s soldiers went “over the top” toward the German line and succeeded in securing their first objective within 30 minutes. Personnel continued the advance, securing the “red line” by 9:00 a.m.. The advance cost the unit 14 Officer casualties—including five fatalities—and 200 “other rank” (OR) casualties. Lee was one of its OR fatalities, struck “by a machine gun bullet just as he was about to leave a shell hole.” He was laid to rest “where he fell” and later reinterred in Nine Elms Military Cemetery, Thélus, France.

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Private Harold Kennedy was born at Guysborough, Guysborough County on February 26, 1898. His attestation papers list his next of kin as William Kennedy, son of Jeremiah Kennedy, Salmon River Lake. His father’s identity remains a mystery, but documents in his service file identify a “Helen Hester, Seattle, Washington” as his mother.

Harold enlisted with the 121st Battalion (“Western Irish”) at Vancouver, BC on July 3, 1916. Six weeks later, the unit departed Halifax but was subsequently disbanded after arriving overseas. Harold was transferred to the 102nd Battalion (British Columbia) on December 5, 1916 and crossed the English Channel to France the following day.

The 102nd was part of the 4th Canadian Division’s 11th Brigade and arrived in France in August 1916. The battalion received its first major combat experience at the Somme in October and November 1916. Harold was part of a large group of reinforcements who joined the unit in early January 1917 as it rebuilt its ranks. Harold served with the unit throughout the next three months and was in the line on the morning of April 9, 1917 as the 102nd prepared to advance on Hill 145, the ridge’s highest point.

While the unit gained its initial objectives by 8:00 a.m., German soldiers atop Hill 145 survived the morning’s artillery barrage and enfiladed their position throughout the morning. The 87th Battalion to its left had failed to maintain pace, exposing the unit’s flank to sniper and machine gun fire from atop the ridge. While the 85th Battalion advanced during the early evening hours and finally captured the hill, the 102nd sustained significant casualties from the devastating fire throughout the day.

Pte. Harold Kennedy's headstone, Bois Carré Cemetery, Thélus France
A staggering 113 OR were killed, 180 wounded and 27 missing following the 102nd’s three-day Vimy tour. Nineteen-year-old Harold Kennedy was one of the OR killed at some point during the first day’s fighting. His remains were recovered from the battlefield and laid to rest in Bois Carré Cemetery, Thélus, France.
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Private Arthur Freeman Levangie was born on May 18, 1893, the second child and oldest son of George and Sophia (Cashen) Levangie, Port Felix, Guysborough County. Arthur was working as a steward on the Intercolonial Railway when he enlisted with the 237th Battalion at Saint John, NB on June 26, 1916.

Ptes. Arthur Levangie (left) & Amos Cashin.

One of several “American Legion” units organized across Canada during the early months of 1916, the 237th focused on recruiting American veterans interested in overseas service. The recruitment of citizens from a “neutral” country created considerable controversy. As a result, authorities dissolved most “American Legion” units before they departed Canada. Following the 237th’s dissolution, Arthur was transferred to the 97th Battalion—an “American Legion” unit that remained intact—and departed for England on September 18, 1916.

Shortly after arriving overseas, the 97th was also dissolved, at which time Arthur accompanied its personnel reported to the Royal Canadian Regiment (RCR) — Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI) Depot at Seaford, England. Arthur was assigned to the PPCLI’s ranks on December 13 and crossed the English Channel to France.

The PPCLI was the Canadian Expeditionary Forc’es most experienced unit, having arrived on the continent in December 1914 and entered the Belgian trenches on January 5, 1915. As with other Canadian batalions, its soldiers spent the first months of 1917 in trenches near Vimy Ridge, France. The PPCLI and RCR led the 7th Infantry Brigade’s attack on its assigned sector of the ridge, achieving their objectives within two hours.

While casualties were light during the advance, German artillery subjected the PPCLI’s position to heavy shell fire throughout the day and evening. While its personnel maintained their position, 60 soldiers were killed, while another 142 were wounded and 10 missing during its time in the line at Vimy Ridge. Private Arthur Freeman Levangie was one of the 10 soldiers initially reported “missing” following the first day of fighting. He never returned to his unit and his remains was never located.
Private Arthur Freeman Levangie’s name is among the 11,285 Canadian soldiers’ names engraved on the Canadian War Memorial, Vimy Ridge. All were killed in action on the battlefields of northern France and have no known grave.
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Private Allen Ellsworth Munroe was born at Whitehead, Guysborough County on July 31, 1894, the third of seven children and second-oldest son of Andrew David and Anna Ernest “Annie” (Ehler) Munroe. Allen enlisted for service with the 193rd Battalion at Canso on April 1, 1916 and departed Halifax aboard SS Olympic on October 12, 1916.

Pte. Allen Ellsworth Munroe

Following the 193rd’s dissolution several months later, Allen was transferred to the 42nd Battalion (Royal Highlanders of Canada), the second of three units recruited for overseas service by the Montreal-based militia unit. All three became known as the Canadian “Black Watch,” through the militia unit’s affiliation with the famous Scottish regiment. The 42nd had arrived in France in October 1915 and commenced service in the line with the 3rd Canadian Division’s 7th Brigade, alongside the 49th Battalion (Edmonton, AB), RCR and PPCLI.

Allen joined the 42nd’s ranks in early January 1917 and served with the unit in the trenches near Vimy Ridge in subsequent months. On the morning of April 9, 1917, the 42nd was one of three 7th Brigade units slated to participate in the initial advance. While the 42nd’s soldiers secured their initial objective by 8:15 a.m., the 102nd Battalion to its right failed to keep pace, exposing the 42nd’s left flank to devastating German fire from Hill 145.

The unit suffered an estimated 200 casualties by mid-morning and experienced great difficulty in evacuating its wounded. Its soldiers nevertheless maintained their position until supporting Canadian units succeeded in capturing Hill 145 and securing the ridge. The 42nd reported five Officer fatalities and 291 OR casualties during its 48 hours in the line. Private Allen Ellsworth Munroe was amongst the OR killed during the first day’s fighting. His remains were retrieved from the battlefield and laid to rest in Liévin Communal Cemetery, France.

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Private George Louis Dort was born at Peas Brook, Guysborough County on November 25, 1897. The fifth of George Louis and Martha (George) Dort’s eight children, George enlisted with the 193rd Battalion at Canso on March 31, 1916. He departed for England with the 193rd on October 12, 1916 and was initially transferred to the 42nd Battalion on December 5, 1916, following the 193rd’s dissolution.

While he crossed the English Channel to France the following day, George was hospitalized with influenza shortly after arriving on the continent. As a result, he spent more than two months at CBD Le Havre, awaiting orders to proceed to the forward area. On February 24, 1917, George received a transfer to the 85th Battalion (Nova Scotia Highlanders) and joined his new unit in the forward area two weeks later.

The 85th had arrived in France on February 10, 1917 and its personnel were completing introductory tours with experienced units at the time of George’s arrival. As its soldiers had no combat experience, the 85th was attached to the 4th Division’s 11th Brigade as a “working unit,” while the Canadian Corps completed preparations for the attack on Vimy Ridge. Its soldiers would carry ammunition and supplies to front line units, escort and guard prisoners of war, and construct communications trenches to captured positions as the battle progressed.

Despite its “working” assignment, Lt. Col. Allison Hart Borden, the 85th’s Commanding Officer, insisted that his soldiers prepare for combat alongside the 11th Brigade’s regular combat units, a decision that later proved critical. The Brigade’s units faced the day’s most formidable challenge—the capture of Hill 145, the ridge’s highest position. On the morning of April 9, 1917, while the attack proceeded successfully to their right, the two 11th Brigade units spearheading the advance failed to displace German soldiers from their advantageous positions atop the hill.

The morning attack’s final outcome hung in the balance as German snipers and machine gunners enfiladed Canadian units along Hill 145’s flanks. Concerned that the position might provide Germans with an opportunity to mass a counter-attack, Major-General David Watson, the 4th Division’s Commander, called upon two of the inexperienced 85th Battalion’s companies to prepare for battle. “C” and “D” Companies were outfitted for combat at mid-afternoon and made their way through Tottenham Tunnel to the trenches below Hill 145.

At 6:45 p.m., the two companies advanced up the hill without the benefit of artillery support. While fierce German fire hindered their progress, the soldiers maintained their composure and succeeded in dislodging the enemy from Hill 145’s western slopes. The ridge’s highest feature secured and German forces pushed down its eastern side a secure distance, the 85th’s soldiers settled in for the night.

Pte. George Louis Dort's headstone, No. 2 Canadian Cemetery, Neuville-Saint-Vaast, France.

The following morning, their “A” and “B” Company comrades joined them atop the ridge as Canadian units cleared pockets of German resistance and pushed enemy forces down the remainder of Hill 145’s eastern slope. The 85th had received its first combat experience, but it came at a price. An estimated 43 soldiers were killed during the evening attack. Young Private George Louis Dort was one of the fallen soldiers. Seven months shy of his twentieth birthday, George was laid to rest in Canadian Cemetery No. 2, Neuville-Saint-Vaast, France.

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Bantry Publishing’s “First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Volume I: 1915 - 1917” contains detailed profiles of Guysborough’s five “Vimy Boys,” along with 67 other stories outlining the war service of the county’s soldiers and sailors who died in military service during the war’s first three years.