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Thursday, 7 December 2017

Remembering Chief Machinist Mate John Cleveland Wells—Died Accidentally December 7, 1917

John Cleveland Wells was born on April 29, 1887, the fourth of nine children raised in the home of John Shelley and Mary Ann (Munroe) Wells, White Haven [Whitehead], Guysborough County. Sometime prior to 1911, John Cleveland relocated to Boston, MA, where his father had resided prior to his marriage, completed training in marine engineering, and obtained employment in the Boston shipyards.


During the early months of 1917, tensions between Germany and the United States increased dramatically, primarily due to concerns over the safety of American ships at sea. Perhaps sensing that war was imminent, John enlisted with the United States Naval Reserve Force (USNRV) at Boston, MA on February 21, 1917. Less than two months later, he was called to active service following the United States Congress’s April 6, 1917 declaration of war on Germany.

John was assigned to the USS Comber as a Chief Machinist Mate, 3rd Class. A new vessel initially built as a commercial fishing trawler, the Comber was commissioned into the US Navy on April 19, 1917. Refitted with mine-sweeping equipment, the ship conducted patrols in the waters around Naval Districts 1 (Portsmouth Naval Yard, Kittery, ME) and 2 (Newport, RI). John worked in the boiler room, ensuring that the plant provided propulsion, electrical power, water and steam to the vessel’s various systems.

Several months after John’s enlistment, his mother, Mary Ann, passed away at White Haven on August 20. His service record makes no mention of a leave of absence, suggesting that John continued to serve aboard the Comber throughout the summer and autumn of 1917.

On the evening of December 2, while on shore leave, John started to board a trolley car at the corner of Sumner and Washington Streets, Quincy, MA. When the car suddenly started, John was thrown to the ground. The back of his head struck the pavement and he was rendered unconscious. Rushed to a nearby doctor’s office for immediate attention, John was quickly transported to City Hospital, where staff determined that he had suffered a fractured skull.

John remained unconscious for several days, the force of the blow having ruptured his right meningeal artery. While surgeons performed surgery in an effort to stem internal bleeding, the operation proved unsuccessful. At 9:00 p.m. December 7, 1917, Chief Machinist Mate John Cleveland Wells “died as a result of an accident not in the line of duty.” His remains were transported to Nova Scotia, where John was laid to rest beside his mother in St. Lawrence Roman Catholic Cemetery, Mulgrave.

Bantry Publishing’s “First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume I” contains a detailed description of John Cleveland’s family background and military service, along with stories of 71 other individuals who died from causes related to military service during the war’s first three years.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Remembering Able Seamen James Irvine & Samuel Gordon Breen—Accidentally Killed December 6, 1917

James Irvine Breen was the born at Spanish Ship Bay, Guysborough County on December 10, 1893, the fourth of Mary Jane (Spears) and William Henry Breen’s seven children and the couple’s third son. A fourth son, Samuel Gordon, joined the family on September 10, 1896. William earned a living at sea and at least three of his sons followed his example. Creighton, the second-oldest, James and Gordon, the youngest, all enlisted with the Royal Naval Canadian Volunteer Reserve (RNCVR) during the First World War. James led the way, enlisting with the RNCVR at Halifax on January 28, 1916. Gordon joined on July 16, 1917, while Creighton enlisted in May 1918.

Able Seaman James Irvine Breen
Able Seaman Samuel Gordon Breen
James and Gordon served out of Halifax aboard HMCS Musquash, a privately owned vessel variously described as a tugboat and minesweeper. As the Canadian Department of Naval Services chartered the ship, its owners hired and paid the crew, an arrangement that placed the men in a different category—Class 2A, “crew of hired tugs”—than a majority of other RNCVR volunteers.

The Breen brothers worked below decks as “stokers,” fuelling the steam engine with coal and assisting with boiler maintenance and repair. It was hot, dusty work in an enclosed space that placed the men in great danger, should the vessel strike a mine or be targeted by a torpedo. Unfortunately, no details of the Musquash’s service are available. The ship first appears in historical records on the morning of December 6, 1917, when it was moored at Pier 8, near the dry dock wharf in Halifax Harbour.

At 8:45 a.m. that morning, the French cargo ship Mont Blanc, laden with benzol, the high explosive picric acid, TNT and gun cotton, collided with the Norwegian freighter Imo as the Mont Blanc made its way into port. Damaged and afire, the Mont Blanc drifted toward the Halifax shoreline as its crew quickly abandoned ship. At precisely 9:04 a.m., its cargo exploded, devastating the nearby Acadia Sugar Factory and the adjacent dry dock where the Musquash lay at anchor. The blast’s impact significant damaged the vessel, setting it adrift and causing an onboard fire.

As the Musquash drifted into the harbour, the presence of ammunition aboard raised fears of a second explosion. After HMS Highflyer, a Royal Navy ship, brought the vessel alongside, two of its crew bravely boarded the burning Musquash, threw its ammunition crates into the water, and opened the galley doors to allow a fireboat to extinguish the flames below deck. Tragically, nothing could be done to save the crew. Able Seamen Irvin and Gordon Breen perished during the incident, the coroner later attributing their deaths to “shock due to injuries in the explosion.”

James’ remains were transported to Liscomb, where he was laid to rest in St. Luke’s Cemetery. For unknown reasons—perhaps difficulty in identifying his remains—Gordon was buried in Section Q, St. John’s Cemetery, Fairview, alongside other sailors killed in the explosion. Sadly, little over one year later, their father, William, passed away, leaving their mother, Mary Jane, to pursue the issue of appropriate headstones and maintenance of their final resting places.

The unusual nature of their RNCVR assignment may explain the difficulty Mary Jane faced in obtaining Imperial War Graves Commission headstones for the graves. Neither was paid from naval funds, nor had they been formally “called out” for “active service”—they worked aboard a privately owned vessel that was chartered by the Department of Naval Services, not “commissioned” into service. Mary Ann’s persistence, however, eventually resulted in the appropriate markers for both graves. Military authorities also issued Memorial Plaques and Scrolls bearing their names to the brothers’ widowed mother.
Able Seaman James Irvine Breen's headstone, St. Luke's Cemetery, Liscomb, NS
Able Seaman Samuel Gordon Breen's headstone, Fairview Cemetery, Halifax, NS
Bantry Publishing’s “First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Volume I: 1915 - 1917” contains a detailed summary of the Breen brothers’ story, along with profiles of 71 other Guysborough County military personnel who died in service during the war’s first three years.

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Remembering Private Howard Lewis Fogarty—Died of Wounds November 25, 1917

Howard Lewis Fogarty was born at Crow Harbour (Fox Island), Guysborough County on September 30, 1895, the second-oldest of Johanna (Richard) and Edward Fogarty’s 15 children. Some time after 1911, Howard relocated to the Sydney area, where he worked as a labourer. On October 15, 1915, he enlisted with the 85th Battalion at Sydney.

Pte. Howard Lewis Fogarty.
Howard spent the winter of 1915-16 in Halifax, where the 85th established its Headquarters at the Armouries and trained on the adjacent Halifax Common. The formation of the Nova Scotia Highland Brigade in January 1916 delayed the unit’s departure until mid-October. Six weeks after its overseas arrival, military authorities selected a draft of 800 soldiers from the Brigade’s ranks, 200 from each of its four infantry battalions. Howard was among the 85th soldiers chosen for immediate service at the front and was assigned to the 13th Battalion on December 5, 1916. The following day, he crossed the English Channel to the Canadian Base Depot, Le Havre, France.

The 13th Battalion was the first of three units recruited by the Royal Highlanders of Canada, a Montreal-based militia unit with connections to Scotland’s “Black Watch.” The 13th travelled to England with the First Canadian Contingent in the autumn of 1914 and deployed at the front in April 1915 with the 1st Canadian Division’s 3rd Brigade. The 14th (Royal Montreal Regiment), 15th (48th Highlanders of Canada) and 16th (Canadian Scottish) Battalions rounded out the “Highland” Brigade’s personnel.

The 13th served in Belgium’s Ypres Salient for 16 months before relocating to the Somme region of France in late August 1916. The unit saw action at Courcelette (September 1916) and Ancre Heights (October 1916), and followed the Canadian Corps northward to sectors near Arras shortly afterward. On December 12, 1916, the battalion was encamped at Cambligneul when Howard and a group of 85th reinforcements joined its ranks. The unit returned to the line shortly afterward, serving in the area throughout the winter months.

On the morning of April 9, 1917, Howard and his 13th Battalion mates occupied support positions while their 3rd Brigade comrades attacked the German front line at Vimy Ridge. Following the successful assault, its soldiers proceeded across the battlefield and assisted in establishing new defensive positions along the captured ridge. After several months’ service in the Vimy area, the 13th participated in the Canadian Corps’ successful August 15 attack on Hill 70, near Lens.

Howard came through both engagements without injury and served with the 13th until mid-October, at which time, for unspecified reasons, he returned to the Canadian Corps Reinforcement Camp as the unit prepared to depart for Belgium. He returned to the unit following its Passchendaele deployment, where the unit served a regular rotation but did not directly participate in combat.

On November 14, Howard rejoined the 13th as it made its way from Ypres, Belgium to sectors near Lens, France. Two days later, he returned to the Avion sector’s front trenches as the battalion occupied positions along the Lens - Arras road, near La Coulotte, France. The tour’s early days were relatively quiet, muddy conditions presenting the greatest challenge. As a result, the soldiers worked steadily to repair collapsing trench walls.

German fire intensified on November 24, when one trench mortar landed in the midst of a “C” Company work party. Eight “other ranks” (OR) died instantly, while three OR died of wounds before day’s end and three OR were severely wounded. A second trench mortar struck a “D” Company work party, killing three OR and wounding one.

Howard was one of the four soldiers wounded in the two incidents. Evacuated to field ambulance for medical treatment, he was transported to No. 2 Casualty Clearing Station on November 25. Medical record described his condition as “dangerously ill,” due to severe shrapnel wounds to his legs. Before day’s end, Private Howard Lewis Fogarty “died of wounds received in the field.” He was laid to rest in Barlin Communal Cemetery, three miles north of Houdain, France.

Barlin Communal Cemetery (April 2015).
Bantry Publishing’s “First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume I: 1915 - 1917” contains a detailed description of Howard’s family background and military service, along with profiles of 71 other individuals with connections to Guysborough County, all of whom died during the first three years of Canadian overseas service.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Remembering William Eustace Anselm DeCoste—Died of Wounds November 14, 1917

William Eustace Anselm DeCoste was born at Mulgrave on September 25, 1897, the seventh of Edward and Caroline (Carrigan) DeCoste’s eight children. Three of Edward’s brothers worked in the coastal fishery out of Gloucester, MA, two perishing at sea when he was 17 years old. Undeterred by the dangers, Edward worked there for several years, but eventually returned to Mulgrave, where he worked on the Intercolonial Railroad.

William Eustace Anselm DeCoste
Eustace, as he was known to family, was the youngest of Edward and Caroline’s five sons. Sometime after 1911, he relocated to Pictou County and found employment at the Trenton steel mill. On March 9, 1916, Eustace attested for overseas service with the 193rd Battalion at New Glasgow, NS. After several months’ preparatory drill with a local detachment, he and his mates travelled to Camp Aldershot in late May and spent the summer in training with the 193rd and its three Nova Scotia Highland Brigade mates—the 85th (Nova Scotia Highlanders), 185th (Cape Breton Highlanders) and 219th Battalions.

The Brigade departed for England on October 12, 1916 and landed at Liverpool one week later. Its arrival coincided with the Canadian Corps’ deployment at the Somme, France. Significant casualties incurred in fighting at Courcelette and Regina Trench created a pressing need for reinforcements. In response, military authorities assembled a draft of 800 soldiers—200 from each Brigade unit—for immediate service at the front. Two Brigade battalions—the 193rd and 219th—were disbanded before year’s end and their personnel assigned to existing units in England.

Selected for the Highland Brigade draft, Eustace was assigned to the 42nd Battalion (Royal Highlanders of Canada) on December 5, 1916. The following day, he crossed the English Channel to the Canadian Base Depot at Le Havre and joined his new unit in the forward area on January 3, 1917.

The 42nd, a kilted Montreal unit affiliated with Scotland’s “Black Watch,” had arrived in France in October 1915 as part of the 3rd Canadian Division’s 7th Brigade. For almost a year, its soldiers served in Belgium alongside their Brigade mates—Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI), the Royal Canadian Regiment (RCR) and the 49th Battalion (Edmonton, AB). In late summer, the Brigade followed the Canadian Corps to the battlefields of the Somme.

At the time of Eustace’s arrival, the 42nd was deployed in sectors near Vimy Ridge, France. The young soldier soon found himself in the front trenches, facing its daily perils. On February 13, 1917, Eustace was admitted to field ambulance with shrapnel wounds to his right eye, arm, face, foot and left hip. He spent the next two months recuperating in hospital at Étaples and thus was not in the line for the Canadian Corps’ historic attack on Vimy Ridge.

Eustace rejoined the 42nd near Vimy on April 21 and served with the unit in sectors near Leans, France throughout the summer and early autumn of 1917. On October 23, the battalion travelled northward by train to Ypres, Belgium and prepared for its role in the impending Canadian Corps attack on Passchendaele Ridge. Four days later, Eustace and his comrades entered Brigade Reserve near Wieltje, remaining there while the PPCLI and 49th Battalion participated in the attack’s second stage on October 30. The following night, the 42nd and the RCR made their way into the muddy line, in relief of their Brigade comrades.

Personnel spent several days establishing a new front trench before retiring to Ypres on the night of November 3/4. After a 10-day break, the 42nd returned to the recently captured ridge on the night of November 14. While the unit’s war diary makes no mention of artillery fire or casualties, sometime that day, Private Eustace De Coste was wounded by shellfire and rushed to an advance dressing station. He succumbed to his injuries before day’s end.

Pte. Eustace DeCoste's Memorial Plaque.
While Eustace was laid to rest in a nearby military cemetery, subsequent artillery fire destroyed many of Passchendaele’s “ad hoc” cemeteries. Officials were therefore unable to locate his grave after the end of hostilities. Eustace’s name is engraved on the Menin Gate, Ypres, Belgium, one of more than 55,000 British and Imperial soldiers who died in the Ypres Salient during the war and have no known final resting place.

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

Friday, 10 November 2017

First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia (Revised November 2017)

I am pleased to announce the completion of a second volume of stories, outlining the family background and service of 64 Guysborough County military personnel who died during the final year of the First World War—killed in action, died of wounds or sickness in 1918—and during the post-war years—cause of death attributed to military service.

Posted below is an updated list of the “First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia,” containing the names of all military personnel who died during or following the war. Included is their date and place of birth, parents’ names, date and place of death. Each entry also indicates which Honour Roll volume contains the individual’s story.

The first volume is currently available for purchase online at http://bantrypublishing.ca and at several locations in Antigonish and Guysborough Counties, as listed on the Bantry Publishing Facebook page. The second volume will be available for purchase online before the end of November 2017, and plans for book launches and/or sales at Guysborough, Sherbrooke and Antigonish within the same time frame are being finalized. Details will be posted at bantrypublishing.ca , once arrangements have been confirmed.


First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia (revised November 2017)

I am pleased to announce the completion of a second volume of stories, outlining the family background and service of 64 Guysborough County military personnel who died during the final year of the First World War—killed in action, died of wounds or sickness in 1918—and during the post-war years—cause of death attributed to military service.

Posted below is an updated list of the “First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia,” containing the names of all military personnel who died during or following the war. Included is their date and place of birth, parents’ names, date and place of death. Each entry also indicates which Honour Roll volume contains the individual’s story.

The first volume is currently available for purchase online at http://bantrypublishing.ca and at several locations in Antigonish and Guysborough Counties, as listed on the Bantry Publishing Facebook page. The second volume will be available for purchase online before the end of November 2017, and plans for book launches and/or sales at Guysborough, Sherbrooke and Antigonish within the same time frame are being finalized. Details will be posted on the bantrypublishing.ca website, once arrangements have been confirmed.

First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia

Archibald, Leonard Shirley: Born at Sonora on October 3, 1893, son of William A. and Susan (Hartling) Archibald. Killed in action near Inchy-en-Artois, France on September 19, 1918. Volume II.

Armsworthy, Buckley Andrew: Born at Halfway Cove on May 14, 1896, son of Freeman and Elizabeth Abigail (Cox) Armsworthy, Canso. Died of sickness at New Glasgow, NS on January 29, 1921. Volume II.

Ash, Rollie: Born at Guysborough on September 6, 1894, son of James Stanley and Esther Ann (Shepard) Ash, Antigonish, NS. Killed in action near Angres, France on January 16, 1917. Volume I.

Avery, Joseph Edward: Born at Larry's River in October 1887, son of Alexander John and Elizabeth (Deslauriers) Avery, Cambridge, MA. Killed in action near Thiaucourt, France on September 7, 1918. Volume II.

Barss, Charles Abner: Born at New Harbour on April 11, 1897, son of David Abner and Mary Caroline (Horton) Barss. Died of sickness at Liverpool, England on August 25, 1918. Volume II.

Barss, Harold Edwin: Born at Canso on July 20, 1885, son of Isaac Elnathan and Lucy Ann (Embree) Barss. Killed in action near Courcelette, France on September 30, 1916. Volume I.

Barss, Harrington John: Born at Canso on February 10, 1888, son of John Alexander and Sadie A. (Morris) Barss. Killed in action at Hill 70, near Lens, France, on August 16, 1917. Volume I.

Beals, Philip Sydney: Born at Billtown, Kings Co., NS on July 4, 1889, son of Rev. Francis H. “Frank” and Annie (Smith) Beals (Rev. Beals ministered to a Canso Baptist congregation around the turn of the century.) Killed in action near Liévin, France on June 19, 1917. Volume I.

Benight, George C.: Born at Wine Harbour on April 10, 1898, son of Lemuel and Annie (Boggs) Benight. Died of sickness at Halifax, NS on April 28, 1923. Volume II.

Bezanson, Lewis Seaboyer: Born at Goldboro on March 4, 1897, son of Obediah Alphonso “Obed” and Charity Hope (Giffin) Bezanson. Died of sickness at Goldboro on March 16, 1921. Volume II.

Bingley, George Ernest: Born at Fisherman’s Harbour on November 28, 1888, son of William Henry and Anna “Annie” (Gibbs) Bingley. Died of sickness at Kentville, NS on June 3, 1927. Volume II.

Borden, Allison Hart: Born at Guysborough on March 31, 1878, son of Rev. Jonathan Rand and Mary Elizabeth (Ells) Borden. (Rev. Borden was ministering to the local Methodist congregation at the time.) Died of sickness at Kentville, NS on July 19, 1932. Volume II.

Boyd, James Tennant Whitworth: Born at Glenelg on May 13, 1891, son of Rev. Andrew and Margaret Arabella (Stewart) Boyd, Port Arthur, Ontario. Died of sickness at Brighton, England on June 16, 1918. Volume II.

Breen, James Irvine: Born at Spanish Ship Bay on December 10, 1893, son of William Henry and Mary Jane (Spears) Breen. Died in fire aboard HMCS Musquash in Halifax Harbour on December 6, 1917 (“Halifax Explosion”). Volume I.

Breen, Samuel Gordon: Born at Spanish Ship Bay on September 10, 1896, son of William Henry and Mary Jane (Spears) Breen. Died in fire aboard HMCS Musquash in Halifax Harbour on December 6, 1917 (“Halifax Explosion”). Volume I.

Burns, Louis John: Born at Sonora on June 2, 1897, son of John Penney and Helen “Nellie” (Cass) Burns. Died of sickness at Halifax, NS on March 1, 1917. Volume I.

Burns, Robert: Born at Salmon River Lake on May 15, 1891, son of Robert E. and Ellen J. (Long) Burns. Killed in action near Dickebusch, Belgium on November 25, 1915. Volume I.

Callahan, Alexander: Born at Manchester on February 20, 1894, son of Burton J. and Susan Maria (Whitman) Callahan. Killed in action near Cagnicourt, France on August 28, 1918. Volume II.

Cameron, Alexander Hugh: Born at Caledonia on February 18, 1891, son of Daniel Angus and Mary Ann (Cameron) Cameron. Killed in action near Fresnoy-en-Gohelle on May 7, 1917. Volume I.

Cameron, James Alexander: Born at East River St. Mary's on January 19, 1897, son of Angus Grant and Christina (Fraser) Cameron. Killed in action at Hill 70, near Lens, France, on August 17, 1917. Volume I.

Cameron, John Angus: Born at Caledonia on December 8, 1889, son of Daniel Angus and Mary Ann (Cameron) Cameron. Killed in action near La Coulotte, France on February 17, 1918. Volume II.

Cameron, William Robert Gideon: Born at Guysborough Intervale on January 17, 1892, son of Alexander and Janet C. (Polson) Cameron. Killed in action at Courcelette, France on September 15/16, 1916. Volume I.

Carrigan, William Henry: Born at Sand Point on September 7, 1889, son of Edward and Rachel Carrigan, Milford. Died of sickness at Halifax, NS on May 16, 1918. Volume II.

Clooney, James William: Born at Sherbrooke on November 8, 1889, son of William H. and Elizabeth Ann “Bessie” (Bennett) Clooney. Killed in action near Angres, France on January 16, 1917, Volume I.

Connolly, Edward Lewis: Born at Milford Haven Bridge on June 20, 1891, son of Patrick and Margaret (Cudahee) Connolly. Died of wounds near Ligny-sur-Canche, France on August 30, 1918. Volume II.

Crooks, James Roland: Born at Ecum Secum on April 15, 1892, son of Thomas R. and Sarah (Fraser) Crooks. Died of sickness at Pictou, NS on February 28, 1916. Volume I.

David, Neil Cornelius: Born at Port Felix on June 6, 1896, son of William Henry and Bridget (Bellefontaine) David. Killed in action at Passchendaele, Belgium on October 30/31, 1917. Volume I.

Davidson, Truman Bishop: Born at Isaac’s Harbour on August 3, 1885, son of Robert G. and Marcella M. “Mercy” (Langley) Davidson, Stellarton, Pictou County. Died of sickness at Rouen, France on August 1, 1917. Volume I.

DeCoste, William Eustace: Born at Mulgrave on September 25, 1897, son of Edward and Carolina (Carrigan) DeCoste. Died of wounds at Passchendaele, Belgium on November 14, 1917. Volume I.

Dickson, John Rood: Born at Sonora on December 7, 1891, son of John and Druscilla (Hewitt) Dickson. Died of sickness at Charleroi, Belgium on February 26, 1919. Volume II.

Dort, David Luke: Born at Cole Harbour on August 12, 1897, son of William Peter and Margaret Mary (Jamieson) Dort. Died of wounds at Halifax, NS on May 8, 1919. Volume II.

Dort, George Louis: Born at Peas Brook on November 25, 1897, son of George L. and Martha Jane (George) Dort. Killed in action at Vimy Ridge, France on April 9, 1917. Volume I.

Dort, Leo Harold: Born at Cole Harbour on June 11, 1896, son of David H. and Lilla (O’Leary) Dort. Died of wounds near Avion, France on July 4, 1917. Volume I.

Dort, Thomas Leo: Born at Canso on August 4, 1893, son of James A. and Bridget Jane (George) Fort. Died of sickness at Canso, NS on April 2, 1926. Volume II.

Earle, Vernon: Born at Heart's Content, Newfoundland on June 20, 1884, son of Edmund Page and Louise Clark (Hadley) Earle, Canso. Died of wounds near Comines, Belgium on July 14, 1916. Volume I.

Feltmate, Percy: Born at Hazel Hill on September 20, 1893, son of Adam and Mary Alice (Rhynold) Feltmate. Killed in action near Élouges, Belgium on November 7, 1918. Volume II.

Ferguson, James DeWitt: Born at Halifax on November 9, 1891, son of Bessie Ferguson, Wine Harbour. Killed in action near Boiry, France on August 28, 1918. Volume II.

Ferguson, William Henry: Born at Lochaber, Antigonish County on August 18, 1867, son of James and Margaret “Mooreg” (Stewart) Ferguson, Halifax, NS. Died of sickness at Dartmouth, NS on March 4, 1916. Volume I.

Fogarty, Howard Lewis: Born at Crow Harbour (Fox Island) on September 30, 1895, son of Edward and Johanna (Richard) Fogarty. Died of wounds near Avion, France on November 25, 1917. Volume I.

Fogarty, Martin Joseph: Born at Fox Island on November 1901, son of Joseph and Catherine (Daley) Fogarty. Died of sickness at Halifax, NS on December 25, 1918. Volume II.

Fougere, Peter (Pierre): Born at Larry's River on April 31, 1897, son of Simon (Simion) and Eunice Agnes (Petipas) Fougere. Killed in action near Courcelette, France on October 1/2, 1916. Volume I.

Fraser, Alexander Murray: Born at Pictou on March 5, 1894, son of Alfred William and Christina “Tina” (Murray) Fraser (spent childhood in Sherbrooke, as father worked at Goldenville). Killed in action at Mount Sorrel, Belgium on June 13, 1916. Volume I.

Fraser, Charles Hugh: Born at Guysborough Intervale on October 19, 1890, son of Daniel Joseph and Clara Ann “Annie” (MacPherson) Fraser, Taber, Alberta. Died of wounds near Vimy, France on June 25, 1917. Volume I.

Fraser, Donald Drummond: Born at Sherbrooke on November 14, 1895, son of Alfred William and Christina “Tina” (Murray) Fraser. Died of wounds near Vimy Ridge, France on April 12, 1917. Volume I.

Fraser, James John Ignatius: Born at Mulgrave on October 12, 1899, son of John James and Elizabeth “Lizzie” (O'Neil) Fraser. Died of wounds at Rouen, France on March 24, 1917. Volume I.

Fraser, James Gibson Laurier: Born at New Glasgow on September 14, 1895, son of former Guysborough MP Duncan Cameron and Elizabeth “Bessie” (Graham) Fraser. Killed in action near Lens, France on March 4, 1918. Volume II.

Fraser, Margaret Marjorie “Pearl”: Born at New Glasgow on March 20, 1884, daughter of former Guysborough MP Duncan Cameron and Elizabeth “Bessie” (Graham) Fraser. Perished at sea 187 km. west of Fastnet Rock, Ireland on June 27, 1918. Volume II.

George, Joseph Henry: Born at Port Felix on February 18, 1894, son of William and Margaret (Pellerin) George. Died accidentally (drowning) at Sydney, NS on September 12, 1915. Volume I.

Giffen, Perry Judson: Born at Goldboro on June 21, 1985, son of Obed Chute and Theodosia Ernst (Bezanson) Giffin, Halifax, NS. Died of wounds at Peterborough, ON on February 19, 1937. Volume II.

Giffin, Randolph Murray: Born at Isaac's Harbour on June 27, 1896, son of John MacMillan and Emma Maria (MacMillan) Giffin. Killed in action near Rouvignies, France on October 22, 1918. Volume II.

Grencon (Greencorn), Roy Quentin: Born at Canso on May 7, 1899, son of David Frederick and Mary Jane “Jennie” (Armsworthy) Greencorn. Killed in action at Hill 70, near Lens, France, on August 15, 1917. Volume I.

Gunn, John Berrigan: Born at Country Harbour on September 7, 1891, son of William and Barbara Gunn. Killed in action near Courcelette, France on October 1, 1916. Volume I.

Hadley, William Croft: Born at Guysborough on March 14, 1899, son of James E. and Martha J. (McKenzie) Hadley. Killed in action near Inchy-en-Artois, France on September 23, 1918. Volume II.

Hall, William George: Born at Leighton, England on January 24, 1897, son of George and Eliza (Hodgson) Hall, step-son of Arthur C. Giffin, Goldboro. Killed in action near Bapaume, France on September 3, 1916. Volume I.

Hallett, Vincent Stephen: Born at Country Harbour on December 20, 1898, son of Freeman and Sarah Elizabeth (Davidson) Hallett. Killed in action near Villers-lés-Cagnicourt, France on August 28, 1918. Volume II.

Hape, William Kenneth: Born at Ecum Secum on October 28, 1886, son of John Henry and Sarah Adeline (Pye) Hape, Wallace Grant, Cumberland County. Killed in action near Arras, France on April 5, 1918. Volume II.

Hart, Lee Martin: Born at Halifax on March 7, 1890, son of Major George Norris Wilberforce “Will” and Ella Blanche (Smith) Hart. Killed in action at Vimy Ridge, France on April 9, 1917. Volume I.

Hayne, James Arthur: Born at Country Harbour on August 18, 1892, son of William and Viola (McNeil) Hayne. Killed in action near La Coulotte, France on May 1, 1917. Volume I.

Hendsbee, Russell C.: Born at Half Island Cove on October 26, 1897, son of Thomas Frederick and Mary Sophia “Minnie” (Snow) Hendsbee. Died of sickness at Halifax, NS on October 16, 1918. Volume II.

Hodgson, Lester Dean: Born at Goldboro on August 28, 1896, son of Hiram and Elizabeth (Reynolls/Reynolds) Hodgson. Died of sickness at Halifax, NS on December 23, 1918. Volume II.

Horton, Arthur Stanford: Born at Canso on November 17, 1893, son of Hiram Charles and Henrietta Elizabeth “Hattie” (Worth) Horne. Killed in action near Courcelette, France on October 2, 1916. Volume I.

Horton, Vernon Cecil: Born at Roachvale on November 16, 1893, son of Moses Cook and Caroline Oressa “Carrie” (Nickerson) Horton. Died of sickness at Antigonish, NS on March 21, 1926. Volume II.

Hull, Courtney Alban: Born at New Glasgow on October 6, 1897, son of Joseph Henry and Alice Rebecca (Moser) Hull, Country Harbour. Killed in action near Lens, France on July 10, 1917. Volume I.

Jordain, William Andrew: Born at New Town on June 6, 1890, son of Peter and Carolyn Gordon “Carrie” (Archibald) Jordain. Killed in action at Passchendaele, Belgium on October 30, 1917. Volume I.

Keating, James Baker: Born at Gloucester, Mass. on November 22, 1888, son of James and Mary Ellen (Flood) Keating, Canso. Died accidentally (drowning) in Swash Channel, New York Harbour on October 11, 1918. Volume II.

Kelly, Lewis Walker: Born at Caledonia on May 21, 1895, son of George Walker and Laura Emma (Fulton) Kelly. Died of wounds at London, England on October 25, 1918. Volume II.

Kennedy, Harold: Born at Guysborough on February 26, 1898, son of Helen M. Hester, Seattle, WA, and nephew of William Kennedy, Guysborough. Killed in action at Vimy Ridge, France on April 9, 1917. Volume I.

Kirk, Oscar Howe: Born at Riversdale, Queens Co, on October 19, 1891, son of Rev. Joseph Howard and Laura (Christie) Kirk, East River St. Mary's. Died of wounds at Voormezeele, Belgium on July 18, 1916. Volume I.

Knocton (Nocton), Charles Patrick: Born at South Intervale on December 25, 1895, son of Patrick and Abigail Annie (Bond) Knocton. Died of sickness at Amherst, NS on March 10, 1918. Volume II.

Langille, Charles Burton: Born at Liscomb on November 15, 1894, son of David James and Margaret Ann (Lang) Langille. Killed in action near Avion, France on June 22, 1917. Volume I.

Layton, Harold Brown: Born at Canso on July 16, 1897, son of Herbert Lauren and Rebecca (Mosher) Layton, Middleton, NS. Died of sickness at Halifax, NS on June 30, 1918. Volume II.

Levangie, Arthur Freeman: Born at Port Felix on May 18, 1893, son of George and Sophia (Cashen) Levangie. Killed at Vimy Ridge, France on April 9, 1917. Volume I.

Lipsett, Ralph Stanley: Born at Middle Manchester on March 16, 1891, son of Edward Stanley and Caroline Eliza “Carrie” (O'Brien) Lipsett. Killed in action near Cambrai, France on September 29, 1918. Volume II.

Long, William Edward: Born at Rogerton on October 11, 1889, son of Patrick and Mary Jane “Minnie” (Burns) Long. Killed in action at St. Julien, Belgium on April 24, 1915. Volume I.

Lumsden, Percy: Born at Canso on April 24, 1890, son of James Robert and Annie Rebecca (McLellan) Lumsden. Died of wounds in Ypres Salient, Belgium on April 16, 1916. Volume I.

Lynch, John William: Born at Liscomb on December 13, 1894, son of William and Mary Garroway (Morris) Lynch. Died of sickness at Halifax, NS on December 27, 1915. Volume I.

McCallum, Arthur: Born at Ogden on April 20, 1885, son of James and Bridget (Fitzgerald) McCallum. Died of sickness at Étaples, France on June 4, 1917. Volume I.

McDonald, Alexander: Born at Upper Big Tracadie on March 9, 1897, son of Michael and Bridget (Grant) McDonald. Died of sickness at Halifax, NS on June 13, 1918. Volume II.

MacDonald, Angus: Born at Havre Boucher, Antigonish Co. on October 28, 1888, son of Duncan D. and Elizabeth (MacDonald) MacDonald, Mulgrave. Accidentally killed during training at Bully-les-Mines, France on October 26, 1916. Volume I.

MacDonald, John Daniel: Born at Arisaig, Antigonish Co. on April 3, 1884, son of Donald and Flora MacDonald (John Daniel was married and living in Mulgrave at time of enlistment). Died of wounds near Avion, France on April 27, 1917. Volume I.

MacDonald, John Kenneth: Born at Caledonia on July 23, 1892, son of James Cumming and Margaret Annabelle “Maggie” (McQuarry) MacDonald. Killed in action neat Veerstraat, Belgium on July 30, 1916. Volume I.

MacDonald, Thomas Howard: Born at Mulgrave on December 15, 1877, son of Dr. Patrick Alexander and Annie Bridget (Condon) MacDonald. Perished at sea 187 km. west of Fastnet Rock, Ireland on June 27, 1918. Volume II.

McIsaac, Archibald “Archie”: Born at Hazel Hill on May 30, 1890, son of Angus and Ellen McIsaac. Killed in action near Zillebeke, Belgium on June 10, 1916. Volume I.

McIsaac, Joseph Manson: Born at Fox Island on August 28, 1899, son of Daniel and Jane (Watkins) McIsaac. Killed in action near Maroc, France on July 21, 1917. Volume I.

McKenzie, Arthur: Born at Canso on November 12, 1897, son of David and Maria (Uloth) McKenzie. Died of sickness at Hazel Hill on May 13, 1917. Volume I.

McLeod, Harry: Born at Halifax on August 24, 1887, son of Neil and Lavina Grace (O’Hara) McLeod and nephew of James and Alina (Sangster) O'Hara, New Harbour. Killed in action near Méharicourt, France on August 9, 1918. Volume II.

MacMillan, Horace Goddard: Born at Isaac's Harbour on December 22, 1892, son of Stephen and Jane (Buckley) MacMillan. Died of wounds at Étaples, France on May 19, 1918. Volume II.

Mailman, Lockie: Born at Gegogan on September 26, 1896, son of Jacob and Harriet Louise “Hattie” (Baker) Mailman. Killed in action near Raillencourt, France on September 27, 1918. Volume II.

Manson, Francis Stewart “Frank”: Born at Sherbrooke on December 2, 1892, son of George W. and Lucy (Walters) Manson. Died of sickness at Kamloops, BC on August 3, 1918. Volume II.

Manuel, Arthur James: Born at Canso on February 4, 1893, son of William and Mary (McNeary) Manuel. Killed in action near Inchy-en-Artois, France on September 25, 1918. Volume II.

Marr, Charles William: Born at Boylston on April 16, 1896, son of Lawrence M. and Mary Amanda (McPherson) Marr. Killed in action near Cambrai, France on September 30, 1918. Volume II.

Mills, Clayton R.: Born at Port Hilford on January 15, 1888, son of Robert Bruce and Ann “Annie” Scott (McKeen) Mills. Killed in action near Caix, France on August 9, 1918. Volume II.

Morgan, Joseph Charles: Born at Guysborough on January 5, 1879, son of Joseph Christopher and Elizabeth Ann (Hadley) Morgan. Died of sickness at Guysborough, NS on September 19, 1917. Volume I.

Morris, Thomas Richard “Tommy”: Born at Nerissa on February 4, 1890, son of Richard S. and Sarah Ann (Ross) Morris. Killed in action near Albert, France on October 16, 1916. Volume I.

Morrison, Nathaniel “Neil”: Born at Mulgrave on October 20, 1879, son of Roderick and Euphemia (McIsaac) Morrison. Accidentally killed near Jedburgh, Scotland on October 10, 1918. Volume II.

Munro, Abram Arthur: Born at Whitehead on February 22, 1892, son of Arthur MacPherson and Elizabeth A. “Lizzie” (Greencorn) Munro. Died of wounds at Toronto, ON on January 30, 1935. Volume II.

Munroe, Allan Ellsworth: Born at Whitehead on July 31, 1894, son of Andrew David and Anna Ernest “Annie” (Ehler) Munroe. Killed in action at Vimy Ridge, France on April 9, 1917. Volume I.

Myers, Willard Spurgeon: Born at Cole Harbour on June 27, 1892, son of Frederick Levi and Catherine Margaret (Gillie) Myers. Killed in action near Cambrai, France on September 29, 1918. Volume II.

Nickerson, Wilfred Asa: Born at Canso on December 8, 1896, son of Reuben and Sarah (Swain) Nickerson. Accidentally killed (explosion) near Thélus, France on June 4, 1919. Volume II.

O'Brien, James Edward: Born at Canso on March 26, 1896, son of John J. and Elizabeth (Landry) O'Brien. Killed in action near Fouquescourt, France on August 10, 1918. Volume II.

O'Donoghue, Charles Kingston: Born at Canso on August 11, 1897, son of Charles and Frances M. C. (Baird) O'Donoghue. Killed in action near Cambrai, France on September 27, 1918. Volume II.

O'Haley (Haley), Simon: Born at Port Felix on October 28, 1898, son of John Adam and Matilda “Minnie” (Richard) O'Haley. Killed in action near Dury, France on September 2, 1918. Volume II.

O'Hara, Lester Conwell: Born at New Harbour on February 7, 1894, son of James Alexander and Alina (Sangster) O'Hara. Killed in action at Courcelette, France on September 17, 1916. Volume I.

Potter, Gordon Vincent: Born at Fisherman's Harbour on October 13, 1897, son of Thomas and Martha (Bingley) Potter. Killed in action near Dury, France on September 2, 1918. Volume II.

Pye, Laurier Falconer: Born at Sherbrooke on October 26, 1896, son of Charles Waddell and Eugenia “Gene” (Jollota) Pye. Died of wounds at Camiers, France on October 5, 1918. Volume II.

Rabbie, John J.: Born at Hazel Hill on September 18, 1899, son of George and Elizabeth “Lizzie” (Barry) Rabbie. Died of sickness at Halifax, NS on December 15, 1918. Volume II.

Reynolds (Rhynold), John: Born at Canso on January 5, 1883, son of Anthony and Margaret Louise (Haines) Reynolds. Died of wounds near Vimy, France on June 19, 1917. Volume I.

Rhynold, John Scott: Born at Canso on August 4, 1885, son of William David and Mary M. (Hurst) Rhynold. Died of sickness at Halifax, NS on October 13, 1920. Volume II.

Richmond, James: Born at Mulgrave on September 29, 1891, parents unknown. Killed in action near Courcelette, France on October 1, 1916. Volume I.

Scranton, John Samuel: Born at Manchester on June 23, 1879, son of William and Ann Jane Scranton. Killed in action in Ypres Salient, Belgium on July 5, 1916. Volume I.

Sinclair, James Murray: Born at Goshen on April 10, 1898, son of William and Mary (Polson) Sinclair. Died of sickness at Halifax, NS on August 14, 1919. Volume II.

Smith, Albyn R.: Born at St. Francis Harbour on August 10, 1894, son of George and Nancy (Avery) Smith, adopted son of Jeffrey and Charlotte Pelrine, Larry's River. Killed in action at Passchendaele, Belgium on October 30, 1917. Volume I.

Smith, Martin: Born at St. Francis Harbour on November 9, 1894, son of Thomas and Mary (MacNeil)  Smith, Mulgrave. Died of sickness at Keighley, England on July 2, 1917. Volume I.

Smith, Raymond Edward: Born at Mulgrave on January 25, 1887, son of Thomas and Mary (McNeil) Smith. Killed in action near Cambrai, France on September 30, 1918. Volume II.

Somers, Owen Delbert: Born at Middle Melford on January 21, 1896, son of David A. and Harriet A. (Grant) Somers. Died of wounds at Camiers, France on November 4, 1917. Volume I.

Spears, William Robertson: Born at Spanish Ship Bay on May 15, 1898, son of Nelson and Mary Ann “Annie” (Howlett) Spears. Killed in action near Oppy, France on March 18, 1918. Volume II.

Stewart, Samuel Robert: Born at Two Mile Lake on July 22, 1877, son of William and Mary E. Stewart. Died of sickness at Westville, NS on May 28, 1918. Volume II.

Stoutley, Ralph Leslie: Born at Guysborough on March 10, 1894, son of James Edward Albert “Ned” and Rachel A. (Bacchus) Stoutley. Killed in action near Lens, France on July 6/7, 1917. Volume I.

Sullivan, Thomas: Born at Canso on August 22, 1885, son of David and Mary (Sutherland) Sullivan. Died of wounds at Poperinghe, Belgium on November 5, 1917. Volume I.

Sutherland, Harry Lee: Born at Country Harbour on February 20, 1897, son of Robert Henry and Elizabeth Jane “Libby” (McKeen) Sutherland. Died of sickness at Saint John, NB on May 22, 1918. Volume II.

Suttis (Waterhouse), Thomas William “Tommy”: Born at Leeds, England on July 20, 1884, son of Isaac and Caroline (Townson) Waterhouse, Leeds, England and adopted son of David and Emma Eunice (Atwater) Suttis, Indian Harbour. Killed in action at Passchendaele, Belgium on October 30, 1917. Volume I.

Swaine, Arthur: Born at Canso on May 10, 1891, son of Samuel Isaiah and Emily Myra “Emma” (McLellan) Swaine Jr. Killed in action near Courcelette, France on September 21, 1916. Volume I.

Swaine, Benjamin Wallace: Born at Canso on December 11, 1897, son of Samuel Isaiah and Emily Myra “Emma” (McLellan) Swaine Jr. Accidentally killed (gunshot) at Cité St. Pierre, France on March 24, 1918. Volume II.

Swaine, John William: Born at Canso on September 19, 1891, son of Rupert and Eunice J. “Jennie” (Talbot) Swaine. Killed in action near Éleu-dit-Leauwette, France on June 28, 1917. Volume I.

Swaine, Roland Judson: Born at Canso on February 6, 1893, son of Samuel Isaiah and Emily Myra “Emma” (McLellan) Swaine Jr. Killed in action near St. Eloi, Belgium on April 14, 1916. Volume I.

Swain, Sydney Garfield: Born at Grosvenor on June 11, 1898, son of Charles and Hattie Amelia (Fitt) Swain. Killed in action near Inchy-en-Artois, France on September 25, 1918. Volume II.

Sweet, Ralph B.: Born at Goldenville on February 11, 1896, son of Burton Samuel and Alice Cox (Eaton) Sweet. Died of sickness at Dartmouth, NS on March 25, 1916. Volume I.

Tate, John William “Jack”: Born at Melrose on August 29, 1880, son of Daniel and Catherine Ann “Cassie” (Sullivan) Tate. Killed in action near St. Eloi, Belgium on February 28, 1915. Volume I.

Taylor, James Arthur: Born at Forks St. Mary's on August 13, 1882, son of John William and Mary Ann (Mason) Taylor. Died of wounds at Vimy Ridge, France on April 10, 1917. Volume I.

Tory, Charles Howard: Born at Guysborough Intervale on March 2, 1886, son of James William and Elizabeth Anne (Gillie) Tory. Killed in action at St. Julien, Belgium on April 24, 1915. Volume I.

Tyner, Clifford: Born at Port Hilford on April 27, 1893, son of Rev. James Edmund and Winifred B. “Winnie” (Shankle/Schenkel) Tyner, Vermillion, Alberta. Killed in action near Courcelette, France on October 11, 1916. Volume I.

Uloth, William Thomas: Born at Whitehead on December 18, 1894, son of John Samuel and Margaret Jane “Maggie” (George) Uloth. Died accidentally (drowning) at Arras, France on November 12, 1918. Volume II.

Wells, John Cleveland: Born at Whitehead on April 29, 1887, son of John Shelley and Mary Ann (Munroe) Wells. Died accidentally (fall) at Quincy, MA on December 7, 1917. Volume I.

Whitman, Wilfred Joseph: Born at Manchester on March 29, 1897, son of Rufus William and Nellie Gavin (McDonald) Whitman. Died of wounds at Villers-Brettoneux, France on August 17, 1918. Volume II.

Williams, Courtney: Born at Cole Harbour on April 2, 1897, son of Elisha and Georgina (Harrigan) Williams. Killed in action in Ypres Salient, Belgium on July 13, 1916. Volume I.

Worth, Joseph Ernest: Born at Ogden on October 19, 1896, son of Edward King and Katherine Ann “Kellie” (McCallum) Worth. Died of sickness at Eastbourne, England on February 4, 1919. Volume II.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Remembering Private Thomas Sullivan—Died of Wounds November 5, 1917

Thomas Sullivan was born at Canso, Guysborough County on August 22, 1885, the youngest of David and Mary Sullivan’s five sons. David passed away on January 20, 1911, leaving Thomas and his older brother, Neil, to care for their widowed mother.

Private Thomas William Sullivan.
On April 24, 1916, Thomas enlisted with the 193rd Battalion at Canso, NS. Following a month’s training with a local detachment, Thomas travelled to Camp Aldershot, where he spent the summer training alongside the 193rd’s three Nova Scotia Highland Brigade mates, the 85th (Nova Scotia Highlanders), 185th (Cape Breton Highlanders) and 219th Battalions.

During the month of August, Thomas was reported “absent without leave” for eight days. While the 193rd departed with the Highland Brigade aboard RMS Olympic on October 12, perhaps due to his earlier transgression, Thomas was re-assigned to No. 6 Special Services Company, Halifax, several days prior to the vessel’s departure. Despite a second “AWL” infraction in January 1917, Thomas departed Halifax on March 26 with a reinforcement draft from the 246th Battalion.

Initially assigned to the 17th Reserve Battalion upon arriving in England, Thomas later spent six weeks with the 185th Battalion before receiving a transfer to the 85th Battalion on July 10. After landing in France, Thomas remained at Canadian Base Depot, Le Havre, for three weeks before he was temporarily assigned to 4th Entrenching Battalion. Thomas spent two months in the forward area with the labour unit, finally joining the 85th’s ranks at Bruay, France on October 10.

One week after Thomas’s arrival, the unit travelled northward to Staple, France, adjacent to the Belgian border, and commenced training for its next assignment—the Canadian Corps’ attack on Passchendaele Ridge, Belgium. On October 23, the soldiers travelled to Ypres, Belgium and marched to nearby St. Lawrence Camp. Three days later, 3rd and 4th Canadian Division units launched the first stage of a four-phase attack on the ridge.

On the night of October 28, Thomas accompanied the 85th into the line for his first “tour” in the trenches. Following a final day of preparation, three 85th Companies went “over the top” toward their objective—a cluster of fortified structures at a location called “Vienna Cottage”—at 5:50 a.m. October 30.

The advancing soldiers were immediately met by a hail of machine gun, rifle and artillery fire that completely impeded their progress. According to later reports, fighting raged for 10 to 30 minutes before “D” Company, waiting in reserve, joined the fray. German resistance broke as the reinforcements reached their comrades and the battalion swept forward to its objective.

While the unit’s soldiers set about establishing a defensive line several hundred yards in front of Vienna Cottage, the Officer in charge sent a Battalion Headquarters, indicating that the unit had suffered “heavy” casualties. The 85th remained in the line throughout the following day, enduring a particularly fierce artillery bombardment after dusk. The battalion withdrew from the line during the night of October 31/November 1, having suffered almost 400 casualties during its Passchendaele tour.

Private Thomas Sullivan was among the soldiers wounded during the first day’s fighting. Thomas was admitted to No. 8 Canadian Field Ambulance on October 30 with a serious wound to his right chest. Medical staff immediately performed surgery on the area, identifying two wounds—`’entry and exit”—on the right side of his sternum,  but finding no “foreign body.”

Evacuated to No 3 Casualty Clearing Station on November 1, Thomas lingered in “dangerous” condition for several days before passing away from his injuries on November 5, 1917. Private Thomas Sullivan was laid to rest in Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, Belgium.


Bantry Publishing’s “First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume I: 1915 - 1917” contains a detailed description of Thomas’s family background and military experience, along with profiles of 71 other Guysborough County soldiers and sailors who lost their lives during the first three years of Canadian overseas service.

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Remembering Lance Corporal Owen Delbert Somers—Died of Wounds November 4, 1917

Owen Delbert Somers was born at Middle Melford, Guysborough County on January 21, 1896, the youngest of Harriet A. (Grant) and David A. Somers’ five children. Owen was working as a baker in Sydney, NS when he enlisted with the 185th Battalion (Cape Breton Highlanders) on March 28, 1916. The unit trained at Camp Broughton—an abandoned mining operation on the outskirts of Sydney—until late May, at which time its soldiers relocated to Camp Aldershot for a summer of military drill, alongside their comrades from three additional Nova Scotia Highland Brigade units.

Lance Corporal Owen Delbert Somers.


On October 12, the Brigade’s four battalions—85th (Nova Scotia Highlanders), 185th, 193rd and 219th—departed Halifax aboard RMS Olympic and made their way to Camp Witley in southern England. Upon arriving overseas, Owen was promoted to the rank of Lance Corporal. Before year’s end, significant Canadian casualties incurred at the Somme during the autumn of 1916 resulted in the dissolution of the 193rd and 219th Battalions. While the 185th remained intact with Owen among its ranks, an abscess in his groin resulted in Owen’s hospitalization for several months and eliminated the possibility of a transfer to a unit at the front.

Discharged from medical care on April 21, Owen reverted to the rank of Private shortly afterward, in order to hasten a transfer to France. On June 25, Owen proceeded overseas for service with the 85th Battalion (Nova Scotia Highlanders). The Highland Brigade’s senior unit, the 85th had landed in France on February 10, 1917. Two of its four Companies saw combat at Vimy Ridge on April 9, 1917, proceeding up Hill 145’s western slopes during the early evening hours and capturing the ridge’s highest point.

Throughout the spring and summer months, Owen served with the battalion in sectors near Lens, France and followed the unit northward to Staple, France—adjacent to the Belgian border—in early October. For several weeks, personnel trained in preparation for the Canadian Corps’ next major assignment—an attack on Passchendaele village and its surrounding ridge.

On October 23, the 85th broke camp and travelled to Ypres. Three days later, 3rd and 4th Division units launched the first phase of a four-stage attack on the ridge. On the night of October 28, the 85th made its way into the line and the following day completed final preparations for combat. At 5:50 a.m. October 30, three of the 85th’s Companies advanced toward their assigned target, a cluster of fortified buildings at a location called “Vienna Cottage.”

A hail of German machine gun, rifle and artillery fire greeted the soldiers as they made their way forward, several of their Officers falling as the Companies left their “jumping off” positions. Within minutes, a ferocious fire-fight erupted in No Man’s Land and any soldier who attempted to stand instantly became a casualty. According to later reports, the fighting raged for 10 to 30 minutes before “D” Company, waiting in reserve, advanced in support. German resistance broke as the reinforcements reached their comrades and the battalion swept onward to its objective.

While the unit succeeded in capturing Vienna Cottage and advanced to its final destination several hundred yards beyond, the Officer in charge reported that casualties were “heavy.” The soldiers set about establishing a new defensive line, enduring a particularly heavy bombardment after dusk October 31. Later that night, the 85th’s remaining personnel made their way out of the line as units relieved them in the newly established front trench.

During its Passchendaele tour, the 85th suffered almost 400 casualties, its worst combat losses of the war. Owen was among the “other ranks” (OR) wounded during the fighting. Evacuated from the battlefield, he was admitted to No. 4 General Hospital, Camiers on November 3. Reported “dangerously ill” at the time of his arrival, Private Owen Delbert Somers died from the effects of a gunshot wound to the head on November 4, 1917 and was laid to rest in Étaples Military Cemetery, France.

Bantry Publishing’s “First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume I: 1915 - 1917” contains a detailed description of Owen’s family background and military experience, along with profiles of 71 other Guysborough County soldiers and sailors who lost their lives during the first three years of Canadian overseas service.

Monday, 30 October 2017

Guysborough's "Passchendaele Boys"

In mid-October 1917, Canadian Corps units arrived in Belgium’s Ypres Salient and assumed responsibility for sectors of the line at the foot of Passchendaele Ridge. On October 26, 3rd and 4th Division units launched the first of a four-phase assault on the village of Passchendaele and its surrounding ridge. Two days later, fresh units entered the line and prepared for the second stage. On the morning of October 30, the battalions resumed the attack. Four Guysborough County soldiers were killed during the day’s fighting.


1. William Andrew “Will” Jordain was born at New Town, Guysborough County on June 6, 1890, the son of Caroline Gordon “Carrie” (Archibald) and Peter Jordain. Will enlisted with the 151st Battalion at Edmonton, AB on January 16, 1916. The unit crossed to England in early October 1916, but was disbanded shortly after arriving overseas.

Pte. William Andrew Jordain
On October 16, Will was transferred to the Canadian Machine Gun Corps’s training facility at Shorncliffe, England. After four months of training, he crossed the English Channel to France and was assigned to the 15th Canadian Machine Gun Company (CMGC) on February 8, 1917. The recently created unit spent almost two months training before its personnel entered the line near Neuville-Saint-Vaast on March 30 for its first “tour.”

Will’s unit participated in the Canadian Corps’ April 9 attack on Vimy Ridge and served in sectors near Lens, France throughout the spring and summer months. In mid-October, personnel made their way northward to Belgium, entering the line on October 28. The following day, the gunners completed preparations for their role in the second phase of the attack on Passchendaele Ridge.

As Canadian infantry units advanced toward their objectives at 5:50 a.m. October 30, Will and his mates commenced firing approximately 600,000 rounds of ammunition at German positions. In response, German artillery heavily shelled the Canadian line, in an effort to neutralize the machine gun barrage. According to its war diary, 15th CMGC’s positions “were heavily shelled throughout the day and night and casualties were heavy.”

Private Will Jordain was among the personnel killed during the day’s fighting. His remains were never recovered from the mud-strewn battlefield. Will’s name is engraved on the Menin Gate, Ypres, Belgium, one of more than 55,000 British and Imperial soldiers “lost without a trace during the defence of the Ypres Salient in the First World War.”


2. Albyn R. Smith was born at Saint Francis Harbour, Guysborough County on August 10, 1894. The identity of his parents remain a mystery. Sometime before 1901, Albyn was adopted by Charlotte and Jeffrey Pelrine, Larry’s River. On July 10, 1916, Albyn attested for service with the Composite Battalion at Halifax. At the time, he was was almost six feet tall and weighed 169 pounds, a sizeable lad for his day.

Pte. Albyn Smith (488357)—Menin Gate Inscription
In early August, Albyn departed for England, where he was promoted to the rank of Lance Corporal on September 29. Eager to serve overseas, he soon “reverted to ranks” to hasten a transfer and was assigned to the 60th Battalion (Victoria Rifles of Canada, Montreal) on October 26. Albyn crossed the English Channel to France the following day and joined his new unit in the line on November 23.

Illness soon interrupted Albyn’s service in the line. On December 20, he was admitted to a field ambulance for treatment of pleurisy. Albyn rejoined the 60th’s ranks in early February 1917, by which time military authorities had decided to disband the unit, due to dwindling reinforcement numbers. While the soldiers participated in the Canadian Corps’ historic April 9, 1917 attack on Vimy Ridge, the 60th was disbanded before month’s end.

Albyn was part of a draft of 11 Officers and 225 OR transferred to the 5th Battalion, Canadian Mounted Rifles (CMR), on April 30. He served with his new unit in sectors near Lens throughout the summer of 1917 and followed 5th CMR northward to Caëstre, France, near the Belgian border, in mid-October. One week later, the battalion travelled by train to Ypres and entered the line for its Passchendaele assignment on the evening of October 28.

A steady hail of artillery fire inflicted casualties as 5th CMR spent the following day preparing for combat. At 5:50 a.m. October 30, Albyn and his comrades went “over the top” toward the German line. In little more than two hours, all Companies achieved their objectives, but were subjected to enemy fire from both flanks throughout the morning as units on each side had failed to keep pace with their advance. Officers estimated casualties at approximately 300, while an afternoon report stated that the unit had lost 75 % of its trench strength of 590 “all ranks.”

On the night of October 31/November 1, 2nd Battalion CMR relieved 5th CMR in the trenches. As the unit retired from the line, the toll from its Passchendaele assignment was staggering. Seven of its Officers had been killed, 10 wounded and another 10 “wounded and missing.” Amongst its OR, 381 were killed, wounded or missing, while 14 wounded OR remained at duty.

Private Albyn Smith was one of the OR killed during the October 30 fighting. His remains were never recovered from the battlefield where he fell. Albyn’s name is inscribed on the Menin Gate, Ypres, Belgium, erected in honour of British and Imperial soldiers who died on the battlefields of Flanders and have no known grave.


3. Private Thomas William “Tommy” Waterhouse was born at Leeds, England on July 20, 1884. His mother, Caroline (Townson) Waterhouse, passed away in 1890, leaving Tommy in the care of his 20-year-old brother, Edward. While a local resident took Tommy into his home shortly after Caroline’s death, the arrangement ended five years later, at which time Tommy applied for admission to the Children’s Emigration Home, Birmingham.

Pte. Thomas William (Waterhouse) Suttis.
The charity accepted Tommy into its care and in 1896 arranged for Tommy to emigrate to Halifax, NS, where he was placed in a Fairview “receiving home” until he found an adoptive family. At the same time, David and Emma (Atwater) Suttis, an older, childless couple residing at Indian Harbour Lake, Guysborough County, were seeking a boy to help them with daily chores. An arrangement was quickly made and Tommy moved into the Suttis home.

As he grew into adulthood, Tommy went to work in the local fishery. While never formally adopted, he used the surname “Suttis” following his arrival in Indian Harbour Lake. When military recruiters visited Guysborough County in the spring of 1916, Tommy enlisted with the 193rd Battalion and spent the summer training at Camp Aldershot, near Kentville. In mid-October 1916, he crossed to England with the 193rd as part of the Nova Scotia Highland Brigade.

Upon arriving overseas, Tommy took the opportunity to visit family in Birmingham. Before year’s end, pressing demands for reinforcements in France led to the 193rd’s dissolution. On December 5, 1916, Tommy was transferred to the 42nd Battalion (Royal Highlanders of Canada) and crossed the English Channel the following day. Shortly after landing in France, however, he was temporarily attached to 3rd Entrenching Battalion. Tommy served with the work unit for almost two months, at which time he received a second transfer to the 85th Battalion (Nova Scotia Highlanders) on February 24, 1917.

The Nova Scotia Highland Brigade’s senior unit, the 85th had arrived in France earlier in the month. Tommy joined their ranks at Gouy-Servins on March 5 and served with the unit at Vimy Ridge the following month. Assigned to the 4th Canadian Division’s 12th Brigade in late April, the unit completed tours in the Lens area throughout the summer of 1917. In mid-October, the battalion travelled northward to Staple, near the Belgian border, where its ranks trained in preparation for their Passchendaele assignment.

The 85th made its way to Ypres, Belgium on October 23 and five days later entered the trenches for its role in the second stage of the Canadian Corps’ Passchendaele operation. The 85th was located on the 12th Brigade’s extreme right flank, its objective to capture a cluster of fortified buildings called Vienna Cottage and establish a new defensive line approximately 600 yards from its jumping off trenches.

As Tommy and his mates went “over the top” toward their objective at 5:50 a.m. October 30, they immediately encountered a wall of enemy fire. The supporting artillery barrage in their sector was “light… little if any of it” striking German positions. Within minutes, a fierce fire-fight erupted in No Man’s Land, cutting down any soldier who dared to stand. When the three attacking Companies appeared to waver, a fourth Company waiting in reserve entered the fight. German resistance broke as the reinforcements reached their comrades and the battalion pushed on to its final objective, although casualties were “very heavy.”

The 85th remained in the line for almost 48 hours, its soldiers working to establish a new defensive position. By the time the unit retired on the night of October 31/November 1, the extent of its Passchendaele losses were staggering. A total of 12 Officers were killed and another later died of wounds, while seven others were seriously wounded in the fighting. Amongst its OR, the losses were similarly devastating—a total of 135 soldiers were killed and 243 wounded. The remains of 75 fallen 85th soldiers were never recovered from the battlefield.

Tommy was one of the fatalities buried somewhere beneath the Passchendaele battlefield. His name is engraved on the Menin Gate, Ypres, Belgium, erected in memory of the thousands of British and Imperial soldiers killed in the Ypres Salient during the First World War and who have no known final resting place.


4. Neil Cornelius David was born at Port Felix on June 6, 1896, the son of William Henry and Bridget (Bellefontaine) David. Neil enlisted with the 237th Battalion at Halifax, NS on August 1, 1916. One of several “American Legion” units recruited across the country, the battalion was disbanded shortly after Neil’s enlistment, at which time he was transferred to the 97th Battalion, another “American Legion” unit.

Pte. Neil David's Menin Gate Inscription.


The 97th departed for England on September 18 and was in turn dissolved shortly after its overseas arrival. On October 31, 1916, Neil was transferred to the Royal Canadian Regiment (RCR)—Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI) Depot, Seaford. Neil spent the winter of 1916-17 in England and was assigned to the PPCLI on April 25, 1917. Two and a half weeks later, he joined the unit in France.

The PPCLI was the Canadian Corps’ most experienced unit, having arrived on the Western Front in late December 1914. Neil joined the battalion in the aftermath of its Vimy Ridge assignment and served with the “Patricias” in sectors near Lens throughout the summer months. On October 23, the battalion travelled northward by train to Ypres, Belgium, its soldiers spending the night amongst the ruins, where they endured considerable aerial bombardment.

On the afternoon of October 28, the PPCLI commenced the journey into the front trenches facing Passchendaele Ridge. At 5:50 a.m. October 30, its 28 Officers and 600 OR advanced toward their objective—the village of Metcheele and its surrounding high ground—making steady progress throughout the early morning hours. By mid-morning, however, the unit had suffered considerable casualties and urgently requested reinforcements. In response, four RCR platoons moved forward and assisted the unit in establishing a new defensive line in front of the village of Metcheele by early afternoon.

When the unit withdrew from the line on the night of October 31/November 1, only 245 of its soldiers remained at duty. Nine Officers were killed, 10 wounded and one gassed during the tour, while 93 of its OR were killed, 199 wounded and 38 missing. The battalion suffered a staggering total of 354 casualties “all ranks” at Passchendaele.

Private Neil David was initially reported “missing in action… last seen as he was leaving the ‘jumping off’ trench in the [October 30] attack.” Struck of the unit’s strength three days after its withdrawal from the line, Neil was officially reported “killed in action” four months later. No information ever surfaced as to the circumstances in which he died.

As with so many of his Passchendaele comrades, Neil’s remains were never recovered from the battlefield. His name is inscribed on the Menin Gate, Ypres, Belgium, erected as a memorial to the thousands of soldiers who died in the Ypres Salient and whose bodies were never recovered.

Menin Gate, Ypres, Belgium.
*****

Bantry Publishing’s First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia Volume I: 1915 - 1917 contains detailed summaries of the above four Passchendaele soldiers’ family background and military experience, along with profiles of 68 other Guysborough County soldiers who died during the first three years of Canadian overseas service.

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.