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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.

*****

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.
*****

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.
*****
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.