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Saturday, 13 May 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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