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Sunday, 25 June 2017

Remembering Gunner Charles Hugh Fraser—KIA June 25, 1917

Charles Hugh “Charlie” Fraser was born at Guysborough Intervale, Guysborough County on October 19, 1890, the oldest of Clara Ann “Annie” (McPherson) and Daniel Joseph Fraser’s 10 children. Around 1908, the family relocated to Taber, AB, where Charlie worked as a cook.

Sixteen months after the outbreak of the First World War, Charlie enlisted with the 39th Battery, Canadian Field Artillery, at Lethbridge, AB on December 8, 1915. The unit—the second of four batteries recruited in the area during the war—became part of the 10th Brigade CFA in January 1916 and made its way to Saint John, NB the following month. Personnel departed for overseas aboard SS Missinabie on March 2 and arrived at Portsmouth, England 10 days later.

10th Brigade CFA was attached to the 3rd Canadian Division and crossed the English Channel to France on July 13. Three days later, the Brigade departed by train for Belgium’s Ypres Salient, where its personnel entered the forward area before month’s end. Charlie’s battery served with the 10th Brigade in the Ypres Salient’s trenches for two months, relocating to the Somme region of France in early October. The units provided artillery fire in support of Canadian Corps attacks on Regina Trench, a fortified German position located on Thiepval Ridge. Following its capture in early November, the 10th Brigade CFA moved northward to the Arras area, where personnel served in the line throughout the winter of 1916-17.

While Charlie’s unit was in the line on April 9, 1917, its guns played no direct role in the Canadian Corps’ attack on Vimy Ridge. Personnel moved forward several days later as Canadian artillery units established operations in several towns below the newly captured  ridge. During the ensuing weeks, German artillery targeted No. 39 Battery’s position on several occasions, one “other rank” (OR) killed and five OR wounded during the late May tour. Throughout their time in the line, artillery crews targeted specific locations in the German forward area. On June 13, 10th Brigade batteries commenced a week-long “special programme of night, harassing fire,” and responded to calls for retaliatory shelling when requested.

Fatalities continued as both sides targeted their opponents’ artillery units. Major A. B. Stafford, the 39th Battery’s Commanding Officer, was struck by enemy fire on June 24 and died of wounds before day’s end. The following day—June 25, 1917—as Major Stafford was laid to rest at Noeux-les-Mines, the 10th Brigade’s war diary reported one OR killed by artillery fire. Gunner Charles Hugh Fraser was the day’s lone fatality. Charlie was laid to rest in Écoivres Military Cemetery, France.

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

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Remembering Private Charles Burton Langille—KIA June 22, 1917

Charles Burton Langille was born at Liscomb, Guysborough County on November 15, 1894, the second son and youngest child of David and Margaret Ann (Lang) Langille. Margaret passed away sometime after Charles’ birth, and as David worked as a sea captain in the local fishery, the children were dispersed to several local homes.

Sometime prior to 1914, Charles ventured west, finding work as a cook in British Columbia. He also enlisted with the 5th Canadian Garrison Artillery, a Victoria militia unit. Following the outbreak of the First World War, Charles commenced training with the 11th Regiment Canadian Mounted Rifles at Vancouver, BC on February 25, 1915. One month later, he attested for overseas service with the unit, but was discharged as “medically unfit” on August 2.

Determined to serve overseas, Charles travelled to Calgary, AB and eight days later enlisted with the 50th Battalion. In mid-October, the unit travelled to Halifax and shortly afterwards boarded SS Orduna for the trans-Atlantic voyage. Upon landing at Plymouth, England on November 4, the 50th made its way to Camp Bramshott. One month after arriving in England, Charles was hospitalized for treatment of influenza and pneumonia. He remained under medical care for more than two months, finally rejoining the 50th’s ranks in early February 1916.

Following its overseas arrival, the 50th Battalion was assigned to the 4th Division’s 10th Brigade. The unit crossed the English Channel to France on August 9 and commenced regular rotations in Belgium’s Ypres Salient before month’s end.

In early October, the 4th Division relocated to the Somme region of France, where the 50th’s personnel participated in a series of attacks on Regina Trench, a German stronghold located along Thiepval Ridge. In late November, Charles was hospitalized a second time, on this occasion for treatment of enteritis. He spent two months recovering before rejoining the 50th's ranks near Carency, France in mid-January 1917.

On the morning of April 9, 1917, the 50th and its 10th Brigade comrades occupied support positions behind the 11th and 12th Brigade units as the Canadian Corps launched their historic attack on Vimy Ridge. The two Brigades faced the day’s most difficult assignment—removing opposing forces from Hill 145, the ridge’s highest location. While German soldiers withstood the early morning barrage and inflicted significant casualties on two 11th Brigade units, an early evening attack by two Companies of the 85th Battalion succeeded in securing the hill’s western slopes.

The following afternoon, the 50th’s personnel assisted in clearing German soldiers from the remnants of Hill 145, as the unit sustained the first significant casualties since its Somme engagements. On April 12, the battalion took part in a successful attack on “the Pimple,” an elevated location adjacent to Hill 145 and the final section of the ridge still in German hands.

Charles came through both engagements without injury, only to be hospitalized with a case of mumps on April 13. He returned to the 50th’s ranks at Château de la Haie on June 7 and five days later entered support positions with his mates. On June 19, the 50th relieved the 85th Battalion (Nova Scotia Highlanders) in front trenches near Liévin. Two days later, Allied forces fired a combination of gas canisters and “Stokes shells” at a section of the German line opposite the 50th’s location. German forces responded with trench mortar and artillery fire, inflicting a total of 33 casualties on the battalion.

While Charles came through the exchange of fire without injury, he was not so fortunate the following day. While the 50th’s war diary described June 21 as “fairly quiet,” with “occasional shelling of front line and support areas,” the unit nevertheless suffered 20 more casualties, two of which were fatalities. Private Charles Burton Langille was one of the two “other ranks” killed in action during the day’s exchange of fire. He was laid to rest in Cabaret-Rouge Cemetery, Souchez France.

Pte. Charles Burton Langille's headstone.

Bantry Publishing’s “First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume I: 1915 - 1917” contains a detailed summary of Charles’ family background and military service, along with 71 other profiles of Guysborough County’s fallen First World War personnel.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Remembering Private Philip Sydney Beals & Private John Rhynold—KIA & DOW June 19, 1917

On June 19, 1917, two First World War soldiers with connections to Guysborough County were killed or died of wounds while serving with two separate units.

Philip Sydney Beals was born at Billtown, Kings County on July 4, 1889, the oldest of three children in the family of Reverend Frank H. and Annie (Smith) Beals. Several years after Philip’s birth, Rev. Beals became Pastor of the Baptist congregation at Canso, Guysborough County, where Philip’s two siblings, Helen and Carlyle, joined the family.

Private Philip Sydney Beals.
By 1901, the family had relocated to Digby, Annapolis County, where Phillip completed his grammar school education and went on to complete a Bachelor of Science degree at Acadia University. On June 30, 1914, he married Mabel Bateaux Easson, a native of Factorydale—near Berwick—Kings County. The couple settled at Morristown, near Mabel’s home, where Philip took up farming.

Following the outbreak of the First World War, Philip initially enlisted with the 14th Independent Field Battery, Royal Canadian Artillery, Halifax. In early 1916, military recruiters canvassed the province, in search of soldiers for the Nova Scotia Highland Brigade. Philip enlisted with the 219th Battalion at Berwick, NS on March 2, 1916 and departed Halifax aboard SS Olympic on October 12.

Before year’s end, significant Canadian Corps casualties incurred at the Somme during the autumn of 1916 led military officials to dissolve two of the Highland Brigade’s four battalions. Philip’s 219th was one of the two units whose soldiers were dispersed to other battalions. On December 28, he was transferred to the 85th Battalion (Nova Scotia Highlanders), the Brigade’s senior unit. On February 10, 1917, he crossed the English Channel to France with his new unit and commenced preparations to enter the line.

Due to its lack of combat experience, in the weeks prior to the Canadian Corps’ historic attack on Vimy Ridge, the 85th was attached to the 4th Division’s 11th Brigade as a “working unit.” When the 11th Brigade’s soldiers failed to capture Hill 145 during the initial assault on the morning of April 9, two of the 85th’s companies entered the line late in the day and succeeded in dislodging German forces from the hill’s western slopes in an early evening attack. While Philip’s “A” Company was not part of the action, the following morning, he and his comrades joined their 85th colleagues atop the ridge.

Shortly its Vimy debut, military officials assigned the 85th to the 4th Division’s 12th Brigade, where it commenced a regular rotation in the line. On the night of June 15, “A” and “B” Companies relieved their “C” and “D” counterparts in the Liévin Sector’s front trenches. Four days later, “A” Company participated in an operation to clear German forces from a “triangle of trenches” adjacent to its line, in conjunction with an Imperial regiment to its left.

The soldiers vacated their position prior to a massive artillery barrage, which commenced at 2:30 p.m.. Four minutes later, the Company re-occupied the front trenches and dispatched a small party into the triangle, to ensure that German forces had been removed from the targeted area. While there were no casualties during the operation, German retaliatory artillery fire commenced at 2:40 p.m. and continued into the early evening. Private Philip Sydney Beals was one of five “other rank” (OR) fatalities inflicted in the bombardment, “instantly killed by a high explosive shell.”

Philip was laid to rest in Cabaret-Rouge British Cemetery, Souchez, France. His bereaved widow, Mabel, never re-remarried and spent her remaining years at Morristown, Kings County, where she passed away on June 23, 1962.

*****

Private John Reynolds [Rhynold] was born at Canso, Guysborough County on January 5, 1883, the third of Margaret Louise (Haines) and Anthony Reynolds’ five children and the couple’s second son. John was married with four children when he enlisted for service with the 40th Battalion at Camp Valcartier, Quebec on July 13, 1915. The unit departed for overseas on October 18, 1915 and arrived at Plymouth, England nine days later.

Within weeks of his overseas arrival, John was transferred to the 17th Reserve Battalion (Nova Scotia). He remained with the 17th for six months, finally receiving a transfer to the Canadian Machine Gun Corps (CMGC) on June 23, 1916. John immediately reported to the CMGC Depot at Crowborough, where he completed his training. In mid-December 1916, he crossed the English Channel to the CMGC Depot at Camiers, France. On January 22, 1917, John was assigned to the 9th Canadian Machine Gun Company (9th CMG) and joined his new unit in the field four days later.

John served with 9th CMG at Vimy Ridge, its guns providing barrage fire in support of the 7th Canadian Brigade’s attack. The unit’s three batteries fired an estimated 334,000 rounds during the day’s advance, suffering only two “other ranks” (OR) slightly wounded. The unit served in the Vimy area throughout the spring of 1917, returning to trenches near the ridge on the night of June 14/15 for a routine tour in the line.

As the tour progressed, German artillery subjected 9th CMG’s position to scattered daytime shelling that intensified after nightfall. On the night of June 18/19, the unit endured particularly heavy fire along its section of the line shortly after midnight. Two OR were killed, while three others were evacuated to No. 7 Casualty Clearing Station (CCS) for treatment of their wounds.

Private John Reynolds was one of the three wounded OR. He “died of wounds (gun shot wounds, multiple)” at No. 7 CCS on June 19, 1917 and was laid to rest in Noeux-les-Mines Communal Cemetery, Noeux-les-Mines, France.


Philip’s and John’s stories are among the 72 profiles included in Bantry Publishing’s First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume I: 1915 - 1917, available for purchase online at bantrypublishing.ca .

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Remembering Private Arthur McCallum—Died of Wounds June 4, 1917

Arthur McCallum was born at Ogden, Guysborough County on April 20, 1895, the third of James and Bridget (Fitzgerald) McCallum’s seven children. Sometime after 1911, Arthur relocated to Pictou County, where he found employment as a blacksmith.

Pte. Arthur McCallum.
On February 26, 1916, Arthur enlisted with the 106th Battalion (Nova Scotia Rifles) at Pictou, NS and departed for England with the unit in mid-July. Following the 106th’s dissolution, Arthur was transferred to the 87th Battalion (Canadian Grenadier Guards) on December 10, 1916 and joined his new unit near Frévillers, France three days later.

Throughout the winter of 1916-17, Arthur served a regular rotation with the 87th, which was part of the 4th Canadian Division’s 11th Brigade. On the morning of April 9, 1917, Arthur was in the line as the 87th’s soldiers went “over the top” toward German positions atop Hill 145, the ridge’s highest elevation. The 87th and its Brigade mates, the 102nd Battalion, suffered heavy casualties throughout the morning as German forces atop the ridge held out against the assault. The intervention of two 85th Battalion companies later in the day turned the tide of battle and dislodged enemy forces from Hill 145’s western slopes.

Arthur was not injured in the fighting and remained in the line until the night of April 11, when the 87th’s remaining personnel retired to billets. The unit suffered seven Officers killed and one wounded, while 110 of its “other ranks” (OR) were killed, 157 wounded and 25 missing following three days’ fighting at Vimy Ridge.

Within weeks of his Vimy experience, health issues disrupted Arthur’s service. On April 30, he was evacuated “sick” and admitted to the 7th Convalescent Depot, Boulogne. Medical personnel initially determined that Arthur was suffering from myalgia in his legs and transferred him to the 7th Convalescent Depot, Écault. Arthur spent the remainder of the month recovering his strength and was discharged to No. 3 Rest Camp, Boulogne at month’s end.

A June 2 Medical Board determined that Arthur was “fit for duty.” Two days later, he began the journey back to the 87th’s camp, travelling by train to Étaples on the morning of June 4. Upon arriving at Étaples shortly after mid-day, Arthur began the march to No. 4 Canadian Base Depot, a distance of less than one mile. Within minutes, he felt weak and was unable to proceed any further. Taken into the kitchen of a nearby bakery, Arthur rested for several hours before several soldiers arrived to escort him to his quarters.

His companions later reported that Arthur complained of pains in his leg and nausea as he made his way toward camp. Upon arrival, an orderly assisted him up the steps and into the Orderly Room, where he collapsed. Arthur was immediately carried by stretcher to the medical tent, where a Medical Officer “failed to find any sign of life.” Private Arthur McCallum was pronounced dead at 10:00 p.m. June 4, 1917.

A subsequent inquiry failed to determine a specific cause of death, although its report emphatically stated that Arthur was “in no way to blame…. It would appear that he was in a debilitated condition on leaving the Details Camp, Boulogne, and was overcome on the journey from there to the 4th Canadian Base Depot, Étaples.” Private Arthur McCallum was laid to rest in Étaples Military Cemetery, Étaples, France.

A detailed account of Arthur's story is one of 72 profiles published in "First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume I: 1915 - 1917," available for purchase at Bantry Publishing's website.