|Pte. Courtney Alban Hull|
During the previous month, the 26th had suffered significant casualties in fighting at the Somme, after which it relocated northward to sectors near Lens, where it gradually rebuilt its ranks. The battalion served in the Lens area throughout the winter of 1916-17. As winter gave way to spring, the unit prepared for its role in the Canadian Corps’ historic attack on Vimy Ridge, France.
On the morning of April 9, 1917, the 26th was one of two 5th Brigade battalions participating in the initial stage of the operation in its sector—an attack on the German front line and a supporting defensive position called “Zwischen Stellung.” Within half an hour, the Brigade achieved its objectives, at which point the 25th Battalion (Nova Scotia)—another 5th Brigade unit—passed through its lines and onto the final objective.
While the 26th’s war diary reported “light” casualties, Courtney was wounded at some point during the day’s fighting and evacuated to a nearby field ambulance. He was admitted to No. 11 General Hospital, Boulogne on April 11, suffering from “multiple gunshot wounds.” A closer examination revealed “multiple contusions,” none of which proved serious. He spent the remainder of the month recovering and was discharged to No. 1 Convalescent Depot on May 6. Five days later, he was deemed “fit for duty” and returned to the Canadian Base Depot at Le Havre.
Courtney rejoined the 26th at Estrée Cauchie on June 7 as its personnel trained during a break from duty in the forward area. On July 2, the battalion entered Brigade Reserve near Angres and subsequently moved into the front trenches on the night of July 6/7. Personnel found the location “only in fair condition…. Companies are not linked up and parts of the line are not fit for occupation.”
In subsequent days, Allied guns conducted “harassing fire” on enemy defences, while German forces responded with artillery and mortar fire. Throughout the exchanges, personnel focused on “deepening and joining up” the intermittent front line defences. The battalion’s July 10 entry described a routine day during which artillery was active and “work was carried out improving the trenches.” The unit was relived later that night and retired to Divisional Reserve at Fosse.
While the entry makes no reference to casualties, Private Courtney Alban Hull was killed sometime during the day in what his “Circumstances of Casualty” form describes as “an attack near Lens.” He was laid to rest in Bully Grenay Communal Cemetery Extension, three and a half miles southeast of Noeux-les-Mines, France. At the time of his death, Courtney was three months shy of his twentieth birthday.
|Pte. Courtney Alban Hull's headstone, Bully Grenay Communal Cemetery|
Bantry Publishing”s “First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume I: 1915 - 1917” contains a detailed summary of Courtney’s family background and military service, along with profiles of 71 other Guysborough personnel who died in uniform during the first three years of Canada’s overseas service.