Contact Information


Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Guysborough County Enlistments - February 1917

Three individuals with connections to Guysborough County enlisted with Canadian Expeditionary Force units in February 1917:

1. George Borden (931417) was born at Goldenville, Guysborough County in February 1896, although other documents in his service file suggest his birth year may have been 1899. Both of his parents were deceased at the time of his enlistment and their names are unknown. George listed a “step-father,” James Borden of Goldenville, as his next of kin on his attestation papers, and also identified Mrs. Norman Paris, New Glasgow, as an aunt. Post-war documents identify William Whalen of Sherbrooke as his grandfather.

No. 2 Construction Battalion badge.
George enlisted with No. 2 Construction Battalion at Truro, NS on February 10, 1917. While his attestation papers list his occupation as “fireman,” his discharge papers stated his area of employment as “miner.” George departed Canada aboard SS Southland on March 28, 1917 and arrived at Liverpool, England on April 7. He crossed the English Channel to France with No. 2 Construction Battalion on May 17 and made his way to the Jura District, near the French - Swiss border, where he and his comrades worked alongside Canadian Forestry Corps units for the war’s duration.

Returning to England on December 14, 1918, George departed for Canada aboard SS Saturnia on March 30, 1919 and was discharged at Halifax on April 14, 1919. Available documents suggest that George departed for the United States three months later and took up residence st Roxbury, Massachusetts, where he worked as a cook. He returned to his grandfather’s residence at Goldenville, Guysborough County two years later. No additional information is available on George’s later life.

2. William Donald Brown (274134) was born at Canso, Guysborough County on October 25, 1888. His father, William J., was a native of Scotland and employee of the Commercial Cable Company, Hazel Hill, while his mother, Mary Elizabeth McDonald, was Nova Scotian by birth. William was working as a clerk in Halifax when he enlisted with the 216th Battalion on February 17, 1917.

The 216th was one of a handful of CEF “bantam” battalions recruited in Canada. William’s height—five feet, one inch—disqualified him for service in a regular infantry battalion, where the minimum height was five feet, four inches. Military officials agreed to modify the requirements for a handful of units, the 216th among them. William departed Halifax on May 3, 1917 and landed at Liverpool, England eleven days later.

Transferred to the 3rd Reserve Battalion upon arrival, William spent the summer in England. On October 30, he was transferred to the 123rd Pioneer Battalion, crossed the English Channel to France one month later, and joined his new unit in the field on December 12, 1917. The 123rd’s personnel constructed and maintained roads, fortifications and dugouts in the forward area throughout its time on the continent.

On May 29, 1918, the 123rd was re-named the 7th Battalion Canadian Engineers. William served as a “sapper” with the unit throughout his time overseas. He returned to England on February 15, 1919 and departed for Canada aboard SS Olympic on March 17, 1919. William was formally discharged from military service at Halifax, NS on March 31, 1919.

William eventually relocated to Toronto, where he worked as a clerk. He married Mary Irene Bridget Clarke at Weston, Ontario on December 31, 1926. William Donald Brown passed away at Toronto, Ontario in 1980.

3. John Cleveland Wells was born at Whitehead, Guysborough County on April 9, 1887, the son of Mary Ellen (Munroe) and John Shelley Wells. Sometime before 1911, John relocated to Boston, Massachusetts, where he completed training as a marine engineer. He found employment in the local shipyards and later enlisted with the United States Naval Reserve Force (USNRF) on February 21, 1917.

John Cleveland Wells, Chief Machinist Mate, 3rd Class.
Following the American declaration of war on Germany in early April 1917, John was called to active service and assigned to the USS Comber. A commercial fishing trawler refitted as a minesweeper, the Comber conducted regular patrols in the two naval districts off the New England coast. John served aboard the vessel throughout the summer and autumn of 1917.

On December 2, 1917, while on shore leave, John slipped and fell as he attempted to board a streetcar in Quincy, Massachusetts. He struck his head on the pavement and was rushed to a nearby  doctor’s office for treatment. Admitted to Quincy General Hospital with head trauma, John later underwent surgery to repair a bleeding artery in his brain.

The medical procedure was not successful and John passed away on the evening of December 7, 1917. His remains were transported home to Nova Scotia, where John was laid to rest beside his mother, Mary Ellen, in St. Lawrence Roman Catholic Cemetery, Mulgrave, NS.

Bantry Publishing's First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume I: 1915 - 1917 contains a detailed summary of John Cleveland Wells' family background and military service.