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Saturday, 17 February 2018

Remembering Lieutenant John Angus Cameron, DSO, MID—Killed In Action February 17, 1918

John Angus Cameron was born at Caledonia, Guysborough County on December 8, 1889, the fourth of Margaret A. (Cameron) and Daniel Angus Cameron’s nine children. After graduating from Pictou Academy, John Angus headed west sometime before 1911, eventually finding employment as a school teacher near Medicine Hat, AB.

Lieutenant John Angus Cameron
Perhaps in connection to his school responsibilities, John Angus volunteered as a Cadet Instructor. Four years of militia experience earned him the commissioned rank of Lieutenant when he enlisted with the 63rd Battalion (Alberta) at Medicine Hat on July 1, 1915. His younger brother, Alexander Hugh, attested with the 56th Battalion (Calgary, AB) shortly afterward and was transferred to John Angus’s unit in late October 1915.

Following a winter’s training in western Canada, the 63rd travelled by train to Saint John, NB and departed for overseas on April 22, 1916. Shortly after landing in England, the Cameron brothers were re-assigned to separate units. Alexander received a transfer to the 29th Battalion (BC) in late June 1916 and immediately departed for France. Tragically, he was killed in action near Fresnoy-en-Gohelle, France on May 7, 1917.

As a commissioned officer, John Angus’ time in England was considerably longer, stretching well into 1917. During that time, he was assigned to the 9th Reserve Battalion and served as a “bomb” instructor at the Clapham Common Bombing School. Finally, on June 27, 1917, he was transferred to the 31st (Alberta) Battalion and proceeded to France. After a brief period with an entrenching battalion, he joined his new unit in the field in mid-August.

Assigned to the 2nd Canadian Division’s 6th Brigade, the 31st Battalion had commenced service in Belgium’s Ypres Salient in late September 1915. At the time of John Angus’s arrival, its personnel were providing “carrying parties” for Canadian units during an attack on Hill 70, near Lens, France. The 31st served a regular rotation in France into the autumn of 1917 before moving northward into Belgium’s Ypres Salient for the Passchendaele offensive in late October.

On November 6, Lieutenant John Angus Cameron led the 31st’s No. 4 Platoon toward its objective on Passchendaele Ridge during the third stage of the Canadian Corps’ Passchendaele offensive. Wounded during the initial advance, he remained at duty, leading a successful attack on a well-defended German post. John Angus remained in the line until a second wound necessitated his evacuation to a nearby field ambulance. His stellar leadership and determination in the field earned him the Distinguished Service Order.

Invalided to England one week later, John Angus underwent treatment for a shoulder wound and made a complete recovery. Following several weeks’ convalescence, he reported to the 21st Reserve Battalion on December 31, 1917 and three weeks later rejoined the 31st in France. At that time, the unit was completing routine winter rotations in the Avion Sector, near La Coulotte, France.

Tours continued into the following month, as the unit’s soldiers worked to improve the front trenches and conducted nightly patrols into No Man’s Land, probing German defences. The unit’s war diary took note of one particular example. In the early morning hours of February 17, 1918, John Angus led a routine patrol into No Man’s Land. Suddenly, the group encountered a German patrol and a fire-fight ensued. Lieutenant John Angus Cameron was killed during the subsequent exchange of fire.

John Angus Cameron was the first Guysborough County fatality during the war’s final year. He was laid to rest in Thélus Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France. In the years following the war, family members erected a stone in Bethel Presbyterian Church, Caledonia, in memory of Lieutenant John Angus and his brother, Sergeant Alexander Hugh Cameron.

John Angus Cameron’s story is one of 64 profiles contained in Bantry Publishing’s First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume II: 1918 - 1937, available for purchase online at .

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