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Friday, 21 July 2017

Remembering Private Joseph Manson "Joe" McIsaac—KIA July 21, 1917

Joseph Manson “Joe” McIsaac was born at Fox Island, Guysborough County on August 28, 1899. His mother, Sarah “Sadie,” was the daughter of Daniel “The Piper” and Jane (Watkins) McIsaac, Canso. Joe was raised in his grandparents’ home, his grandfather Daniel passing away shortly after his birth.

Pte. Joseph Manson "Joe" McIsaac
When military recruiters visited the area in the spring of 1916, Joe enlisted with the 193rd Battalion at Canso on April 1, 1916. Not yet 17 years old the time, he misreported his birthdate by two years in order to qualify for service. Joe spent the summer of 1916 training with the 193rd and its Highland Brigade mates—the 85th (Nova Scotia Highlanders), 185th (Cape Breton Highlanders) and 219th (Halifax and southwestern Nova Scotia) Battalions. On October 12, all four units departed Halifax aboard SS Olympic and arrival at Liverpool, England one week later.

Before year’s end, military authorities dissolved two of the Brigade’s four units—the 193rd and 219th Battalions—and redistributed their personnel to other units. On December 29, Joe was transferred to the 185h Battalion (Cape Breton Highlanders) and remained at Witley Camp for the duration of the winter. On May 27, 1917, he was transferred to the 25th Battalion and crossed the English Channel to France, joining his new unit in the forward area on June 15.

The first of two volunteer units recruited across the province of Nova Scotia, the 25th Battalion (Nova Scotia Rifles) departed Halifax on May 20, 1915 and four months later landed on the continent as part of the 2nd Canadian Division’s 5th Brigade. For almost one year, its soldiers served in Belgium’s Ypres Salient alongside their Brigade mates—the 22nd (Quebec’s “Van Doos”), 24th (Victoria Rifles of Canada, Montreal) and 26th (New Brunswick) Battalions.

Following several weeks’ service at the Somme, France during September 1916, the 25th relocated northward to sectors near Lens, France for the winter of 1916-17. The unit participated in the Canadian Corps’ historic April 9, 1917 attack on Vimy Ridge and was enjoying a break from the line at the Canadian Corps Rest Area near Gouy-Servins, France when Joe and 146 “other ranks” (OR) reinforcements joined its ranks in mid-June.

The 25th spent the remainder of the month training, its personnel returning to trenches near Cité Beaumont, France on the night of July 2/3. German artillery subjected its sector to “heavy shelling,” while its soldiers worked to consolidate the front line. The 25th’s war diary reported a total of 44 OR casualties during a four-day tour. There was little respite when the battalion retired to support positions, which were also within German artillery range.

On July 10, the 25th withdrew to the safety of Brigade Reserve after a “hard tour in the line.” Following several days’ rest and drill, personnel returned to the Laurent Sector’s trenches on the night of July 16/17. German artillery once again subjected its soldiers to heavy artillery fire throughout a two-day tour. Following relief, the battalion retired to support positions at Maroc on the night of July 18/19, its personnel providing nightly work parties for trench repair for several days.

The 25th’s war diary notes for July 21, 1917 described what appeared to be a routine day in the forward area: “Battalion in support at Maroc. Work Parties supplied, 16 Officers and 515 OR.” The entry makes no mention of casualties. Private Joe McIsaac’s service file, however, states that he was “killed in action at Maroc” that same day, likely a victim of German artillery fire.

Five weeks shy of his eighteenth birthday at the time of his death, Private Joseph Manson McIsaac’s remains were never recovered from the battlefield. His name is inscribed on the Canadian War Monument at VImy Ridge, France, one of 11,285 Canadian soldiers who died on the battlefields of northern France and whose final resting place is unknown.

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

Monday, 10 July 2017

Remembering Private Courtney Alban Hull—KIA July 10, 1917

Courtney Alban Hull was born at New Glasgow, Pictou County on October 6, 1897, the eldest of Joseph and Alice (Moser) Hull’s five children. Joseph was a native of Country Harbour, Guysborough County, the community in which Courtney spent his formative years. Sometime after 1901, the family relocated to Linacy, Pictou County, where Courtney later worked as a “chainman” with a local surveyor.

Pte. Courtney Alban Hull
On January 10, 1916, Courtney enlisted with the 106th Battalion at Pictou, NS. He departed from Halifax aboard SS Empress of Britain on July 15 and arrived at Liverpool, England 10 days later. Following the 106th’s dissolution, Courtney was transferred to the 26th Battalion (New Brunswick), along with 250 of his former 106th colleagues. The group crossed the English Channel to France the following day and joined the 26th in the field during the second week of October.

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.

Friday, 7 July 2017

Remembering Private Ralph Leslie Stoutley—KIA July 6/7, 1917

Ralph Leslie Stoutley was born at Guysborough, Guysborough County on March 10, 1894, the fourth of nine children and second son in the family of James Edward Albert “Ned” and Rachel A. (Bacchus) Stoutley. Shortly after Ralph’s birth, the family relocated to Truro, where Ralph spent his childhood.

On June 14, 1916, Ralph enlisted for service with the 106th Battalion (Nova Scotia Rifles). Headquartered at Truro, the infantry battalion was one of a handful of CEF units that accepted African Canadians into its ranks, initially hoping to recruit an entire platoon. In the end, approximately 16 to 20 men of African descent joined the battalion.

One month after Ralph’s enlistment, the 106th departed Halifax aboard SS Empress of Britain and landed at Liverpool, England after 10 days at sea. When the unit was dissolved shortly after its overseas arrival, Ralph was part of a draft of 251 soldiers transferred from the 106th to the 26th (New Brunswick) Battalion on September 27. The group crossed the English Channel to France three days later and reported to the 26th’s camp during the second week of October.

Throughout the autumn and winter of 1916-17, Ralph served a regular rotation with the 26th in sectors near Lens, France. With the arrival of spring, the unit prepared for its role in the Canadian Corps’ attack on Vimy Ridge. At 5:20 a.m. April 9, 1917, the 26th and 24th Battalions (Victoria Rifles of Canada)—one of its Brigade mates—spearheaded the 5th Brigade’s attack on the German front line north of the village of Thélus, securing Zwischen Stellung within 30 minutes. The 25th Battalion (Nova Scotia)—a second Brigade mate—subsequently passed through its line and continued to advance up the ridge.

The 26th remained in trenches along the ridge for three days, its personnel assisting with construction of a new “Main Line of Resistance.” On the night of April 12/13, the battalion received instructions to advance almost 3,000 yards into an area of No Man’s Land east of a nearby railway line. At 6:00 a.m. April 13, its soldiers moved forward and established “New Brunswick Trench,” the “farthest advanced trench in the Canadian Corps area” at the time.

Throughout the remainder of the spring, the 26th served in sectors near Vimy. During an early May tour in the line, an artillery shell struck the area where Ralph was located. He was “buried by [the] shell burst, [and remained] unconscious until reaching [an] aid post.” Evacuated to No. 4 Canadian Field Ambulance for treatment, Ralph was subsequently transferred to No. 22 Casualty Clearing Station, where he was diagnosed with “shell shock.”

On May 4, Ralph was admitted to No. a Stationary Hospital, Arques, where he remainded under medical care for the duration of the month. Discharged on June 1, Ralph rejoined the 26th at Estree Cauchie two days later, as personnel trained during a break from trench duty. On July 2, the battalion entered Brigade Reserve at Angres and resumed its tours in the line.

On the night of July 6/7, the 26th relieved the 22nd Battalion in front trenches near Lens. While all personnel were in place by 2:00 a.m. July 7, the unit’s war diary reported “great” German artillery activity “shelling roads in [the] vicinity of Angres and Liévin” during the process. Sometime during the bombardment, Private Ralph Leslie Stoutley was “killed in action by [an] enemy shell.” He was laid to rest in Bully-Grenay Communal Cemetery, British Extension, Pas de Calais, France.

Pte. Ralph Leslie Stoutley'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 Ralph’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.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Remembering Private Leo Harold Dort—Died of Wounds July 4, 1917

Leo Harold Dort was born at Cole Harbour, Guysborough County on June 11, 1896, the second oldest of David H. and Lilla (O’Leary) Dort’s 11 children and their second son. Leo enlisted with the 193rd Battalion at Canso on April 1, 1916. Following a summer of training at Camp Aldershot, NS, he departed Halifax with the 193rd and its three Highland Brigade compatriots—the 85th (Nova Scotia Highlanders), 185th (Cape Breton Highlanders) and 219th Battalions—on October 12, 1916.

Private Leo Harold Dort

When military authorities decided to dissolve the 193rd and 219th Battalions, Leo became part of a draft of Highland Brigade soldiers transferred to the 42nd Battalion (Royal Highlanders of Canada) on December 5. He crossed the English Channel to France the following day and arrived in the 42nd’s camp at Neuville-Saint-Vaast on January 2, 1917.

Within one week, the new arrivals entered the trenches for their first tour and served with the 42nd in sectors near Arras for the remainder of the winter. As spring approached, the battalion began preparations for its role in the Canadian Corps’ attack on Vimy Ridge. On the morning of April 9, a total of 772 “all ranks” participated in the early morning assault, advancing “in drizzling rain changing to sleet” toward their objective.

While the 42nd made steady progress up the ridge, the 102nd Battalion on its left flank faced formidable resistance from German forces atop Hill 145 and failed to keep pace. Throughout much of the day, the 42nd’s left flank was thus exposed to “sniping and rifle fire,” causing numerous casualties. The 42nd nevertheless captured and held its objectives, although it suffered more than 300 casualties during three days of fighting at Vimy.

Throughout the remainder of the spring and early summer, the 42nd served a regular rotation in sectors near the newly captured ridge. On the night of July 2/3, personnel endured “very active” artillery fire during the relief process as they “occupied part of the village of Avion.” Shelling continued throughout the week-long tour, one “shoot” demolishing “all of the houses occupied by ‘C’ Company, including advanced Company Headquarters.”

A total of 15 “other ranks” (OR) were killed or died of wounds during the tour, while one Officer and 44 “other ranks” (OR) were wounded. Private Leo Harold Dort was one of the tour’s early fatalities. Evacuated to No. 6 Casualty Clearing Station on July 4, medical records indicate that he had been “dangerously wounded.” Before day’s end, Leo succumbed to his injuries and he was laid to rest in Barlin Communal Cemetery Extension, France.

Pte. Leo Harold Dort's headston, Barlin Communal Cemetery.

Bantry Publishing’s “First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume I: 1915 - 1917” contains a detailed description of Leo’s family background and military service, along with profiles of 71 other Guysborough County military personnel who died in service during the war’s first three years. 

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Remembering Private Martin Smith—Died of Sickness July 2, 1917

Martin Smith was born at St. Francis Harbour, Guysborough County on November 9, 1894, the youngest of Thomas and Mary (MacNeil) Smith’s five children. Thomas passed away sometime prior to 1901, and Martin was taken in by Rev. A. G. McAuley, Parish Priest of St. Ann’s Roman Catholic Church, Guysborough. He later accompanied Rev. McAuley to Victoria Mines, Cape Breton.

Morton Cemetery Plaque, Keileigh, England.
On June 16, 1915, Martin attested with the 40th Battalion at Camp Aldershot, NS and spent the summer training at Camp Valcartier, QC. The unit returned to Halifax by train in early autumn and departed for overseas aboard SS Saxonia on October 18. Upon landing at Plymouth, England 10 days later, the 40th travelled to Bramshott, where it spent the winter of 1915-16 training as part of the 3rd Canadian Division’s 9th Brigade.

Martin’s service with the 40th came to an end on February 24, 1916, when he was transferred to the 11th Brigade Machine Gun Section and reported to its camp at East Sandling. Following a month of training, he was assigned to the 8th Canadian Infantry Brigade Machine Gun Company (CMGC) on March 30. Two days later, he crossed the English Channel with his new unit and deployed in the Ypres Salient with its personnel during the last week of April.

Martin’s time in the line with 8th CMGC was brief. On May 4, he was “attached for duty” to the 2nd Battalion Canadian Mounted Rifles (CMR), the unit with which he served for the remainder of his time in the forward area. A former mounted infantry unit that was transformed into a regular infantry battalion in January 1916, 2nd CMR served regular rotations in the line throughout the spring of 1916.

On June 1, its soldiers hastily returned to the front trenches in response to a German attack on Hill 60, east of Ypres. Personnel immediately found themselves in the midst of a full-fledged battle, supported by a massive German artillery barrage. As some point during the day, Martin “injured [the] left side of [his] chest and [his] left hip” when he was “buried” in a shower of mud from an exploding artillery shell. While neither injury was serious enough to require evacuation for treatment, many of Martin’s comrades were not as fortunate. The unit reported one Officer and 40 “other ranks” (OR) killed, while 10 Officers and 180 OR were wounded and 23 OR missing after three days of combat at Hill 60.

Following its withdrawal from the line on June 4, 2nd CMR retired to Divisional Rest Camp at Godewaersvelde, France—adjacent to the Belgian border—where its remaining soldiers rested and trained for six weeks as the unit rebuilt its strength. Martin remained with the unit through the summer months and was formally transferred to its ranks in mid-August. Early the following month, he followed 2nd CMR southward to the Somme region of France, where the unit participated in a series of attacks on Regina Trench—a fortified German position located along Thiepval Ridge—during the final days of September.

Martin and his comrades completed a second tour near Regina Trench in mid-October, after which the unit moved northward to a “very quiet” sector of the line. 2nd CMR served in sectors near Arras throughout the winter of 1916-17. As spring approached, its personnel prepared for their role in the impending Canadian Corps attack on Vimy Ridge.

Martin was not destined to participate in the historic battle. On March 11, he was admitted to No. 9 Canadian Field Ambulance, where he was diagnosed with “pleural effusion from bronchitis.” Transferred to No. 23 Casualty Clearing Station three days later, medical personnel described his illness as “lobar pneumonia.” While initially placed on the “seriously ill” list, Martin’s condition improved by month’s end. As a result, medical personnel transferred Martin to No.. 11 General Hospital, Dannes, Camiers, where he received treatment for pleurisy.

When it became apparent that Martin required long-term care, he was invalided to England on April 20 and admitted to Keighley War Hospital, Keighley, England. Within days, Martin’s condition worsened. By May 11, laboratory tests indicated the presence of “large numbers of tubercular bacilli” in his sputum. While he received treatment “in open air” and “special nourishment,” his health continued to deteriorate. Private Martin Smith passed away from pulmonary tuberculosis on July 2, 1917 and was laid to rest in Morton Cemetery, Keighley, England.

Memorial, Morton Cemetery, Keileigh, England.
Bantry Publishing’s “First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume I: 1915 - 1917” contains a detailed description of Martin’s family background and military service, along with profiles of 71 other Guysborough County military personnel who died in service during the war’s first three years.

Friday, 30 June 2017

Guysborough County Enlistments—June 1917

Seven individuals with connections to Guysborough County enlisted for military service during the month of June 1917.

1. Harry Edward Hart was born at Middle Manchester, Guysborough County on October 21, 1887, the second son and third child of Walter Havelock and Emma Louise (Morris) Hart. Harry’s older brother, Levi “Lee,” immigrated to the United States in 1904 and Harry followed him there several years later. In 1910, the brothers were residing in a Boston, MA boarding house, Lee employed as a teamster on an ice wagon, with Harry as his “helper.”

Harry appears to have returned to Nova Scotia shortly afterward, as he was living at Manchester at the time of the 1911 Canadian census. However, he subsequently returned to Springfield, MA, where he worked as an “elevator constructor” and married Odessa R. Peart on November 16, 1916. Harry’s parents also relocated to Springfield, MA and appear to have been living with him at the time of his military enlistment.

On June 5, 1917, Harry was drafted into the United States Army. No further details are available on his military service or life immediately after the war. Sometime in his later years, Harry returned to the Boylston area with his wife Odessa. Harry passed away on December 2, 1968 and was laid to rest in Boylston United Church Cemetery. Odessa lived in the Boylston area until her passing in 1990 at age 98.

Harry Hart's headstone, Boylston United Church Cemetery.
2. Rufus Eugene Hines (1258229) was born on September 17, 1893 to Benjamin and Elizabeth “Bessie” (Giffin) Hines, Isaac’s Harbour, Guysborough County. Rufus was working as a machinist in Pictou County when he enlisted with No. 10 Siege Battery at New Glasgow, NS on June 6, 1917. He departed Halifax aboard SS Megantic on September 15 and landed at Liverpool, England 10 days later.

On November 17, Rufus was assigned to the Reserve Brigade, Canadian Field Artillery. He crossed the English Channel to the Canadian Garrison Artillery’s Reserve Depot in France on January 23, 1918. Four days later, Rufus proceeded to the Canadian Corps Reinforcement Centre.

Rufus was assigned to the 2nd Brigade, Canadian Garrison Artillery on May 21, 1918 and served in the forward area with the unit for the remainder of the war. He returned to England on March 31, 1919 and departed for Canada aboard HMT Mauritania on May 3, 1919. Rufus was formally discharged from military service at Halifax on May 14, 1919.

Following his discharge, Rufus worked as a machinist at Sydney, NS, where his mother had resided throughout his military service. On March 14, 1922, he married Mabel Frances MacMillan in a ceremony held at Sydney. Shortly afterward, the newlyweds departed for the United States, where they established residence in Chicago, Illinois. Rufus became an American citizen in 1931, by which time he and Mabel had a family of four children—sons Edward and Gordon, and daughters Ruth and Jean. Rufus passed away at Chicago, Illinois on April 12, 1957.


3. George Wesley Fanning (1258239) was born on August 11, 1896 to Isaac Henry and Emma (MacMillan) Fanning, Isaac’s Harbour, Guysborough County. George was working as a clerk in New Glasgow, NS when he enlisted with No. 10 Siege Battery at Halifax, NS on June 11, 1917. He departed Halifax aboard SS Megantic on September 15 and arrived at Liverpool, England after a 10-day voyage.

On November 17, George was transferred to the Reserve Brigade, Canadian Field Artillery. He remained in England throughout the winter and spring of 1917-18, finally receiving a transfer to the Reserve Battalion, Canadian Garrison Artillery on May 6, 1918. Exactly one month later, he proceeded to France. On July 14, George was assigned to the 6th Siege Battery, 2nd Canadian Garrison Artillery, where he served as a “signaller.”

On November 10, George was admitted to No. 22 General Hospital, Camiers with influenza and spent several months under medical care. “Invalided sick” to England on February 28, 1919, he was discharged two weeks later and departed for Canada aboard SS Orduna on May 15, 1919. One  week later, George was formally discharged from military service at Halifax.

Sometime after the war, George married Lillian Vaneta Silver, a native of Goldboro, Guysborough County. The couple eventually made their home in Halifax, where George worked as a longshoreman. Lillian passed away unexpectedly at Victoria General Hospital, Halifax on June 24, 1939, the result of a pulmonary embolism. George died at Camp Hill Hospital, Halifax on May 28, 1948.


4. Edward Burns (1030709) was born on May 8, 1897 to Robert and Ellen (Long) Burns, Salmon River Lake, Guysborough County. Edward was working as a “machinist lathe hand” at Falls Church Machinery, Boston, MA when he registered for the United States military draft on June 5, 1917. Rather than serve with the United States Army, Edward reported to the Canadian Expeditionary Force office at Boston, MA and enlisted for service with the 236th Battalion (“New Brunswick Kilties”) on June 14, 1917.

Pte. Edward Burns, Camp Valcartier, QC.
Edward made his way to Fredericton, NB shortly afterward and trained with his unit at Camp Valcartier, QC throughout the summer months. The 236th departed from Montreal aboard SS Canada on October 31 and landed in England 19 days later. On March 13, 1918, Edward was transferred to the 20th Reserve Battalion, where he remained for almost two months.

On May 7, 1918, Edward was assigned to the 42nd Battalion (Royal Highlanders of Canada) and two weeks later joined the unit’s ranks in France. Edward served with the 42nd through its tours in the line at Amiens, Arras, the Scarpe and Cambrai during “Canada’s 100 Days.” Hospitalized with a fever on November 2, he returned to the unit’s ranks five days later and remained on the continent until the 42nd crossed the channel to England on February 7,1919. Edward departed for Canada aboard SS Adriatic on March 1 and was formally discharged from military service at Halifax on March 15, 1919.

Pte. Edward Burns' CEF Pay Book.
While Edward briefly returned to his Salmon River Lake family home, he soon departed for the United States, settling in Jamaica Plain, MA. He later relocated to The Forks, north of Skowhegan, Maine, where he worked as a hunting and fishing guide. There, he met  Alphonsine “Fonzie” Nadeau, a native of Jackman, Maine. The couple married on October 8, 1929 and raised two sons, Carroll and Clarence. Edward Burns passed away at Skowhegan, Maine on March 10, 1967 and was laid to rest in Calvary Cemetery, Skowhegan, ME.


5. Howard Nightingale Strople (2075445) was born on July 4, 1887 to James Robert and Mary Eliza (Lipsett) Strople, North Intervale, Guysborough County. Sometime prior to 1911, Howard relocated to Boston, MA, where he worked as an “electric lineman.” On September 21, 1914, he married Laura E. Stanley, a 23-year-old Quebec native, at Newburyport, MA.

 On June 24, 1917, Howard attested with the 5th Regiment, Royal Highlanders of Canada, at Montreal, QC. At the time, he was living at Montreal and still employed as a “lineman.” Howard listed his wife, Laura, as his next of kin, giving her address at the time as “Gaspé, Quebec.” No further information is available on Howard’s military service. However, border crossing documents indicate that he was in Canada in the spring of 1918, suggesting that he may have been discharged as “medically unfit.” In any case, his time in uniform appears to have been brief.

Following the war, Howard and Laura relocated to Massachusetts, but eventually returned to Canada, settling in the Toronto area. Howard Strople passed away at Sunnybrook Military Hospital, Toronto, ON on May 9, 1943.


6. John Parker MacDonald was born at Sunny Brae, Pictou County on October 14, 1879, the son of Henry Cumminger and Emily M. (Smith) McDonald. Several sources suggest that he may have been born at Sherbrooke, where he spent his childhood years. Henry worked as a “lumberman” and Parker followed his father into the occupation. On February 27, 1906, Parker married Melissa Katherine “Katie” Cumming,” a native of Sunny Brae. By 1911, the couple were living at Hopewell, Pictou County, with a young son Gerald and a daughter Maxine. A third child—a son, John—joined the family in the spring of 1916.

Parker attested with the Nova Scotia Forestry Draft at Camp Aldershot, NS on June 16, 1917. At enlistment, he received the commissioned rank of Lieutenant. Nine days later, Parker departed from Halifax aboard SS Justicia and landed at Liverpool, England on July 4. John was assigned to No. 104 Company, Canadian Foresty Corps (CFC) on September 4, 1917 and served with his unit in No. 54 District, near Exeter, England, for the remainder of the year.

On January 14, 1918, Parker returned to No. 54 Base Depot, Southampton, where he was “struck off strength” on February 23 and returned to Canada, “being surplus to requirements.” He was formally discharged from military service at Halifax, NS on March 23, 1918.

Parker returned home to Hopewell, Pictou County, where he resumed work as a lumberman. In the spring of 1926, perhaps in a work-related incident, Parker suffered a ruptured bladder, which led to the development of peritonitis. Despite an operation to repair his bladder, Parker passed away at the Aberdeen Hospital, New Glasgow on April 29, 1926 and was laid to rest at Sunny Brae, Pictou County.


7. Wilfred Whitman (1031029) was born at Manchester, Guysborough County on March 29, 1897, the only child from his father Rufus’s second marriage to Nellie Gavin McDonald. Following Rufus’s death in April 1907, for unknown reasons, Wilfred’s uncle, James Whitman, took him into his home. Around 1915, Wilfred relocated to Revere, MA, where he took up residence with his half-sister, Ida, a nurse who operated a home for the sick.

By mid-1917, Wilfred and thousands of other young men faced the prospect of being drafted into the United States military. On June 16, 1917, Wilfred decided to follow a different path and enlisted with the 236th Battalion at the Canadian Expeditionary Force’s Boston, MA recruitment office. Several days later, he made his way to Fredericton, NB. Shortly after his arrival, he married Philomela “Phyllis” Ghilo, a Boston native, in a ceremony held at Fredericton on July 4.

Within days, Wilfred departed for Camp Valcartier, QC, where the 236th spent the summer and early autumn training. Meanwhile, Phyllis returned to the Boston area, where she gave birth to a son, Wilfred George, on December 8, 1917. The 236th departed from Quebec on October 31 and arrived in England after a 19-day voyage.

Phyllis and Wilfred George Whitman.
While the unit remained at Camp Bramshott throughout the winter of 1917-18 at Camp Bramshott, military officials ordered its dissolution in March 1918. Its personnel were offered a choice—a transfer to the 26th (New Brunswick) Battalion or to the 20th Reserve Battalion, which serviced the 13th and 42nd Battalions (Royal Highlanders of Canada) in France. Wilfred chose the second option and was assigned to the 20th Reserve Battalion on March 13, 1918.

One month later, Wilfred was transferred to the 13th Battalion and crossed the English Channel to France on April 19. Throughout the remainder of the month, Wilfred served in the line with the 13th, which retired to Corps Reserve in early May for an extensive period of rest and training. Two and a half months later, its personnel returned to the Arras area for a two-week rotation before relocating southward to Amiens in early August.

On the morning of August 8, the 13th participated in the first wave of the Canadian Corps’ attack on the German line, east of Amiens. Having secured its objective, its soldiers occupied support positions throughout the following week, advancing to the front trenches on the night of August 15/16. Following a day’s preparation, the unit attacked the village of La Chavatte in the early hours of August 17. Wilfred was wounded sometime during the advance and evacuated to No. 48 Casualty Clearing Station. He died of wounds before day’s end and was laid to rest in Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery, Somme France.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Remembering Private John William Swaine—KIA June 28, 1917

John William Swaine was born at Canso, Guysborough County on August 19, 1891, the second of Rupert and Jennie (Talbot) Swaine’s nine children and their oldest son. John enlisted with the 193rd Battalion at Canso on April 1, 1916 and departed for England aboard SS Olympic on October 12, 1916.

Private John William Swaine.
Shortly after arriving overseas, the 193rd was disbanded and its soldiers dispersed to other units. On December 3, John was transferred to the 42nd Battalion (Royal Highlanders of Canada) and crossed the English Channel to France three days later. He was temporarily assigned to duty with 3rd Entrenching Battalion in late December and served with the unit in the forward area throughout the month of January 1917.

On February 6, John reported to No. 10 Canadian Field Ambulance for treatment of an ulcerated foot, likely the result of working in cold, muddy conditions. Subsequently transferred to No. 16 General Hospital, Le Tréport, John spent two months in hospital and was discharged to the Canadian Base Depot at Le Havre on March 9. Two weeks prior to his discharge, John was transferred to the 85th Battalion and joined the unit’s ranks on April 13 as its personnel withdrew from their Vimy Ridge tour.

Throughout the next two months, John served routine tours with the 85th in sectors near Vimy. On the night of June 25/26, the unit returned to trenches near Avion and prepared for its first combat assignment since its Vimy Ridge tour—an assault on German positions opposite their line.

At 7:00 a. m. June 26, the 85th’s “A” and “C” Companies launched the first phase of a three-stage plan to remove German forces from an area opposite their line, capturing their initial objective with minimal losses. Personnel spent the remainder of the day consolidating the position, and awaited orders to resume the offensive.

At 2:30 a.m. June 28, the 85th’s “C” and “D” Companies commenced the second phase—an attack on the village of Éleu-dit-Leauwette, north of Avion. Once again, personnel captured their objective and prepared for the operation’s final phase, an attack on a series of “horse shoe shaped trenches” southeast of the village.

At 7:10 p.m. that evening, “C” and “D” Companies resumed the advance, one Company sustaining significant casualties from “hostile machine gun fire.” Personnel nevertheless captured and consolidated the final objective, marking “a total advance of one mile” since the offensive’s commencement.

While the 85th secured all objectives by nightfall, its successes came at a price. As the unit retired from the line on the night of July 1/2, its war diary reported a total of 24 “other ranks” (OR) killed during the tour, while eight Officers and 118 OR were wounded and nine OR were missing.

Private John William Swaine was killed in action sometime during the July 28 advance. His remains were never recovered from the battlefield. John’s name is inscribed on the Canadian War Memorial at Vimy Ridge, France, one of 11,285 Canadian soldiers who died on the battlefields of northern France and who have no known final resting place.
 
Canadian War Memorial, Vimy Ridge, France.
Bantry Publishing’s “First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume I: 1915—1917” contains a detailed description of John’s family background and war service, along with profiles of 71 other Guysborough County military personnel who died during the first three years of the war.