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Monday, 24 January 2022

Guysborough County's No. 2 Construction Battalion Enlistments, Part 7

This blog post is the seventh in a series, summarizing the information available on the life and First World War service of Guysborough County's 28 No. 2 Construction Battalion enlistments. Readers are asked to notify the blog author if there are any errors, or if a reader has additional information on any of the men profiled in these posts.

19. Private Joseph Alexander "Joe" Parris:

According to the 1901 Canadian census, Joseph Alexander “Joe” Parris was born at Sand Point, Guysborough County, on March 20, 1899, the son of Charles Levi and Annie Elizabeth Parris. Charles was the son of Isaac and Caroline (William) Parris, while Annie was the daughter of Richard and Anne (Borden) Reddick.

Pte. Joe Parris (center) with brother Bill (far right)

At the time of the 1901 census, Joe’s older brother, William Winslow “Bill,” and younger sister Maria were also part of the household. By 1911, a fourth child, Rita, had joined the Parris family. Census records assembled that year list Joe’s birth date as March 1898.

Joe enlisted with No. 2 Construction Battalion at New Glasgow, NS, on July 25, 1916. His attestation papers record his year of birth as 1897, one or two years earlier than census records indicate. Joe was among the unit’s earliest recruits, as it was authorized only three weeks previously. If the 1901 census entry is accurate, he was only 17 years old at the time.

No. 2 Construction established its initial headquarters at Pictou, in a barracks on the waterfront formerly occupied by the 106th Infantry Battalion. In early September, the unit relocated to Truro, in the hope that the more central location would assist with its recruitment efforts. Joe’s older brother Bill enlisted there on October 10, 1916.

No. 2 Construction Battalion officially mobilized on March 17, 1917, and departed from Halifax aboard SS Southland 11 days later. Joe and Bill were among the approximately 600 men who arrived with the unit at Liverpool, United Kingdom (UK), on April 7 and made their way to Bramshott Camp. Shortly afterward, the unit was reduced to “Company” status, as it was short of the required number of men for “battalion” designation.  

On May 17, 1917, Joe and Bill were part of a detachment of 495 “other ranks” (OR) that crossed the English Channel to France for service in the Canadian Forestry Corps’ (CFC) Jura District, near the Swiss border. Here, the men worked alongside several CFC companies, processing, harvesting and shipping timber in the mountainous area.

On December 12, 1917, Joe was part of a group of 180 No. 2 members dispatched to Central Group, No. 1 District, Alençon. The majority were men from the Caribbean Islands or southern United States, and Jura’s CFC medical officer was concerned that the harsh winter conditions might affect their health. His brother Bill accompanied him to Alençon.

For the remainder of his time in France, Joe worked alongside the men of No. 54 Company, harvesting timber in the Normandy forests. The Alençon camp was more diverse than the Jura district, its work parties including a number of Russians, as well as German prisoners of war.

In mid-September 1918, Joe received the standard two weeks’ leave to the UK granted to soldiers after 15 months’ service in the line. In the aftermath of the November 11, 1918 Armistice, the men at Alençon enjoyed a day-long holiday before returning to work. While harvesting operations ceased, personnel processed the remaining harvested timber before beginning the process of dismantling the lumber camp and sawmill.

No. 2 Construction’s personnel were the first to depart France, returning to the UK on December 14, 1918, and reporting to the Nova Scotia Regimental Depot, Bramshott. One month later, the men boarded the Empress of Britain for the return trip to Canada. The vessel docked at Halifax on January 22, 1919. Joe was discharged from military service on February 12 and returned to Mulgrave.

On December 1, 1924 Joe married Annie Jane Jarvis, daughter of George and Margaret (Mombourquette) Jarvis, Tracadie. The couple established residence in Mulgrave, where Joe joined the local Royal Canadian Legion branch in 1929. Tragically, Annie Jane died at Mulgrave on November 12, 1936. In her late 20s at the time, her death was attributed to a heart condition and lobar pneumonia.

Two years later, Joe married Viola Jane Borden, daughter of Stanley and Lottie (Williams) Borden, Tracadie, in a ceremony that took place in Mulgrave on July 11, 1938. Over the ensuing years, the couple raised a large family in Mulgrave. Joseph Alexander Parris died on April 19, 1972, and was laid to rest in St. Lawrence Roman Catholic Cemetery, Mulgrave.

A more detailed story of Joe Parris’s story, intertwined with an overview of No. Construction Battalion, was posted to this blog on January 30, 2014.

20. Lance Corporal William Winslow "Bill" Parris:

William Winslow “Bill” Parris was born at Sand Point, Guysborough County, on September 2, 1897, the oldest of Charles Levi and Annie Elizabeth Parris’s children. Bill was employed as a “railwayman” when he enlisted with No. 2 Construction Battalion at Truro, NS, on October 10, 1916. His younger brother Joe had joined the same unit in late July.

On March 28, 1917, Bill departed for overseas aboard SS Southland. The vessel arrived at Liverpool, UK, 10 days later. No. 2 Construction Battalion’s personnel then made their way by train to Camp Bramshott. Shortly after their overseas arrival, a shortage of personnel—less than 700 men “all ranks”—led officials to reduce the unit to the status of a “Company.”

On May 16, Bill was promoted to the rank of Acting Lance Corporal without pay. The following day, he crossed the English Channel with a large detachment of No. 2 Construction men. The group travelled to the Canadian Forestry Corps’ (CFC) Jura District, where the men commenced work alongside several CFC Companies, participating in all aspects of the lumber camp’s operation.

The first entry in No. 2 Construction Company’s July 1917 war diary mentioned a “General Sports Day” held at Jura to celebrate the “50th Anniversary of Confederation of [the] Dominion of Canada.” The unit’s men did particularly well, the diary commenting: “Our Track team carried off the honours and won the day.”

The No. 5 District CFC war diary provided further details:

"Dominion Day celebrated by the 11 Forestry Companies and No. 2 Construction Company in this District (No. 5). Field sports held at Chapois….  During the day, the [No. 2 Construction] Band… by their excellent music... greatly assisted in entertaining the crowd and making the holiday a success."

Private Davis, an American No. 2 Construction recruit, placed first in the 100 yard-dash and second in the running broad jump, while Private Whims, one of two brothers from Saltsprings Island, BC, placed first in the sack race "by a big margin".  Bill Parris, the only Nova Scotian listed in the results, placed second in the 440-yard dash. No. 2 Construction Company earned a total of 17 points in the day's events, placing third overall among the 14 French, American and Canadian participating teams.

Three days after the Dominion Day festivities, Bill was “deprived of [his] L[ance Corporal] stripe” for “malingering” (feigning illness). He served at Jura until late December, when he was part of a group of 180 No. 2 Construction personnel transferred to No. 1 District CFC, Alençon. During the ensuing months, the men worked alongside CFC Companies, harvesting timber from the Normandy forests.

The CFC ceased its forest operations shortly after the November 11, 1918 Armistice. Its personnel processed harvested logs before commencing the task of dismantling operations. No. 2 Construction’s men were the first to leave France, crossing the English Channel on December 14, 1918, and reporting to the Nova Scotia Regimental Depot, Bramshott.

Bill and his No. 2 Construction comrades departed for Canada aboard the Empress of Britain on January 12, 1919. The vessel arrived at Halifax after a 10-day voyage. Bill was formally discharged from military service on February 14, 1919, and returned to Mulgrave, where he resumed work as a railwayman.

On July 7, 1920, Bill married Mary Jane Ash, daughter of Charles and Sarah Jane (Desmond) Ash, Monastery, in a ceremony that took place at Tracadie. Over the ensuing years, the couple had nine children, five of whom died in infancy or childhood. A sixth child, Duncan Collins Parris, was killed in a car - pedestrian accident at Point Tupper in 1953. William Winslow Parris died at St. Martha’s Hospital, Antigonish, on October 3, 1968, and was laid to rest in Mulgrave. His wife Mary Jane passed away at Mulgrave in 1977.

21. Private George William Reddick:

According to his attestation papers, George William Reddick was born at Mulgrave, Guysborough County, on April 28, 1892. George’s father Walter was the son of Moses and Caroline (Sheppard) Reddick, Pirates Cove, while his mother Margaret was the daughter of Joseph and Catherine Izzard, Boylston. The couple were married at Mulgrave on May 1, 1884.

Lance Cpl. Bill Parris (left) & Pte. George Reddick

At the time of the 1901 census, the Reddick family included parents Walter, age 41 (DOB March 12, 1860), and Margaret, age 37 (DOB May 2, 1864), and their children: Martha, age 13 (DOB February 27, 1888); Joseph, age 10 (DOB September 10, 1890); Walter Havelock, age 10 (DOB March 9, 1891); George, age seven (DOB April 28, 1893); Rist, age six (DOB October 10, 1895); Margaret, age five (DOB March 18, 1896); and Druscella, age one (DOB April 29, 1900). Adjacent to the Reddick residence was the household of Charles and Annie Parris, which included their sons William Winslow “Bill” and Joseph Alexander “Joe.”

George Reddick attested with No. 2 Construction Battalion at New Glasgow, NS, on July 25, 1916, the same day as Joe Parris. In fact, their consecutive service numbers indicate that they stood together in line. The pair were together during their time in uniform and were later joined by Joe’s brother Bill.

George departed for overseas with No. 2 Construction on March 28, 1917, and proceeded to France with a large detachment of its personnel on May 17, 1917. He served in the Canadian Forestry Corps’ (CFC) Jura District with his comrades for the remainder of the year and was transferred to No. 1 DIstrict, Alençon, on December 30, 1917. Joe and Bill accompanied George to Alençon, where No, 2 Construction men worked alongside No. 38 and No. 42 CFC Companies, harvesting and processing timber from the Normandy forests.

With the exception of a 14-day leave to the United Kingdom in early September 1918, George spent the remainder of his overseas service at Alençon. On December 14, 1918, he crossed the English Channel and reported to the Nova Scotia Regimental Depot, Bramshott, with his No. 2 comrades. One month later, the unit departed for Canada aboard the Empress of Britain.

George was discharged from military service at Halifax, NS, on February 12, 1919. At the time, he gave his proposed address at Marsh St., New Glasgow, as his parents had moved to the Pictou County community while he was overseas.

By 1921, George had relocated to River Hebert, Cumberland County, where he worked as a miner. On July 18, 1921, he married Mary Evelyn Bowles, a native of Brooklyn, Hants County, at the Presbyterian Manse, River Hebert. Mary was the daughter of William Bowles, Amherst, and Eliza Jane Banes. Military authorities dispatched George’s British War and Victory service medals to Joggins Mines in November 1921.

George’s parents spent their remaining days at New Glasgow. His father Walter passed away there on December 16, 1922, while mother Margaret died at the same location on January 16, 1940. Both were laid to rest in a New Glasgow cemetery.

By the early 1940s, George had returned to Guysborough County, where he established residence in Lincolnville. A later obituary makes no mention of children. Mary Reddick passed away at Lincolnville on October 5, 1942, and was buried in Sunnyview Cemetery. George later married Victoria Jordan, a widow. He passed away at Lincolnville on April 11, 1978, and was laid to rest in St, Monica’s Church parish cemetery.

Friday, 31 December 2021

Guysborough County's No. 2 Construction Battalion Enlistments, Part 6

This blog post is the sixth in a series, summarizing the information available on the life and First World War service of Guysborough County's 28 No. 2 Construction Battalion enlistments. Readers are asked to notify the blog author if there are any errors, or if a reader has additional information on any of the men profiled in these posts.

 

16. Private Michael Redmond Elms:

 According to his military attestation papers, Michael Redmond Elms was born at Tracadie, NS, on May 25, 1895. Unfortunately, the 1901 and 1911 Canadian censuses do not provide any information on his family circumstances. Based on information extracted from his military service file and later marriage record, he was the son of John Redmond and Henrietta “Etta” Elms.

Michael enlisted for service with the No. 2 Construction Battalion at Halifax, NS, on August 28, 1916. At the time, he identified his mother, Mrs. Redmond Elms, Upper Big Tracadie, Guysborough County, as his next of kin. While his attestation document lists his occupation as “labourer,” information in his service file states that he was working as baggage porter at North St. Station at the time of his enlistment.

On March 28, 1917, Michael departed for overseas aboard SS Southland and arrived in the United Kingdom 10 days later. On May 14, 1917, he proceeded to France with a large contingent of No. 2 Construction men, headed for the Canadian Forestry Corps’ (CFC) Jura District, near the Swiss border.

Michael spent the duration of his time on the continent at Jura. On May 13, 1918, he was admitted to CFC Hospital, La Joux, for treatment of “cont. r. foot” [contusion, right foot], likely an injury sustained while working alongside CFC personnel as they harvested and processed timber obtained from the Jura region. After a 12-day stay, Michael was discharged from hospital and returned to duty. Other than a two-week leave to the United Kingdom in late August 1918, he remained at Jura until No. 2 Construction personnel departed France on December 14, 1918.

Michael spent one month in the United Kingdom before leaving for Canada on January 12, 1919. One month later, he was formally discharged from military service at Halifax, NS. On July 2, 1919, Michael married Florence Williams in a United Baptist ceremony that took place at New Glasgow, NS. Florence was the daughter of William and Sarah Williams, Upper Big Tracadie. At the time of his marriage, Michael was living at Halifax, where he was employed as a “sleeping car porter.”

With the exception of a document attached to his marriage license indicating that he and Florence divorced at Halifax on January 24, 1956, no further information is available on Michael Redmond Elms’ postwar life.

17. Private John William Elms:  

John William Elms was born at Big Tracadie, Nova Scotia, on July 22, 1888. The 1891 Canadian census lists John, age two living with his parents, Johnson and Alice (Day) Elms, and siblings Ann Theresa, age seven, and Joseph, age one. Information on the census form lists Alice’s place of birth as Virginia.

John William Elms (front left) & three unidentified No. 2 Construction soldiers

John was still living at home in 1911, although his father had passed away by that time. On May 14, 1913, John married Sarah “Sadie” McPhie, daughter of Archibald and Mary McPhie, Upper Big Tracadie, in a ceremony held at Big Tracadie United Baptist Church. Three years later, his widowed mother Alice married William Henry Gero, son of Thomas and Eliza Gero, in a ceremony held at Truro, NS, on September 21, 1916.

Five days prior to his mother’s second marriage—September 16, 1916—John enlisted with No. 2 Construction Battalion at Truro, NS. According to information in his service file, he and Sadie had two children at the time of John’s enlistment, a two-year-old daughter and an eight-month-old son. The children’s names are not recorded on the document.

On March 25, 1917, John Elms departed for overseas with No. 2 Construction Battalion aboard SS Southland. The vessel arrived at Liverpool, United Kingdom, on April 7 and its passengers proceeded to military camp in southern England. Six weeks later, a contingent of 525 No. 2 Construction men crossed the English Channel to France. John was among the men who set foot on the continent on May 17, 1917, and proceeded to the Canadian Forestry Corps’ (CFC) Jura District.

Over the next seven months, John  worked alongside several CFC Companies, harvesting and processing timber from the Jura forests. On December 12, 1917, he was part of a detachment of 180 No. 2 Construction personnel transferred to No. 1 District, Alençon. The majority of the men were natives of the southern United States or Caribbean Islands, and the Jura District’s medical officer was concerned that the location’s colder winter weather might negatively impact their health.

John spent the remainder of his time in France in the Alençon District. On September 8, 1918, he received two weeks’ leave to the UK. Shortly before rejoining his unit, he was awarded a Good Conduct Badge, having completed two years’ service without any disciplinary infractions. John worked at Alençon until December 14, 1918, when all No. 2 Construction personnel returned to the Nova Scotia Regimental Depot at Bramshott Camp, UK.

John departed for Canada aboard the Empress of Britain on January 12, 1919, and arrived at Halifax, NS, 10 days later. He was formally discharged from military service at Halifax on February 15, 1919, and returned home. At the time of the 1921 Canadian census, 32-year-old John, farmer by occupation, was residing at Big Tracadie with his wife Sarah, age 27, and their children Elsie, age seven, John J., age five, and James B., age one month. Also living in the home are John’s younger brother Joseph, age 30, his step-father William Gero, age 60, and his mother Alice, age 50.

John remained at Big Tracadie for the remainder of his life. He passed away at Camp Hill Hospital, Halifax, on June 25, 1959, one month shy of his 71st birthday, and was laid to rest in Upper Big Tracadie. John’s son, Norman Arthur Elms, Creighton St., Halifax, was the informant on his death certificate.

18. Private William Henry Gero:

 According to his service file, William Henry Gero was born at Big Tracadie, NS, on September 30, 1876. Canadian census records, however, indicate that he was born much earlier. The 1871 Canadian census lists Henry “Genow,” age 10, as the oldest child of Thomas (age 36) and Lisar [probably Eliza] (age 32) Gero. Also residing in the household were Benjamin, age eight, Thomas, age seven, Charles, age five, Lisar [Eliza], age two and Ann, age one.

The 1881 census lists William Henry “Garon,” age 18, living in the Havre Boucher district of Antigonish County with his widowed father Thomas and siblings Benjamin, age 16, Thomas, age 14, Charles, age 12, Eliza Mary, age nine, Bessie Ann, age eight, Norman, age six, and Insana [sic], age four.  Later that same year, Thomas “Gerrow,” son of Benjamin and Hannah, married Margaret A. Dismal [Desmond], age 27, daughter of Christopher and Rebecca Dismal, in a ceremony that took place at Havre Boucher on August 18, 1881. While the 1901 census lists Thomas and his wife Margaret residing at Linwood, Antigonish County, William Henry is no longer living at home. His whereabouts then and at the time of the 1911 census 10 years later are unknown.

September 1916 proved to be an eventful month for William. His father passed away at Big Tracadie on September 3, 1916. Thomas was 86 years old at the time of his death and was laid to rest in the United Baptist Cemetery, Big Tracadie. William, his eldest child, was listed as informant on the death certificate. On September 16, William married Alice Elms [the marriage license records Alice’s surname as Gero], a 40-year-old widow and daughter of Margaret and John Day, Big Tracadie, in a ceremony held at Truro, NS.

Two weeks after his marriage—September 30, 1916—William enlisted with No. 2 Construction Battalion at Truro. As at the time of his marriage, William claimed to be 40 years old, but census records suggest that he was likely in his mid-fifties at the time. His military service papers also indicate that William had two dependents—James, age 12, and Annie, age seven. Information on his death certificate suggests that they were children from Alice’s first marriage.

On March 25, 1917, William departed Halifax with No. 2 Construction Battalion aboard SS Southland and disembarked at Liverpool, UK, two weeks later. On May 17, he proceeded to France with a large group of No. 2 Construction personnel, destined for the Canadian Forestry Corps’ (CFC) Jura District. William served in the Jura forests alongside CFC personnel for the duration of his time overseas.

On September 22, 1918, William was awarded a Good Conduct Badge, in acknowledgment of two years’ military service without a disciplinary infraction. He departed France with No. 2 Construction on December 14, 1918, and returned to the Nova Scotia Regimental Depot, Bramshott, UK. One month later, William sailed for Canada aboard Empress of Britain, arriving at Halifax on January 22, 1919. He was formally discharged from military service on February 14 and returned to the Big Tracadie area.

Military authorities forwarded William’s British War and Victory service medals to Big Tracadie, NS, on September 2, 1922. William Henry Gero passed away at Colchester County Hospital, Truro, NS, on October 8, 1945. At the time of his death, he was living at Prince St., Truro, and was laid to rest in the same community. Informant on William’s death certificate was his step-son, John Elms, Upper Big Tracadie, NS.

Monday, 29 November 2021

Guysborough County's No. 2 Construction Battalion Enlistments, Part 5

 This blog post is the fifth in a series, summarizing the information available on the life and First World War service of Guysborough County's 28 No. 2 Construction Battalion enlistments. Readers are asked to notify the blog author if there are any errors, or if a reader has additional information on any of the men profiled in these posts.

 

13. Private James William Desmond:

According to his military service file, James William Desmond was born at Guysborough, NS, on August 1, 1897. At the time of his enlistment, James identified his grandmother Mrs. Samuel Desmond—Sarah Byard—as his next of kin. Sarah, a daughter of Samuel and Mary Byard, married Samuel Edward Desmond, son of Richard and Amelia Desmond, in a ceremony held at Guysborough on January 7, 1874. Samuel earned his livelihood at sea, his marriage license listing his occupation at the time as “mariner.”

Official documents recorded the family surname in several ways—Desmall (the couple’s marriage certificate), Dissmond (1881 Canadian census), Dismal (1891 Canadian census) and Disney (1901 Canadian census). By 1911, official documents used the modern spelling “Desmond,” which appears throughout James’s service file.

Available census records indicate that Samuel and Sarah Desmond had two children—a son Frank, born on July 3, 1881, and a daughter Gertie, born on June 15, 1885. While James referred to their mother Sarah as his grandmother, available documents fail to prove that either one was James’s parent.

Frank eventually married, although no official record can be located. He settled at North Sydney around 1908 and found work in the local coal mines. Frank died at Harbour View Hospital, North Sydney, on June 6, 1922, at age 42. The cause of death was listed as “broken back,” perhaps the result of a mishap at work, although his death certificate makes no mention of an accident.

Frank’s sister Gertie married James Godfrey Skinner, son of Godfrey and Nancy Ann (Armsworthy) Skinner, at Guysborough on June 8, 1905. According to the couple’s marriage license, Gertie was born at Boston, MA, suggesting that Sarah may have accompanied Samuel on his sailing voyages. At the time of the 1911 census, James and Gertie had two children, James (July 1903) and Sarah Ellen (November 1905). Sadly, Gertie passed away at Guysborough on March 17, 1913, the result of tuberculosis.

On August 18, 1916, James Desmond enlisted with No. 2 Construction Battalion at its Pictou, NS headquarters. He stood five feet four inches and weighed 135 pounds at the time. While James claimed to have been born on August 1, 1897, making him 19 years old at the time, later documents in his service file suggest that he was likely born in 1900.

James departed for overseas with No. 2 Construction Battalion on March 25, 1917, and arrived in the United Kingdom two weeks later. On May 17, he departed for France with a contingent of 525 No. 2 Construction personnel and reported to the Canadian Forestry Corps’ Jura District, near the Swiss border, shortly afterward. For the remainder of the year, James worked alongside CFC personnel, harvesting, processing and shipping timber in the heavily forested area.

In December 1917, James was one of 180 No. 2 Construction men transferred to No. 1 District, Alençon. The majority were men from the Caribbean Islands or southern United States. CFC officials were concerned that the colder winters in the Jura District might negatively impact their health. The group was attached to CFC’s No. 54 Company and worked in the forests of Normandy, where winters were much milder, for the remainder of their time in France.

James was hospitalized on several occasions during his time at Alençon. In late March 1918, he was briefly admitted to No. 10 General Hospital, Rouen, suffering from “debility.” Discharged after three days, he returned to duty, only to be re-admitted for treatment of bronchitis in late April. Discharged to No. 5 Convalescent Depot, Rouen, on May 5, he spent six weeks recuperating before reporting to Canadian Base Depot, Étaples, on June 13.

Two days later, James was admitted to No. 7 Canadian General Hospital, Étaples, for treatment of “ICT [inter-connective tissue wound] left hand.” Released to No. 14 Convalescent Depot one week later, he once again returned to Base Depot, Étaples, on July 6, only to be re-admitted to hospital for treatment of “periostitis”—inflammation of the connective tissue that surrounds bone—on July 15.

Following two weeks’ treatment, James was discharged to a convalescent depot on August 1 and returned to Base Depot one week later. He rejoined his No. 2 Construction mates at Alençon on August 17 and was attached to No. 43 Company, CFC. For reasons that are not explained in his service file, James was assigned to “detention hospital” at Alençon on November 2, and was transferred to a second “detention” facility at Conches four days later.

When the November 11, 1918 Armistice brought fighting to an end, timber harvesting ceased in all CFC districts and harvested logs were processed before personnel dismantled the sawmills. While his service file does not provide a date for James’s hospital discharge, he returned to the United Kingdom with his No. 2 Construction mates on December 14, 1918, and departed for Canada aboard SS Empress of Britain on January 12, 1919. The vessel docked at Halifax, NS, after a nine-day crossing. On February 15, 1919, James was discharged from military service and returned home to Guysborough.

James’s post-war days was short-lived. On August 12, 1919, he passed away suddenly at Guysborough. According to his death record, he was 19 years old at the time of his death and had been ill with tuberculosis for one month. The register identified James’s occupation as “soldier” and mysteriously listed his marital status as “widower.” More perplexing was an entry that identified James’s father as James Ryan, who was also the informant. Available documents do not provide any information on James Ryan, keeping the identity of James Desmond’s parents an unsolved mystery.

14. Private Alexander Elms:

According to his military attestation, Alexander Elms was born at Big Tracadie, Guysborough County, on February 28, 1889. Alex identified his mother, Mary Elms, Tracadie, as his next of kin. Mary Jane Elms was born at Tracadie on October 30, 1870, the daughter of Joseph and Jane Elms, who were married at Tracadie in February 1864.

The 1891 Canadian census identifies Alexander, age two, as the “son” of Joseph Elms, age 64, farmer, and his wife Janie, age 50. Also in the home at the time were three of Joseph and Jane’s children—Henry, age 23; Alex’s mother Mary, age 20; Henrietta, age 19, and Freeman, age 17. One decade later, the 1901 census identifies Henry as the head of a household that included his mother Jane and his siblings Annie and Freeman. Mary and Alex no longer reside there and do not appear elsewhere in 1901 or 1911 Nova Scotia census data.

Alex Elms attested for service with No. 2 Construction Battalion at Halifax, NS, on August 29, 1916. At that time, he gave his address as 131 Albemarle St., Halifax. Alex stood almost five feet 11 inches and weighed 162 pounds at the time, considerably larger in both categories than many of his comrades. Other than a brief hospitalization at Truro in early December 1916 for treatment of “Bell’s paralysis,” Alex spent the winter of 1916 - 17 training and working alongside his fellow No. 2 Construction recruits.

The unit departed for overseas aboard SS Southland on March 25, 1917, and disembarked at Liverpool, UK, two weeks later. Alex was admitted to Canadian Military Hospital, Eastbourne, for treatment of measles on April 21, but was discharged on May 5. Twelve days later, he was part of a large detachment of No. 2 Construction men that departed for France for service with the Canadian Forestry Corps (CFC).

Upon landing on the continent, the group made its way to the Jura District of France, where several CFC companies harvested and processed timber in in a mountainous, forested area adjacent to the Swiss border. In late December 1917, Alex was part of a detachment transferred to No. 1 District, Alençon, approximately 200 kilometres west of Paris, where No. 2 Construction personnel worked in the Normandy forests alongside several CFC companies.

With the exception of 14 days’ leave to the United Kingdom in mid-September 1918, Alex remained at Alençon for the duration of his time in France. Harvesting operations ceased following the signing of the November 11, 1918, Armistice and CFC units processed the remaining logs at their sawmills before ceasing production. On December 14, all No. 2 Construction personnel on the continent were transferred to the United Kingdom and posted to the Nova Scotia Regimental Depot, Bramshott. One month later, Alex and his mates departed for Halifax, NS, aboard SS Empress of Britain.

Alex was discharged from military service at Halifax on February 13, 1919. A “Form of Affidavit” signed the following day registered the marriage of Alexander Elms, Big Tracadie, bachelor and “soldier,” age 31, to Bessie Blackburn, Halifax, NS, a 28-year-old spinster. Unfortunately, the document provides no further details on either party’s family background.

According to his discharge papers, Alex returned to Upper Big Tracadie. Nova Scotia marriage records for the year 1920 include a marriage license for Alexander Elms, bachelor, labourer, age 31, born and living at Big Tracadie, son of Joseph Elms and Mary Ann [sic] Elms, and Rosie Jane Ash, age 26 domestic, widow, born at Guysborough, living at Upper Big Tracadie, daughter of Ruben Pelley and Sarah “Sadie” Dorrington. The wedding ceremony took place at Tracadie on February 12, 1920, with Joseph A. Desmond, Upper Big Tracadie, and Mrs. Michael R. Elms, Upper Big Tracadie—the wife of another No. 2 Construction soldier—as witnesses.

At the time of the 1921 Canadian census, 33-year-old Alex was living at Upper Big Tracadie with his wife, 27-year-old Rose Jane, and their young daughter Sophie. Also residing in the household were lodger Freeman Ash, age 27, labourer, and “servant” Gussie Ash, age 19. Tragically, Rosey Jane passed away at West St., Antigonish, on March 16, 1926, after a two-month battle with cancer and was laid to rest at Tracadie. Her husband Alex was informant on her death certificate.

A 1930 Province of Nova Scotia death certificate records the passing of Alexander Elms, Monastery, NS, at Camp Hill Hospital, Halifax, on January 19, 1930. Details on the document indicate that Alex had been at Camp Hill for three months and identified the cause of his passing as “chronic nephritis with heart failure.” Unfortunately, the document does not include his parents’ names, and gives his marital status as “single.”

Curiously, the birth date listed on the form—March 14, 1897—corresponds with that of another No. 2 Construction enlistment, Alexander Benjamin Elms [see below]. As Camp Hill was a military hospital, admission was restricted to veterans. It is quite possible that authorities obtained the birth information from the incorrect service file. Library & Archives Canada’s Canadian Expeditionary Force database identified only two “Alexander Elms” as having served during the First World War, both No. 2 Construction Battalion enlistments. Alex’s death certificate does not provide a place of interment.

 15. Private Alexander Benjamin Elms:

 
According to his military service file, Alexander Benjamin Elms was born at Big Tracadie, Guysborough County, on March 14, 1897, the son of Benjamin and Sarah Margaret (Jordan) Elms. The 1901 Canadian census for the Tracadie area lists Alexander, age four, living with his father Benjamin, age 67, his mother Sarah, age 42, and siblings Georgina, age 11, and John, age nine. An older sister Ida, identified in the 1891 census as nine years old at that time, was no longer a member of the household.a

Sometime prior to 1913, Benjamin Sr. passed away. On July 16, 1913, Sarah married William Simons, a 60-year-old widower and native of Bermuda, in a ceremony held at Antigonish, NS. While William was residing at Hopewell, Pictou County,at the time of the wedding, the couple eventually relocated to Willow St., Truro, NS, where Sarah’s son Alexander Benjamin enlisted with No. 2 Construction Battalion on August 8, 1916.

Ben stood five feet nine inches and weight 148 pounds at the time of his enlistment. Apparently an exuberant 19-year-old, he was sentenced to one week’s detention for “insubordination” on October 17, 1916. Ben spent the winter of 1916 - 17 at Truro, where he was admitted to hospital on March 17, 1917 for treatment of frostbite. He was discharged to duty on March 25 and immediately joined his comrades aboard SS Southland at Halifax for the journey across the North Atlantic.

The vessel arrived at Liverpool, UK, on April 7 and No. 2’s Construction’s personnel made their way by train to camp in southern England. On May 17, Ben was among the 525 No 2 Construction men who crossed the English Channel to France and made their way to the Jura District of France for service with the Canadian Forestry Corps.

Ben remained at Jura throughout his time in France. Briefly hospitalized for treatment of “PUO”—a “fever of unknown origin”—on June 27, 1918, he was discharged to duty after a three-day stay. Granted leave to the United Kingdom on July 4, he rejoined his comrades in France on July 21 and returned to work alongside CFC personnel.

In mid-October 1918, Ben was hospitalized for treatment of a bacterial infection. Discharged to duty in early November, he returned to the Nova Scotia Regimental Depot, Bramshott, UK, with his comrades on December 14, 1918, but was re-admitted to hospital in early January 1919. As a result, he was not among the No. 2 Construction men who returned to Canada aboard SS Empress of Britain in mid-January.

Ben was discharged from hospital in mid-February and returned to Canada aboard SS Lapland several days later. The vessel arrived at Halifax on March 1, 1919. While awaiting his discharge, Ben fell ill and was admitted to hospital on March 20. Medical records indicate that he was suffering from an “attack of [a] severe type” of smallpox at the time. Ben spent three weeks in hospital before being transferred to the Casualty Company on April 8, 1919. Six days later, he was discharged from military service and returned home.

On September 1, 1920, Alexander Benjamin Elms married Margaret Johanna Clark, a 21-year-old spinster and daughter of William Clark and Sarah Williams, in a ceremony held at Upper Big Tracadie. The following year’s Canadian census lists Benjamin Elms, age 31, labourer, living at Big Tracadie with his wife Margaret, age 22. Also in the home are Ben’s niece, Mary B. Elms, age 20, what appears to be her daughter Mary, age one, and Ben’s half-sister Georgia [possibly the “Georgina” from the 1901 census records] Morris, age 30.

No further information is available on Ben’s post-war life. He passed away in 1984 and was laid to rest in Tracadie United Baptist Church Cemetery, where a Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstone marks his final resting place.