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Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Captain Alexander Daniel Archibald - A "Military Cross" Soldier's Story (Part I)

Date of Birth: January 13, 1890

Place of Birth: New Town, Guysborough County

Mother's Name: Janie Gunn

Father's Name: William Henry Archibald

Date of Enlistment: February 6, 1915 at Halifax, NS

Regimental Number: 50013

Rank: Captain

Forces: Canadian Army Medical Corps; Canadian Expeditionary Force (Infantry)

Units: No. 1 Canadian General Hospital; 85th Battalion (Nova Scotia Highlanders)

Location of service: England, France & Belgium

Occupation at Enlistment: Student

Marital Status at Enlistment: Single

Next of Kin: Mr. William Henry Archibald, New Town (father)

Dan's younger brother, Robert Edmund, attested with No. 10 Halifax Siege Battery on January 18, 1918 and served at the front with 6th Brigade Canadian Field Artillery during the final days of the war.  His story was posted to this blog in August 2014.

A special thank you to Claudia Smith of Almonte, Ontario, Captain A. D. and Nursing Sister Mary (Graham) Archibald's grand-daughter, who graciously provided transcripts of letters, photographs, and information on her grandparents' lives. 

Claudia has written a book about her grandmother's service as a Nursing Sister.  The volume, in the final stages of production, illustrates their tremendous dedication and hard work during the tragic yet exhilarating years of the First World War. 

Once the book is published, a collection of letters, photographic albums, army cards and troop theatre programs from Nursing Sister Mary Graham's and Captain A. D. Archibald's war service will be displayed in the Huronia Museum, Midland, Ontario.  At present, a redwork signature quilt made by the Elmvale Women's Institute and sent to Mary during her service in France with the Canadian Army Medical Corps, Mary's nursing uniform, boots and belts, and Dan's 85th Battalion hat and belt are housed in the museum.

The family is proud to have these historical items displayed in their home area, and delighted that Mary's and Dan's contributions to the First World War are being acknowledged and preserved.  For additional information about Nursing Sister Mary Graham's story, contact Claudia at: cjsmith@magma.ca .

Author's Note: As Captain Archibald officially served with the Canadian Expeditionary Force from February 6, 1915 to March 20, 1920, his story is presented in two consecutive posts.  This month's installment focuses on his service with the Canadian Army Medical Corps.  The second chapter, to be posted in January 2015, focuses on his infantry service.
 
*****

Alexander Daniel "Dan" Archibald was the fourth of seven children born to William Henry and Janie (Gunn) Archibald of New Town, Guysborough County.  The third of the couple's six sons, Dan was raised in a family that place a high value on education. After completing his local schooling, Dan enrolled in the Arts program at Dalhousie University, Halifax and contemplated entering the ministry.  Several months prior to completing his senior year, however, he made a life-altering choice, enlisting for overseas service with the Canadian Army Medical Corps (CAMC) at Halifax on February 6, 1915.

Captain A. D. Archibald (photo courtesy of Colin MacKay, Riverton, NS).

Dan's decision comes as no surprise, as he was attending university in a city that became a bustling hub of military activity immediately after Great Britain declared war on Germany and Austria-Hungary in August 1914.  Moreover, several of his Dalhousie classmates made the same decision within days of Dan's attestation.  Ralph B. Clarke of St. Stephen, NB led the way, joining the CAMC two days before Dan.  George Murray of River John, NS attested on the same day as Dan, while Neil E. "Mac" MacDonald of Framboise, Cape Breton enlisted two days later.  George Paterson of Grand River, NS was the last, completing his attestation papers and medical examination on February 15.  Their military service followed parallel paths, nurturing a bond that lasted well beyond the war years.

Dan and his colleagues departed Halifax shortly after enlisting and arrived in England on February 18, 1915.  Dan was briefly hospitalized for treatment of neuritis (an inflammation of one or more nerves) on Salisbury Plain before being assigned to No. 1 Canadian General Hospital, Netheravon.  His Dalhousie classmates also joined the unit, where all were designated for service as orderlies.

No. 1 Canadian General Hospital was initially organized at Valcartier, Quebec on September 3, 1914 and travelled to England in October 1914 with the First Canadian Contingent.  Before month's end, the unit opened a "Clearing Hospital" at Salisbury Plain and commenced providing medical services to Canadian battalions encamped in the area.  During the winter of 1914-15, No. 1 General treated patients in temporary huts with no floors and lacked the facilities necessary to provide long-term care. 

On February 24, 1915, the unit's war diary recorded the arrival of 30 "rank and file" soldiers to the unit, amongst whom were Private Dan Archibald and is university chums.  "Archie", as his military colleagues came to know him, found himself part of a small but bustling facility, housing approximately 500 patients in huts, tents and a manor house.  Soldiers who had contracted venereal diseases constituted the largest number of cases under treatment.

Within one week of Dan's arrival, hospital personnel commenced preparations for a move to France.  The March 8 war diary entry commented: "Work of packing and cleaning being well advanced, the time of the men is being occupied by physical drill, stretcher exercises and instructional classes."  Later that evening, officials held a "farewell dance for [the unit's] nurses….  A large number were present and the rooms were very prettily decorated.  All enjoyed themselves."

At some time during his days at Shorncliffe, Dan was on Grounds Cleaning Detail when he noticed a copy of a Halifax newspaper tangled in a bush.  Upon perusing its contents, his attention was drawn to an item about his alma mater.  Dalhousie University had decided to grant degrees to all senior students who had enlisted for service and were thus unable to complete their studies.  Atop the list of names was "Alexander Daniel Archibald, New Town, Guysborough County".

Captain Archibald's Dalhousie University Medal.

Activities recorded in the war diary throughout the remainder of the month suggest a routine typical of military service.  On March 25, for example, "the Company did a route march of twelve miles.  Some of the men complaining of blistered feet."  Simultaneously, hospital staff gradually reduced its patient load.  By month's end, 350 soldiers remained in the hospital, "all venereal but twelve."

While patient evacuation continued into April, it was "drill and exercise for the men, as usual."  On April 22, "the men had a long route march under the O. C. [Officer Commanding]."  Personnel enjoyed a field day of sports and games, followed by an evening concert, on May 4 as final preparations were made to discharge the remaining 118 patients to a facility at Shorncliffe.  The following day, the patients were evacuated by special train, while No. 1 General's equipment was loaded onto ships at Southampton.

On May 11, personnel held a unit parade to place flowers on the graves of Canadians who died on Salisbury Plain, a total of 42 soldiers buried in three separate cemeteries.  Two days later, the unit moved out by foot at 10:00 a.m., arriving at Southampton at 2:10 p.m. "in the rain" and departing for France three hours later.  Their vessel anchored in Boulogne Harbour at 2:30 a.m. May 14, a group of its non-commissioned officers (NCOs) remaining on board while the equipment of their shipmates - No. 20 British General Hospital - was unloaded.

The following day, personnel began unloading No. 1 General's equipment, a task that was completed by mid-afternoon May 16.  The unit immediately departed for nearby Étaples, arriving at their destination on May 17.  Personnel hastily unloaded the unit's cargo during the morning of May 18 and immediately commenced erecting tents.  The following day, the hospital's Matron and 36 Nursing Sisters landed at Boulogne.

The men set about erecting tent wards and installing wooden floors, levelling the ground as they proceeded.  Within four days of the Nursing Sisters' arrival on May 22, personnel had constructed facilities for 158 patients.  A total of eight tent wards were almost complete by the end of the following day.

No. 1 General received its first admissions on May 31, 1915, a group of 51 patients who arrived at 9:30 a.m. by ambulance train from Boulogne.  The war diary noted: "Within an hour all patients… were bathed, fed and asleep in bed.  Two cases were reported as seriously ill."  Several days later, the war diary described the facility's mission: "This Hospital, though stylized a general hospital, is in reality a 'Clearing Hospital' and the smoothness and rapidity of our work is the criterion by which we will be judged."

The hospital accommodated its patients in tent wards, a practice given a favourable review in the unit's war diary:

"The Indian pattern Hospital tent has proved itself not only comfortable in the extreme, but weather proof.  Our system of placing these tents end to end, thus making a very spacious, cool and beautiful ward, was open to one objection, viz.: that in rainy weather the interspace would collect water[,] thus constituting a drip and leak.  This has now been disproved, but it is found that the cotton ropes swell and need constant attention."

By June 11, the hospital's male personnel were "very comfortably housed, [their] huts… scrubbed every day and blankets folded regimentally."  Three days later, the war diary announced: "The hospital is now well established and the grounds neatly laid out."  The opening of a Convalescent Depot at nearby Étaples in mid-June provided a nearby facility for recovering patients.  The war diary described their various responses to the "clearing" process:

"Whilst it is necessary that men fit to return to the firing line be ultimately sent back through the medium of this camp, yet it is always a hard duty to perform.  The joy which comes to the face of a patient marked for transfer to England, [sic] is worth seeing.  But no patient sent to Convalescent Camp is ever heard to grumble though his face may show how keenly he wishes for a furlough.  The British soldier is a wonderful hero."

"Archie" and his comrades enjoyed a welcome break from hospital routine on July 1 - "Dominion Day" - as staff participated in an afternoon games and sports day at Caesar's Camp, "a natural amphitheatre east of our lines."  Activities included a football match, 100 yard dash, an egg and
spoon race for the Nursing Sisters, and an evening concert. 

The war diary's July 9 entry recorded 135 admissions and 117 evacuations, the culmination of a "record week" for the fledgling hospital.  The diary lamented that the unit's total complement of 235 Officers, NCOs and "other ranks" (OR) "does not allow sufficient rank and file for varied duties."  Bearer parties were required at all hours and several personnel had already suffered injuries in the performance of their duties.  While the diary suggested the addition of a regimental band from Shorncliffe to provide much needed help with patient transportation and simultaneously boost patient morale, there is no indication the suggestion was pursued.

The hospital's location close to the English Channel provided a welcome summertime diversion.  The July 10 diary entry described a common recreational activity: "As usual everyone who could get away to Paris Plage took advantage of the Saturday to have a plunge."  The facility also received its share of distinguished visitors.  Canadian Prime Minister, Sir Robert Borden, paid a visit on the evening of July 20: "He was received with a salute and then the ranks were opened and an official inspection made."  The accompanying party of dignitaries included HRH Edward, Prince of Wales.

The hospital site was of considerable historical significance.  A local Roman Catholic priest informed the Adjutant - whose duty it was to complete the daily diary entries - that the location was believed to be "the burial grounds for Roman officers" accompanying Julius Caesar on his march of conquest to England.  Centuries later, the French Emperor Napoleon encamped in the area as he contemplated an invasion of England.

Dan's college mates were not his only acquaintances amongst No. 1's personnel.  As one might expect, there was considerable camaraderie with the unit's nursing staff.  One relationship Dan formed during the unit's first months in France deserves particular mention.  Mary Graham, a native of Elmvale, Ontario and a graduate nurse, enlisted with the CAMC at London, England on May 12, 1915 and joined No 1 General's nursing staff in July 1915.  One of her co-workers, Eva Maude Mosher, a native of Moosehead, Halifax County, also enlisted with the CAMC in London on the same day. 

Shortly after arriving in France, Eva introduced Mary to the "Bluenose Boys", a group of Maritimers also serving with No. 1 General.  The "boys" happened to be none other than Dan and his Dalhousie classmates.  Unbeknownst to Dan and Mary at the time, this chance introduction was destined to blossom into a lifelong relationship.

No. 1 General Orderlies, Etaples.
 Neil MacDonald (standing); George Murray (2nd row, far right); Ralph B. Clarke (2nd row, second from right); George Paterson (1st row, far right) & Dan Archibald (1st row, second from right).

By mid-August, the hospital housed approximately 500 patients.  As it completed its fourth month of operation on August 31, the war diary reported a total of 3423 admissions and 3090 discharges since arriving in Étaples.  The last month was particularly busy, as might be expected due to the increase in combat during the summer season.  The hospital received a total of 1155 patients, while discharging 822 in August alone.

Demand for hospital space fluctuated through the year, according to the intensity of combat at the front.  On September 7, several recent offensives between Arras, France and the Belgian frontier prompted military authorities to order the evacuation of patients "to the fullest[,] in accordance with special instructions to clear the Hospital as far as possible." 

Two days later, the diary reported that the evacuation was "proceeding rapidly and no new patients coming in.  219 patients remaining at 12 noon."  The reason for the orders became apparent the following day, when a convoy of 118 patients arrived in the morning.  By September 17, the facility housed 341 patients, yet was once again ordered to evacuate as many cases as possible one week later.

In response, personnel discharged 282 patients, leaving only 60, "the lowest number we have had in the Hospital since opening."  Within days, 361 new patients arrived, although 336 were discharged by month's end.  For the first time since arriving in France, the war diary provided statistics on the average length of stay per patient: 10.4 days in July, 9.2 days in August, and a remarkable 1.8 days in September.  Medical staff performed a total of 156 operations under anaesthetic during the month's last five days, indicating the serious nature of the cases arriving from the battlefield.

The month also proved significant for Dan, as he received a promotion to the rank of Lance Corporal on September 2.  This was the first of several subsequent advancements, his superiors acknowledging the leadership skills he later displayed on the battlefield.

The summer's frenetic pace continued into October, as hospital staff processed 1623 patients - 823 sick and 800 wounded.  A total of 1601 were discharged, leaving a complement of 400 patients at month's end.  Simultaneously, non-medical staff began preparations for the unit's first winter at the front, building winter hut quarters for the nursing sisters and installing wood stoves in the tent wards.

The arrival of autumn weather was soon evident in the cases arriving for treatment.  The November 23 diary entry commented: "A large number of patients admitted recently have been suffering from trench feet from the cold weather in the trenches."  An early December 1915 entry also mentioned "a considerable number of cases of trench feet… being received."

On December 20, 1915, the hospital achieved a statistical milestone: "A total of 10,000 patients have been admitted to the hospital since opening here on May 31, 1915."  In keeping with the season, the hospital's 724 patients were treated to an appropriate feast on December 25:

"A dinner of turkey and plum pudding was provided for all patients by the Canadian Red Cross Society and was much enjoyed.  The Officers of the Unit provided the dinner of turkey, plum pudding, etc. for the N. C. O.'s and men… in the new hut which was first opened for use this day.  In the evening a Christmas Tree and supper was provided for the N. C. O.'s and men by the Nursing Sisters.  The wards and mess rooms of the personnel were very prettily decorated and a very pleasant day was spent by all ranks."

The month's end statistics provided a summary of the unit's work to date, in addition to details on cases currently under treatment.  A total of 10,621 patients had passed through its wards, 10,182 of whom were discharged to other facilities.  There were 139 deaths amongst its admissions, a remarkably low number considering the nature of wounds received at the front.  The hospital's surgeons had performed a total of 1991 operations.  Amongst cases currently in the hospital, 195 soldiers were receiving treatment for trench foot, 41 for parathyroid problems, and four for infective jaundice. 

As might be anticipated given the lull in fighting during the winter months, January 1916 was "the lightest month since… opening….  Of 805 cases admitted, 198 were wounded and 607 sick."  Considering the conditions the men endured in the trenches, it is not surprising that "the great proportion of cases… have been medical."

Similar circumstances prevailed the following month, as noted in the war diary's February 7 entry:  "As the number of patients arriving from the front has been less of late, the three week rule has been suspended and we are allowed to retain patients longer in the Hospital."  The respite also allowed personnel to perform several repairs to the facilities: "Old tent wards [were] cleared away, and floors removed which occasioned considerable levelling of ground.  New tent wards [were then] erected."

The month was not without its share of winter weather, the war diary specifically mentioning "heavy snow fall" on February 23.  It was "still snowing and freezing hard" the following day, but personnel nevertheless managed to erect a new tent ward.  The cold snap created problems on February 25: "Severe frost during the night.  As a result the water pipes were blocked with ice and burst in places, causing much inconvenience."  By month's end, the weather turned mild and wet, a change no doubt welcomed by personnel and patients alike.

As spring arrived, the hospital grounds received particular attention.  Personnel set about constructing a flower garden and tennis court, in addition to completing "nine new tent wards" by the end of March 1916.  The number of patients slowly but steadily increased from 309 on March 16 to 564 on March 29, as fighting at the front gradually intensified.

Map of No. 1 Canadian General Hospital, Etaples (June 1915).
Patient totals reached 645 by April 2 as patients and personnel endured several weeks of damp weather.  By April 23, the war diary reported "an agreeable change in the weather…, the sun was shining all day from an almost cloudless sky."  While the arrival of spring produced increased numbers of wounded, the improved weather also brought a new and unexpected danger from above.

At approximately midnight April 25/26, 1916, a German zeppelin passed overhead:

"The zeppelin was travelling in a north-west direction, apparently bound for England; it passes [sic] directly over No. 1 Canadian General Hospital.  About one mile south-east two explosive bombs were dropped amongst the trees in the vicinity of the Reinforcement Camp.  No damage was done excepting the trees in the immediate neighbourhood of the explosion being damaged.  The crater left by each was from 12 to 15 feet in diameter and about four feet deep.  Two incendiary bombs were dropped in the Isolation Hospital lines, about one-half mile from here, close to an outbuilding, one destroyed a stove.  No further damage was done."

Four other incendiary bombs landed on either side of No. 1 General's lines, but caused no damage.  The war diary described the response on the ground: "Strict order was maintained and no confusion took place."  The raid was not a "one-time occurrence".  German aircraft later revisited the Étaples area in May 1918, with tragic consequences.

The improved weather provided an opportunity for hospital staff to enjoy a break from daily routine on May 1 as officers organized an afternoon Field Day of sports and recreational activities.  A "great number" of personnel participated and observed, and "keen interest was manifest."  The practice of dignitaries visiting the facility also resumed with the milder weather.  Sir Douglas Haig, Commander-in-Chief of British Forces, visited the hospital on May 18, expressing "great pleasure… [at finding the facility] in such excellent condition."

Before month's end, the Canadian Red Cross opened a recreational hut on grounds located between the unit and its neighbour, No. 26 British General Hospital.  May 31 marked the one-year anniversary of No. 1 General's first patient admissions.  During that time, a total of 16,597 cases passed through its wards.  While justifiably proud of its record, hospital staff no doubt realized that greater challenges lay ahead with the onset of another "fighting season".

The past year had also been particularly eventful for Dan in several ways.  During that time, he had become friends with Mary Graham.  Their relationship, while in its early stages, would grow as the months of war stretched into years.  Spring brought a promotion to the rank of Corporal on March 1, 1916.  Dan also spent four days as a patient of No. 1 General, when he was admitted on June 5 for treatment of "neuritis torticollis" (inflammation of the nerves in the neck), the same ailment for which he received treatment in England.

June 9, 1916 - the day following Dan's discharge from hospital - proved to be the most significant one of Dan's service to date.  The daily war diary entry reported the news: "No. 50013 Cpl. Archibald, C. A. M. C., having made application for a commission in His Majesty's Army, was today ordered to proceed to 25th Canadian Battalion for one month's attachment."

*****

The 25th Canadian Infantry Battalion was officially authorized on November 7, 1914 and recruited its personnel from across the province of Nova Scotia.  The unit organized at Halifax on March 15, 1915 and departed for England aboard HMTS Saxonia two months later.  Shortly after arriving in camp at East Sandling, the 25th was assigned to the 2nd Canadian Division's 5th Brigade, where its personnel served alongside the 22nd (Quebec's famous "Van Doos"), 24th (Victoria Rifles of Montreal) and 26th (New Brunswick) Battalions for the war's duration.

The 25th crossed the English Channel to France with the 2nd Division in September 1915 and was immediately deployed in the trenches of the Ypres Salient, Belgium.  Its personnel served on rotation in this area throughout the winter of 1915-16, receiving their "baptism by fire" in April 1916 when the unit entered the "St. Eloi craters".  Exposed to ferocious enemy fire from three sides, its soldiers withstood numerous German attacks on their position during a six-week rotation.

The 25th was holding the front trenches at Zillebeke, Belgium on the day that Corporal Dan Archibald joined its ranks.  The circumstances at the time of Dan's arrival provided an appropriate introduction to the "firing line": "Enemy artillery very active on our front and support trenches.  Fourteen OR wounded."  The bombardment continued the following day as high explosive artillery shells, trench mortars, machine gun and rifle fire struck the unit's lines, killing one Officer and 12 OR and wounding four Officers.

Similar conditions prevailed on the third day, when two Officers and 15 OR were wounded and 10 OR reported missing before the 25th retired to billets during the night of June 11/12.  Personnel arrived in camp "very fatigued after having undergone a particularly heavy bombardment."  The soldiers rested the following day, enduring rainy weather in a "camp [that was] in very poor condition."  Such was Dan's initiation to infantry service.

Dan's parents, William Henry & Janie (Gunn) Archibald (courtesy of Vi Fraser, Sherbrooke).
At 7:30 p.m. June 14, the battalion marched off to Hill 60, where personnel encountered "normal" artillery activity and "very active" machine gun and rifle fire.  Two OR were killed and six wounded the following day, while "great [artillery and trench mortar] activity" took place on June 16.  On this occasion, the unit's war diary gratefully reported: "We… came through without any casualties."

The same could not be said for the following day: "Enemy bombarding with great violence, in retaliation to our artillery."  Eight OR were killed and 47 wounded in the day's shelling.  Casualties declined somewhat over the tour's final three days - one OR killed and nine wounded - as the 25th retired to billets at Reninghelst on the night of June 20/21.

Dan spent a week in Divisional Reserve with his new comrades, training during the day and participating in sports each evening.  The unit moved out to Brigade Reserve at Dickebusch - Scottish Woods on June 28, as personnel supplied large working parties nightly for one week.  The artillery fire experienced during the previous tour continued unabated: "Artillery shelling Dickebusch during the night and day.  No casualties."

On the night of July 6/7, the 25th once again "proceeded to the trenches".  Daily exchanges of artillery, mortar, rifle grenade, machine gun and rifle fire continued throughout the tour, the war diary's July 11 entry reporting: "Our front lines and communication trenches were fired upon almost continually throughout the day."  The battalion was relieved on the evening of July 15 and retired to Kenora Camp, arriving in the early hours of July 16.

Upon relief, Dan made his way back to No. 1 General Hospital, Étaples.  During his absence, the pace of work had increased considerably.  The hospital housed a total of 668 patients on July 17, but numbers steadily increased.  A convoy of 251 patients - including 150 "stretcher cases" - arrived four days later,  the war diary proudly noting that the men were processed in a record one hour and 27 minutes.  By the following day - July 22 - 1046 patients were crammed into the hospital's tent wards.
Statistics for July 1916 reveal the increasing intensity of fighting brought on by summer's arrival - No. 1 General received 4363 patients, 3808 of whom were wounded cases.  A total of 3768 patients were discharged to other facilities, while 51 soldiers died at the facility.  The war diary reported an average stay per patient of 4.37 days.

The following month opened with a pleasant surprise when His Majesty, King George V, made an "unannounced visit" to the Étaples area on August 3.  "While in the district he called at No. 1 Canadian General Hospital, and walked through two or three of the wards, also the Canadian Red Cross Recreational Hut.  This was a very pleasing surprise visit…."

The unit narrowly avoided catastrophe on the morning of August 21, when a fire broke out in one of its tent wards.  "The fire piquet [watch] and others were very quickly on the scene and the fire was soon under control."  As the hospital's wards housed 1186 patients at the time, the prompt response averted a tragedy of considerable proportions.

The number of patients reached a peak of 1285 on August 24, declining slightly by month's end.  In total, personnel processed 2768 admissions, transferring 1284 to hospitals in England and 92 to duty.  The remainder were admitted to the nearby Convalescent Depot.  A monthly total of 40 deaths was a decline from July, but still significantly higher than earlier months.

The frenetic pace continued into the following month, the hospital receiving 644 admissions on September 5 alone.  The September 18 war diary entry suggests that staff and resources were stretched to the limit, as casualties continued to arrive from the summer-long Somme offensive: "Today has been a record day in almost every department.  Sixty four major operations were performed and no less than 156 X-rays taken."  The facility contained 1252 patients at day's end, its capacity stretched to the limit.

Admissions nevertheless continued to rise, reaching a peak 1594 patients in the tent wards on September 27.  While the total declined to 1332 patients by month's end, September's statistics describe a challenging workload.  The unit admitted 4750 patients, transferring 3112 to England, 1114 to the Étaples Convalescent Depot, and 19 to duty.  The average hospital stay for the month was 6.92 days.

Admission and occupancy numbers remained high throughout October and into early November, before winter's arrival once again produced a lull in the fighting.  Dan, however, was not present to witness the decline.  The October 5, 1916 war diary entry stated in part:  "No. 50013 Corporal A. D. Archibald, C. A. M. C., having been granted a Commission proceeded to England on duty this day."  The second major chapter of Dan's war experience - his infantry service - was about to begin.

*****

Dan was not alone in making the transformation from hospital orderly to infantry soldier.  All of his Dalhousie friends - Clark, Murray, Paterson and MacDonald - made the same transition at various times after arriving in France with No. 1 General.  In a letter written to Mary shortly after he returned to England in October 1916, "Archie" provided insight into the reason why he and his friends made such a significant decision:

"Mary, it is certainly good to be back to… civilization.  A good bed felt very nice after 20 months of nothing to sleep on but a blanket.  Active service was so hard and dull with a lot of waiting around.  No bugle call to wake me this morning and now I will go down to the War Office to await my fate….  I never realized how much you were to me until I am far away and know only too well how long it will be before I see you again.  Thank you for the snap.  It cheers me to gaze upon your loving smile."

On October 7, 1916, Dan was "taken on strength" at Chariton, near Southampton, England, "pending admission to Cadet Corps".  Three days later, he received a one-month furlough.  Upon returning to camp, he waited another month before receiving orders to proceed to Cadet Military School, Dilgate "for course of instruction". 

Upon completing his cadet training, Dan received a promotion to the rank of Temporary Lieutenant on February 24, 1917.  He was officially appointed to the commissioned rank of Lieutenant on April 9 and assigned to the 17th Reserve Battalion, the unit that provided reinforcements for Nova Scotian battalions at the front.  Dan attended "Gas School" at Camp Aldershot in late June, thus completing preparations for active combat.  He returned to the 17th Reserve Battalion's camp, where he awaited orders to proceed to the front.

Nursing Sister Mary Graham, Etaples, France (1916).
The call was not long in coming.  On July 9, 1917, Dan was transferred to the 85th Battalion, the other Nova Scotian unit serving "in the line".  He crossed the English Channel to Boulogne, France the following day and awaited orders to proceed to the front.  As Étaples was nearby, Dan took the opportunity to visit his former comrades at No. 1 General, particularly Nursing Sister Mary Graham.
Dan departed for the 85th's camp on July 12, finding time that evening to write a letter to Mary.  Its content reveals the level to which their relationship had developed:

"My Dearie,

To think that last night at this time I was with you while this evening we are so far apart.  I am not so many miles from the firing line.  It is such a beautiful evening and just to be on those old sand dunes [at Étaples] Mary would be bliss.

We left the base at 8:20 this morning and were on the train in toward the line until three or four p.m..  I am billeted for the night with a French family.  I cannot talk to them except in a broken way, assisted by signs etc..  The room is decorated with numerous crucifixes and paintings of the Virgin Mary so that my thoughts are very religious tonight.

The part of France we passed through today was beautiful.  So many nice places for picnics.  I am so glad you thought of having a picnic last Tuesday.  I hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did.  Patterson said he enjoyed it too.

If I had anything to do with love I'd make it contagious.  Goodnight honey and here is a kiss for you.

With much love,

Your Soldier Laddie."

The following day - July 13, 1917 - Lieutenant Alexander Daniel Archibald reported for duty at the 85th's camp near Villers au Bois, France, and commenced the second chapter of his military service.

*****
Sources:

Service file of Captain Alexander Daniel Archibald, number 50013.  Library & Archives Canada, Ottawa: RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box 211 - 5.  Available online.

War diary of No. 1 Canadian General Hospital.  Library & Archives Canada, Ottawa: RG9, Militia & Defence, Series III-D-3, Volume 5034, Reel T-10924, File: 851.  Available online.

Photographs courtesy of Claudia Smith, Almonte, Ontario (unless otherwise indicated).

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Private William Lewis Jamieson - A "Royal Highlanders of Canada" Soldier's Story

Date of Birth: April 27, 1893

Place of Birth: Queensport, Guysborough County

Mother's Name: Cynthia Feltmate (1870-1918)

Father's Name: Alexander Jamieson (1859-1942)

Date of Enlistment: April 4, 1916 at Guysborough, NS

Regimental Number: 901984

Rank: Private

Force: Canadian Expeditionary Force (Infantry)

Units: 193rd Battalion; 42nd Battalion (Royal Highlanders of Canada, Montreal)

Location of service: England, France & Belgium

Occupation at Enlistment: Fisherman

Marital Status at Enlistment: Single

Next of Kin: Mr. Alexander Jamieson (father)

Two of Will's younger brothers also served with the Canadian Expeditionary Force.  Allan Alexander was conscripted on May 30, 1918, departed for England on August 2 and returned to Canada on January 2, 1919.  John Charles was conscripted on May 31, 1918 and traveled to England with his brother Allan. John Charles was assigned to the Royal Canadian Regiment (RCR) and served with the unit in France and Belgium during the later stages of the war.  He was discharged from military service on July 15, 1919.

*****

William Lewis "Will" Jamieson was the third of nine children born to Alexander and Cynthia (Feltmate) Jamieson of Queensport, Guysborough County.  The second of the couple's four sons, Will went to work in the local fishery at a young age. 

Private William Lewis Jamieson at enlistment.
As the First World War entered its second year, the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) expanded its recruiting efforts in Nova Scotia.  Will was amongst the young men attracted by its appeals.  He began training with the 193rd Battalion at Guysborough on March 27, 1916 and attested for overseas service with the unit on April 4, 1916.

Officially authorized on January 27, 1916, the 193rd Battalion established its headquarters at Truro, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel John Stanfield, former Member of Parliament for Colchester.  Within one month of its inception, the 193rd was assigned to the "Nova Scotia Highland Brigade", a military unit conceived by Lieutenant-Colonel Allison Hart Borden, Commanding Officer (CO) of the 85th Battalion, Nova Scotia Highlanders.

The 193rd was the first unit to visit the communities of northeastern Nova Scotia in search of recruits.  Representatives traveled to towns and villages in its designated region - Cumberland, Colchester, Hants, Pictou, Antigonish and Guysborough Counties - throughout the early months of 1916.  After several months' training in their local communities, recruits made their way to Camp Aldershot, near Kentville, in late May 1916.  Will and his colleagues trained throughout the summer alongside soldiers from the Brigade's other three units - the 85th, 185th (Cape Breton Highlanders) and 219th (South Shore) Battalions.

The Highland Brigade departed Halifax for England aboard SS Olympic on October 13, 1916 and disembarked at Liverpool six days later.  The soldiers made their way to Witley Camp, Surrey, England and resumed training in anticipation of deployment at the front.  Initially slated for service with the yet to be organized 5th Canadian Division, the 193rd's fate was determined by the CEF's massive casualties during service at the Somme, France from September to November 1916.

By year's end, two of the Highland Brigade's four battalions - the 193rd and 219th - were dissolved and their members dispersed to other units.  Those deemed ready for service were transferred to battalions at the front.  Will was amongst a group of 193rd soldiers assigned to the 42nd Battalion (Royal Highlanders of Canada) on December 5, 1916.  He crossed the English Channel to France the following day and reported to the Canadian Base Depot (CBD) at Havre.  Will left CBD to join his new unit in the field on December 30, 1916, arriving in camp three days later.  Will was destined to spend his entire overseas service with the 42nd Battalion.

*****

The 42nd Battalion was authorized on November 7, 1914.  The second of three overseas battalions recruited by the 5th Battalion Royal Highlanders of Canada, a Montreal militia unit, the 42nd departed for England on June 10, 1915 and crossed the English Channel to France on October 9, 1915.  One week later, its soldiers were deployed in the trenches of the Ypres Salient, Belgium, where personnel provided work parties for trench construction and repair.

Officially assigned to the 3rd Canadian Division's 7th Infantry Brigade on December 12, 1915, the 42nd served alongside the Royal Canadian Regiment (RCR), Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI) and the 49th Battalion (Edmonton, Alberta).  The battalion commenced its first front line rotation near Dranoutre, Belgium on January 7, 1916.  Its soldiers spent the spring and summer in the Ypres Salient, relocating to the Somme with the Canadian Corps in September 1916.

The 42nd saw its first major combat on September 15, 1916 at Courcelette, where its war diary reported one Officer and 73 "other ranks" (OR) killed, 6 Officers and 290 OR wounded, and 66 OR missing after a major attack on the German line.  The battalion remained on duty in this area throughout the autumn and winter of 1915-16.  Its January 3, 1917 war diary entry reported the arrival of 250 OR reinforcements from CBD Havre.  Amongst their number were Kendall Bright, a native of Sherbrooke, and Will Jamison of Peas Brook.

At the time of Will's arrival, the battalion was in Brigade Reserve at Neuville-St. Vaast, France.  Five days later, Will entered the front trenches for the first time as the 42nd relieved the PPCLI in the line.  The soldiers focused on repairing the significant damage inflicted on front line facilities by damp winter conditions.  Throughout the first three months of 1917, the 42nd followed a rotation of front line duty, brigade reserve, and brief periods of rest and training.  Its Brigade was amongst the units reviewed by Canadian Prime Minister, Sir Robert Borden, on March 9, 1917.

As Will and his comrades returned to the line on the night of March 22/23, 1917, German forces detonated a mine beneath their position, heavily damaging a 30-yard section of their front trench.  The 42nd's soldiers managed to secure the resulting crater under heavy fire, suffering only light casualties as they rebuilt new trenches and saps in the gap created by the explosion.  The unit was relieved on April 1, 1917 after a challenging ten-day tour.

Two of the battalion's Companies returned to front-line duty near Villers au Bois on the night of April 5/6, 1917.  The unit's war diary described the conditions at the time: "The weather was wretched cold and wet.  The men were put to work cleaning out assembly trenches, which had fallen in badly owing to the wet weather." The 42nd's two remaining Companies moved into the front line on the night of April 7/8, 1917 as the Canadian Corps made final preparations for its attack on German positions at Vimy Ridge. Will was about to receive his first combat experience since joining the battalion.

The 42nd spent the day prior to the battle "getting platoons into their proper places for moving into their assembly trenches and distributing material to be carried over with the attacking waves.  By Sunday midnight, final preparations were completed, and the men were waiting [sic] the order to move out."  Will and his comrades moved forward to the assembly trenches at 4:00 a.m. April 9, the PPCLI to their right and the 102nd Battalion - a Northern British Columbia unit - to their left.  The battalion's 722 "all ranks" were in position by 4:45 a.m., eagerly awaiting the opening barrage set for 5:30 a.m..

As supporting artillery opened fire, Will and the 42nd's soldiers clambered out of the trenches and followed the "creeping barrage" across "No Man's Land".  The war diary described the conditions as the attack commenced: "Visibility was very bad, the men had to advance in drizzling rain changing to sleet."  The unit reached its initial objective by 8:15 a.m., but German resistance held up the 102nd's advance, exposing the 42nd's soldiers to "sniping and rifle fire" on their left flank.  German soldiers also fired on the battalion's position from an uncaptured, elevated position known as Hill 145.

By 10:10 a.m., officers estimated a total of 200 casualties "all ranks" and reported great difficulty in evacuating the wounded: "After three different calls for stretchers none have arrived yet." Throughout the afternoon, personnel were subjected to heavy artillery fire, although the war diary identified only one direct hit on its location as the men spent the night on the battlefield.

The following morning, 25 wounded soldiers still awaited evacuation due to a "scarcity of stretchers".  By mid-day, the 42nd's Officers received confirmation that Canadian forces - including the 85th Battalion, Nova Scotia Highlanders - had captured Hill 145.  Throughout the day, personnel continued to consolidate their position, in addition to overcoming remaining points of resistance on their left flank.

At 5:45 a.m. April 11, "what was left" of the 42nd's "D" Company was relieved in the line, followed by the remaining three Companies by day's end.  The 42nd retired to billets at Villers au Bois after two days of fighting in which five of its Officers were killed or died of wounds and an additional six were wounded.  A total of 291 OR were killed or wounded during two days' combat on the Ridge. 

Pte. Will Jamieson was amongst the soldiers evacuated for medical treatment, having received a severe shrapnel wound to his right buttock, most likely during the grueling artillery bombardment on the afternoon of April 9.  He was admitted to No. 1 Canadian Field Ambulance (CFA) sometime on April 11.

*****

Will was evacuated to No. 2 Casualty Clearing Station (CCS) on the same day he was admitted to No. 1 CFA.  His medical records graphically describe his injury: "Large gaping wound laid nearly open, extending over whole of R. buttock and round to his pubis.  Clean."  Personnel also noted that Will was suffering from "trench feet", although there were "no wounds" on either limb.  Shortly after admission, doctors performed the first of two surgical procedures on his wound.

Once stabilized, Will was evacuated to No. 2 Canadian General Hospital, Boulogne on April 13, 1917.  One week later, he was invalided to England via the hospital ship Princess Elizabeth and admitted to Bradford War Hospital, where surgeons performed an "ether" operation on May 7.  Will's medical records provide a description of the procedure: "Large raw surface 9" x 6" at back of right buttock, scraped, and treated with 'Bipp' [bismuth iodoform paraffine paste].  Raw edges trimmed, undercut a little, and stretched together with deep silk."

Will remained at Bradford for several weeks as his wound healed.  On June 23, 1917, he was transferred to the Canadian Convalescent Hospital, Woodcote Park, Epsom, where he spent several weeks recuperating.  Will was discharged from hospital on August 3, at which time he reported to 3rd Canadian Corps Depot (CCD) at Shoreham.  Three months later, Will was deemed fit for duty and was transferred to the 20th Reserve Battalion, the unit that provided reinforcements for Quebec infantry units in the field.

Pte. Will Jamieson in 193rd attire.
On January 26, 1918, Will was once again selected for service with the 42nd Battalion and reported to the Canadian Corps Reinforcement Centre (CCRC) at Havre, France three days later.  He remained at CCRC for five weeks, leaving to rejoin his "chums" in the field on March 9, 1918.  One week later, Will arrived in the 42nd's camp.

During his absence, the battalion fought with the Canadian Corps at Passchendaele, Belgium, sustaining 174 casualties during the November 1917 attack.  The unit subsequently returned to France, where personnel spent several weeks in reserve at Noeux Les Mines in January and February 1918 before entering the line near Vimy for their first tour of the year on the night of March 6/7, 1918.

Will's return to the "firing line" coincided with "Operation Michael", a major German spring offensive launched in the hope of winning the war.  On March 28, 1918, the 42nd received orders to "stand to" as German forces attacked positions south of its location, from Oppy to the Scrape River.  The battalion's light casualties for the month reflect the limited action in its sector - one Officer gassed, one OR killed and 16 OR wounded.

The battalion remained in the Vimy area throughout April 1918, once again sustaining only moderate losses - two Officers wounded, five OR killed, two OR died of wounds, 25 OR wounded to hospital, six OR wounded but remaining at duty, and ten OR missing.  At month's end, the 42nd completed "the longest continuous tour which the Battalion had ever done in the front line...[spending] 57 days...in front of Vimy Ridge."

Will and his comrades retired to St. Hilaire for two months' training, sports and recreation, returning to the line at Neuville Vitasse on the night of June 28/29, 1918.  The unit served throughout the following month in this sector, relocating to Dury, south of Amiens, on the night of July 30/31.  The new location represented the battalion's furthest southerly location since arriving in France.  The war diary commented that its soldiers were quite a local curiosity: "Much interest was displayed by the French troops and civilians in the Highland dress of the Battalion."

Once again, monthly casualties were light - two OR killed, two OR died of wounds, one Officer and 10 OR wounded - as a result of limited fighting in the area.  The relative lull in action was destined to change dramatically the following month, however, when Allied forces launched a major counter-offensive in which the Canadian Corps played a prominent role.

The 42nd suffered a major blow on August 3, 1918, when its CO, Lieutenant-Colonel Bartlett McLennan, DSO, was "killed [by enemy shell fire] while making a personal reconnaissance of the country over which the Battalion was to attack some days later.".  McLennan had commanded the unit continually since its inception and his loss was deeply felt.  He was buried the following day, his funeral attended by Lieutenant-General Sir Arthur Currie, Canadian Corps Commander, along with a cadre of military dignitaries, the 42nd's pipe band and a firing party of 40 OR.

Over the next several days, Will and his comrades once again readied themselves for combat.  Unbeknownst to the soldiers, the attack marked the beginning of Canada's "100 Days", a series of attacks spearheaded by Canadian Corps and Australian units.  The 42nd's soldiers assumed their assigned position at Gentilles Wood on the night of August 7/8, 1918, the war diary commenting on the beehive of pre-battle activity: "The tremendous amount of troops, transport, tanks, guns and other machinery of war which was passed on the road up [made] our progress very slow."

Allied forces launched the assault the following morning along approximately 20 miles of the front near Amiens.  The Canadian Corps' 1st, 2nd and 3rd Divisions occupying a central position in the line, with French troops to their right and the Australian Corps to their left.  The Canadian Corps was assigned the task of capturing a section of the main railroad between Amiens and Paris.  The 42nd was amongst the battalions participating in the initial assault, to be launched without preliminary artillery bombardment to preserve the element of surprise.

At precisely 4:20 a.m. August 8, the 3rd Division's 9th Brigade commenced the advance.  The 7th Brigade, to which the 42nd belonged, moved forward to their "jumping off" positions at 6:00 a.m. and went "over the top" at 8:20 a.m. despite a "heavy mist which hung over everything", obscuring the soldiers' visibility.  Personnel secured their first objective by 10:20 a.m., the 4th Canadian Division passing through its lines as scheduled at 2:00 p.m..  The 42nd's casualties for the day were light, considering the scale of the operation - 12 OR killed; two OR died of wounds; two Officers and 29 OR wounded.

The battalion rested at nearby Claude Wood the following day, advancing to the newly captured village of Folies in the evening.  German aircraft bombed their location on August 10, 1918, killing three OR and wounding 12 OR.  The following day, the 42nd moved into the newly established front line near Parvillers-le-Quesnoy, separated from the enemy by distances of 150 to 300 yards.  The war diary identified the unit's position as the old British line prior to the German Spring Offensive.

On the night of August 13/14, 1918, the 42nd participated in a ten-hour attack on the German line opposite its location, an action that involved significant "hand to hand fighting during which the attack was many times pressed home with the bayonet."  Two nights later, personnel were relieved and retired to Harmon Wood for several days' rest and training.  The toll during their ten-days in the line beginning at Amiens was considerable - two Officers and 30 OR killed; ten OR died of wounds; five Officers and 101 OR wounded.

Will and his comrades relocated to Manin on August 23, 1918 in preparation for the month's second major attack at Arras. On this occasion, the 42nd occupied reserve positions while its three 7th Brigade "sister" battalions launched the assault at 3:00 a.m. August 26.  The unit moved forward at 10:00 a.m., but its progress was held up by the RCR's inability to keep pace with the advance.  Heavy afternoon shelling inflicted several casualties as the fighting continued into the night.

The advance resumed the following day, the 42nd moving into positions on the newly established line on the night of August 27/28, 1918 and securing a salient that jutted approximately 500 yards into German positions.  Heavy fighting took place later that day as personnel captured another section of enemy trench.  Will and his comrades retired from the line on the night of August 28/29 and moved into billets near Arras.  Its Brigade had advanced an incredible 9000 yards (8.2 kilometers), expanded an initial 3000-yard front to 7000 yards, crossed five German lines of defense, and captured six French villages during a four-day tour.  During that time, three Officers and 60 OR were killed, 12 OR died of wounds, and 12 Officers and 225 OR were wounded.

There was little time to recover as the 42nd returned to the line west of Cagnicourt on the night of September 5/6, 1918, advancing to positions near Canal du Nord on September 9.  In the early hours of the following morning, parties of German soldiers twice attacked the unit's location, a reserve slope facing the canal.  The position made daytime movement impossible, as the men were exposed to direct enemy observation. 

The 42nd's soldiers were no doubt happy to be relieved from such precarious circumstances on the night of September 11/12, retiring to Divisional Reserve for a week's rest and training.  A group of 78 OR reinforcements arrived in camp during the break as the unit relocated to Dainville on September 19 for a second week of drill.  One week later, the 42nd returned to the line in preparation for an attack on the strategically important Canal du Nord.

The assault commenced at 5:20 a.m. September 27, 1918, the 3rd Canadian Division in support as the other three Canadian Divisions led the advance north of the village of Moeuvres.  The 7th Brigade was the first 3rd Division unit to move forward following the initial action, the 42nd in reserve as its three "sister" battalions led the way.  Will and his chums crossed the Canal in the early afternoon via an infantry bridge erected by engineers and spent the night in the open under a heavy bombardment of gas shells.  As a result, "the men were compelled to sleep with their Box Respirators adjusted."

At 7:00 a.m. September 28, 1918, the battalion assumed a position behind a railroad embankment east of Bourlon Wood, sheltered from a massive morning artillery bombardment.  Rain during the day ensured that "everybody got thoroughly wet", the 42nd remaining in reserve while its "sister" 7th Brigade battalions struggled to advance in the face of "heavy opposition".

That evening, the 42nd received orders to resume the attack in the early morning hours, with the objective of capturing the railroad embankment and establishing a bridgehead along the nearby St. Quentin Canal.  The war diary described the situation as its soldiers once again prepared for battle:  "The morning was fine with a heavy ground mist which prevented any visibility....  It was feared that direction might be difficult to maintain."

The morning advance was slowed by "a withering fire from Machine Guns at point blank range... [that] caused very severe casualties."  Four parties nevertheless succeeded in crossing the Douai-Cambrai Road and establishing a post.  Despite a supporting artillery bombardment at 12:30 p.m., heavy machine gun fire prevented personnel from any further advance, forcing the soldiers to dig in behind whatever shelter was available.

Pte. Will Jamieson - Royal Highlanders of Canada uniform.
The 42nd's soldiers once again encountered fierce resistance when the advance resumed on the morning of September 30 and were forced to repel a German counter-attack later in the day.  Personnel finally captured the high ground near the railroad embankment on October 1, retiring to a camp near Quarry Road later that night.  The battalion's war diary reported six Officers and 55 OR killed, 11 Officers and 221 OR wounded at Canal du Nord.

Following relief, Will and his comrades enjoyed a ten-day break from the line, although their circumstances were not particularly comfortable:  "The area contained little or no accommodation and much time was spent by the men in digging in and making themselves comfortable with the use of bivvies [canvas sheets stretched hung over poles]."  A group of 62 reinforcements joined the battalion several days into the rest period. 

On October 10, 1918, the entire 7th Brigade relocated to Queant.  Once again, the soldiers struggled to find comfortable quarters:

"This area had been very badly devastated.  There was no accommodation of any kind with the exception of an old and dilapidated system of trenches.  Here again it was necessary for the men to dig in and construct bivvies for themselves."

Personnel commenced a general training schedule, in addition to "specialist" classes.  The war diary specifically identified one shortcoming its Officers sought to address:  "Special attention was paid to reorganizing and bringing up to strength all the Lewis Gun crews of the Battalion which had suffered heavy casualties in the Cambrai [Canal du Nord] attack." Before month's end, this pressing need impacted Will's service with the 42nd.

His Royal Highness (HRH) Edward, Prince of Wales, made an "informal visit" to the battalion on October 17, observing the men on the parade grounds during the morning and meeting with several of its Officers in the afternoon.  Three days later, the entire Brigade relocated to the Auberchicourt area, where the 42nd entered billets at Somain.  On October 21, personnel marched to nearby Cataine, experiencing their first encounter with a local population: 

"[The] towns and villages [through which the battalion marched]... had only been liberated from the enemy within the preceeding [sic] forty-eight hours after four years of captivity, and the joy of the inhabitants was indescribable.  The entire route was thronged by them and every possible visible demonstration of their joy at their release was given."

In the early morning hours of October 22, 1918, the 42nd's Officers received instructions to "advance and leap-frog the 1st Brigade, the latter holding the general line on the railway."  The RCR assumed positions to its right as the two battalions attempted to establish a bridgehead in the villages of Vieux-Conde and Conde, across the Jard Canal.  The entire Brigade was ordered to "advance through and mop up the Foret de Raismes" as the units moved forward.

Personnel broke camp at 7:00 a.m. and succeeded in clearing the village of Mort des Briyeres of German soldiers by 10:30 a.m..  While Companies on the right side of the advance reached a local north-south road by midday with no opposition, soldiers on the left encountered resistance while moving through the forested area.  The RCR and 42nd continued to lead the advance toward the Canal the following day, but received specific instructions not to cross without specific orders.  The unit's war diary summarized the day's progress:  "After many interesting skirmishes between our Scouts and enemy machine guns and snipers during the day, our line was advanced to Lahte Ville road... and Le Bout de Trihix by the evening."

The attack resumed the following day, the war diary reporting that the railway area was "clear of the enemy" by noon October 25.  Further advance was rendered impossible by extensive flooding to the northeast of the railway line.  On the evening of October 26, the 8th Brigade relieved the 7th Brigade in the line, the 42nd's soldiers retiring to billets at Hanson.  Casualties for the tour were light in comparison to recent rotations - three OR killed, three OR died of wounds, and 16 OR wounded in an operation that advanced a total of 10,000 yards (nine kilometers) in six days.

Will was not amongst the personnel settling into billets at Hanson.  Shortly after the battalion withdrew from the line, he was selected to attend a Lewis Gun course.  His solid frame - five feet ten inches and 170 pounds - made him an ideal candidate for carrying the portable, 13-kilogram machine gun on the battlefield.  Upon completing his training, Will rejoined the 42nd on November 17, 1918.  During his absence, the battalion moved forward with the Allied advance, its Brigade liberating the Belgian city of Mons during the war's final hours.

The 42nd remained at Mons following the November 11, 1918 armistice, its personnel engaged in daily parades, a training syllabus, and the occasional route march.  With the cessation of hostilities, recreational activities helped pass the time, the battalion's football team defeating 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles, PPCLI and the 58th Battalion in a series of friendly matches.

On December 2, 1918, a jubilant King Albert of Belgium made an official visit to Mons.  The 3rd Canadian Division provided a Guard of Honor for the occasion, 100 of the 42nd's soldiers selected to represent the 7th Brigade.  The unit's casualties for November 1918 - the war diary's final such statistics - indicate the relatively light combat during the war's last days.  Four OR were killed, another four died of wounds, and one Officer and 22 OR were wounded in the battalion's final tour in the line.

The battalion's officers implemented a voluntary program of educational classes in early December 1918, providing its men with instruction in reading, writing, book-keeping, business training, elementary arithmetic, French, motor mechanics, electricity and agriculture.  HRH King George V and his sons Edward, Prince of Wales and Albert, passed through the city of Mons at 11:00 a.m. December 5.  While there was no official parade, the battalion joined the other Canadian units stationed in the vicinity, lining both sides of the "Grand Place" and giving the visitors "a rousing reception."

The day following the King's visit, Will wrote a letter to his younger sister, Leata:

"Well dear sister, just a few lines in answer to your kind and welcome letter which I received a few days ago....  I know poor Mother will feel a lot better to... have us [i.e., Will and his brother John Charles] come back home again and I hope it won't be long more before we get back....  We are having pretty warm weather over here now, but I don't know how long it will last.  I hope it will stay this way all winter as it will be a good thing....  I hope to see you all soon if everything goes good [sic] and I hope it will....  Christmas is getting handy.  I wish I could only be home to spend it with you but I hope I will spend my birthday [April 27] home with you."

The 42nd relocated to Bois d'Haine, about 35 kilometers distant, on December 11, ending a month-long stay in Mons.  The following day, personnel marched to nearby Neuville and resumed a schedule of training and educational classes.  On December 14, Will received some welcome news - he was granted two weeks' leave to the United Kingdom.  Six days later, he wrote his mother, Cynthia, from Edinburgh's King George & Green Mary Victoria League Club:

"Well, Mother, I am in Scotland.  I hope to spend my Christmas here as I have 14 days' leave.  I will be going back to France the last of the month.  This is a very nice place.  I am having quite a good time.  It is quite a treat to get away from France, but I hope before long I will be getting away for good and then home.  Hope you will all spend a good Christmas.  I wish I only could be home to spend mine with you, but I hope to spend the next one with you at home.  I expect there will be a lot of letters at the Battalion when I get back.  Send some parcels or I hope so as it is an awful place.  Any food is scarce so a nice box of cake goes good [sic] when we get one.  Well, Mother, this will only be a short letter this time....  Bye, bye with lots of love to you all from your son, William."

Will was unaware of the tragic circumstances in which both letters arrived in Queensport - his mother Cynthia had died of complications from influenza on November 27, 1918.

Will returned to the 42nd's camp on January 3, 1919.  By that time, the battalion had relocated to Nechin, Belgium, close to the French border.  The men continued their daily schedule of educational classes in a local convent, in addition to morning parades and afternoon hockey and football matches.  Personnel received day passes in small groups to visit nearby Lille, France.  One week after Will's return, the unit's Officers commenced medical and dental inspections in preparation for demobilization.

On February 1, 1919, the 3rd Canadian Division's soldiers began the journey home, the first units entraining at Basseux and making their way to Havre, France.  The 42nd's soldiers moved out on February 3, enduring a 48-hour train ride to the English Channel in boxcars.  Will and his comrades boarded ship two days later, landing at Weymouth, England "in the early morning of the 8th." The men departed for Bramshott at 11:00 a.m., arriving in camp late in the afternoon.

Military authorities commenced "medical boarding" the following day, a process that took the remainder of the month to complete.  During this time, personnel carried out two to three hours of morning training as weather permitted, although the war diary described conditions as "unfavorable" throughout most of the month.

Finally, on March 1, 1919, Will and the majority of the 42nd's soldiers boarded RMS Adriatic at Liverpool, England and departed for Canada.  While Will had served more than two years with the distinguished unit, the battalion had spent 40 months in France and Belgium.  During that time, a total of 206 Officers and 4649 OR passed through its ranks.  Twenty of its Officers were killed in action, six died of wounds, and 87 were wounded, a total of 113 casualties.  Statistics for its OR were even more tragic - 546 killed in action, 174 died of wounds and 2077 wounded, a total of 2797 casualties.

RMS Adriatic sailed into Halifax harbor on March 9, 1919.  Will remained in uniform for most of the month, and was formally discharged from military service on March 27, 1919.  At that time, his medical records identified an eight-inch-long "transverse scar" on his right buttock and described his overall condition as healthy.  After exactly three years of military service, Will Jamieson returned home to Queensport.

*****

Will wasted little time settling into civilian life.  On October 13, 1919, he married Reta Reynolds, a native of Queensport, in a ceremony held at New Glasgow, NS.  The couple went on to raise a family of six children - three boys and three girls - in their home community, where Will was affectionately known as "Soldier Bill". 

Will supported his growing family by fishing with his older brother Aldrage on their "smack" and serving as keeper of the Queensport Light.  In later years, he developed an infection in one of his toes, a condition attributed to the "trench foot" described in his military medical records.  As a result, doctors amputated the lower part of the affected limb.

William Lewis Jamieson passed away at Queensport on June 27, 1973 and was laid to rest in St. James Church Cemetery, Half Way Cove, Guysborough County.  Will received the British War and Victory Medals in recognition of his First World War military service. 

*****

Sources:

Service file of Private William Lewis Jamieson, number 901984.  Library & Archives Canada, Ottawa: RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box 4787 - 6.  Attestation papers available online.

http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/military-heritage/first-world-war/first-world-war-1914-1918-cef/Pages/item.aspx?IdNumber=483338

War Diary of the 42nd Infantry Battalion, CEF.  Library & Archives Canada, Ottawa: RG9, Militia & Defense, Series III-D-3, Volume 4938, Reels T-10743 & 10744, File: 433.  Available online.

Friday, 31 October 2014

Private Charles Russell "Russ" Cameron - A "Valenciennes" Soldier's Story

Date of Birth: June 22, 1894

Place of Birth: Sherbrooke, Guysborough County

Mother's Name: Jessie Dechman

Father's Name: Alexander Fisher Cameron

Date of Enlistment: April 6, 1918 at Halifax, NS

Regimental Number: 3181453

Rank: Private

Force: Canadian Expeditionary Force (Infantry)

Units: 1st Depot Battalion, Nova Scotia Regiment; 17th Reserve Battalion; 85th Battalion (Nova Scotia Highlanders)

Location of service: England & France

Occupation at Enlistment: Liveryman

Marital Status at Enlistment: Single

Next of Kin: Mr. Alexander Cameron, Sherbrooke (father)

*****

Charles Russell "Russ" Cameron was the third child and eldest son of Alexander Fisher Cameron of Sherbrooke, Guysborough County, and the first of four children born to Alexander's second wife, Jessie Dechman.  An owner of several sizeable land tracts, Alexander was actively involved in the local economy, harvesting timber from his properties, investing in local schooners, and operating a small hotel and livery in the village.

Private Charles Russell Cameron
As Alexander's four sons by his second marriage grew into adulthood, he guided each in turn into an occupation.  Russ, the eldest, was thus employed at the Sherbrooke livery operation, a facility built to house 15 to 18 horses, although often accommodating twice that number.  As passengers and mail travelled by stagecoach, there was a demand for locations where drivers could change, rest and feed horses on their journey.  Alexander serviced the stagecoach teams, along with the animals of local residents visiting the village.

As the First World War entered its third year, voluntary enlistment numbers declined as dramatically as casualty statistics increased.  The Canadian Corps' involvement in major battles at Courcelette (September 1916), Ancre Heights (October - November 1916) and Vimy Ridge (April 1917) in particular took a considerable toll.  Pressured by the British government to meet the Corps' growing personnel requirements, Prime Minister Robert Borden's Conservative government introduced the Military Service Act to the Canadian Parliament in the summer of 1917.

Subsequent to Parliamentary approval on August 29, 1917 and the Canadian people's endorsement in the December 1917 federal election, the Canadian government implemented conscription across the country.  Under its terms, all male citizens between the ages of 20 and 45 were subject to military service.  Several months previously, military authorities commenced medical examinations of potential recruits.  Russ Cameron was amongst the young Sherbrooke men to receive notice, completing his medical examination in the village on October 29, 1917.

Russ was called to duty the following spring, attesting for overseas service at Halifax on April 6, 1918.  Standing five feet ten inches and weighing a slender 130 pounds, Russ was two months shy of his twenty-fourth birthday when be boarded the SS Scotian for the journey to England on April 17, 1918.  Upon docking at Liverpool eleven days later, Russ and his fellow conscripts making their way to Bramshott Military Camp.

Russ's journey to the front lines was interrupted on May 6, 1918, when he was admitted to No. 12 Canadian General Hospital, Bramshott with a case of the mumps.  The common camp affliction delayed his passage overseas by several weeks, as he was discharged on June 4, 1918 and reported to the Nova Scotia Regimental Depot the following day.  Ten days later, Russ was "taken on strength" by the 17th Reserve Battalion, the unit servicing Nova Scotian battalions at the front.

While in England, Russ wrote several letters home.  In a note to his mother Jessie, dated August 15, 1918, he described his comrades' feelings as they prepared to cross the English Channel to the front lines:

"Some of the boys that came over with me are going to France this week, and they are glad of it, a fellow gets fed up on this training, day in and day out.  I will soon have all my training and I am myself glad of it, but may not have to go to France for a long while yet."

Conversations with soldiers who had been wounded and nursed back to health in England prompted Russ to observe:

"It is funny but everybody that was ever over there wants to go back again, there is something about it that a fellow likes [ - ] lots of excitement [ - ] and you never think of getting killed or anything like that."

Despite being conscripted into military service, Russ was most enthusiastic about his military experience to date:

"I am not as timid as when I was in civilian life.  The army made a man of me, every boy should have some military training, it is the best thing that ever happened to me."

Russ's call to the front came on September 11, 1918, when he was transferred to the 85th Battalion (Nova Scotia Highlanders).  He crossed the English Channel to the Canadian Corps Reinforcement Centre (CCRC) at Havre, France two days later and joined the 85th in the field on September 19, 1918.

*****

The 85th Battalion (Nova Scotia Highlanders) is perhaps the province's best-known First World War unit.  Authorized on July 10, 1915 and recruited province-wide in the autumn and winter of 1915-16, the battalion departed for England on October 13, 1916 aboard the SS Olympic in the company of three other units that together comprised the Nova Scotia Highland Brigade.  Shortly after arriving at Witley Camp, two of the Brigade's battalions - the 193rd and 219th - were disbanded.  The 85th, however, remained intact, crossing the English Channel to France in February 1917 and completing final preparations for deployment at the front.

While assigned a support role in the Canadian Corps' April 9, 1917 assault on Vimy Ridge, two of its Companies were called upon late in the day to attack Hill 145, a strategic location that held out against the morning's advance.  The inexperienced soldiers proved their worth, capturing the position without the benefit of artillery fire and demonstrating their readiness for combat.

By month's end, the 85th was assigned to the 4th Canadian Division's 12th Brigade, where it served alongside the 38th (Ottawa), 72nd (Seaforth Highlanders of Canada) and 78th (Winnipeg Grenadiers) Battalions for the duration of the war.  Its soldiers served in the Vimy area throughout the summer and early autumn of 1917, relocating to Belgium on October 1917 for the Canadian Corps' successful attack on Passchendaele. 

Upon returning to France, the battalion deployed in the trenches near Lens throughout the winter and spring of 1917-18.  In the aftermath of the unsuccessful German "Spring Offensive", the 85th participated in a major counter-attack launched at Amiens on August 8, 1918.  While the unit was not involved in fighting at Arras later month, its soldiers saw action along the Drocourt-Quéant line on September 2, 1918, as the Canadian Corps spearheaded the advance into German-held territory.

Sherbrooke Livery - 2014.
 The 85th went "over the top" that morning with a complement of 26 officers and 743 "other ranks" (OR).  By day's end, three officers and 62 OR were killed in action, while 23 officers and 198 OR were wounded.  Three days after the battle, the 85th retired to camp at Wailly for reorganization and training, with the first of several reinforcement drafts arrived on September 6, 1918.

Private Charles Russell Cameron was amongst a group of recruits reporting to the 85th's camp on September 19, 1918.  The unit's war diary remarked on their composition: "[The] draft for the most part [was]… made up from men who had been doing guard duty in Canada in the Militia Regiments since the early days of the war."  For the next week, Russ took part in a daily schedule of morning training and afternoon recreation as the 85th prepared for its next assignment, the Canadian Corps' assault on the town of Cambrai and its strategic canal.

Personnel broke camp on September 25, 1918, making their way to Arras by 5:30 p.m..  While awaiting the arrival of train transportation, the war diary described the first notable incident since Russ joined the 85th:

"Battalion was quartered in one of the large freight sheds in the station, with the rest of the Brigade in the surrounding buildings.  About 11:30 p.m. enemy aircraft came over and dropped a bomb in the yards about two feet from the edge of the building where the Battalion was quartered, killing one officer and nine other ranks and wounding one officer and 53 other ranks."

The train finally arrived at 2:00 p.m. the following day, transporting the soldiers to Bullecourt.  Upon disembarking, personnel marched to camp on the outskirts of nearby Quéant, taking shelter in trenches under bivouac.  In the hours prior to the scheduled attack, the soldiers were outfitted with "bombs, ammunition, fireworks, extra water bottles and rations", catching whatever rest they could amidst the makeshift accommodations.

At 1:00 a.m. September 28, 1918, the 85th moved to the assembly area near Inchy-en-Artois.  As the battalion prepared for its second engagement of the month, the war diary remarked: "From the night 24/25-9-18, the only rest the men… had was what they had been able to get on the very torturous journey on the train, and any sleep they had during the afternoon and evening of outfitting in the assembly area."

The battalion entered combat at Cambrai with a trench strength of 25 officers and 605 OR.  Its soldiers moved out at 5:20 a.m. September 28, 1918 - 15 minutes after Zero Hour - with "C" and "D" Companies leading the attack and "A" and "D" in the rear, all advancing in single file.  A report appended to the month's war diary summarized the day's events:

"The Battalion encountered [a] considerable quantity of gas near the Canal, necessitating the S. B. R.'s [small box respirators] being worn for ten or fifteen minutes.  No casualties resulted from the gas….  Considerable machine gun fire was encountered as [the] Battalion passed Quarry Wood and frequent casualties occurred….  The advance was continued and considerable machine gun fire was experienced from the height in front of Bourlon Wood on the right, and the Battalion reached the Red Line [first objective] at about 7:45 a.m….  The forward Companies at once pushed on to make their objective….  They were led by the Tanks and seemed to have no difficulty as far as the barrage was concerned and pushed forward."

As the leading Companies continued the advance, the supporting barrage resumed, striking the area the soldiers had reached and causing "numerous casualties".  Personnel hastily took shelter, allowing the artillery fire to proceed through their location before resuming the advance.  The report noted that "very little resistance was encountered in the Town" as the 85th reached the Green Line on the city's outskirts by 9:45 p.m..

German artillery shelled the area throughout the night, inflicting "severe casualties particularly in 'A' Company, as the Battalion attempted to link up with adjacent battalions."  Officers estimated the day's losses at eight officers and 75 OR as the soldiers caught whatever rest they could, before resuming the advance the following day.

As morning broke, the 10th Brigade once again spearheaded the attack, its units gathering at the designated "jumping off" point on the Cambrai - Douai Road at 8:00 a.m..  On this occasion, the 38th and 72nd Battalions led the advance, while the 85th - reporting a trench strength of 18 Officers and 521 OR - followed in support at a distance of approximately one mile, while the 78th occupied reserve positions.

A German artillery barrage and "heavy machine gun fire" inflicted an estimated 25 casualties in the advance's opening minutes.  Later in the day, two of the 85th's Companies received orders to attack the village following a supporting barrage, which was scheduled to lift at 3:00 p.m..  The action was cancelled at the last minute, however, due to a German counter-attack in an adjacent sector of the line.

As a result, the 85th's soldiers assisted the 72nd in "holding the line" until ordered to withdraw and assume a defensive position along the Cambrai - Douai Road, behind the town of Sancourt.  After another long night in the field, the 11th Brigade resumed the attack at 6:00 a.m. September 30, the 10th Brigade following in support throughout the day.

As fighting stretched into a fourth day in the early hours of October 1, 1918, the 85th suffered "considerable casualties" from German retaliatory shelling and machine gun fire to the left of its location.  Later in the morning, the battalion was placed under the command of the 11th Brigade, receiving orders at 12:30 p.m. to assume a defensive position in the "Railway Area".  The war diary described the assignment's hazardous circumstances:

"Battalion had to be led to and placed in their positions over the open and suffered considerably from artillery and machine gun fire, direct on the area, during the afternoon."

At some point that day, Henry Seymour Archibald, a Sherbrooke acquaintance of Russ and fellow 85th soldier, was struck in the face by a piece of shrapnel.  In later years, Russ recalled seeing an unresponsive Henry lying in a trench, and assumed that his friend was dead.  While subsequent events proved otherwise, the incident no doubt brought home the perils of service at the front.

Sherbrooke Irving Station, 1930s.

The 85th's soldiers held their positions throughout the day and into the evening as the 25th Battalion, their Nova Scotia counterparts, relieved them in the line during the night of October 1/2, 1918.  The 85th's soldiers made their way into camp at 5:30 a.m., "tired and cheerful".  After enjoying a hot breakfast, the exhausted troops spent the day recovering from four consecutive days of combat.

At 6:00 p.m. October 2, 1918, personnel departed for Quéant, arriving in camp after a five-hour march.  The battalion spent the next three days resting and cleaning up, while 144 much-needed OR reinforcements arrived from the CCRC.  Personnel moved out to Agnez-les-Duisans at 11:30 p.m. October 6, 1918, arriving in the early hours of the following morning.  The men assumed quarters in huts, while the officers were housed in a nearby château.

Russ and his comrades rested for a day before commencing a training schedule on October 8, 1918.  Two noteworthy events occurred during a ten-day break from service in the line.  On October 13, 1918, the 85th's "old originals" commemorated the second anniversary of their departure from Halifax.  Shortly after relocating to Sauchy-Cauchy on October 15, 1918, HRH Edward, Prince of Wales, inspected the battalion, prompting the war diary to comment: "He seemed very much interested and evinced quite a knowledge of the Battalion."

In response to word of a German retreat, the 85th relocated to Aubencheul-au-Bac, arriving at 11:00 a.m. October 18, 1918.  The war diary described the scene that greeted the soldiers: "Town was badly smashed up and there was all evidence of the population having left hurriedly, as furniture, etc. was left in the houses."

The following day, the 85th was once again on the move, advancing at a distance of 1500 yards behind the 10th Brigade's leading battalions.  Its personnel moved forward to the Brigade's front positions early in the afternoon, pausing for the night at Marcq, where civilians reported that German troops had withdrawn at 3:30 a.m. that morning.  The advance continued on October 20, 1918, the 85th's war diary reporting the first encounter with "repatriated civilians" upon reaching Mastaing at 10:30 a.m..  Unlike previous locations, the town was undamaged, but retreating German soldiers had "extensively looted" its homes. 

The 85th entered nearby Rouelx at 2:30 p.m., the war diary observing that the town was untouched and still inhabited by civilians, "with the exception of men from 18 to 45".  For the first time, Russ and his comrades received an enthusiastic welcome from a local population:  "Battalion was given a great reception and none of the inhabitants seemed to be able to do enough to comfort the men." 

Personnel remained in Rouelx the following day, overhauling equipment and resting before resuming the advance on October 22, 1918.  The unit reached Rouvignies at 1:00 p.m., its soldiers moving out at dusk to the forward line of advance.  Progress slowed considerably as the Canadian Corps approached the city of Valenciennes, where German forces prepared to defend another strategic location.

On October 23, 1918, the 85th "cleared up" the front area as far east as the Dunkirk-Escaut Canal, the war diary commenting: "Enemy seems quite on the alert and is giving quite a lot of trouble with his machine guns."  The soldiers spent the following twenty-four hours "consolidating and organizing positions gained" the previous day, amidst "heavy artillery and trench mortar fire."

On October 25, 1918, the 85th received orders to "establish a bridgehead on the East side of the Canal tonight".  The operation proved unsuccessful, German forces destroying the bridge with explosive charges as the attacking party prepared to cross.  Personnel endured heavy artillery and machine gun fire in the forward area throughout the remainder of the day.

Machine guns and trench mortars were particularly active on October 26, 1918, while German artillery targeted La Sentinelle, on the outskirts of Valenciennes.  The battalion once again received orders to cross the canal the following day.  The misty morning weather later turned wet as the operation was once again postponed, "owing to the severe resistance of the enemy and his strong machine gun posts not permitting carrying parties getting bridging material to the canal."

The 85th received notice of relief on the night of October 27, 1918.  While the war diary made no mention of casualties during the day's action, Russ was not amongst the soldiers moving out of the line to Brigade Reserve at 11:58 p.m. that evening.  Earlier that day, he was admitted to No. 1 Casualty Clearing Station (CCS), suffering from a severe shrapnel wound to his left foot.  Private Charles Russell Cameron had served his last day "in the line".

*****

Russ's medical records described his condition at the time of his admission to No. 1 CCS: 
"He was hit in [the] left foot by a piece of shell casing.  F. B. [foreign body] did not penetrate the tissues but there was a wound on dorsum of foot at base metatarsal bones [immediately behind the toes].  Foot became very much swollen and painful."

The shrapnel's impact caused compound fractures of the second, third, fourth and fifth metatarsal bones.  Medical personnel immediately made two incisions in the dorsum and excised the wound.  Sixteen pieces of necrotic bone were discharged through several sinuses inserted into the area.  On October 29, 1918, Russ was evacuated to Rouen and admitted to No. 11 Stationary Hospital.  Two days later, he crossed the English Channel aboard the Hospital Ship Essequibo and was admitted to No. 4 General Hospital, Basingstoke on November 2, 1918.

Upon examination, doctors detected "necrosis of bones in foot" and described a steady discharge from his left foot:  "Dead bones present.  Much loss of bone and tissues.  Progress will be slow.  General condition fair."  Russ spent three months at Basingstoke before being transferred to No. 5 Canadian General Hospital, Kirkdale, Liverpool on February 5, 1919.  Finally fit enough for the journey home. he departed for Canada on February 24, 1919 and was admitted to Camp Hill Hospital, Halifax on March 8, 1919.

Camp Hill medical staff described Russ's condition at the time of his arrival: 

"Scars inner and outer surface of left foot[,] also on dorsum….  Great deal of wasting of calf muscles, left leg 1 3/4 inches smaller than right.  Is lame on this foot, walks with the aid of a cane.  Wounds… healed.  Has no pain except after walking a mile."

An x-ray showed loss of bone in the heads of the first, second and third metatarsals, in addition to "ankylosis" in the metatarsal and tarsal bones.  A "posterior splint with foot piece" supported Russ's wounded limb, while three discharging sinuses continued to drain the affected area.  On April 8, 1919, doctors "curetted" the sinuses, while nurses dressed the wound every second day.  By May 20, 1919, Russ was "allowed up", his left foot supported by a posterior ankle splint."  Two months later, doctors described a "very slight discharge" as the wound was almost fully healed.

Russ occasionally strolled the hospital grounds throughout the spring and summer of 1919.  On one such excursion, he was delighted to encounter his old friend, Henry Archibald, whom he assumed had died from the wound he received at Cambrai.  Like Russ, Henry was well on the way to recovery.

On October 11, 1919, Russ was transferred to the Halifax "Casualty Company".  One week later, Private Charles Russell Cameron was officially discharged from military service  and returned home to Sherbrooke.

*****

Russ gradually settled into civilian life, returning to work at the Sherbrooke livery stables.  As automobiles replaced horses as the primary means of transportation, Russ partnered with Edwin Fraser to open a gasoline and service station adjacent to the livery stable.  Russ handled the mechanical side of the operation, while Ed managed the business affairs.

Russ Cameron in later years.
At first operating independently, Russ and Ed eventually applied for admission to the Irving chain of service stations.  When K. C. Irving himself visited the garage to evaluate the applicants, he asked to speak to Russ, who was busy working underneath a vehicle in the garage's bay.  Never one to abandon a task once started, Russ continued with the repair work.  Undaunted, Mr. Irving requested a mechanic's dolly and slid beneath the vehicle, where he interviewed Russ.  Shortly afterward, the garage became part of the Irving chain.

Russ married Ida Blanche McMillan, a native of Country Harbour, at Sherbrooke on September 28, 1921.  Barely four months later, Ida was stricken with kidney failure and passed away unexpectedly on March 4, 1922.  Saddened by the loss of his young bride, Russ did not re-marry until August 19, 1925, when Edith Belle Irwin, a school-teacher born and raised in Moser River, became his second wife.  The couple went on to raise four children - two sons and two daughters - in their Sherbrooke home.

In addition to Russ's work at the garage, he and Belle operated the local customs office in the village, inspecting all parcels arriving by mail from outside the country.  Despite his serious shrapnel wound, Russ wore regular footwear.  While he favoured his healthy foot somewhat, he walked without a cane and maintained an active lifestyle well into his later years.

Ed Fraser's son, Scotty, assumed his part of the garage's operation after his father's death.  Several years later, Russ retired and sold his portion of the business to Scotty.  Russ spent his retirement days in his Cameron Road residence, enjoying the tranquility of his native community.  He passed away at home on March 7, 1974 and was laid to rest in Riverside Cemetery, Sherbrooke.

*****

Sources:

Service file of Private Charles Russell Cameron, number 3181453.  Library & Archives Canada, Ottawa: RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box 1401 - 47.  Attestation papers available online.

War Diary of the 85th Canadian Infantry Battalion.  Library & Archives Canada, Ottawa: RG9, Militia & Defence, Series III-D-3, Volume 4944, Reel T-10751 - 10752, File: 454.  Available online.

A special thank you to two of Russ's children, John Cameron and Mary Jane Macdonald of Sherbrooke, and his nephew, Dr. Ian Cameron of Sherbrooke, who provided photographs and valuable information on Russ's family background and life after the war.