|Sgt. Perry Judson Giffen|
The Highland Brigade departed for England on October 12, 1916, and arrived at Liverpool, England, six days later. Significant casualties incurred during the Canadian Corps’ autumn 1916 service at the Somme resulted in military authorities dissolving two Brigade units—the 193rd and 219th Battalions—before year’s end. As a result, Perry was transferred to the 26th Battalion (New Brunswick) on January 13, 1917.
The following day, Perry crossed the English Channel to France and joined the 26th’s ranks near Bully Grenay, France, several days later. On the morning of April 9, 1917, the 26th participated in the initial stage of the Canadian Corps’ attack on Vimy Ridge, securing its objectives within 30 minutes. The 25th Battalion (Nova Scotia Rifles)—one of the unit’s 5th Brigade mates—passed through its lines shortly afterward and successfully capturing the day’s final objective, a German position known as “Turko Graben.”
The 26th reported light casualties during the assault and served regular rotations in sectors near Lens throughout the spring and early summer of 1917. At 4:25 a.m. August 15, 1917, the battalion advanced in support positions during the opening stage of the Canadian Corps’ attack on Hill 70, near Lens. Later in the morning, its soldiers passed through their Brigade comrades’ lines and pressed onward toward Norman Trench, the day’s final objective.
While the unit successfully secured the position, it endured considerable enemy fire during the advance and repelled three German counter-attacks before day’s end. Personnel remained in the line until the night of August 16/17, its Hill 70 casualties significant enough to require Officers to reorganize its Companies into three platoons, rather than the conventional four, “until reinforcements arrive.”
Sgt. Perry Giffen was one of the first day’s casualties, a piece of shrapnel from an artillery shell striking the front of his right shoulder and exiting below his scapula [shoulder blade]. He remained on the battlefield for almost two days as artillery fire and German counter-attacks made it impossible for stretcher bearers fo evacuate the wounded. On August 19, Percy was finally admitted to No. 23 Casualty Clearing Station, where staff cleaned and dressed his wound. He was then evacuated by ambulance train to No. 4 General Hospital, Camiers, France.
A subsequent medical examination determined that Perry had suffered a compound fracture at the head of his humerus [upper arm bone] and scapula. After two surgeries and a lengthy recovery period, Perry was invalided to England in late September and admitted to 2nd General Hospital, Moston, Manchester. Following Perry’s transfer to the Canadian Convalescent Home, Bearwood Park, Wokingham, on November 23, staff began a rigorous program of physical therapy designed to restore his shoulder, arm and hand movement.
As his injuries eliminated any possibility of returning to France, Perry was transferred to No. 5 Canadian General Hospital, Kirkdale, Liverpool, in early February 1918, the first step on the journey home. During his time under medical care, Perry met Kathleen Mailing, a native of Oxford, England. On March 2, military authorities granted Perry “permission to marry” and the couple were wed shortly afterward. Before month’s end, Perry departed from Liverpool, England, aboard HS Llandovery Castle and arrived at Halifax, NS, on April 9. His bride followed him to Canada shortly afterward.
Assigned to the Hospital Section upon disembarking, Perry underwent surgery to remove a fragment of “necrosed bone” from the head of his humerus in early June. While physiotherapy restored his wrist movement, he had limited shoulder and elbow movement, and the “grasp of [his] rt. hand [was] reduced [by] one half.” As the effects of his war injury were deemed “permanent,” a Medical Board recommended Perry’s discharge as “medically unfit.”
On October 5, 1918, Perry was officially discharged from military service at Halifax. His time in uniform, however, was not over. Perry immediately enlisted with the Royal Canadian Navy’s Intelligence Staff and served with its Halifax office until late May 1919, at which time he was admitted to local hospital with appendicitis. Following surgery and recovery, Perry was discharged from the Navy on June 25, 1919.
Upon returning to civilian life, Perry briefly worked as a “confectioner” before joining the staff of the Halifax Herald. He and Kathleen welcomed their first child—Perry James—in 1920. A daughter, Betty, joined the family several years later. While Perry initially worked as a journalist, he soon moved into the newspaper’s advertising department, where he found “his life’s work.” He quickly rose to the position of advertising manager and assistant business manager with the Herald.
Employment opportunities subsequently took Perry and his family to Hamilton and Toronto. In 1928, he joined the Southam News organization and accepted a position as business manager of the Edmonton Journal. The following year, Perry was elected one of Southam’s directors. The Giffens returned to Ontario in 1935, when Perry accepted a position as managing editor of the Peterborough Examiner. The following summer, he found time to return to Nova Scotia to visit family.
While his war wound limited his right arm’s mobility and caused occasional discomfort, no major problems occurred until several months after the family relocated to Peterborough. Hospitalized for two months for treatment of an infection in his wounded shoulder, Perry appeared to make a complete recovery. In early February 1937, however, he once again fell ill and was admitted to Nicholls Hospital, Peterborough, on February 12.
By that time, Perry had developed “caries”—significant bone decay—in his right shoulder, a condition that produced multiple abscesses and resulted in septicaemia. Six days after his admission, doctors performed surgery, removing large pockets of pus at both the shoulder and elbow joints. Despite the surgical intervention, Sgt. Perry Judson Giffen died in hospital from complications attributed to his First World War injury on February 19, 1937. He was laid to rest in Little Lake Cemetery, Peterborough, ON.
Military authorities subsequently confirmed that Perry’s death was “due to military service” and approved the provision of a Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstone for his final resting place. Perry’s story is one of 64 profiles contained in Bantry Publishing’s First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume II: 1918 - 1937, available for purchase online at bantrypublishing.ca .