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Sunday, 18 March 2018

Remembering Private William Robertson Spears—KIA March 18, 1918

William Robertson Spears was born at Spanish Ship Bay, Guysborough County on May 18, 1898, the fifth of Nelson and Mary Ann “Annie” (Howlett) Spears’ eight children. William went to work at sea at an early age, an occupation that likely took him on occasion to Halifax. As the bustling city very much involved in the overseas war effort, William may have been caught up in the excitement. On August 2, 1915, he commenced training with the 63rd Regiment (Halifax Rifles), a local militia unit, on McNab’s Island and formally attested for overseas service with the Canadian Expeditionary Force on October 28.
Pte. William Robertson Spears' Headstone
Within months of his attestation, however, health problems led to William’s admission to military hospital, where doctors initially diagnosed him with “tuberculosis, chest walls.” A closer examination  detected a “deformity of [the] chest wall” that, in the opinion of military officials, prevented William from “carry[ing] anything on [his] shoulder.” As a result, on April 15, 1916, William was discharged as “medically unfit.”

While William briefly returned to civilian life, he was determined to serve overseas. On October 3, 1916, he joined the 246th Battalion’s ranks and spent the winter of 1916-17 training in Halifax. On May 31, 1917, he departed for overseas as part of a reinforcement draft of 13 Officers and  230 “other ranks” (OR). Upon arriving in England, William was assigned to the 17th Reserve Battalion, the unit tasked with providing reinforcements for Nova Scotia’s 25th and 85th Battalions. On August 27, William proceed to France for service with the 85th Battalion.

While William joined his new unit in the forward area in mid-September, for unexplained reasons, he returned to the Canadian Corps Reinforcement Centre (CCRC) before month’s end. During his absence, the 85th followed the Canadian Corps to Belgium, where it participated in the second stage of the attack on Passchendaele Ridge. On November 7, William rejoined the 85th’s ranks near Caëstre, France, as the battalion rebuilt its ranks following significant combat losses during its Passchendaele tour.

William spent the winter of 1917-18 with the 85th in sectors near Lens, enduring conditions that varied from “snowing and strong wind” to “thawing fast and… becoming very muddy.” During late February and early March 1918, the unit enjoyed a lengthy break from the line before returning to support positions near St. Émile on the night of March 13. For several days, the situation in the sector was quiet as soldiers provided work parties for trench maintenance.

The 85th’s war diary entry for March 18, 1918 makes no reference to loss of personnel: “Fine Relieved 38th CI [Canadian Infantry] Battalion in front line left sub-sector St. Émile sector.” A monthly casualty list included in the diary’s appendix, however, tells a different story. According to its contents, four OR were wounded by artillery fire, while a fifth was “injured in the back by falling brick” when a shell struck a section of the 85th’s trench. The document also reported one March 18 fatality—Private William Robertson Spears, most likely killed in the same artillery barrage that wounded his comrades. William was laid to rest in Loos British Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France.

Loos British Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France
William’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 .

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Remembering Private Charles Patrick Knocton—Died of Sickness March 10, 1918

Charles Patrick Knocton was born at South Intervale, Guysborough County on December 25, 1895, the second of Patrick and Abigail Annie (Bond) Knocton’s four children. On May 3, 1911, Patrick passed away from complications related to asthma and Annie remarried the following year. While Charles’ older brother, Stanley, departed for the United States, he remained at home, where he looked after the family farm.

Private Charles Knocton's Headstone

Following the passage of the Military Service Act (1917), Charles completed his medical examination at nearby Guysborough town on October 26, 1917 and was “called up” early the following year. He completed his attestation papers at Halifax, NS on February 13, 1918 and was assigned to a detachment stationed at the Amherst Armouries.

The crowded, poorly heated quarters were a breeding ground for illness. On March 1, Charles was admitted to Highland View Hospital, Amherst, for treatment of pneumonia. According to medical records, his body temperature at the time of admission was 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8 Celsius) and his pulse rate was 110 beats per minute.

Within three days, Charles’ pulse returned to normal and his condition “seemed satisfactory.” He continued to improve until mid-day March 8, when he developed a severe headache and his temperature spiked to 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius). Early the following morning, Charles fell into a coma and never regained consciousness. He passed away at 12:30 a.m. March 10, 1918.

St. Patrick's Cemetery, Guysborough Intervale

Charles’ remains were transported to Guysborough County, where he was laid to rest in St. Patrick’s Cemetery, Guysborough Intervale. Private Charles Patrick Knocton was the first Guysborough “conscript” to die in uniform. His 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 .

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Remembering Lieutenant James Gibson Laurier Fraser—Killed in Action March 4, 1918

James Gibson Laurier Fraser was born at New Glasgow, NS on September 14, 1895, the youngest of Duncan Cameron “D. C.” and Elizabeth “Bessie” (Graham) Fraser’s five children. A lawyer by profession, D C. was elected Member of Parliament for Guysborough in 1891. He held this position until 1904, at which time he accepted an appointment to the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia. Two years later, D. C. was appointed Lieutenant-Governor of Nova Scotia, a post he held until his untimely death at age 64 on September 27, 1910.

Lt. Laurier Fraser at training camp
Following her husband’s passing, Bessie relocated to Moose Jaw, SK, where she resided with her oldest daughter, Annie, and her husband, Rev. William G. Wilson. Laurier, as he was known to family, and his older sister, Sarah “Sadie,” accompanied Bessie to Moose Jaw.

Two other siblings, Alistair and Margaret Marjorie “Pearl,” had already left home. Alistair completed his legal studies at Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS, and later re-joined the family in Moose Jaw, where he commenced the practice of law. Pearl completed nursing studies at Lady Stanley Institute, Ottawa and commenced employment at Vancouver General Hospital. In the meantime, upon completing his schooling, Laurier entered a five-year legal apprenticeship with a nearby Gull Lake,  SK law office.

The outbreak of the First World War in August 1914 soon impacted the Fraser siblings. Shortly after the British declaration of war on Germany and Austria-Hungary, both Alistair and Pearl travelled to Camp Valcartier, QC. Pearl enlisted with the Canadian Army Medical Corps, while Alistair accompanied the 17th Battalion (Nova Scotia) to England, where he received a commission as a Lieutenant when he attested with the unit. Alistair subsequently served in Belgium with Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI) and at Vimy Ridge, France with the 15th Battalion (48th Highlanders of Canada).

Too young to enlist at the time of the war’s commencement, Laurier joined the 60th Rifles of Canada, a Moose Jaw militia unit. On February 19, 1916, he enlisted with the 229th Battalion (South Saskatchewan). At the time, he was five feet, 11 inches tall and weighed 195 pounds. As with his older brother, Laurier received the commissioned rank of Lieutenant at the time of his enlistment.

Following a summer of training in western Canada, the 229th made its way by train to Halifax, NS, and departed for England on September 23. Upon arriving overseas, the 229th was dissolved and its rank and file dispersed to existing units in the field. As a result, Laurier was placed on the Canadian Expeditionary Forces’s “General List” of Officers and awaited the opportunity to serve at the front.

Laurier spent seven months in England before receiving a transfer to the 16th Battalion on April 26, 1917. He crossed the English Channel to France on May 1 and joined his new unit in the field four days later. The 16th had been established at Valcartier, QC, in September 1914, its initial ranks composed of soldiers from four Highland militia units. As a result, the battalion adopted the title “Canadian Scottish.”

Lt. Laurier Fraser, 16th Battalion (Canadian Scottish)
Following its arrival in France in mid-February 1915, the 16th served with the Canadian Corps in Belgium’s Ypres Salient until September 1916, when the Corps relocated to the Somme region of France for two months. The battalion spent the winter of 1916-17 in sectors near Lens, France and participated in the Canadian Corps’ historic April 9, 1917 attack on Vimy Ridge.

Laurier served with the 16th in France throughout the spring and summer of 1917. In late October, the unit made its way northward to a location close to the Belgian border, where it paused to prepare for its role in the Canadian Corps’ attack on Passchendaele Ridge. At month’s end, personnel arrived at Ypres, Belgium. While the 16th served several tours in the line, its soldiers did not participate in the assault’s final stages. The unit remained in the area until mid-month, at which time its soldiers made their way back to their previous sectors near Lens.

Throughout the winter of 1917-18, the 16th completed a regular schedule of rotations, conducting occasional raids on German trenches and enduring intermittent machine gun, artillery and trench mortar fire during its tours. On February 25, its soldiers occupied “a little more than 1000 yards” of the St. Émile sector’s trenches. In subsequent days, personnel set about wiring and deepening the front line, amidst sporadic artillery and machine gun fire.

Early the following month, hostile fire intensified considerably. On March 1, a trench mortar shell killed three “other ranks” (OR) and wounded a fourth. Artillery and mortar shelling continued throughout the subsequent days, culminating in a heavy barrage on the 16th’s line in the early morning hours of March 4. As the hostile fire subsided, German soldiers attacked a section of the line to the battalion’s left.

The 16th’s No. 1, Company, located in support trenches at the time of the bombardment, was particularly hard-hit by the barrage. Two of its Officers were killed and a third wounded, while four OR were killed and the same number wounded. Lieutenant James Gibson Laurier Fraser was one of the two Officer fatalities. He was laid to rest in Bully Grenay Communal Cemetery. Laurier’s cousin, Lieutenant Roderick Douglas Graham, was in camp with the 85th Battalion at nearby Raimbert and attended Laurier’s interment.

Lt. Laurier Fraser's headstone, Bully Grenay Cemetery
Lieutenant James Gibson Laurier Fraser’s story is one of 64 detailed 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 .

Saturday, 17 February 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Sapper John Alexander Chisholm—An Antigonish County POW's Story

John Alexander Chisholm was born at Antigonish Harbour on April 1, 1873, the oldest of Alexander and Christine (McIntosh) Chisholm’s nine children. While records indicate that Alexander was born at Hallowell Grant, his father, “Gentleman John” Chisholm, became a well-known resident of Antigonish Harbour. The family traces its roots to Strathglass, Scotland, where the parents of “Gentleman John,” Catherine (Chisholm) and John Chisholm, were born and married prior to immigrating to Nova Scotia.

The Chisholm Family Farm, Antigonish Harbour (c. 1940)
John Alexander’s mother, Christine McIntosh, was the youngest of John (Og) and Christina (Chisholm) McIntosh’s 10 children. John, a native of Kilmorach, Scotland, immigrated to Nova Scotia and settled at Lower South River. Christine’s older brother, Alexander, attended St. Francis Xavier University and went on to become the first StFX graduate to enter the medical profession. Dr. McIntosh established a local practice and residence on Main St., located on a portion of present-day Columbus Field.

Several of Christine Chisholm’s nine children later pursued careers in medicine. Two daughters—Christine and Lydia “Lilly”—entered the nursing profession, while her second-youngest, Hugh Gillis, completed medical studies at McGill University, Montreal. Christine and Hugh also served with the Canadian Army Medical Corps during the First World War.

Sometime after 1891, John Alexander Chisholm headed to the west coast, where two of his paternal uncles resided. Family lore suggests that his younger brother and closest sibling, William “Will,” may have accompanied him. Following their father’s passing in late 1902, Will assumed responsibility for the family’s Antigonish Harbour farm. On June 22, 1909, he married Mary McDougall, daughter of Angus and Jessie (Hanrahan) McDougall, Antigonish Harbour, and raised a family of six children on the Chisholm homestead.

John Alexander, however, remained on the west coast, where he worked as a miner. Documents indicate that he resided at several locations—Vancouver, British Columbia; Dawson, Yukon Territory; and Alaska—at various times prior to and after the First World War. Several of John Alexander’s younger siblings—sisters Christine and Lilly, and brothers Alexander, Vincent and Hugh—eventually followed him west. While Lilly and Vincent settled in California, Christine, Alexander and Hugh resided in British Columbia.

As with most families of the time, the outbreak of the First World War soon impacted the Chisholm clan. Hugh was the first to enlist, attesting for overseas service with No. 8 Canadian Field Ambulance at Calgary, AB, on November 18, 1915. A fully trained physician, he received the commissioned rank of Captain and served with the unit in France and Belgium for 18 months. In late November 1917, Hugh was transferred to a hospital in England, where he remained for the duration of his overseas service.

Alexander Chisholm was conscripted into the Canadian Expeditionary Force at Vancouver, BC on January 17, 1918. Transferred to the 72nd Battalion (Seaforth Highlanders of Canada) in late July 1918, he joined the unit in France shortly afterward. Wounded in the leg on August 11, 1918 during the final stages of the Battle of Amiens, Alexander was invalided to England, where he made a full recovery. Meanwhile, in Canada, Christine Chisholm served as a Nursing Sister at Shaughnessy Military Hospital, Vancouver, BC, from April 1918 to February 1919.

Perhaps the most surprising enlistment was John Alexander, who attested with No. 2 Tunnelling Company, Canadian Engineers, at Vancouver, BC on January 11, 1916. At the time, he was almost 43 years old, stood five feet eleven inches, and weighed 180 pounds. John Alexander listed his occupation as “miner” and passed the thorough medical examination without any difficulty.

No. 2 Tunnelling Company was authorized in September 1915 and recruited its personnel from British Columbia and Alberta’s mining communities. Following mobilization at Calgary, AB, the unit travelled by train to Halifax in early 1916 and departed for England aboard SS Missanabie on January 22, 1916. Six weeks later, its personnel crossed the English Channel to France. Upon landing on the continent, the unit was attached to the 2nd Canadian Division and commenced service in Belgium’s Ypres Salient shortly afterward.

Tunnelling companies put their men’s mining skills to good use, constructing underground dugouts to accommodate soldiers in the front trenches. Personnel, known as “sappers,” also dug lengthy tunnels beneath No Man’s Land, where they established “listening stations” to detect German tunnelling activity. Sappers occasionally planted explosives beneath the enemy’s front line for use prior to an attack, and detonated “camouflets,” small charges designed to destroy nearby German tunnels. It was challenging work, the men toiling in cramped quarters where enemy detonation of a camouflet could trigger a collapse at any time.

Australian Sappers at work near Hooge, Belgium
Following a brief period of training and orientation, No. 2 Tunnelling Company assumed responsibility for a section of the front line near Reninghelst, Belgium, on April 7, 1916. While the unit’s initial duties were limited to “listening and repair work in existing galleries [tunnels],” by month’s end, its sappers were constructing a “system of dug-outs” in the front trenches.

Work continued without incident throughout the month of May, as Sapper John Alexander Chisholm and his mates adjusted to front line routines. On June 1, No. 2 Tunnelling Company started work on two projects at a location near Zillebeke, Belgium, variously known as “Tor Top” and “Hill 62.” One group commenced construction of “shallow defensive galleries and listening posts in front of trenches… [, and] deep dugouts” in another section of the line. At a second location, sappers continued work on a “system of deep dug-outs” connected to “50 feet of [ an existing] gallery.” A total of five officers and 101 sappers toiled underground, unaware of the danger about to befall them.

On the morning of June 2, 1916, German artillery launched a massive artillery bombardment on 3rd Canadian Division units holding the front line at three elevated locations near Zillebeke, Belgium—Mont Sorrel, Tor Top (Hill 62), and Hill 61. During the early afternoon, enemy forces detonated four mines beneath the Canadian trenches, after which six German battalions advanced across No Man’s Land toward the Canadian line. By day’s end, German units had captured and secured two of their three targets—Mont Sorrel and Hill 61—and advanced more than one kilometre into Canadian-held territory.

That same day, the daily entry in No. 2 Tunnelling Company’s war diary tersely reported: “The Germans attacked and captured the area in which our workings were situated.” In the aftermath, the unit reported one Officer killed and four others missing, while five of its sappers were killed, 11 wounded and 75 missing.

On the morning of June 3, a hastily organized Canadian counter-attack failed to dislodge German forces from the captured positions. Meanwhile, the fate of numerous personnel in the line at the time of the previous day’s attack remained a mystery as Allied commanders scrambled to re-establish a new defensive line. While Canadian soldiers re-captured most of the lost ground on June 13, by that time the dugouts where the tunnellers were working 11 days previously were “full of water.” Several “saps”—narrow trenches reaching into No Man’s Land—where other sappers were located were “still within the enemy’s lines.”

Gradually, word of its missing soldiers’ fate reached No. 2 Tunnelling Company. By month’s end, military officials confirmed that three of its Officers were prisoners of war, while a fourth remained “unaccounted for.” It was not until the following month, however, that the unit received word of its sappers’ whereabouts. On July 12, Sapper John Alexander Chisholm was “unofficially reported Prisoner of War [POW] at Dülmen.” Six days later, military authorities officially confirmed his fate.

Approximately 3,300 Canadian soldiers were taken prisoner on the Western Front during the First World War. While an estimated 10 % escaped from detention camps in Germany, only 200 escapees managed to reach neutral or Allied-held territory. If recaptured, escaped POWs received 14 days in solitary confinement, a punishment that increased to 21 days for a second offence. Detained in small, ventilated cells with a plank bed but no bedding, prisoners were permitted to wear their great coats during their sentence. Food was limited to bread and water for three days, with a regular meal provided every fourth day.

Apparently, John Alexander was wounded during the June 2 attack and was hospitalized at Dülmen Camp following his capture. The first of three POW facilities where he was detained, the camp was located in the northwestern German state of North Rhine - Westphalia, which shared a portion of its border with neutral Netherlands. Shortly after the outbreak of war in August 1914, German authorities cleared a local pine forest to make way for a detention camp and used the harvested timber to erect wooden barracks. The facility opened in May 1915 and initially housed 3,000 POWs, expanding to 5,000 before year’s end.

Location of Dülmen POW camp

Large, airy huts contained 120 to 140 enlisted men, while small rooms within each structure accommodated non-commissioned officers (NCOs). Hammocks provided an upper tier of sleeping accommodations. Sentries guarded the camp and its perimeter, where a barbed wire fence was erected. Searchlights swept the area throughout the night, providing additional security.

New arrivals were quarantined for 48 hours, their clothing “de-loused” to reduce the spread of the pesky parasites. For additional protection, hair was cut and kept short. Weekly baths were compulsory, although more frequent bathing was usually available. While POWs were vaccinated for smallpox, cholera and yellow fever, the camp provided little treatment for serious illness. While authorities established a separate compound for sick POWs, conditions were often unsanitary, with limited medical personnel and supplies.

Under the terms of the Hague Convention on Land Warfare (1907), all able-bodied, rank and file POWs were required to work, and received a modest daily wage in return. [Commissioned officers, who were detained in separate facilities, were exempt from such duties.] The day usually commenced with roll call at 6:00 a.m., followed by breakfast. Work parties commenced at 7:00 a.m., pausing for a mid-day meal. Following a brief rest period, work resumed at 2:00 p.m. and continuing until sundown. POWs received one-quarter of their daily wages—17 cents a day—in German marks, to purchase items at a camp store or, in some instances, in neighbouring communities. The remaining funds were deposited in a personal bank account.

Tasks generally consisted of light work—digging and grading on the camp grounds and adjacent property, repairing or erecting new barracks and camp facilities. In some cases, POWs were assigned to labour in German coal mines or local factories, while others carried out work on various civic projects in neighbouring communities. Under the Hague Convention’s terms, POWs were not permitted to directly assist in the production of “war material.”

Perhaps the greatest complaint amongst POWs was the food, or lack thereof. For instance, morning “coffee” at Dülmen was brewed from roasted chestnuts. Lunch consisted of a half-litre bowl of cabbage soup, occasionally sprinkled with fresh peas or pieces of grain. Potatoes formed a basic part of the menu. Fresh meat and other basic dietary items were scarce, as food shortages plagued Germany throughout the war. In response, the German government rationed all commodities, including provisions for POW camps. Many prisoners relied on food parcels from home for their primary sustenance, and scrounged through camp garbage for such treasured items as potato peelings.

Throughout their internment, POWs received regular mail, parcel and banking services. Incoming weekly mail was limited to one package, while prisoners were permitted to write two letters to family and acquaintances. The International Red Cross handled all incoming and outgoing items. While many camps contained a football (soccer) field, recreational opportunities were usually limited. Some camps established libraries, but books were in scarce supply.

Dülmen POW Camp
John Alexander Chisholm remained at Dülmen until mid-September 1916, at which time his caretakers deemed fit for work and transferred him to “Gefangenenlager [Prison Camp] Wahn,” located near the German city of Cologne [Koln]. While John Alexander later described his condition at the time as “barely strong enough,” he was put to work “on bridge construction across the Rhine, not far from Frankfurt.” In a later letter to his brother Will, John Alexander described the experience:

“They made the worst slaves they could out of us, compelling us to work from 5 a.m. until 7 p.m. and punished us severely. Some 100 of us English prisoners were building a steel bridge on the Rhine at Engers [50 kilometres from Limburg]. I was at that fifteen months.”

John Alexander spent the winter and spring of 1916-17 at the Wahn facility, which much larger than Dülmen, housing as many as 50,000 Allied POWs at various times. According to his correspondence with Will, he managed to escape from the facility in December 1916, but “was caught, brought back, and terribly punished.”

Wahn POW Camp, Köln, Germany
In mid-May 1917, John Alexander received a transfer to a smaller facility at Limburg, 80 kilometres northwest of Frankfurt. Located on a plateau along the road leading to nearby Dietkirchen, the Limburg camp housed approximately 12,000 POWs. Accommodations consisted of wooden huts with two rooms, each containing 50 men. The buildings, equipped with beds on wooden trestles and ample blankets, were well-ventilated and comfortable. Cramped conditions, however, created health issues. Tuberculosis became a serious problem at the facility, and lack of proper medical services resulted in a considerable number of deaths.

The fact that Limburg was more than 200 kilometres from the nearest “neutral” border allowed for a more relaxed routine. POWs were permitted to leave camp to purchase rations and other items in the nearby town. As might be expected under such an arrangement, escapes were frequent. Undeterred by his first failure and perhaps motivated by the opportunities his Limburg circumstances provided, Sapper John Alexander Chisholm was determined to end his captivity.

Limburg POW Camp
By late autumn 1917, Sapper John Alexander Chisholm had spent almost a year and a half in German prisoner of war camps. During that time, “a small party” of his comrades “made up our minds to get away.” In a later interview published in the Evening Empire, a Prince Rupert, BC newspaper, John Alexander described his November 5, 1917 escape:

“By great luck, we secured a fine little compass from a Russian. Then early one evening, when the guard had begun to make the regular count of prisoners, my partner—a young Englishman [named Frank Coombes]—and myself just faded away. We hiked across an open space and into a patch of woods, then out on a road…. [We] had just gained that road, when along came some civilians. We lay flat and they passed. We travelled across country all that night, and every other night, finally striking the Rhine, further north. We were near Coblenz and Bonn.”

John Alexander and Frank took cover during daylight hours and moved only under cover of darkness. A later letter to John Alexander’s brother, Will, also provided details of the remarkable journey: “We had our prison clothes on. We could not get anything else….. For a long time after being captured I had no clothes[,] loosing [sic] them all that day in June [1916] at Ypres, and the Germans wouldn’t give me any.” Their prison attire “had white and yellow facings—but we just had to take the best of it. Before long, however, we put shoe blacking all over the white and yellow.”

The escapees “swam rivers and crossed swamps to get out, but God was with us, and we got through all right.” One night, “by great good luck, we got hold of a small boat, which we saw anchored out in the river. It was a case of swimming out to that boat, lifting up the little anchor and bringing her to the shore, where we used small boards for oars. In one night, we made 34 miles.”

Upon reaching the German border with neutral Netherlands, the fugitives managed to pass undetected through “three lines of sentries,… posted chiefly to check the Germans themselves from flocking into Holland.” Having survived “on what they could pick up as they went along through the fields,… when they finally passed the border, they were bordering on exhaustion.” John Alexander noted, however, that “the [Dutch] people treated us well. We came down to Rotterdam, and the British Consul took charge of us.”

Quarantined for 14 days as a precaution, John Alexander and Frank crossed the North Sea to England at month’s end. An entry in John Alexander’s service record, dated December 1, 1917, provided an official update on his circumstances: “Now reported ESCAPED.” The following day, Canadian authorities informed will that his older brother was no longer in German custody and had safely arrived in England.

On December 3, John Alexander wrote a lengthy letter to Will, in which he reflected on his time in captivity and journey to freedom:

“It is a very hard country to get out of. Very few English prisoners get out. All the time we were very heavily guarded. I am sorry for the ones left behind. We suffered terribly in Germany…. It if were not for the parcels from home, we would all starve. They were just great. I know we do not get them all. For over three months last spring we got none. Hope the Red Cross has notified you now to stop sending.”

John Alexander closed by assuring Will that “my health is great, never felt better, after all the hard knocks…. I intend to go back to the front just as soon as I can.”

Military authorities, however, had other plans. A memo to the Canadian Engineers Regimental Depot (CERD), Seaford, bearing the same date as John Alexander’s letter to Will, stated:

“The marginally noted soldier, who is an escaped prisoner of war, has been instructed to report to your HQ. He should be taken on strength of his Regimental Depot and instructions issued that he is to be returned to Canada by the first available sailing, for disposal by the Military Authorities, in accordance with the policy at present in force governing the disposal of Escaped Prisoners of War.”

One week later, John Alexander reported to CERD Seaford, where he spent the remainder of the year. On January 3, 1918, he was transferred to the Canadian Discharge Depot, Buxton, “pending return to Canada.” Before month’s end, John Alexander departed from England and made his way by train to British Columbia after arriving in Canada. On February 25, he was officially “taken on strength” at New Westminster, BC, “for duty” with Military District No. 11, Victoria. After conducting a thorough medical examination, medical personnel noted that, despite his age, lengthy internment and arduous escape, 45-year-old John Alexander “is physically fit.”

On March 14, 1918, Sapper John Alexander Chisholm was officially discharged from the Canadian Expeditionary Force at New Westminster, BC. While given a clean bill of health after his medical examination, his service record identified the reason for discharge as “medically unfit (POW).” A second entry described his character as “Very Good.” On January 20, 1920, John Alexander received the Military Medal for “bravery in the field,” in recognition of his daring escape from captivity.

Sapper John A. Chisholm's Military Medal, British War & Victory Service Medals
In subsequent years, John Alexander resided at various addresses along the Pacific coast. In mid-July 1919, military officials forwarded his war service gratuity to Dawson, YT, while his British War and Victory service medals were delivered to Port Coquitlam, BC, in late June 1924. He also spent time in Alaska, suggesting employment at various mining locations during the years following his discharge.

In early February 1926, John Alexander was travelling by train from Alaska to Seattle, WA, when he fell ill. Rushed to hospital upon arrival, he passed away at Seattle on February 11, 1926. While his  final medical examination detected no health issues, a news item published in the Antigonish Casket stated: “His death was not altogether unexpected by his friends in the west, as he had been troubled with his heart for some time. Sober, industrious and God-loving, John Chisholm was a sterling character and highly respected wherever known.”

John Alexander’s remains were transported to New Westminster, where his younger sister Christine, brother Hugh, and “a large number of friends” attended “High Mass for the repose of his soul” at St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church. Following the service, Sapper John Alexander Chisholm was laid to rest in the church’s cemetery, his Casket death notice suggesting: “His terrible experiences while in prison no doubt hastened his death” two months shy of his 54th birthday.

John A. Chisholm's Headstone
Postscript: One other Antigonish County native was among John Alexander Chisholm’s POW camp comrades. Dougald McPherson was born at Antigonish on July 21, 1874, the son of John D. and Anna (“Charleston” McDonald) McPherson. Dougald enlisted with the 46th Battalion at Regina, SK, on April 9, 1915. After arriving in England in mid-September 1915, he was transferred to the 32nd Reserve Battalion.

On January 20, 1916, Dougald received a second transfer to the 28th Battalion (Northwest), which was deployed in Belgium’s Ypres Salient with the 2nd Canadian Division’s 6th Brigade. He joined the unit in the field on March 1, 1916 and served in the line without incident until June 6, 1916, when German units over-ran the 28th’s front trenches, following the detonation of four mines beneath the position. Dougald was taken prisoner and sent to Dülmen Camp, where John Alexander Chisholm was also detained.

Dougald and John Alexander spent the next 17 months together at Dülmen, Wahn and Limburg POW camps. According to John Alexander’s December 3, 1917 letter to his brother Will, at the time of his daring escape, Dougald was in hospital, having suffered an injury while working on a steel bridge across the Rhine at Engers. He spent the remainder of the war at Limburg, returning in England in early December 1918. Upon landing at Halifax, NS in early February 1919, he received a two-month furlough “with sustenance,” and may have returned home to Antigonish. Dougald was discharged at Halifax, NS, on April 22, 1919 and eventually made his way back to western Canada, where he returned to his pre-war occupation as a carpenter.

On October 1, 1932, 58-year-old Dougald married Cicely Harriet (Cox) Kraitz, a 49-year-old native of England, in a ceremony held at Victoria, BC. The couple established residence in the Vancouver Island community. Dougald McPherson passed away at Veterans’ Hospital, Victoria, BC, on December 4, 1961.

Photograph of Chisholm family farm, Antigonish Harbour, courtesy of John A. Chisholm's great-nephew, Hugh John Chisholm, Antigonish. Photograph of John A. Chisholm's medals courtesy of great-niece Marg Tighe, Victoria, BC.

Sunday, 31 December 2017

Guysborough County Enlistments—October to December 1917

A total of 21 individuals with connections to Guysborough County, Nova Scotia enlisted for military service during the months of October, November and December 1917.


1. George Washington Horton (2100866) was born at Canso, Guysborough County on December 27, 1888, the oldest of Hiram C. and Henrietta Elizabeth “Hattie” (Worth) Horton’s 11 children. George enlisted with No. 10 Halifax Siege Battery at Sydney, NS on October 1, 1917. He departed for England aboard SS Megantic on November 24 and arrived overseas two weeks later.

On April 2, 1918, George crossed to France as a Canadian Siege Artillery reinforcement and was assigned to the 2nd Brigade, Canadian Garrison Artillery, as a “Gunner” on June 18. While serving in the field on August 28, George suffered a contusion to his back, the result of an accident described in his service file:

“Shells were being unloaded from a Lorry. Shrapnel burst overhead. The men sought cover. Horton ducked under the end of the Lorry. At the same time the Lorry Driver flopped to the floor of the Lorry, letting a shell which was in his hands roll out at the end of the Lorry. It hit Gnr. Horton. Accidental injury.”

Hospitalized at Wimereux, France the following day, George was discharged to duty on December 1 and returned to England at month’s end. He departed for Canada aboard SS Belgic on March 2 and was discharged at Halifax on March 22, 1919.

George subsequently returned to Sydney, NS, where he married Ruth Witherell Cesale, a native of Mulgrave, Guysborough County, in a ceremony held on August 20, 1920. During his time overseas, George had assigned $15.00 of his monthly pay to Ruth. The couple eventually relocated to Vancouver, BC. George passed away at Shaughnessy Hospital, Vancouver on April 21, 1964. Ruth remained in the city, where she passed away on April 9, 1990. The couple had no children.

George’s younger brother, Arthur Stanford Horton, was killed in action at Regina Trench, near Courcelette France, on October 2, 1916. Bantry Publishing’s “First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Volume I: 1915 - 1917” contains a detailed description of Arthur’s military service.

2. Arthur Borden Roberts (2303880) was born at Canso, Guysborough County on April 30, 1892. According to 1901 and 1911 census records, Arthur was William and Sarah (Price) Roberts’ only child. On April 28, 1915, Arthur married Helen Mae Wallace in a ceremony held in the bride’s home community of Shubenacadie, Hants County. The couple took up residence at Stellarton, where Arthur worked as a machinist, possibly in the local Intercolonial Railway yard.

On October 1, 1917, Arthur attested for overseas service with the Nova Scotia Forestry and Construction Draft at Windsor, NS. Arthur and Helen had a two-month old daughter, Margaret, at the time of his enlistment. Following her husband’s departure, Helen returned to her home community, where she remained throughout Arthur’s overseas service.

Promoted to the rank of Sergeant on the day following his enlistment, Arthur departed for overseas on November 6, 1917 and landed in England two weeks later. Shortly after arriving overseas, he reverted to the rank of Sapper and was assigned to the 85th Engine Crew Company, Canadian Railway Troops (CRT), on November 27. Two weeks later, Arthur crossed the English Channel to France, where he served with his new unit throughout the winter of 1917-18 and into the summer months.

On August 26, Arthur was transferred to the 1st Bridging Company, Canadian Railway Troops, a new unit established in France for service in the eastern Mediterranean. According to its war diary: “An urgent request [had] been received… for a Canadian Bridging Company in Palestine, in view of the special experience of Canadians in this kind of work.” The unit obtained its personnel from various CRT units in France.

A total of five Officers and 244 “other ranks” (OR) departed for Palestine on September 20. Initially promoted to Lance Corporal shortly after his transfer, Arthur advanced to the full rank of Corporal prior to the unit’s departure for Palestine. He and his comrades arrived in Egypt at month’s end and completed preparations for service in the area.

Unfortunately, illness disrupted much of Arthur’s Mediterranean service. On October 25, he was admitted to the hospital ship Assaye, suffering from “PUO,” or “fever of unknown origin.” He was soon diagnosed with malaria and remained under medical care until early December. Briefly discharged to a convalescent camp, Arthur was admitted to No. 21 General Hospital, Alexandria, with tonsillitis on December 7. He was subsequently diagnosed with diphtheria and remained under care until early February 1919.

Arthur rejoined his unit at mid-month, only to depart for England on February 27. Three weeks later, 1st Bridging Company landed in England. Arthur departed for Canada aboard SS Minnekahda on May 14 and arrived at Halifax nine days later. He was formally discharged from military service at Halifax on July 3, 1919.

Following his discharge, Arthur rejoined his wife and daughter at Shunebacadie. While a document in his service file suggests that Arthur spent some time in Trois Rivières, QC in early 1921—perhaps related to his employment—other available information indicates that the couple remained at Shubenacadie. No further information is available on Arthur’s later life or death.

3. Clarence Abner Mills (2649511) was born at Sonora, Guysborough County on July 4, 1895, the third of Charles and Druscilla (Green) Mills’ seven children. Clarence was employed as a munitions worker in New Glasgow when he enlisted with the Canadian Army Service Corps at Halifax, NS on October 2, 1917. He was assigned to the local Military District No. 6 CASC Service Company, where he served as a “Driver.”

While Clarence was transferred to the 1st Depot Battalion, Nova Scotia Regiment, on April 23, 1918, he remained in Halifax throughout his military service and was discharged on “compassionate grounds” on January 16, 1919. His service file provides no explanation for this comment on his discharge certificate.

Clarence subsequently relocated to the United States, eventually settling at Worcester, MA. According to the 1940 United States census, he was married to “Gertrude M.,” a Canadian, and employed as a manager of a local bowling alley. There were no children in the household at that time. No information is available on Clarence’s death and final resting place.

4. Stanley Weston Sutherland (3105231) was born at Country Harbour Guysborough County on March 25, 1892, the ninth of Robert Henry and Elizabeth Jane “Libby” (McKeen) Sutherland’s 12 children. Stanley was living at Brockton, MA and working as a plasterer with Lambert & Hurley, Boston, MA at the time of the United States’ April 1917 entry into the First World War.

Pte. Stanley Sutherland
While Stanley registered for the US military draft at Brockton, MA on June 5, 1917, he subsequently decided to return to Canada for service. On October 8, 1917, he completed his military enlistment documents under the terms of the Military Service Act (1917) at Toronto, ON. Stanley subsequently served in France and Belgium as a “sapper” with the 7th Battalion, Canadian Engineers. Further details on his military service are not presently available.

Following his military discharge, Stanley eventually returned to Nova Scotia, where he married Lois Jean Hudson, a native of Cross Roads Country Harbour, on June 8, 1923. The couple raised a family of three children—two daughters and one son—at Country Harbour. Stanley Weston Sutherland passed away on October 11, 1982 and was laid to rest in Evergreen Cemetery, Country Harbour.

Pte. Stanley Sutherland (standing row, eighth from right).
Stanley’s younger brother, Harry Lee, also enlisted for military service at Saint John, NB on April 4, 1918 but fell ill shortly afterward. Harry died of pneumonia in Saint John Military Hospital on May 22, 1918. Bantry Publishing’s “First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume II: 1918 - 1937” contains a detailed summary of Harry’s story.

5. John Thomas Meagher (2163444) was born on December 1, 1899, the oldest child of John and Elizabeth (McDonald) Meagher, Canso, Guysborough County. Elizabeth passed away from tuberculosis sometime after the 1911 Canadian census. According to provincial death records, a “John J. Meagher,” widower and fisherman, died of “phthisis” [pulmonary tuberculosis] at Canso on April 8, 1915 at the age of 46 years.

With both parents deceased, John attested for service with No, 8 Siege Battery Reinforcement Draft at Halifax, NS on October 10, 1917. Though not yet 18 years old, John gave his birth year as 1898 at the time of his enlistment. He departed Halifax aboard SS Metagama on December 4 and arrived in England 10 days later.

Admitted to military hospital on February 2, 1918 with acute bronchitis, John was discharged after two and a half weeks. He remained in England throughout the spring and early summer of 1918 and finally proceeded to the Canadian Artillery Base Depot in France on August 17, 1918. John was assigned to the 3rd Canadian Brigade’s 9th Siege Battery, Canadian Field Artillery, on September 4 and joined the unit in the field two days later. He served in the forward area throughout the remainder of the war, returning to England on April 25 1919.

On May 31, 1919, John departed for Canada aboard SS Adriatic and arrived at Halifax eight days later. He was formally discharged from military service on June 15, 1919. A medical examination performed prior to his discharge indicated that he suffered from “defective vision,” but otherwise noted no health concerns.

Following his discharge, John returned to Canso, where he resided with an aunt, Margaret (Mrs. John) Grady, to whom he had assigned a portion of his military pay during his overseas service. For several years, he worked as a cable operator at the Commercial Cable Company, Hazel, Hill, but departed for the United States sometime before 1930. He initially lived at Brooklyn, NY and later relocated to Massachusetts. Available records make no reference to marriage and indicate that John Thomas Meagher passed away in Massachusetts in October 1962.

6. Allan Ellsworth Pride (2649514) was born at Sonora, Guysborough County on September 3, 1895, the fourth of Captain Arthur Stinson and Margaret Ann “Maggie” (Dickson) Pride’s six children. Allan was working as a steel worker in New Glasgow when he travelled to Halifax and enlisted with the Canadian Army Service Corps (CASC) on October 11, 1917.

Allan served with No. 6 Company, CASC, at Halifax for the duration of the war. On November 6, 1918, while still enlisted, he married Helen May Fox, a native of Halifax. Following Allan’s discharge, the couple took up residence in the city. After Helen May’s untimely death on an unknown date, Allan married Flora Bell Cross, a native of Tancook Island, on May 20, 1925. Allan was employed as an “optician” at the time of his second marriage. According to available records, Allan Ellsworth passed away at an unspecified location on April 30, 1966.

7. Cecil James Cohoon (2303943) was born at Canso, Guysborough County on September 4, 1896, the youngest of Levi and Catherine Ann “Cassie” (Cavanaugh) Cohoon’s four children. Cecil attested with the Nova Scotia Forestry and Construction Draft at Windsor, NS on October 20, 1917 and departed for England one month later.

Cecil James Cohoon in later life.
Shortly after arriving overseas, Cecil fell ill. Admitted to Windlesham Court Hospital, Sunningdale, on December 30, he was diagnosed with “acute pericarditis.” Cecil remained under medical care for several months, during which time military authorities determined that his heart was enlarged and that he was suffering from VDH (valvular disease of the heart). On June 26, 1918, Cecil was invalided to Canada, where two months later he was discharged as “medically unfit.”

Cecil returned to Canso and resumed work as a fisherman. On November 4, 1920, he married Rose Amanda Eustace. The couple raised a family of nine children in their Canso home. Cecil James Cohoon passed away at Camp Hill Hospital, Halifax, NS on January 3, 1951 and was laid to rest in Canso, NS.

8. Asa Harrington “Harry” Lumsden (1263873) was born at Canso, Guysborough County on November 2, 1887, the fourth of James Robert and Annie Rebecca (McLellan) Lumsden’s seven children. Harry’s younger brother, Percy, enlisted with the 48th Battalion at Victoria, BC on March 1, 1915. The unit was re-designated the 3rd Pioneer Battalion in January 1916 and crossed the English Channel to France in early March, Tragically, Percy was killed by artillery fire near Ypres, Belgium on April 16, 1916.

Pte. Asa Harrington "Harry" Lumsden
A second younger brother, Clarence Basil “Bill,” enlisted with the 25th Battalion at Halifax, NS on February 11, 1915. Bill volunteered for stretcher bearer duty while the unit was in England and subsequently earned the Military Medal for bravery in mid-June 1916 while evacuating wounded soldiers during fighting at Hill 60, near Ypres, Belgium. On October 1, 1916, while retrieving wounded soldiers from the battlefield at Thiepval Ridge, France, a machine gun bullet struck Bill in the left elbow. He was quickly evacuated to 4th General Hospital, Camiers, where surgeons amputated his left arm above the elbow joint. Bill was invalided to England in mid-October and returned Canada in mid-February 1917. He was officially discharged from military service on July 31, 1917.

Considering his brothers’ fate and his age, Harry’s decision to enlist was perhaps somewhat surprising. He had a secure job as labor foreman at A. N. Whitman’s, Canso, but was determined to serve his country. On October 23, 1917, Harry attested with the Nova Scotia Forestry and Construction Draft at Windsor, NS. He departed from Halifax aboard SS Canada on November 9 and landed at Liverpool, England 10 days later.

On December 24, Harry was transferred to the 21st Reserve Infantry Battalion. He spent the winter with the unit before receiving a transfer to the 10th Battalion (Calgary Highlanders) on April 7, 1918. The following day, he became the third member of his family to set foot in France during the war. Harry joined his new unit in the field on April 16 and served in the forward area throughout the summer of 1918.

In early August, the Canadian Corps participated in a major Allied counter-offensive, commencing at Amiens on August 8 and continuing at Arras on August 28. The 10th Battalion saw action in both battles and was in the line at Canal du Nord, near Cambrai, on September 27 for its third major engagement in less than two months. The following day, Harry was wounded in the ankle and invalided to England.

Harry remained in hospital for six weeks before being discharged to the Canadian Convalescent Depot on November 11, 1918. He rejoined the 21st Reserve Battalion’s ranks in mid-January 1919 and departed for Canada aboard HMT Princess Juliana on February 8, 1919. Harry was officially discharged from military service at Halifax on March 8 and returned home to Canso.

Harry resumed his position at A. N. Whitman for several years, but eventually opened his own grocery, confectionary and meat store in the community, in partnership with a friend. On September 29, 1927, Harry married Verna Lewis. He was later appointed to the office of Postmaster, a position he held until his untimely death from complications related to a stroke on April 24, 1948. Harry and Verna had no children.

9. Charles Hadden Spurgeon Sinclair (2303932) was born at Goshen, Guysborough County on April 23, 1893, the seventh of William and Mary (Polson) Sinclair’s 10 children and one of four brothers who enlisted for military service during the First World War. Charlie, as he was known to family, his brother William “Bill,” and a cousin, John Huntley Sinclair, were working in ore mines near Lowell, Arizona in June 1917 when they registered for the United States military draft. Rather than serve with American units, the trio chose to return to Canada and voluntarily enlist.

Left to right: Sinclair brothers James "Jimmy," Peter, Bill & Charlie.
While Bill headed west to British Columbia, Charlie Sinclair travelled to Nova Scotia, where he attested with the Nova Scotia Construction and Forestry Depot at Windsor on October 16, 1917. He departed from Halifax aboard SS Canada on November 9 and landed at Liverpool, England 10 days later. While Charlie initially reported to the Canadian Forestry Corps (CFC) Headquarters at Sunningdale, he never served with a CFC unit.

On December 21, Charlie was transferred to the 21st Reserve Infantry Battalion and commenced training for service in France. On April 7, 1918, Charlie was assigned to the 49th Battalion. Initially recruited in Edmonton, AB, the 49th had arrived in France with the 3rd Canadian Division’s 7th Brigade in October 1915 and served alongside the Royal Canadian Regiment (RCR), Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI) and 42nd Battalion (Royal Highlanders of Canada, Montreal, QC) for the duration of the war.

The day following his transfer, Charlie crossed the English Channel to France and joined the 49th in the forward area on April 16. In early August, the Canadian Corps participated in a major attack on the German line east of Amiens, the beginning of a major Allied counter-offensive. The 49th’s soldiers participated in the August 8 attack and remained in the field for four days as units made significant gains.

Before month’s end, the battalion participated in a second major attack east of Arras. Once again, the 49th participated in the opening stage launched on August 26 and remained in the line for four days. After several days’ rest, the 49th returned to the forward area near Vis-en-Artois on the night of September 4 and re-entered the front trenches the following night. Its soldiers endured heavy artillery fire throughout the next several days.

On September 8, Charlie was admitted to a casualty clearing station for treatment of a shrapnel wound to his right arm. Two days later, he was evacuated to Étaples, where he was admitted to No. 26 General Hospital. His injuries proved to be slight and Charlie was discharged to a nearby Convalescent Depot on September 12. Five days later, he proceeded to St. Martin’s Rest Camp. On September 25, Charlie reported to the Canadian Corps Reinforcement Centre, where he waited less than a week before receiving orders to return to his unit.

Charlie rejoined the 49th in the field on October 3 and served with the battalion for the duration of the war. One month after the November 11 Armistice, he fell ill and was hospitalized at Étaples with influenza on December 13. Discharged on Christmas Eve 1918, Charlie returned to England on January 13, 1919 and reported to the Alberta Regimental Depot, Bramshott. He departed for Canada aboard HMT Celtic on March 10 and landed at Halifax after a six-day passage. Charlie Sinclair was formally discharged from military service on March 30, 1919.

Following his return to civilian life, Charlie married Violet Hodgson and eventually settled at Portage La Prairie, MB, where he worked as a lineman. The couple raised a family of two sons, Huntley and Vernon. No information is presently available on Charlie’s passing.

Charlie's youngest brother, James Murray Sinclair, served overseas with the 85th Battalion from July 1917 until late October 1918, when he was hospitalized near Valenciennes, France for treatment of tonsillitis. Invalided to England, his health worsened and James returned to Canada. He eventually died of tuberculosis at Halifax on August 14, 1919. Bantry Publishing’s “First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume II: 1918 - 1937” contains a detailed summary of James' story.

10. John Huntley Sinclair (2303933) was born at South River Lake, Guysborough County on August 5, 1889, the eighth of Andrew and Christina “Christy” (Stewart) Sinclair’s nine children and one of three brothers who enlisted for military service during the First World War. Huntley was working with two cousins in ore mines near Lowell, Arizona when he registered for the United States military draft in June 1917.

Rather than serve with American forces, he accompanied one cousin, Charlie Sinclair, back home, where the pair enlisted with the Nova Scotia Construction and Forestry Depot at Windsor, NS on October 16, 1917. Their consecutive attestation numbers indicate that they stood in line together on the day of their enlistment, and their military service throughout the war followed the same paths.

On November 9, Huntley departed Halifax aboard HMT Canada and landed at Liverpool, England 10 days later. While he initially reported to the Canadian Forestry Corps’ Sunningdale Headquarters, Huntley accompanied his cousin, Charlie, to the 21st Reserve Battalion on December 24 and commenced training for infantry service in France.

The cousins were assigned to the 49th Battalion (Edmonton, AB) on April 7, 1918 and crossed the English Channel to France the following day. After a brief wait at the Canadian Corps Reinforcement Camp, Huntley accompanied Charlie to the forward area, joining the 49th’s ranks on April 14. Huntley served with the unit throughout the remainder of the war, participating in the major engagements of the Canadian Corps’ “100 Days”at Amiens, Arras and Cambrai. On October 1, he was received a promotion to the rank of Corporal.

Before month’s end, Huntley “proceeded on course to 1st Army Sniping School” and thus was not in the line for the final two weeks of fighting. He rejoined the 49th on November 12 and remained on the continent until February 8, 1919, at which time the battalion returned to England. One month later, Huntley departed for Canada aboard SS Adriatic and was formally discharged at Halifax on March 15, 1919.

Sometime after his return to Canada, Huntley married Florence Koehler, a native of Patterson, NJ. The couple eventually settled in Vancouver, BC, where they had at least one son, Ralph Leonard. Huntley Sinclair passed away at Shaughnessy Hospital, Vancouver, on February 13, 1965.

11. John Edward Worth (2303945) was born at Ogden, Guysborough County on May 7, 1895, the oldest of Edward King and Katherine Ann “Kelly” (McCallum) Worth’s 11 children. John was residing at New Glasgow when he enlisted with the Nova Scotia Railway Construction & Forestry Draft at Windsor, NS on October 20, 1917. No further details are available on his military service, although military records currently available online refer to his rank as “Sapper,” suggesting service with a Canadian Railway Troops or Canadian Engineer unit.

Following his discharge, John returned to Pictou County, where he worked in the local coal mines. On May 22, 1928, he married Mary Agnes MacDougall, a native of Bridgeville, Pictou County, in a ceremony held at Trenton, NS. No further information is available on John’s later life.

John’s younger brother, Joseph Ernest, also enlisted with the Canadian Forestry Corps and served in the Bordeaux region of France with No. 72 Company, CFC. After returning to England in January 1919, Ernie fell ill and passed away from a combination of influenza and pneumonia at Eastbourne, England on February 4, 1919. Bantry Publishing’s “First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume II: 1918 - 1937” contains a detailed description of Ernie Worth’s overseas service.

12. Cecil Otis Boyd (2303957) was born at Canso, Guysborough County on June 26, 1884, the second of Isaiah Hatfield and Sarah Jane (Gregory) Boyd’s four children. As a young man, Cecil worked as a cable operator with the Commercial Cable Company, Hazel Hill. His father Isaiah, a stone mason by trade and a native of Argyle, Yarmouth County, passed away at Canso on March 20, 1910, while his widowed mother, Sarah Jane, died at Canso on January 8, 1916.

On October 23, 1917, Cecil enlisted for military service with the Nova Scotia Railway Construction and Forestry Draft at Windsor, NS. He departed from Halifax aboard SS Canada on November 9 and landed at Liverpool, England 10 days later. Cecil reported to the Canadian Railway Troops Depot, Purfleet, England, where the new arrivals underwent a thorough medical examination. According to a report contained in his service file, Cecil was “thin [and] slightly anaemic” and had “never done manual labour.” Doctors also reported “considerable tachycardia.”

As a result, officials determined that Cecil was “fit for Base Duty” only and he remained at Purfleet throughout the duration of his overseas service. On December 12, 1918, Cecil departed for Canada aboard HMTS Corsican. He arrived at Halifax on Christmas Day 1918 and was formally discharged from military service on January 18, 1919.

Following his discharge, Cecil returned to Canso, where he worked as a book-keeper. On November 18, 1924, he married Flora McPherson, a native of Port Morien, in a ceremony held at Glace Bay, NS. The couple had at least one child, a daughter Elfreda, who tragically died of bronchitis on January 2, 1939 at 13 years of age. Flora passed away at Aberdeen Hospital, New Glasgow, NS on March 7, 1940, the result of breast cancer. Cecil spent his remaining years at Canso, where he passed away in 1972. He was laid to rest in All Saints Anglican Cemetery, Canso, alongside his wife and daughter.

13 & 14. George Stewart Cameron (2100917) was born on February 18, 1899, at New Chester, Guysborough County, a small community located along the Ecum Secum River, near the Halifax County line. His older brother, John Duncan Cameron (2100916), was born on February 25, 1897. The siblings were the youngest of John and Lucinda (Bezanson) Cameron’s seven children. Sometime before 1911, their father passed away and the boys were taken in by their maternal uncle, James Bezanson. Their mother, Lucinda, married Garnet H. Turner, a native of Marie Joseph, at Halifax on September 12, 1912.

By 1917, the brothers had moved to Halifax, where George worked as a plumber and John as a labourer. On October 16, 1917. the pair enlisted with No. 10 Siege Battery at Halifax. They departed from Halifax aboard SS Canada on February 5, 1918 and arrived at Liverpool, England 11 days later. George and John made their way to Camp Witley, where they trained for three months before receiving a transfer to the Canadian Garrison Artillery’s Reserve Brigade on May 23, 1918. One month later, the brothers proceeded to France for service with a heavy artillery unit.

On July 9, George and John were assigned to the 2nd Brigade, Canadian Garrison Artillery and proceeded to the forward area. For unspecified reasons—perhaps their age—the brothers returned to the Canadian Corps Reinforcement Centre’s Artillery Pool on July 27 and remained there until December 30, 1918, when they were assigned to the 3rd Brigade, Canadian Garrison Artillery.

The siblings returned to England on April 2, 1919 and departed for Canada aboard HMT Mauritania one month later. George and John were discharged from military service at Halifax on May 14, 1919. Throughout their military service, both assigned a portion of their monthly pay to their mother, Lucinda.

Following his discharge, George returned to the Ecum Secum area, where he lived with his mother, Lucinda, and step-father, Garnet Turner. On October 26, 1921, he married Emma Maude Mailman, a native of Liscomb Mills. The couple raised a family of two children while George operated Cameron’s Garage at Ecum Secum. He passed away on September 22, 1989 and was laid to rest in Riverside Cemetery, Necum Teuch.

John also returned to Guysborough following his discharge and resided with his mother and step-father. On June 16, 1920, he married Alice Jean Publicover, a native of Ecum Secum, in a ceremony held at Halifax. The couple welcomed their first child, a son Allister, within a year of their marriage. John worked as a farmer and lumberman in the Ecum Secum area. He passed away on February 22, 1973 and was laid to rest in St. James Anglican Church Cemetery, New Chester, Guysborough County.

15. James Edward Tate (2303956) was born at Canso, Guysborough County on December 15, 1891, the elder of Henry Lewis and Elizabeth R. “Libbie” (Dickoff) Tate’s two sons.  Libbie passed away sometime after 1901 and Henry subsequently married Odessa Wilhelmina Simpson, a native of Manchester, Guysborough County, on September 29, 1903.

James attested with the Nova Scotia Construction and Forestry Draft at Windsor, NS on October 23, 1917. At the time of his enlistment, he gave his occupation as “blacksmith and motor work,” James’ father, Henry, was also a blacksmith by trade. No further information is available on James’ military service or later life.

16. Duncan Wendell Stewart (2303972) was born at South River Lake [Argyle], Guysborough County on December 4, 1894, the youngest of John and Christina “Christy” (Henderson) Stewart’s four children. Duncan was also a first cousin to Huntley John Sinclair (number 10 above). On October 27, 1917, Duncan enlisted with the Nova Scotia Construction and Forestry Draft at Windsor, NS. At present, no further details are available on his military service.

Following his discharge, Duncan returned to South River Lake, where he farmed. On June 26, 1923, he married Janet Esther Elsie MacIntosh, a native of Loch Katrine, in a ceremony held at Truro, NS. The couple resided at Loch Katrine. Duncan passed away at Camp Hill Hospital, Halifax on November 23, 1952 and was laid to rest in Kings United Church Cemetery, Loch Katrine, NS.


1. Uriah Furth Mason (VR 5429) was born at Isaac’s Harbour on May 25, 1886, the fourth of Patrick and Harriet C. (Clyburne) Mason’s nine children. Furth was a seaman by occupation and reportedly served aboard CS Mackay-Bennett, a Commercial Cable Company cable repair ship that recovered the majority of bodies after the April 1912 sinking of the ocean liner Titanic.

On November 6, 1917, Furth enlisted with the Royal Naval Canadian Volunteer Reserve (RNCVR). He initially served at Halifax with HMCS Niobe. On May 31, 1918, he was assigned to HMCS Guelph, the vessel on which he served until February 1, 1919. During his naval service, Furth was conscripted into military service (3181288) on March 25, 1918. Officials initially reported him as a “deserter” until discovering he had joined the navy.

Furth was discharged from military service on April 12, 1919 and returned to his civilian career as a mariner. On June 11, 1924, he married Hallie Evelyn Crooks, a native of Seal Harbour, in a ceremony held at Antigonish. The couple raised a family of five children—one daughter and four sons—in their Isaac’s Harbour home. Uriah Furth Mason passed away in April 1970 and was laid to rest in Isaac’s Harbour United Baptist Church Cemetery.

2. Andrew Irvin Jack (2655643) was born at Gegogan, Guysborough County on May 21, 1894, the third of Alfred and Esther Jane (Mailman) Jack’s five children. Alfred passed away on September 12, 1912, leaving his widow to care for their three youngest children. Andrew worked in the local fishery to support the family.

Pte. Andrew Irvin Jack, 85th Battalion.
On November 7, 1917, Andrew was conscripted into the 85th Battalion Reinforcement Draft under the terms of the Military Service Act (1917). Less than a month later, he departed from Halifax aboard SS Metagama and arrived at Liverpool, England after a 10-day passage. Andrew was immediately assigned to the 17th Reserve Battalion, the unit that provided reinforcements for Nova Scotian infantry units in the field. He spent the winter of 1917-18 training in England, finally receiving orders to report for duty with the 85th Battalion on April 7, 1918.

The following day, Andrew crossed the English Channel to France and joined the 85th in the field on May 4. With the exception of a brief period in hospital for treatment of a hernia in early June, he served in the field with the 85th Battalion for the duration of the war. The unit saw action at Amiens (August 8), Arras (August 26) and Cambrai (September 27) as the Canadian Corps participated in a major counter-offensive that eventually led to the November 11, 1918 Armistice.

Andrew remained in Belgium with the 85th throughout the winter of 1918-19. The battalion returned to England on May 4, 1919 and departed for Canada aboard HMT Adriatic at month’s end. Andrew landed at Halifax on June 7 and was discharged from military service at mid-month. He returned to Gegogan, where he took up residence with his widowed mother, younger brother Walter, and sister Lizzie.

On March 30, 1924, Andrew married Margaret Florence Fernandez, a native of the Sherbrooke area. The couple eventually established residence at Sonora, where they raised a family of 11 children—six boys and five girls. Andrew Irvin Jack passed away on April 17, 1987 and was laid to rest in Riverside Cemetery, Sonora.

3. Charles William “Charlie” Marr (3233293) was born at Boylston, Guysborough County on April 16, 1896, the fourth of Lawrence M. and Mary Amanda (McPherson) Marr’s 10 children. Charlie and his younger brother, Michael James, enlisted with the Composite Battalion at Halifax, NS in March 1916, but soon had second thoughts and were “struck off strength” in mid-July. While Michael returned to Guysborough County, Charlie eventually departed for Ontario, where he was drafted into military service at Toronto on November 11, 1917, under the terms of the Military Service Act (1917).
On April 8, 1918, Charlie departed from Halifax aboard HMT Tunisian and arrived at Liverpool, England after an 11-day passage. Assigned to the 12th Reserve Battalion (Ontario) upon arrival, Charlie spent the spring and early summer in training. On August 15, he was assigned to the 75th Battalion (Mississauga, ON) and crossed the English Channel to France. Charlie joined the unit in the forward area on September 3.

Charlie arrived at the front in the midst of a major Allied counter-offensive, launched in early August near Amiens, France. Canadian units were in the midst of their second major engagement in less than a month, registering significant gains east of Arras. Following its conclusion, Canadian units spent several weeks preparing for their next major assignment—an attack on Canal du Nord, near the city of Cambrai.

On the evening of September 26, the 75th assumed its designated assembly position, in preparation for an attack scheduled for the following morning. Charlie and his comrades were in the line at 5:20 a.m. September 27 as forward units attacked Canal du Nord. The 75th and its 11th Brigade comrades advanced behind the first wave of attacking units and prepared for their assignment—an attack on Bourlon Wood scheduled for later in the morning.

The 75th remained in reserve while its three Brigade mates—the 54th, 87th and 102nd Battalions—successfully captured their initial objectives by mid-afternoon. The 75th’s soldiers assisted their comrades in establishing a new defensive line before nightfall. Following a day of inactivity while other units continued the advance, the 11th Brigade returned to support positions behind the front line. On the morning of September 30, the 75th’s soldiers prepared for their first combat at Cambrai.

At precisely 6:00 a.m., the unit’s soldiers advanced with artillery support and immediately encountered intense machine-gun fire that inflicted heavy casualties. While the unit successfully reached its objective—a section of the Cambrai-Douai railway cutting and an adjacent sunken road—the unit on its right flank failed to keep pace. As a result, the 75th was subjected to heavy fire on its exposed flank and eventually retreated to a secure location. Throughout the remainder of the day, the soldiers endured fierce artillery shelling.

The 75th remained in the line throughout the following day, withdrawing to a position south of Bourlon Wood on the evening of October 1. The battalion suffered significant losses during its September 30 attack—eight Officers were killed and 16 wounded, while 85 of its “other ranks” (OR) were killed and 280 wounded. Charlie Marr was one of the day’s fatalities, “killed while taking part in the attack southeast of Sancourt.” He was laid to rest in Canada Cemetery, Tilloy-lez-Cambrai, France.

Pte. Charlie Marr's headstone, Canada Cemetery.
 Bantry Publishing’s “First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Volume II: 1918 - 1935” contains a detailed description of Charle’s family background and military experience.

4. Lawrence Grady (2522470) was born on February 28, 1889, the youngest of four children born to Michael and Catherine (Chisholm) Grady, St. Francis Harbour, Guysborough County. Sometime before 1911, Lawrence relocated to Montreal, where he found employment as an insurance inspector.

On November 29, 1917, Lawrence was conscripted into service with the 79th Battery, Canadian Field Artillery (CFA), under the terms of the Military Service Act (1917). He departed Canada aboard SS Saxonia on February 18, 1918 and arrived at Liverpool, England two weeks later. Assigned to the CFA’s  Reserve Brigade, Lawrence spent six months in England before proceeding to France on October 8 as part of an Artillery Reinforcement Draft. At month’s end, he was assigned to the 79th Battery, 8th Army Brigade, CFA, as a “Driver.”

Lawrence joined his unit in the field on November 1, 1918. Nine days later, he was admitted to No. 10 Canadian Field Ambulance for treatment of a shrapnel wound to his back. His wounds proved to be minor and he was vacuated to No. 1 Casualty Clearing Station before day’s end. Lawrence was discharged to duty on November 14. Four days later, he rejoined the 79th Battery in the field.

On March 2, 1919, Lawrence returned to England with his unit. Three weeks later, he boarded HMT Northland for the return voyage to Canada. Upon arriving at Halifax on April 5, he boarded a train for Montreal, where he was discharged from military service on April 7, 1919. Lawrence gave his proposed address as “29 Hutchinson St., Montreal.” No further information is available on his post-war life, although one available document suggests that Lawrence relocated to the United States, passing away at Salem MA on May 14, 1981.


1. Isaac Norman Fanning (4000071) was born at Isaac’s Harbour, Guysborough County on March 16, 1891, the sixth of Isaac Henry and Emma Elizabeth (McMillan) Fanning’s seven children. Sometime after 1911, Norman relocated to Ontario, where he worked aboard Great Lakes freighters.

On December 3, 1917, Norman was conscripted into service at London, ON, under the terms of the Military Service Act (1917). At the time of his enlistment, he was working aboard SS Sarnolite, an Imperial Oil Company vessel that operated out of Sarnia, ON. Norman had completed his medical examination on October 15, at which time he received a clean bill of health. Prior to his attestation, however, he developed pleurisy and pneumonia. A note on his medical records also indicated that Norman had “flat feet.”

As a result of his health issues, on December 28, Norman received a “leave of absence without pay indefinitely.” Military authorities cancelled his leave on January 12 and Norman reported for duty with the 1st Depot Battalion, Western Ontario Regiment. Perhaps due to concerns with his health, he remained in Canada for the duration of the war and was formally discharged from military service on January 25, 1919.

Norman continued to work on Great Lakes freighters following his discharge, although it appears that he occasionally returned home to Guysborough County. On July 21, 1921, he married Cassie Blanche Sinclair, a native of Goshen. The couple subsequently raised a family of two sons, Charles and James, while Norman worked on the freighters. On February 8, 1932, Isaac Norman Fanning passed away at Isaac’s Harbour following two years of poor health. He was laid to rest in Isaac’s Harbour United Baptist Cemetery.