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Monday, 29 November 2021

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

 This blog post is the fifth in a series, summarizing the information available on the life and First World War service of Guysborough County's 25 No. 2 Construction Battalion enlistments. Readers are asked to notify the blog author if there are any errors, or if a reader has additional information on any of the men profiled in these posts.

 

13. Private James William Desmond:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

14. Private Alexander Elms:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 15. Private Alexander Benjamin Elms:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 31 October 2021

Guysborough County's No. 2 Construction Battalion Enlistments, Part 4

 This blog post is the fourth in a series, summarizing the information available on the life and First World War service of Guysborough County's 25 No. 2 Construction Battalion enlistments. Readers are asked to notify the blog author if there are any errors, or if a reader has additional information on any of the men profiled in these posts.


10. Private James Lavin Day:

 According to his military service file, James Lavin Day was born at Big Tracadie, Guysborough County, on June 30,1898. His death certificate lists John F. Garo [sic - Gero], son of Francis and Jane Gero, Upper Big Tracadie, as his father. James’ mother, Harriet, was the daughter of John and Elizabeth Day. The 1901 Canadian census lists Harriet E. Day living at Tracadie with her older brother, John W., farmer and head of the household. No other residents are listed in census data.

On July 16, 1907, Harriet married widower Charles Cranswick Reddick at Guysborough, NS. A farmer and native of Tracadie Road, Guysborough County, Charles was the son of William C. and Ada Ann Reddick. The 1911 census lists James “Laffin” [sic] Reddick as “son, living in the Upper Big Tracadie home of Charles C. and Harriet Reddick. Also residing in the home is Gertie, Charles’ daughter by his first marriage to Louisa Jordan.

James enlisted with No. 2 Construction Battalion at Truro, NS, on September 22, 1916. He had been on its payroll for two weeks at that time. James spent the winter of 1916-17 in Truro and was briefly hospitalized with minor ailments twice during that time. On March 25, 1917, he boarded SS Southland along with his No. 2 Construction mates for the journey across the North Atlantic, arriving at Liverpool, UK, two weeks later.

On May 17, 1917, James landed in France with a large group of No. 2 Construction personnel. The group made its way to the Jura District, near the Swiss border, where its members commenced work harvesting and processing timber alongside several Canadian Forestry Corps (CFC) Companies. James remained in the Jura District until December 30, 1917, when he was transferred to No. 1 CFC District, Alençon with 180 No. 2 Construction personnel and two officers. The group consisted largely—but not entirely—of individuals from the Caribbean Islands or southern United States. Military authorities had assumed±without any supporting evidence—that the cold winters in the mountainous Jura region might negatively impact their health.

The Alençon operation consisted of nine CFC Companies logging the Normandy forests. No. 2 Construction personnel were attached to No. 54 Company, CFC, during their time there. In late March 1918, the entire district commenced production of “pickets”—posts used to support trench walls and dugouts—as the German spring offensive commenced.

While CFC units received orders in early April 1918 to commence infantry training when personnel were not working in the forests or lumber mills, there is no evidence to suggest that any of the No. 2 Construction men participated in this activity. In early October 1918, a small detachment of six non-commissioned officers and 150 “other ranks” left Alençon for the Canadian Corps Reinforcement Camp. There were no No. 2 Construction personnel among their number.

When the November 11, 1918 Armistice brought fighting to an end, CFC timber activity ceased and harvested logs were quickly processed. No. 2 Construction personnel were the first to leave the continent, congregating at Étaples, France, in early December and crossing the English Channel to the United Kingdom as one group on December 14, 1918. The men remained there barely one month, departing for Canada aboard the Empress of Britain on January 12, 1919.

James was officially discharged from military service at Halifax, NS, on February 15, 1919, and returned home to Upper Big Tracadie. In early November 1922, military officials sent his service medals to the same address. James Lavin Day passed away at “his brother’s home in Upper Big Tracadie” on November 20, 1923. He was 25 years old at the time of his passing. “Brights disease”—known today as nephritis, a kidney ailment—was identified as the cause of death. James’ brother, Howard W., husband of Ida May Gero, was the informant. James Lavin Day was laid to rest in Hillcrest Cemetery, Tracadie.

11. Private Matthew Day:

 According to his attestation papers, Matthew Day was born at Upper Big Tracadie, Guysborough County, in January 1875, the son of Matthew Sr. and Margaret (Gero) Day. Several other documents, however, suggest that he was at least 10 years older at the time of his military enlistment. The 1871 Canadian census lists Matthew, age seven, as one of eight children living in the Day household at the time. The 1881 census gives his age as 18, while the 1901 census stated that he was born on September 5, 1868. The documents suggest that his birth likely occurred between 1863 and 1868.

Sometime between 1881, Matthew married Eliza Jane Byard, daughter of John and Rebecca (Parris) Byard, Guysborough. Over the following years,11 children joined the Day family—daughters Lily, Margaret, Rosline [also listed as Rossie in census records], Melinda, May and Gertrude, and sons Cyrus [also listed as Cylas in census records], George, Gordon, William Spurgeon and Aubrey.

Despite his age and family circumstances, Matthew enlisted with No. 2 Construction Battalion at Truro, NS, on January 20, 1917. At the time, the unit was feverishly attempting to fill its ranks prior to departing for overseas, which may explain its willingness to accept a recruit who claimed to be 42 years old at the time, and was likely at least 10 years older. Matthew was briefly hospitalized at Truro in early February for treatment of “pyrexia” [fever of unknown origin], but departed for overseas with the unit aboard SS Southland on March 25, 1917.

Matthew disembarked at Liverpool, UK, on April 8, 1917. While a large contingent of his No. 2 Construction mates departed for France in mid-May 1917, Matthew remained in England, where he was posted to the Nova Scotia Regimental Depot (NSRD), Camp Bramshott, on May 22. He remained with the Depot Company for five weeks before being posted to the 17th Reserve Battalion—the unit that provided reinforcements for the 25th (Nova Scotia Rifles) and 85th (Nova Scotia Highlanders) Battalions.

While Matthew’s record contains no reference to hospitalization during his time overseas, military officials were apparently concerned with his physical suitability for overseas duty. On September 6, 1917, a Medical Board declared that he suffered from “debility” and was therefore not fit for military service. One week later, he was transferred from the 17th Reserve Battalion to the Nova Scotia Regimental Depot. A note on his service file, dated, September 20, indicated that Matthew was “awaiting embarkation to Canada.”

On October 28, 1917, Matthew departed from Liverpool, UK, aboard SS Missanabie and arrived at Halifax, NS, on November 9. He was immediately admitted to Camp Hill Hospital, where he underwent treatment for pulmonary fibrosis and myalgia. A note in his service file provided more details on the military’s decision to return Matthew to Canada:

“Carried on in Canada fairly well[;] when he got to England[, he] complained of pain in muscles; easily fatigued and much distress about shoulders when carrying anything. Was returned to Canada Nov 1917 for overage. He is small [in] stature [Matthew was five feet five inches tall]…. Heart negative, frequency of urination at night[,] getting up several times during night. Brothers have history of T.B. [tuberculosis]…”

Matthew was discharged from military service at Halifax on February 28, 1918, and returned home. The 1921 Canadian census lists Matthew Day, age 65, occupation “plasterer,” living at Upper Big Tracadie with his wife Eliza and their five youngest children—George, age 18; Gordon, age 14; William, age 12; Gertrude, age 11; and Aubrey, age nine.

Eliza Jane Day passed away at home from “Bright’s disease”—known today as nephritis—on August 23, 1923. 58 years old at the time of her death, she was laid to rest in Upper Big Tracadie Cemetery. Matthew lived the remainder of his years in his home community, passing away on January 19, 1948. While his death certificate gives the cause as “old age” and states his age as 95, it is more likely that Matthew was in his early 80s at the time of his passing.

 12. Private Howard Cranswick Desmond:

 According to the 1901 Canadian census, Howard Cranswick Desmond was born at Prospect [Sunnyville], Guysborough Co., NS, on March 7, 1897, the youngest of Cranswick Jost and Lucretia A. (Jewel) Desmond’s three children. Cranswick was the son of Richard and Violet Desmond, while Lucretia was the daughter of John and Catherine Jewel. The couple were married at Guysborough on January 1, 1890.

The family surname was spelled a variety of ways in official documents. Cranswick Jost’s 1890 marriage registration spells the surname “Dismore,” while the 1891and 1911 Canadian census records use the surname “Dismal.” Perhaps the most unusual version was the 1901 census entry, which used the spelling “Disney.” Howard Cranswick’s First World War service file followed today’s convention, recording his surname as “Desmond.”

At the time of the 1891 census, Cranswick and Lucretia were residing at Guysborough with Cranswick’s parents, Richard and Violet. During the ensuing decade, Lucretia gave birth to three children—a son Lindsay (February 15, 1893), a daughter “Gussie” (February 17, 1895), and their youngest child, Howard Cranswick.

Lucretia passed away sometime between Howard’s birth and the 1901 census, which lists Cranswick J. as a “widow.” No record of Lucretia’s passing can be located. On May 5, 1905, Cranswick Jost Desmond married Sarah Caroline Shepherd, daughter of John and Josephine Shepherd, Guysborough. By 1911, a fourth child—a daughter, Martha (August 1909)—had joined the Desmond household.

Howard Cranswick Desmond attested for service with No. 2 Construction Battalion at New Glasgow, NS, on July 25, 1916. Howard was among the unit’s earliest recruits, enlisting only three weeks after its official formation. At the time of his enlistment, documents recorded his birth year as 1896. Howard served with the unit throughout its time in Nova Scotia and departed for overseas aboard SS Southland on March 25, 1917.

Howard and his mates landed at Liverpool, UK, on April 7 and spent less than six weeks in England. On May 17, a large contingent of No. 2 Construction soldiers crossed the English Channel to France. Howard was one of the 525 men who made their way to the Jura District of France for service with the Canadian Forestry Corps (CFC). With the exception of a two-week leave to the United Kingdom in mid-September 1918, he spent the duration of his time on the continent working alongside several CFC Companies, harvesting and processing timber from the Jura forests.

For reasons that are not explained on the documents in his service file, Howard did not return to the United Kingdom with No. 2 Construction. While the vast majority of his comrades departed the continent mid-December 1918 and left for Canada on January 12, 1919, Howard remained in France until January 18, 1919, at which time he was posted to the Nova Scotia Regimental Depot, Bramshott, “for the purpose of demobilization” and remained there for more than two months. On March 30, 1919, Howard departed Glasgow, Scotland, for Canada aboard SS Saturnia. A week and a half later, he arrived at Halifax, NS, and was formally discharged from military service on April 14, 1919.

Shortly after returning to civilian life, Howard relocated to New Glasgow, NS. On March 23, 1920, he married Lillian May Clark, daughter of Charles and Martha Jane (Pelley) Clark, Guysborough, in a ceremony held in the home of Mr. Leslie Izzard, New Glasgow. The couple established residence in New Glasgow, where Howard initially worked as a “common labourer,” but later found employment in the local coal mines.

On October 5, 1931, Lillian May passed away at home after a brief illness and was laid to rest in Lorne St. Cemetery, New Glasgow. She was 32 years old at the time of her death. Following his wife’s death, Howard remained in the community, working in the mines. On December 25, 1951, he perished in an automobile accident when a truck in which he was a passenger “crashed through the railing of the Toney River Bridge, and dropped into the Toney River.” His son Walter, Reservoir, New Glasgow, was the informant on his death certificate. Howard Cranswick Desmond was laid to rest in New Glasgow, NS.

Wednesday, 29 September 2021

Guysborough County's No. 2 Construction Battalion Enlistments, Part 3

 This blog post is the third in a series, summarizing the information available on the life and First World War service of Guysborough County's 25 No. 2 Construction Battalion enlistments. Readers are asked to notify the blog author if there are any errors, or if a reader has additional information on any of the men profiled in these posts.


 7. John Clarke:

According to the 1901 Canadian census, John P. Clarke was born on January 18, 1895. While his military attestation identifies his birthplace only as “Guysborough County,” his mother, Ellen Emma Clark (sometimes recorded as Clyke), was the daughter of John Clark and Eliza Izzard, Boylston, suggesting that this may have been John’s birthplace as well. John’s service file identifies his father as George Clark, although his younger brother Andrew’s marriage license lists his name as “William Clark,” a native of South America.

At the time of the 1901 census, six-year-old John was living at Halifax with a younger sister, one-year-old Maggie, and his mother Ellen, age 28, who was listed as head of the household. By 1911, the family had relocated to Curry’s Lane, Sydney, where Ellen—still listed as family head but now identified as a widow—worked as a “washerwoman.” A younger brother, Andrew, born in March 1905, and a boarder—28-year-old Samuel Carter, a native of Barbados—also resided in the home. The presence of an immigrant from a Lesser Antilles island in the household and an adjacent structure containing eight labourers from Barbados raises the possibility that John’s father may have been from this South American location.

John enlisted with No. 2 Construction Battalion at Sydney, NS, on August 11, 1916. His stated occupation was “labourer,” although another document in his service file lists his civil occupation as “mechanic.” John assigned a portion of his pay to his widowed mother Ellen, who was living at Tupper St., Whitney Pier, at the time of his enlistment

On March 25, 1917, John departed for the United Kingdom with No. 2 Construction Battalion aboard SS Southland and arrived at Liverpool two weeks later. He was part of a large contingent of No. 2 Construction personnel who landed in France on May 17, 1917, and proceeded to the Canadian Forestry Corps’ for Jura District, where the men harvested, processed and shipped timber alongside several CFC Companies.

John spent his entire time overseas in the Jura District. On December 12, 1918, he returned to the United Kingdom with his No. 2 Construction comrades and departed for Canada aboard SS Empress of Britain one month later. John was formally discharged from military service at Halifax, NS, on February 13, 1919.

At the time of his discharge, he gave his intended place of residence at Tupper St., Sydney, NS. His First World War medals were dispatched to the same location several years later, although a replacement set was sent to RR # 1, Boylston, on January 29, 1959. No further information is available on John’s post-war life.

John’s younger brother, Andrew William, married Sarah Lawrence, daughter of Nathaniel and Susan Lawrence, Boylston, in a ceremony held at the United Baptist Parsonage, Boylston, on April 14, 1925. Andrew passed away at New Glasgow, NS, on August 29, 1997, and was laid to rest in Lorne St. Cemetery, New Glasgow. According to available records, Andrew and Sarah had one daughter, Vivian.

Andrew and John’s mother, Ellen Emma Clark, passed away at Mulgrave, NS, on July 4, 1949, at 79 years of age. According to her death certificate, she was born at Boylston, Guysborough County, on March 9, 1870. Mrs. Maggie Small, Mulgrave—Ellen’s daughter—is listed as informant.

8. Joseph Palmer Clyke:

According to his military attestation, Joseph Palmer Clyke was born at Sherbrooke, Guysborough County, on May 24, 1881. While Joseph’s 1908 marriage license identifies his parents as Martin and Elizabeth Clyke, the couple’s marriage record suggests that Joseph was a child of a previous marriage. Martin, son of James and Elizabeth Clyke, Tracadie, was a widower at the time of his January 3, 1888 marriage to Elizabeth Elms, daughter of Alex and Johanna Elms, also residents of Tracadie.

The 1901 census identifies Joseph Clyke, age 20, as residing at Truro, the stepson of Elizabeth Clyke, widowed head of the household. On February 8, 1908, Joseph married Rachel Annie Borden, widow and daughter of Robert and Sarah (Brodie) Connolly (Conley), in a ceremony held at Truro. The couple was still residing in the community in 1911, in the company of three young children—Sidney (1908), Susie (1908) and Edna (1910)—and two older children, Aubrey (1900) and Roland (1902)—possibly from Rachel’s first marriage.

Joseph enlisted with No. 2 Construction Battalion at Truro on August 22, 1916. Three months later, however, he was discharged as “medically unfit (defective vision).” Undaunted, Joseph re-enlisted at Truro on February 2, 1917. At the time, the unit was struggling to complete its ranks and was perhaps willing to overlook the earlier discharge. Joseph departed for overseas with No. 2 Construction aboard SS Southland on March 25, 1917, and disembarked at Liverpool, UK, on April 7.

On May 17, a large contingent of No 2 Construction personnel proceeded to France for service with the Canadian Forestry Corps (CFC). Joseph was among their ranks and travelled with his comrades to the Jura District of France, close to the border with Switzerland, where the unit worked alongside members of several CFC companies in harvesting timber from the area’s forests.

Joseph served with No. 2 Construction in the Jura District for 18 months and returned to the United Kingdom with his comrades on December 14, 1918. One month later, he returned to Canada aboard HMT Aquitania, arriving at Halifax on January 24, 1919. Joseph was discharged from military service at Halifax on February 18, 1919, and returned home to Truro, where Rachel and his children had resided during his absence.

Shortly after Joseph’s return, the Clyke family had relocated to Springhill, where Joseph found employment as a “fireman” in the local coal mines. The 1921 census data lists a household of five, consisting of Joseph, Rachel and three children—Susie, and 13, Edna, age 11, and Robert, age eight. The house also contained seven individuals of various ages—four adults and one three-person family, all of whom were identified as “boarders.”

On November 18, 1925, tragedy struck the family when 51-year-old Rachel suffered a cerebral haemorrhage and passed away. The following year, Joseph married Eliza Bell Churnley, a 38-year-old widow and native of Amherst. Joseph remained in Springhill for the remainder of his life, retiring from work in the local mines in 1945. He passed away there on April 17, 1953, and was laid to rest in Hillside Cemetery, Springhill, NS.

9. George Edward Conley (Connolly):

According to his military attestation, George Edward Conley was born at Glace Bay, NS, on February 10, 1899. A second item in his service file gives his birth place as New Glasgow, NS, while his death certificate states that he was born at Mulgrave, Guysborough County. While the spelling of the family surname varies throughout available documents—Connolly, Connelly, Conley—the vast majority in George’s service file use the spelling “Conley.”

Available sources indicate that George was the son of Thomas and Ada (Somers) Connolly. According to George’s marriage record, Thomas was a Barbados native, while Ada was the daughter of John and Sarah Jane Somers, Melford, Guysborough County. Thomas and Ada were married at Truro on May 6, 1893.

At the time of the 1901 census, Thomas and Ada were living in New Glasgow. No children were recorded as living in the household. By 1911, the couple had relocated to Glace Bay, where Thomas worked in the local coal mines. One child, 13-year-old George, was also living in the home, listed as “adopted son.”

On September 8, 1916, George enlisted with No. 2 Construction Battalion at its Pictou, NS headquarters. He identified his mother, Mrs. Thomas Conley, Mulgrave, NS, as next of kin on his attestation form. George departed for overseas with the unit on March 25, 1917, and disembarked at Liverpool, UK, on April 7. He was part of a large contingent of 525 No. 2 Construction personnel who departed for France on May 17 for service with the Canadian Forestry Corps (CFC).

George spent 18 months working alongside CFC units in the Jura District of France before returning to the United Kingdom with his comrades on December 14, 1918. One month later, he departed for Canada aboard SS Empress of Britain. The vessel arrived at Halifax, NS, on January 22, 1919. George was discharged from military service on February 15, 1919, and gave  his intended address at the time as Box 36, New Aberdeen, NS.

The 1921 Canadian census lists George Connolly, occupation miner, living in the Glace Bay home of Jennie Walcutt, age 39. While the entry identified George as Jennie’s step-son, she was actually his sister, Maudie Jane Connolly, who had married Edward Christopher Walcott, a Barbados native, at Mulgrave, NS, in August 1917.

George remained in the Glace Bay area for several decades. During that time, his mother, Ada Ann, passed away there on March 15, 1925, and was laid to rest in St. Mary’s Cemetery. On June 22, 1929, George married Ida Jean Talbot, daughter of Fred Albert and Delia (Parris) Talbot, Glace Bay. 

In later life, George and Ida relocated to Mulgrave, George joined Mulgrave Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion on July 12, 1955. His membership sponsored by fellow No. 2 Construction Battalion veteran Joe Parris and seconded by W. N. Meagher.  

George passed away suddenly at Mulgrave on March 26, 1963, the result of a stroke. He had been “under medical care” since September 1956 and last worked as a “general labourer” in 1960. George was laid to rest in Mulgrave.