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.