Contact Information

E-mail: brucefrancismacdonald@gmail.com

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Guysborough County Enlistments - July 26, 1916

On July 26, 1916, two Guysborough County natives enlisted with No. 2 Construction Battalion at New Glasgow, NS:


1. Hartley Jackson was born at Manchester, Guysborough County on May 15, 1897, son of William and Sarah Elizabeth (Williams) Jackson. Hartley arrived in England with No. 2 Construction Battalion on April 7, 1917 and proceeded to France with the unit the following month.

Hartley initially worked with No. 2 Construction in the Canadian Forestry Corps' Jura district, close to the French border with Switzerland. On November 13, he was part of a No. 2 Construction detachment sent to the Bordeaux region of France and attached to No. 37 Company, Canadian Forestry Corps.

During his time at Bordeaux, Hartley suffered an injury to his neck and was hospitalized for five days in early May 1918. He subsequently returned to duty, departing for England with No. 2 Construction personnel in early December. The unit's soldiers returned to Canada aboard the Empress of Britain, arriving at Halifax, NS on January 27, 1919. Two weeks later, Hartley was discharged from milirary service and returned to Boylston, Guysborough County.

Hartley married Cora May Morris at Boylston in 1920. The couple later relocated to Priestville, Pictou County. No information on Hartley’s passing available at this time.

2. Angus Talbot was born at Mulgrave, Guysborough County on May 15, 1897, son of Edward and Elizabeth “Lizzie” (Bennett) Talbot. Angus’s three brothers—James Alexander, Wallace and William John—had enlisted with No. 2 Construction on the day prior to Angus’s attestation.

Following the war, Angus relocated to Sydney, where his mother was living. He married Rhoda Hanrahan in 1926 and worked as a miner and steelworker. Angus passed away at Sydney on December 6, 1955 and was laid to rest in Hardwood Hill Cemetery, Sydney.

Monday, 25 July 2016

Guysborough County's First No. 2 Construction Battalion Enlistments

On July 25, 1916, six African Nova Scotian men with connections to Guysborough County enlisted for overseas service with No. 2 Construction Battalion at New Glasgow, NS. Authorized on July 5, 1916 and headquartered at Pictou, NS, the unit was commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Daniel H. Sutherland, River John, Pictou County. While No. 2 Construction mounted a nation-wide recruitment campaign, expanding into the United States during the winter of 1916-17, the vast majority of its approximately 700 recruits came from Nova Scotia.

No. 2 Construction Battalion Soldiers, November 1916.
At least 25 individuals with connections to Guysborough County enlisted for service with No. 2 Construction Battalion. The first six completed their attestation papers at New Glasgow, NS on July 25, 1916:

1. Howard Desmond was born on March 7, 1896 at Guysborough, NS to Cranswick and Annie Desmond. In the years following the war, Howard married Lillian May Clark (1920) and worked as a coal miner in the Pictou County area. He passed away at Tony River, Pictou County on December 25, 1951, the result of accidental drowning.

2. Joseph Alexander “Joe” Parris was born at Sand Point, near Mulgrave, Guysborough County, on March 20, 1899. Joe’s parents were Charles Levi and Annie (Izzard) Parris. His older brother, William Winslow "Bill", later enlisted with No 2 Construction. Following his return to Canada, Joe worked in the Mulgrave railway yard. In 1924, He married Annie Jane Jarvis, who passed away in 1936. Joe subsequently married Viola Jane Borden and raised a large family in their Mulgrave home. A member of the local branch of the Royal Canadian Legion, Joe passed away at Mulgrave on April 19, 1972. A detailed story of Joe’s war service is available on this blog.

Pte. Joseph Alexander "Joe" Parris (center).
3. George William Reddick was born on April 28, 1892 at Mulgrave, the son of Walter Havelock and Margaret (Izzard) Reddick. George married Mary Evelyn Bowles at River Hebert in 1921, and worked as a coal miner in the Amherst area for a number of years. A well-known fiddle maker, George returned to the Guysborough area in his later years. He passed away at Guysborough Memorial Hospital Hospital on April 12, 1978 and was laid to rest in St. Monica’s Cemetery, Lincolnville.

Pte. George William Reddick (right) & Pte. William Winslow "Bill" Parris.
4. James Alexander Talbot (Tarbot) was born at Mulgrave in 1892 to Edward and Elizabeth “Lizzie” (Bennett) Talbot. Following his return to Canada, James married Margaret LeBlanc in 1924. He subsequently married Josephine Jarvis in 1936, following his first wife’s passing.

5. Wallace Talbot was born at Sand Point, near Mulgrave, on May 2, 1889 to Edward and Elizabeth “Lizzie” (Bennett) Talbot. A brother to James Alexander, Wallace was married to Elizabeth Margaret Blackney at the time of his enlistment. He worked as a coal miner and cement worker following his return to Canada, passing away at Camp Hill Hospital, Halifax on July 9, 1949. Wallace was laid to rest at New Glasgow, NS.

6. William John Talbot, brother of James Alexander and Wallace, was born at Mulgrave on September 2, 1896. He lived in the Sydney area following the war, marrying Agnes McKinnon in 1924. William worked as a foreman in the general yard of a local steel company. He passed away from tuberculosis at Sydney on February 9, 1945.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Remembering Cyril Newton Ward (1893 - 1981)

Cyril Newton Ward was born at Canso, Guysborough County on October 6, 1893. His father, Charles Hurd Ward, a native of Sydney, NS, worked as a telegraph operator at Commercial Cable Company. His mother, Kate Ravenhill Stickland, was a native of Woodstock, NB whose family operated a mercantile business at Amherst, NS. The third of four children, Cyril spent his childhood years in Canso, and was residing there at the time of the 1901 Canadian census. A decade later, however, the family was no longer living in Nova Scotia.

A member of the generation most affected by the outbreak of the First World War, Cyril was working as a bank clerk when he enlisted for service with the 67th Battery, Canadian Field Artillery, at Toronto, ON. His mother, listed as next of kin on his attestation form, was living at Sausalito, California at the time of his enlistment, suggesting that his parents had relocated to the United States.

Charles subsequently returned to Canada aboard SS Olympic in April 1919. While he worked in the banking industry at locations across Canada and the United States, he never forgot his childhood roots. Following his retirement in 1958, Cyril returned to Guysborough, where he spent his remaining years. He passed away there on July 17, 1981 and was laid to rest in Evergreen Cemetery, Guysborough.


An avid reader throughout his life, Cyril left a generous bequest to the Municipality of Guysborough for the establishment of a public library. The Cyril Ward Memorial Library opened its doors on August 6, 1986 and continues to provide the local public with access to reading material and a variety of educational activities to this day.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Remembering Oscar Howe Kirk - Died of Wounds July 18, 1916

Oscar Howe Kirk was born at Riversdale, Queens County on October 19, 1891, the fourth of five children raised by Rev. Joseph Howe and Laura (Christie) Kirk. Oscar’s father, Joseph, taught school at Cross Roads, Guysborough County for several years before completing studies for the Presbyterian ministry at Halifax, NS. In September 1913, Rev. Kirk returned to Guysborough County with his family and assumed the pastorate of Presbyterian congregations at Glenelg, Guysborough County and East River St. Mary’s, Pictou County.

Kirk family portrait, Oscar on his mother's lap.
On May 31, 1915, Oscar attested for overseas service with the 35th Battalion (Central Ontario) at Niagara Camp, ON. After spending the autumn and winter in England, Oscar was transferred to the 21st Battalion (Eastern Ontario) on April 1, 1916 and arrived in its camp near Ypres, Belgium, three weeks later.

Pte. Oscar Howe Kirk (top row, left) & his 35th Battalion platoon.

Upon arriving at the front, Oscar served a regular rotation with the 21st, returning with his comrades to the trenches near Voormezeele on July 15. After a quiet two days in the line, Oscar was severely wounded on July 18 and rushed to a nearby Casualty Clearing, where he succumbed to his injuries. He was laid to rest in Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, Belgium. In the years following the war, Oscar’s older sister, Jessie Katherine, visited his grave in the company of her husband, who had travelled to Europe to study medicine.

Pte. Oscar Howe Kirk's final resting place.
Bantry Publishing’s “First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume I: 1915 - 1917,” available for purchase online at Bantry Publishing’s website, contains a detailed description of Oscar’s family background and war service.

Family photograph courtesy of Oscar's great-niece, Paula Olsen, Railroad Flat, CA. Platoon photo courtesy of David Archer, Toronto, ON. Photograph of Oscar's headstone courtesy of Allon Lloyd, Kingston, ON, webmaster of "The 21st Battalion CEF" website. 

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Remembering Pte. Vernon Earle - Died of Wounds July 14, 1916

Vernon Earle was the third of five children born to Edmund Paige and Louisa Clarke (Hadley) Earle. Louisa was a native of Mulgrave, Guysborough County. The couple was residing at Heart’s Content, NL, at the time of Vernon’s birth, but later relocated to Canso, where Edmund worked as a telegraphist with the Commercial Cable Company, Hazel Hill, and Vernon spent his childhood.


Vernon enlisted with the 48th Battalion at Victoria, BC on March 18, 1915. Percy Lumsden, a Canso native who was later killed in Belgium’s Ypres Salient on April 16, 1916, was among his initial comrades. The two parted ways after the 48th arrived in England, as Vernon was transferred to the 27th Infantry Battalion (“City of Winnipeg”) on September 10, 1915.

Vernon joined his new unit in the Belgian trenches on October 1, 1915, serving throughout the winter and spring of 1915-16 on rotation in the Ypres area. On July 12, 1916, Vernon was wounded in the stomach by machine gun fire while on a “ration party” and was evacuated to No. 3 Casualty Clearing Station for treatment. He succumbed to his injuries two days later and was laid to rest in Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, Belgium.

Vernon is one of 72 soldiers whose detailed story is included in “First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume I: 1915 - 1917,” available online from Bantry Publishing.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Remembering Pte. Courtney Williams - KIA July 13, 1916

Courtney Williams was born at Cole Harbour, Guysborough County on April 2, 1897, the third of ten children raised in the home of Elisha and Georgina (Harrigan) Williams. Inspired by his older brothers, Burt and Jim, who enlisted for overseas service in early 1915, Courtney attempted to join the 25th Battalion at Halifax in April 1915, but was rejected as medically unfit. Undeterred, he travelled to Camp Aldershot, NS in August 1915, enlisted with the 40th Battalion, and passed the initial medical examination. A bout of illness the following month, however, led to his discharge on medical grounds.

Determined to follow his two brothers overseas, Courtney enlisted for a third time on November 14, 1915, joining the ranks of 2nd Pioneer Battalion at North Sydney, NS. On this occasion, he succeeded in making his way to England and into the trenches of Belgium’s Ypres Salient, where he and his fellow “pioneers” constructed the various facilities required by infantry, artillery and machine gun units deployed at the front.

Pte. Courtney Williams' final resting place.
On July 13, 1916, 19-year-old Courtney Williams was killed by rifle grenade fire while on a work party near Dickebusch, Belgium. Initially buried near the location where he died, Courtney was later laid to rest in Dickebusch New Military Cemetery, Belgium.

Courtney is among the 72 soldiers whose detailed stories are included in “First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume I: 1915 - 1917,” available online from Bantry Publishing.

Photograph of Courtney Williams' headstone and family information courtesy of Norma (Williams) Harrelson, Tucson, Arizona.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Guysborough County Enlistments - July 10, 1916

Two Guysborough County natives attested for service with Canadian Expeditionary Force units on July 10, 1916. Neither return from the battlefields of the Western Front.

Roland “Rollie” Ash was born at Guysborough on September 6, 1894, the oldest of James Stanley and Esther (Parris) Ash’s 11 chlidren. Several years after Rollie’s birth, the family relocated to Antigonish, where Rollie married Reta Jackson, a native of Boston, MA, on May 27, 1915. A little more than one year later, Rollie attested for overseas service with the 106th Battalion (Nova Scotia Rifles) at Truro, NS. His younger brother, Norman, had joined the same unit four days previously.

One of a handful of infantry units to accept African Canadian soldiers into its ranks, the 106th departed Halifax for England on July 15, 1916 but was disbanded several months after its overseas arrival. Rollie and Norman were amongst a group of 106th soldiers transferred to the 26th Battalion (New Brunswick), “brigade mates” to the 15th (Nova Scotia), on September 27, 1916.

The reinforcements arrived in the 26th’s camp in early October 1916, as the unit rebuilt its decimated ranks following combat at both Courcelette and Regina Trench in the previous weeks. In mid-October, the battalion relocated to the Lens Sector, where Rollie served a regular trench rotation throughout the autumn and winter of 1916.

Private Rollie Ash was killed on January 16, 1917, while participating in a trench raid near Angres, France. His younger brother, Norman, was later killed at Hill 70, near Lens, on August 15, 1917. Neither brother’s remains were recovered from the battlefield.

The Ash brothers' names on the Antigonish Cenotaph.
Albyn R. Smith was born at St. Francis Harbour, Guysborough County on August 10, 1894. His family background remains a mystery, as Albyn was adopted by Jeffrey and Charlotte Parker, Larry’s River, sometime before 1901.

Albany enlisted with the Halifax Composite Battalion at Halifax on July 10, 1916. He was transferred to the 60th Battalion (Victoria Rifles of Canada) after arriving in England, serving with the unit in France from November 1916 until its dissolution in late April 1917.

Albyn was subsequently transferred to 5th Battalion Canadian Mounted Rifles (CMR). He served with his new unit throughout the summer of 1917, and was killed in action at Passchendaele, Belgium on October 30, 1917. His remains were never recovered from the battlefield.

Albyn Smith's name (488357) on the Menin Gate, Ypres, Belgium.
 Rollie’s and Albyn’s stories are among the 72 detailed profiles included in Bantry Publishing’s “First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume I: 1915 - 1917.”