Contact Information

E-mail: brucefrancismacdonald@gmail.com

Friday, 19 July 2019

Remembering Colonel Allison Hart Borden—Died of Sickness July 19, 1932

Allison Hart Borden was born on March 31, 1878, at Guysborough, NS, the youngest of Reverend Jonathan Rand and Mary Elizabeth (Ells) Borden’s three children. Jonathan, a Methodist minister, was tending to a local congregation at the time of his second son’s birth. The family had roots in the Annapolis Valley and eventually established residence at Sheffield, Kings County, sometime during the 1890s.

Colonel Allison Hart Borden

Following Jonathan’s sudden passing in 1893, the family remained at Sheffield, where Allison completed his secondary education. He enrolled in Acadia University’s Bachelor of Arts program in 1899 and enlisted with the 68th King’s County regiment—a local militia unit—in September 1900. Following his sophomore year, Borden transferred to Mount Allison University, Sackville, NB, where he graduated with first class honours in Philosophy in June 1903. By that time, he had advanced to the militia rank of Lieutenant.

Borden’s initial impulse was to pursue a career in law. After spending the summer in the employ of a Halifax law firm, he enrolled at Dalhousie University in the autumn of 1903, but within a year abandoned the courtroom in favour of the battlefield. On October 26, 1904, he officially resigned his militia commission and the following day enlisted with the Royal Canadian Regiment (RCR) at Stanley Barracks, Toronto, ON, with the commissioned rank of Lieutenant.

Within two years of his enlistment, Borden was appointed Adjutant of the RCR’s Halifax detachment. Promoted to the rank of Captain on August 1, 1907, he married Grace Beatrice Silliker, a native of Amherst, NS, before year’s end. The newlyweds established residence in the Officers’ Quarters, Wellington Barracks, Halifax. The following year, Borden assumed command of a Company and served as a musketry instructor at the annual summer militia training camps.

During the winter of 1908-09, Borden assumed the duties of Instructor in Physical Training and Inspector of Cadet Corps for the province of Nova Scotia. In 1910, he was appointed Deputy Assistant Adjutant General for Physical Training in Public Schools. By that time, he and Grace had relocated to a private residence on Larch Street, Halifax. The following year, Borden assumed responsibility for the “general supervision” of physical and military training in the province’s public schools.

By the end of 1911, Borden had met the requirements for admission to Staff College, Camberley, England, placing first among three Canadian candidates in the qualifying examination. He departed for overseas in mid-October 1912 and successfully passed the examination for promotion to the rank of Major before year’s end. The only remaining requirement for advancement was completion of the Staff College’s program of studies.

While all went smoothly during Borden’s first year at Camberley, he fell ill shortly after commencing his second year courses. Diagnosed with rheumatic fever and endocarditis—inflammation of the inner layer of the heart—he was forced to abandon his studies and returned to Canada in July 1914. Borden was placed on sick leave for the duration of the year. The outbreak of the First World War in August 1914 eliminated any possibility of returning to Camberley.

Deemed fit for light duty in January 1915, Borden was appointed Deputy Assistant Adjutant and Quarter Master General at Halifax Citadel three months later. The position included a promotion to the rank of temporary Major in late May 1915, an advancement that was made permanent the following month.

As the summer progressed, Major Borden returned to full military duties. Meanwhile, the war overseas entered its second year and recruitment at home continued. Having already dispatched the 25th Battalion (Nova Scotia Rifles) to England in May 1915, the province recruited the 40th Battalion (Halifax Rifles) and provided the majority of soldiers for the 64th Battalion (Maritime Provinces) before summer’s end. On September 14, 1915, the 85th Battalion (Nova Scotia Highlanders) became the third provincial unit authorized by the Canadian government.

Military authorities selected Major Borden as the unit’s Commanding Officer (CO), a position that resulted in a promotion to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. The unit was recruited to full strength within one month of its formation, a response that prompted the Canadian government to authorize the formation of the Nova Scotia Highland Brigade in January 1916, with Lt. Col. Borden as its CO. The recently authorized 193rd Battalion was assigned to the Brigade’s ranks, along with two newly created units—the 185th (Cape Breton Highlanders) and 219th (South Shore & Annapolis Valley) Battalions—and the 85th Battalion.

The Brigade’s formation delayed the 85th’s overseas departure by more than one year. The unit trained at Halifax throughout the winter of 1915-16. Lt. Col. Borden actively participated in the 193rd and 219th Battalion’s early 1916 recruitment campaigns. In late May 1916, the 85th relocated to Camp Aldershot for a summer of drill alongside its three Brigade mates.

While the Highland Brigade anticipated an autumn overseas departure, Borden sailed for England on September 12, 1916, with plans to join the RCR on the front lines for a preparatory tour of the trenches. As matters unfolded, the Brigade arrived overseas in mid-October, before arrangements for Borden’s RCR posting were made. He departed for France on October 28 and joined the RCR in the field three days later.

For the next three weeks, Lt. Col. Borden completed a regular rotation with the RCR in sectors near Arras, France. Slightly wounded in the thigh by artillery fire on November 20, he returned to England shortly afterward, only to find the Highland Brigade in perilous circumstances.

Significant casualties incurred during the Canadian Corps’ deployment at the Somme in September and October 1916 created a pressing need for reinforcements in the field. In response, military authorities assembled a large reinforcement draft from the Highland Brigade’s ranks in early December and decided that two of its battalions—the 193rd and 219th—would be dissolved early the following year and their soldiers re-assigned to the 85th, 185th and 17th Reserve Battalions, the latter designated to provide reinforcements for Nova Scotian infantry units at the front.

In response to the Brigade’s dissolution, Lt. Col. E. C. Phinney, who assumed command of the 85th following Borden’s appointment as Highland Brigade CO, “volunteered to revert in favour of his old chief.” On February 10, 1917, Borden officially resumed command of the 85th Battalion as it proceeded to France.

Upon arriving in the forward area, the inexperienced unit’s officers and “other ranks” served instructional tours in the trenches with experienced units. As the Canadian Corps prepared for its first major assignment of the year—an attack on Vimy Ridge—military authorities attached the 85th to the 11th Brigade, where it would complete various “working” tasks during the assault. While his soldiers were not expected to see combat, Borden nevertheless insisted that all ranks complete the same rigorous preparatory training as their Brigade mates, a decision that proved fortuitous.

The 11th Brigade faced the Canadian Corps’ most challenging assignment at Vimy Ridge—the capture of Hill 145, the feature’s highest elevation. Well defended by several strongpoints along its slopes, the location was largely unaffected by the massive artillery bombardment launched in the early hours of April 9, 1917. As a result, the attacking units were pinned down in No Man’s Land, unable to complete their assignment. Meanwhile, other Canadian units to their right successfully secured their sectors of the ridge as the day progressed.

By mid-afternoon, military commanders recognized the precarious situation on Hill 145’s slopes. If the location was not secured by nightfall, German forces could launch a counter-attack along the flank and dislodge Canadian units from the ridge. In response, Canadian authorities instructed Borden to prepare two of his Companies—C and D—for combat. The soldiers were outfitted with the required equipment, made their way through Tottenham Tunnel into the jumping-off trenches, and went over the top toward German positions shortly after 6:00 pm, without the benefit of artillery support.

To their credit, the inexperienced officers and men maintained their formation as they proceeded up the ridge and succeeded in securing Hill 145’s western slopes before nightfall. The following day, their remaining 85th comrades joined them atop the newly captured ridge as Canadian units removed the last pockets of German soldiers from its eastern slope. The battalion’s remarkable debut at Vimy Ridge earned it the nickname, “The Never Fails.”

Before month’s end, the 85th was attached to the 4th Division’s 12th Brigade and commenced a regular rotation in the line. By early summer, however, the strain of five months’ service in the forward area began to take a toll on 38-year-old Lt. Col. Borden’s health. On July 10, he received a welcome 10-day leave to England, as his wife Grace had relocated to London shortly after the Highland Brigade’s overseas arrival.

Within days, Borden fell ill with tonsillitis. Hospitalized until month’s end, doctors noted that his heart was slightly enlarged and that there was also a “systolic heart murmur” in two heart valves. As a result, Borden was placed on sick leave until August 31 and did not rejoin the 85th in France until mid-September. Barely one month later, the unit made its way northward to Staple, France, near the Belgian border, as its personnel prepared for their next major assignment—the second stage of the Canadian Corps’ attack on Passchendaele Ridge, near Ypres, Belgium.

On the evening of October 28, the 85th’s personnel made the long trip into the line under extremely difficult conditions. Once in position, Borden made his way into the forward positions to assess the situation, despite fierce enemy machine gun and rifle fire, actions for which he later received the Distinguished Service Order (DSO). On the morning of October 30, the 85th went over the top toward its objective—a collection of German defences clustered at a location known as Vienna Cottage. Despite facing the fiercest combat conditions since arriving on the continent, its soldiers successfully captured their objective and established a new front line beyond the location.

The toll on the 85th’s personnel, however, was significant. The battalion suffered its worst combat losses of the war at Passchendaele. The 18 officer and 371 “other rank” casualties represented more than 50 % of the soldiers in the line during the tour and included over 60 fatalities. Lt. Col. Borden’s health was also affected. Slightly gassed during the long march into the line, and exhausted by the trek entering and leaving the battlefield, he “found his heart troublesome” and “could not walk as fast as previously.”

Borden nevertheless continued his routine duties, making a two-day trip to London in mid-November. Shortly after his return to France, however, the strain of service once again impacted his health. Before month’s end, he was admitted to hospital for treatment of pneumonia. Discharged after nine days, Borden received a two-week leave to England on December 11 and rejoined the 85th in France before year’s end.

During his absence, the unit had returned to sectors near Lens, France, where it served regular rotations throughout the winter of 1917-18. While the area was not targeted during the massive German “spring offensive” launched on March 21, 1918, the 85th’s soldiers joined other Canadian units in preparing for a possible German assault. Although no such attack materialized, the soldiers remained vigilant into the following month.

On April 1, 1918, Lt. Col. Borden’s health issues resurfaced. Admitted to field ambulance for treatment of “disordered action of the heart,” he was discharged the following day and returned to duty. Before month’s end, however, he experienced a dramatic increase in body temperature, accompanied by a severe headache and aching muscles. The condition, commonly known as “trench fever,” resulted in his admission to hospital at Camiers, France, on April 26. Before month’s end, he was invalided to England and admitted to a London hospital.

While subsequent tests indicated no major health crisis, the recurring incidents meant that Lt. Col. Borden’s time at the front had come to an end. On May 10, 1918, he officially relinquished his command of the 85th to Major J. L. Ralston, his second-in-command. One month later, a Medical Board concluded that Borden was “permanently unfit [for] any [overseas] service” and recommended that he return to Canada.

Discharged from medical care on July 24, 1918, Borden and his wife made their way to New York, NY, by ship and travelled by train to Halifax. On August 26, Borden was officially “struck off [the] strength” of the 85th Battalion and placed on indefinite sick leave. By early December, he was deemed fit for “light duty in Canada” and assumed the duties of Assistant Adjutant General, Military District No. 6, and Quartermaster at Halifax early the following month. While Lt. Col. Borden experienced a minor episode with kidney stones in mid-March 1919, his health was otherwise stable.

Borden settled into his administrative duties, officially resuming his service with the Permanent Force of Canada on May 20, 1920. Three months later, he was officially confirmed in the rank of Brevet Colonel, retroactive to December 1, 1919. Before year’s end. Borden and his wife relocated to Winnipeg, MB, where he assumed the position of General Staff Officer (GSO) for Military District No. 10. By the spring of 1924, the couple had relocated to Toronto, where Borden commanded Military District No. 2.

By January 1925, health issues led Borden’s superiors to question his ability to fulfil his GSO duties. He experienced shortness of breath after exertion and his mitral and aortic heart valves were not functioning properly. A formal Medical Board convened the following month recommended “that this officer be retired from the service as medically unfit.” As a result, Borden was granted a four-month leave, with pay and allowance, commencing on March 1. Four months later—July 1, 1925—Colonel Colonel Allison Hart Borden officially retired from military service.

Colonel Borden and Grace returned to Kentville and settled into civilian life. In 1931, Borden’s alma mater, Mount Allison University, awarded him an honorary Doctorate of Divinity degree, in recognition of his service to his province and country. Colonial Allison Hart Borden passed away at Kentville, NS, on July 19, 1932, following a brief illness. Only 54 years of age at the time of his death, he was laid to rest in the Borden family’s Hillaton Cemetery plot.

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Remembering Private Wilfred Asa Nickerson—Accidentally Killed June 4, 1919

Wilfred Asa Nickerson was born at Hazel Hill, Guysborough County, on December 8, 1896, the youngest of Sarah (Swain) and Reuben Nickerson’s six children. Enticed by the presence of militia detachments in Canso following the outbreak of the First World War, Wilfred enlisted with one of the units—the 94th Victoria Regiment (Argyll Highlanders)—in 1916.
Pte. Wilfred Asa Nickerson
Following the Canadian government’s introduction of compulsory military service in late 1917, Wilfred reported to Halifax in mid-April 1918 and was officially “conscripted” into the Canadian Expeditionary Force before month’s end. Subsequent bouts of tonsillitis and influenza delayed his overseas journey until early August, when he finally departed for England.

Following a 16-day voyage, Wilfred arrived at Liverpool and reported to the 17th (Nova Scotia) Reserve Battalion, which was encamped at the Canadian Training Depot, Tidworth Barracks, Wiltshire, England. In late September, he was hospitalized with a mild case of appendicitis, but did not undergo surgery. Discharged on October 9, Wilfred spent the autumn and winter of 1918-19 in England. During that time, he suffered a second appendicitis attack and underwent surgery in late January 1919.

Discharged to duty on March 21, Wilfred returned to the 17th’s ranks. While the signing of the November 11, 1918 Armistice had brought fighting to an end, an opportunity for service in France arose in the spring of 1919, when military officials organized the Canadian War Graves Detachment (CWGD) and solicited personnel for its two Companies.

Wilfred was among the soldiers who volunteered for duty with the CWGD. He crossed the English Channel to France on May 18, 1919, and travelled to the Arras area with No. 2 Company before month’s end. The soldiers performed a variety of tasks in the former combat zone—searching battlefields for informal graves and human remains, as well as exhuming bodies from smaller cemeteries and transporting them to larger cemeteries for re-interment.

The soldiers’ work was not without risk of injury, as unexploded artillery shells and grenades were scattered across the former battlefields. No. 1 Company, CWGD, reported its first casualties on May 28, when two of its soldiers drove a truck across a “half-buried” Mills Grenade, which immediately detonated. The following day, all personnel “were again warned as to the care to be taken with unexploded Ammunition.” Despite the warning, two more soldiers were hospitalized for treatment shortly afterward, “through the fault of one tampering with a detonator, against all orders to the contrary.”

On the evening of June 4, 1919, following a day’s work in the forward area, Wilfred set off for a stroll from camp toward a nearby village, in the company of two comrades. While walking along several meters in front of his mates, Wilfred called out, “Hurry up. I’ve found some nice souvenirs.” As his companions approached, they saw several artillery “nose caps” scattered on the ground and cautioned him not to touch the items.

Undeterred, Wilfred decided to “open one to see what was inside of it.” He removed a small brass band and, using a pocket knife, began to dig at the pin. After working at it for several minutes, the nose cap exploded in his hand and Wilfred fell to the ground. A piece of shrapnel struck one soldier in the leg. Despite his injury, he ordered the other soldier to remain with Wilfred while he returned to camp for help.

The second soldier later reported that Wilfred lay on the ground, unresponsive. About 15 minutes later, as help approached, he checked for vital signs but found none. An Officer, who arrived at the scene with a stretcher and several soldiers, confirmed that Wilfred was deceased, placed his remains on the stretcher, and returned to camp, where a Medical Officer confirmed that Wilfred had succumbed to his injuries, a piece of shrapnel having pierced his heart.

Private Wilfred Asa Nickerson was laid to rest in Bois-Carré Cemetery, Haisnes, France, on June 6, 1919. A formal inquiry later concluded that he was “accidentally killed while tampering with unexploded ammunition.” Sadly, Wilfred’s passing was only the first of three fatalities that occurred that month. Two other soldiers later succumbed to poison gas released from half-buried shells.

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

Monday, 3 June 2019

Remembering Private George Ernest Bingley—Died of Sickness June 3, 1927

George Ernest Bingley was born at Fisherman’s Harbour, Guysborough County, on November 28, 1888, the oldest of Annie (Gibbs) and William Bingley’s five children. While the family relocated to Prince Edward Island several years after Ernest’s birth, he returned to Fisherman’s Harbour shortly after his father’s passing in March 1901 and spent the remainder of his childhood years in the home of his paternal aunt, Sarah (Bingley) Fenton.
Pte. George Ernest Bingley's 193rd Portrait
As a young man, Ernest found work in the local fishery, but set aside his civilian occupation to enlist with the 193rd Battalion at Guysborough, NS, on April 6, 1916. After a summer’s training at Camp Aldershot, he departed for England with the Nova Scotia Highland Brigade on October 12, 1916. Shortly after its overseas arrival, the Brigade provided a draft of reinforcements for units in France. Ernest was among the soldiers selected for service and was assigned to the 42nd Battalion (Royal Highlanders of Canada). He joined his new unit in France on January 3, 1917.

Within days of arriving on the continent, Ernest was assigned to the 7th Canadian Machine Gun Company (CMGC) for “temporary duty.” During his time with the unit, its war diary described “the coldest [weather conditions] since the beginning of the war. Fuel being scarce does not add to the comforts of the troops.” A later entry prior to Ernest’s departure referred to a widespread outbreak of mumps in the area.

While Ernest rejoined the 42nd’s ranks in mid-February 1917, his time with 7th CMGC soon impacted his health. In early March, he was admitted to hospital with a case of mumps. During his time in care, he developed nephritis (kidney inflammation). Medical staff attributed the condition to “exposure to wet and cold,” no doubt during his CMGC assignment. On April 6, Ernest was invalided to England, where he was admitted to hospital.

Ernest’s condition slowly improved, prompting his discharge to a convalescent home in early May. While his health was stable throughout the summer months, military officials determined that he was no longer fit for service at the front. On September 15, Ernest was discharged from medical care and assigned to clerical work at the Canadian Army Medical Corps (CAMC) Depot, Shoreham. After five months at the facility, he departed for Canada aboard SS Delta II in late February 1918.

Upon landing at Halifax, NS, Ernest was assigned to the local Casualty Company, where he underwent a thorough medical examination. The resulting report indicated that, while Ernest had recovered from his kidney ailment, he was experiencing considerable pain in his upper back and both legs. Diagnosed with myalgia of indefinite duration, Ernest was assigned to “home service” at Halifax’s CAMC Training Depot.

Ernest spent the remaining months of his military service with the CAMC. Formally discharged on January 31, 1919, he returned to Fisherman’s Harbour and resumed work in the local fishery. On April 11, 1922, he married Hattie Mae Burke, a native of Drum Head, Guysborough County, and the couple welcomed their first child—a daughter, Myrtle Lillian—the following year.

While his service file contains no evidence of health issues following his discharge, Ernest fell ill within two years of his marriage. Diagnosed with tuberculosis, he was admitted to the Nova Scotia Sanatorium, Kentville, in 1924. In order to visit regularly, Hattie and Myrtle found accommodations nearby. Ernest remained under care for almost three years before he passed away from “tubrification of lungs and intestines” at Kentville on June 3, 1927. His remains were transported to Guysborough County, where he was laid to rest in Hillside Cemetery, Seal Harbour.


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

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Remembering Private David Luke Dort—Died of Wounds May 8, 1919

David Luke Dort was born at Cole Harbour, Guysborough County, on August 12, 1897, the seventh of William Peter and Margaret Mary (Jamieson) Dort’s eight children and the couple’s youngest son. David enlisted with the 193rd Battalion at Canso on April 1, 1916, and departed for England with the unit on October 12, 1916.

Pte. David Luke Dort
Shortly after the 193rd’s overseas arrival, David was part of reinforcement draft assigned to the 42nd Battalion (Royal Highlanders of Canada) on December 5, 1916. He crossed the English Channel shortly afterward and joined his new unit in the forward area in early January 1917.

On the morning of April 9, 1917. David and his 42nd comrades participated in the Canadian Corps’ historic April 9, 1917 attack on Vimy Ridge. The battalion’s sector was immediately adjacent to Hill 145, which held out against the morning assault and enfiladed the unit’s left flank throughout the day. The situation was finally resolved in the early evening hours, when two Companies of the 85th Battalion (Nova Scotia Highlanders) succeeded in capturing the hill’s western slope.

While David came through the successful attack on Vimy Ridge without injury, an artillery shell fragment struck him in the right side of the head as the unit withdrew from the line in the early morning hours of April 11. Amazingly, David did not lose consciousness and managed to walk approximately two hundred yards to a nearby field dressing station. Carried by stretcher to No. 18 Casualty Clearing Station, he was evacuated by ambulance train to Boulogne, where he was admitted to No. 3 Canadian General Hospital on April 13. Thus began a lengthy period of medical treatment that continued for more than two years.

Invalided to England on April 28, David was admitted to Wharncliffe Memorial Hospital, Sheffield, where he remained for three months before receiving a transfer to Granville Canadian Special Hospital, Ramsgate. While his surface wound successfully healed, David had lost a triangular-shaped piece of his skull approximately 3/4 inches in size, and x-rays revealed the presence of several shrapnel fragments in his brain’s “right frontal lobe.”

On the night of August 22, German zeppelins passing over Ramsgate dropped several bombs on the town, one shell striking the hospital ward in which David was located. The resulting explosion shattered bunks and sent splinters throughout the room. Several fragments struck David in the left thigh and head, rendering him unconscious. Staff immediately dressed both wounds and David once again began the process of recovery.

In the aftermath of his second injury, David experienced partial paralysis of his right leg, a condition not previously present. At the time of a ransfer to Lord Derby Hospital, Warrington, in late August,  he could “feel” his leg but had lost all strength in the limb. On October 10, David relocated to the Canadian Convalescent Hospital, Woodcote Park, Epsom, where his right leg remained “partially paralyzed.” He managed to walk “with a peculiar swing of the right leg” throughout his time at the Epsom facility.

A Medical Board report, dated November 23, 1917, recommended that David be invalided to Canada. One month later, he was admitted to No. 5 Canadian General Hospital, Kirkdale, Liverpool, the first stage of his journey home. David spent six weeks at the facility before boarding the hospital ship Araguaya on February 4, 1918, and departing for Canada. Upon arriving at Halifax nine days later, he spent one month under observation in hospital before receiving a transfer to the Pine Hill Convalescent Home in early March.

Within days of his arrival at Pine Hill, David suffered the major seizure and was subsequently diagnosed with “Jacksonian epilepsy”—a brief change in movement, sensation or nerve function, caused by abnormal electrical activity in a specific area of the brain. In response, medical authorities transferred David to Camp Hill Hospital on March 23. As he suffered no further seizures during the next six weeks, David was discharged from hospital in mid-May. A second medical report, dated May 31, 1918, recommended David be discharged from military service as “medically unfit.”

In early July, David was officially transferred to the local “Casualty Company” and formally discharged from military service before month’s end. The details of his whereabouts during the next six months are unknown. He may have returned to his Cole Harbour home, or perhaps remained in Halifax, in case further medical treatment was required. Whatever his circumstances, David was re-admitted to Camp Hill Hospital on January 29, 1919, for treatment of epilepsy.

According to subsequent medical notes, David had suffered a second seizure on November 3, 1918, followed by episodes on December 3 and 4. A fourth seizure in mid-January prompted his return to medical care. While David experienced no subsequent episodes after admission and reported no severe headache, he nevertheless remained in bed for one month.

Granted a day pass to visit a friend in late February 1919, David suffered a seizure while away from the hospital and was unconscious for 15 minutes. While his condition improved in subsequent weeks,  he began experiencing headaches. On April 6, David suffered several seizures, each preceded by a “frontal headache.” During each occurrence, his eyes responded sluggishly to light, his speech slowed, and “it was hard to rouse him.”

Within a week, David suffered a second seizure, after which his condition slowly worsened. His pulse and body temperature dropped significantly. While “bright” at some points during the day, his speech slowed considerably and he reported severe pain in his ear. On May 4, David slipped into a “deep coma.” When he regained consciousness the following day, he was suffering from paralysis on his left side. He subsequently became “very restless” and complained of a severe headache. While medical staff performed numerous spinal punctures during this time, his spinal fluid contained no indication of illness.

Private David Luke Dort passed away at 9:00 a.m. May 8, 1919. Medical staff identified the cause of death as a “brain abscess” attributed to his combat wound. A subsequent autopsy revealed that David’s “dura”—the outermost membrane layer surrounding the brain—was “adherent at [the] seat of fraction of frontal region. A small piece of shrapnel found.”

David’s remains were transported to Guysborough County, where he was laid to rest in Port Felix Roman Catholic Cemetery. Military authorities acknowledged that his death was a direct result of his war wounds and authorized provision of an Imperial War Graves headstone for his final resting place. David’s story is one of 64 profiles contained in Bantry Publishing’s First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume II: 1918 - 1937, available for purchase online at bantrypublishing.ca .

Sunday, 28 April 2019

Remembering Private George C. Benight—Died of Sickness April 28, 1923

George C. Benight was born at Wine Harbour, Guysborough County, on April 10, 1898, the third of Annie (Boggs) and Lemuel Benight’s seven children. Caught up in the military excitement that swept Nova Scotia during the spring of 1916, young George enlisted with the Canadian militia at Halifax, NS, on April 13, 1916, and was assigned to the Composite Battalion’s “A” Company.


Within weeks of his enlistment, George was admitted to Rockhead Military Hospital with a case of measles, a common affliction in the crowded barracks. Following a period in isolation, he rejoined the battalion’s ranks and served the remainder of year without incident. Briefly hospitalized for treatment of tonsillitis in February 1917, George once again returned to duty and experienced no further health issues for almost one year.

On January 16, 1918, George married Jenny Pearl Young, a native of Halifax, NS. Six weeks later, he was hospitalized for treatment of influenza. Discharged to duty on March 8, he returned to hospital five days later, complaining of chest and abdominal pain. George subsequently underwent an appendectomy in early April and remained under medical care for the remainder of the month. Discharged to the Pine Hill convalescent facility on May 10, George soon developed pneumonia and tonsillitis, conditions that confined him to bed for almost two months.

During his time in hospital, George was transferred to the 6th Battalion, Canadian Garrison Regiment, the first step in proceeding overseas for service in France. His persistent health problems, however, prompted medical authorities to carefully examine his fitness for front-line duty. The ensuing report, dated September 26, 1918, concluded that George was suffering from “DAH”—“disordered activity of the heart”—a condition often described as “soldier’s heart.”

As a result, George was placed in Category CII—fit for labour service in Canada only. In response, George’s Commanding Officer recommended his discharge and military authorities concurred. On October 23, 1918, George was officially discharged from military service as “medically unfit.”

George and Jenny took up residence on Brunswick St., where George found work as a shoe-maker. For more than four years, life proceeded without incident. In the spring of 1923, however, the health issues that had plagued George’s military service returned. On April April 28, 1923, George C. Benight died “suddenly” at Halifax from “cardiac damage due to chronic myocarditis” and was laid to rest in Wine Harbour Cemetery, Guysborough County.

Within two weeks of George’s passing, military authorities agreed that his death was “related to service” and approved the provision of an Imperial War Graves headstone for his final resting place. George’s story is one of 64 profiles contained in Bantry Publishing’s First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume II: 1918 - 1937, available for purchase online at bantrypublishing.ca .

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Remembering Antigonish County's "Vimy Boys"

During the Canadian Corps’ historic April 9, 1917 attack on Vimy Ridge, France, and in the days immediately following its capture, a total of seven Antigonish County soldiers perished in combat. At the end of each summary is a link to each soldier's profile on the Antigonish Cenotaph Project's blog. “We will remember them.”

1. Private Wendell Alexander MacHattie, son of Alexander John and Janet (Hattie) MacHattie, South River Lake, Antigonish County, was killed in action on April 9, 1917, during the 42nd Battalion’s assault on the sector of Vimy Ridge adjacent to Hill 145. His remains were never recovered from the battlefield. Wendell is commemorated on the Canadian War Memorial, Vimy Ridge, France. Antigonish Cenotaph Project profile.


Pte. Wendell Alexander MacHattie

2. Private William Alfred Rogers, son of William H. and Mary M. (Durant) Rogers, was killed in action on the morning of April 9, 1917, northwest of the village of Thélus, France, while serving with the 26th Battalion (New Brunswick). As with Wendell, William Alfred’s remains were never recovered. His name is also engraved on the Canadian War Memorial, Vimy Ridge, France. Antigonish Cenotaph Project profile.


Pte. William Alfred Rogers

3. Private John Angus Sheehan, son of Joseph and Mary (MacDonald) Sheehan, Gloucester, MA, and nephew of Alexander MacDonald, Clydesdale, Antigonish County, was killed in action on April 9, 1917, during the 85th Battalion’s successful early evening assault on Hill 145. He was laid to rest in nearby Givenchy Road Canadian Cemetery, Neuville-St-Vaast, France. Antigonish Cenotaph Project profile.

Pte, John Angus Sheehan
4. Private John Angus MacGillivray, son of Alexander and Margaret “Maggie” (Cameron) MacGillivray, Fraser’s Mills, Antigonish County, died on April 10, 1917, from wounds received while serving with the 28th Battalion (Northwestern) in newly captured trenches atop Vimy Ridge. He was laid to rest in Écoivres Military Cemetery, Mount-Saint-Éloi, France. Antigonish Cenotaph Project profile.




Pte. John Angus MacGillivray's headstone

5. Private Ambrose Thomas Boyle, son of Henry and Margaret (Torpey) Boyle, Afton, Antigonish County, was killed by enemy artillery fire on April 11, 1917, as he and his 47th Battalion (British Columbia) comrades prepared for the following day’s attack on “The Pimple,” an elevated location north of Hill 145. Ambrose was laid to rest in Givenchy Road Canadian Cemetery, Neuville-St-Vaast, France. Antigonish Cenotaph Project profile.



Pte, Ambrose Thomas Boyle

6. Private Colin Chisholm, son of Donald A. and Margaret (Campbell) Chisholm, Brierly Brook, Antigonish County, was killed in action on April 12, 1917, during the 46th (South Saskatchewan) Battalion’s attack on “The Pimple.” Colin’s remains were never recovered from the battlefield. His name is inscribed on the Canadian War Memorial, Vimy Ridge, France. Antigonish Cenotaph Project profile.


Pte. Colin Chisholm

7. Private Roderick William MacDougall, son of Archibald and Margaret (Chisholm) MacDougall, North Grant, Antigonish County, and nephew of Mary Ann “Maggie” Chisholm, Fraser’s Mills, Antigonish County, was killed in action while serving with the 43rd Battalion (Cameron Highlanders of Canada) in trenches near Vimy Ridge, France. As his remains were never located, Roderick William is commemorated on the Canadian War Memorial, Vimy Ridge, France. Antigonish Cenotaph Project profile.

Pte Roderick William MacDougall

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Remembering Sapper Thomas Leo Dort—Died of Sickness April 2, 1926

Thomas Leo Dort was born at Canso, NS, on August 4, 1893, the third of Bridget Jane (George) and James A. Dort’s eight children. During the spring of 1916, military recruiters visited the coastal community for the first time, in search of soldiers for the 193rd Battalion, one of four infantry units that formed the Nova Scotia Highland Brigade. Thomas enlisted with the 193rd on April 6, 1916, and spent the summer months training at Camp Aldershot alongside soldiers from the 85th (Nova Scotia Highlanders), 185th (Cape Breton Highlanders) and 219th Battalions.

Sapper Thomas Leo Dort
On October 12, 1916, the Highland Brigade’s soldiers departed from Halifax aboard SS Olympic. Following its overseas arrival, two of its units—the 193rd and 219th—were dissolved and their personnel re-assigned to existing battalions. Thomas was part of a reinforcement draft of 193rd soldiers transferred to the 42nd Battalion (Royal Highlanders of Canada) on December 5, 1916. He joined his new unit near Neuville-Saint-Vaast, France, in early January 1917.

Thomas served a regular rotation in the line with the 42nd until March 21, when he was admitted to No. 1 Canadian General Hospital, Étaples, for treatment of an “ischio-rectal abscess,” a problem that had plagued him for several years prior to his enlistment. Invalided to England three days later, he underwent surgery and quickly recovered. Transferred to the Canadian Convalescent Hospital, Woodcote Park, Epsom, on April 14, Thomas was discharged from medical care before month’s end and reported to the 20th Reserve Battalion, Shoreham.

Re-assigned to the 42nd’s ranks on June 19, Thomas returned to the Canadian Base Depot, Le Havre, France, but did not immediately rejoin his battalion. In early July, he was temporarily attached to the 3rd Entrenching Battalion and worked on a variety of projects near Arras, France, throughout the summer months. When the unit was dissolved in mid-September, Thomas reported to the Canadian Corps Reinforcement Camp, Villers-au-Bois, where he remained throughout the winter of 1917-18.

On March 4, 1918, Thomas was assigned to the 2nd Tramway Company, Canadian Engineers, and joined its ranks near Aix-Noulette, France, shortly afterward. One of two units that built, maintained and operated a network of small-gauge railways, its gasoline-powered trains moved ammunition and supplies to “dumps” in the forward area, carried troops into the front lines and transported wounded soldiers to field ambulance stations.

The Company’s “sappers” worked in the open, without the benefit of access to trenches or dugouts. As a result, hostile artillery fire posed a consistent threat while the men completed their daily tasks. The unit’s war diary reported a total of 13 “other rank” (OR) casualties during the month of May, a statistic that increased to 78 the following month, when an outbreak of “pyrexia” (trench fever) sent 30 men to field ambulance.

When Allied forces launched a major counter-offensive east of Amiens in early August, the tramway companies hauled large quantities of supplies to the front lines and constructed new sections as the advance progressed into German-held territory. Their work continued during a second offensive east of Arras at month’s end, 2nd Tramway reporting its first fatalities since Thomas joined its ranks—one OR killed and a second died of wounds, both the result of enemy artillery fire—during the first week of September.

In subsequent weeks, “construction continued with great rapidity” as the tramway units kept pace with the Canadian Corps’ advance toward Cambrai. In mid-September, however, Thomas reported to field ambulance for treatment of a bacterial infection and was evacuated to hospital at Étaples, France. Discharged to convalescent camp in mid-October, he contracted influenza early the following month and spent almost two weeks recuperating.

By the time Thomas was discharged from medical care, the November 11, 1918 Armistice had brought fighting to an end. As a result, Thomas crossed the English Channel before year’s end and reported to the Canadian Engineers Training Depot, Seaford. On February 23, 1919, he departed for Canada aboard SS Belgic and landed at Halifax one week later. Thomas was formally discharged from military service on March 24 and returned to Canso, where he resumed work in the local fishery.

On January 18, 1920, Thomas married Margaret Baker, a native of Tancook, Lunenburg County, in a ceremony held at Star of the Sea Church, Canso. For several years, Thomas experienced no health issues. By early 1926, however, he was under doctor’s care for treatment of “kidney, lung and heart troubles.” His condition slowly worsened and he passed away at Canso, NS, on April 2, 1926. He was laid to rest in Star of the Sea Parish Cemetery.

A note on Thomas’ death certificate stated that he had been “gassed and wounded during the Great War.” While his service record contains no record of specific treatment for either condition, military authorities subsequently agreed that his death was connected to his military service. Thomas’ story is one of 64 profiles contained in Bantry Publishing’s First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume II: 1918 - 1937, available for purchase online at bantrypublishing.ca .