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Saturday, 16 June 2018

Remembering Captain James Tennant Whitworth Boyd—Died of Sickness June 16, 1918

James Tennant Whitworth Boyd was born at Glenelg, Guysborough County, on May 13, 1891, the second of Reverend Andrew and Margaret (Stewart) Boyd’s four children. A native of Glasgow, Scotland, Rev. Boyd was ministering to the Glenelg Presbyterian Church’s congregation at the time of James’ birth.

Captain James Tennant Whitworth Boyd, CAMC
Sometime after 1901, the family relocated to Port Arthur, ON. James subsequently completed medical studies at Queen’s University, Kingston, ON, and enlisted with No. 7 Canadian General Hospital (Queen’s University) reinforcements, Canadian Army Medical Corps (CAMC), on January 4, 1916. Two months later, he departed for England. In late March, James crossed the English Channel and joined the staff of No. 7 Canadian General Hospital (CGH), which was operating a medical facility at Le Tréport, France.

In November 1916, the unit relocated to nearby Étaples. Its personnel immediately assumed operation of a facility that contained 500 patients and provided care for almost 2,000 sick and wounded soldiers during its first month. As winter set in, lack of heat in the facility produced uncomfortable conditions, particularly for “nephritis [kidney inflammation] and bronchial cases.”

Patients were not the only ones affected by the circumstances. On January 22, 1917, Captain James Boyd was admitted to nearby Liverpool Merchants Hospital. He had been suffering from severe headaches for several months and began to experience pain in his left chest several days prior to his admission. James was quickly invalided to England, where he was admitted to Royal Free Hospital, Grays Inn Road, London, before month’s end.

Upon further examination, medical staff diagnosed James with “chronic interstitial nephritis,” a condition that can result in kidney failure. A Medical Board subsequently concluded that, while James was no longer fit for “general service,” his condition permitted him to serve in England or Canada. Discharged from hospital on February 24, 1917, he spent one month convalescing before commencing a new assignment at Kitchener Military Hospital, Brighton, with No. 10 CGH.

James’ new facility provided care for limbless soldiers returning from the front, preparing them for prosthetic limbs and a return to civilian life. James worked in the hospital’s Pathology Department, where the workload was considerably less demanding than his previous assignment. While he suffered from the “occasional headache,” for more than a year, James completed his assigned tasks and engaged in light physical activity without any health issues.

In May 1918, James experienced an “influenza attack,” after which his severe headaches resumed. He took a brief leave and appeared to recover, but upon returning to work he began to experience episodes of “nocturnal dyspnoea”—night-time attacks of shortness of breath and coughing—in addition to bloody sputum, chest pain and vomiting.

On May 29, James was admitted to Kitchener Military Hospital, where staff diagnosed his condition as chronic hypertensive nephritis, uraemia and cardiac failure. His heart was enlarged and doctors predicted gradual circulatory system failure. As the days passed, James became weaker and “more comatose.” Captain James Boyd passed away at 10:10 p.m. June 16, 1918.


James’ younger brother, Andrew, had enlisted with a Canadian artillery unit and received 14 days’ special leave on the day prior to his passing. While he may not have been at his bedside during his final hours, Andrew was quite likely in attendance when James was laid to rest in Brighton Military Cemetery, Brighton, England.

James’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, 13 June 2018

Remembering Private Alexander McDonald—Died of Sickness June 13, 1918

Alexander McDonald was born at Upper Big Tracadie, Guysborough County on March 9, 1897, the second-youngest of Michael and Bridget (Grant) McDonald’s 10 children. Michael passed away 14 months after Alexander’s birth, leaving his widow to care for a large family. Alexander worked on the family farm alongside his siblings until called into uniform under the Military Service Act (1917).

Pte. Alexander McDonald's headstone, St. Peter's Church, Tracadie

On April 24, 1918, Alexander completed his medical examination and attestation documents at Halifax, NS. Within days of his enlistment, however, health issues interrupted his training. On May 7, Alexander was admitted to Station Hospital, Cogswell St., suffering from a sinus inflammation and “photophobia” (sensitivity to light).

While his condition improved shortly after his admission, Alexander still displayed an elevated temperature, a “tracheal cough” and a severe headache. While his temperature returned to normal by May 11, Alexander’s recovery was short-lived. Four days later, he returned to bed with a high temperature. A dramatic spike on May 21 resulted in Alexander’s transfer to a surgical ward, where he was diagnosed with pneumonia and empyema, a collection of pus in the lung cavity often associated with pneumonia.

On May 27, Alexander underwent a surgical procedure to remove fluid from his left lung. Despite the intervention, his condition continued to deteriorate. At 2:10 p.m. June 13, 1918, Alexander passed away, medical authorities identifying the cause of death as pneumonia and empyema, due to streptococcal infection. Alexander's remains were transported to Tracadie, where he was laid to rest in St. Peter’s Church Cemetery.

Alexander’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 .

Thursday, 31 May 2018

Lieutenant Charlotte "Lottie" Urquhart—A Military Medal Nursing Sister's Story

Date of Birth: March 27, 1888

Place of Birth: Mountville, Pictou County

Mother: Catherine Ellen Robertson

Father: John Urquhart

Occupation: Professional Nurse

Marital Status: Single

Enlistment: January 16, 1916 at Montreal, QC

Regimental #: None [Nursing Sister]

Rank: Lieutenant

Force: Canadian Army Medical Corps

Units: No. 6 Canadian General Hospital (Laval University); No 1 Canadian General Hospital; No, 7 Canadian General Hospital (Queen’s University)

Service: England & France

Next of Kin: John Urquhart, New Glasgow, NS (father)

Lottie’s younger brother, Edwin (DOB May 28, 1891), served with the 78th Regiment (Pictou Highlanders) for two years prior to the First World War and was among the unit’s soldiers who immediately volunteered for overseas service following Britain’s August 4, 1914 declaration of war on Germany. Edwin attested with the 17th Battalion (Nova Scotia) at Camp Valcartier, QC, on September 26, 1914 and departed for England aboard SS Ruthenia one week later.

After the 17th was re-designated a “reserve battalion,” Edwin was transferred to the 13th Battalion (Royal Highlanders of Canada) on April 26, 1915. Shortly afterward, he joined his new unit in Belgium’s Ypres Salient. For more than a year, Edwin served in the front lines without incident. On June 13, 1916, the 13th Battalion participated in the Canadian Corps’ successful attack on Mont Sorrel and Tor Top (Hill 62), two strategic locations east of Ypres that had been captured by German forces earlier in the month. During the 13th’s advance, a piece of artillery shrapnel struck Edwin in the left arm above the elbow and exited at the front of his shoulder, fracturing his humerus.

Evacuated for medical treatment, Edwin was admitted to No. 13 General Hospital, Boulogne, France, on June 16. Four days later, surgeons amputated his shattered left arm below the shoulder joint. At month’s end, Edwin was invalided to England, where he gradually recovered from his surgery. Following his discharge from hospital in mid-November 1916, he spent almost one year in England before departing for Canada aboard SS Olympic on November 6, 1917.

Edwin was formally discharged as “medically unfit” on January 15, 1918 and returned home to Pictou County. He soon found employment as a clerk, and married Kathleen Hibbs at Moncton, NB, on March 9, 1920. No further information is available on Edwin’s later life.

*****

Charlotte “Lottie” Urquhart was born at Mountville, Pictou County, on March 27, 1888, the eighth of John and Catherine Ellen (Robertson) Urquhart’s 11 children and the fourth of the couple’s five daughters. Lottie’s oldest sister, Margaret Jane, became a “trained nurse” and  Lottie was determined to follow in her footsteps.

On June 10, 1907, she commenced studies at Boston State Hospital’s Training School for Nurses. The facility provided treatment for patients suffering from mental illness—in modern parlance, a psychiatric hospital.  A July 2, 1908 entry on her school record described Lottie as “very capable, reliable and conscientious. Has done excellent work. Well like [sic] by patients and nurses.” A later note stated: “Excellent in class work when she applies herself.”

Lottie completed the State Hospital’s training program in the spring of 1909 and accepted a nursing position with the institution. She remained on staff into the following year, when—perhaps due to the challenging nature of the hospital’s work— she decided to return to Canada. On March 4, 1910, Lottie enrolled with the Montreal General Hospital’s School of Nursing and graduated from the institution in the spring of 1913.

Montreal General Hospital School of Nursing's 1913 Gradating Class
Following her graduation, Lottie remained in the city, where she worked as a private nurse. Sometime after the outbreak of war in Europe, she volunteered for service with a local Canadian Army Medical Corps unit. In early October 1915, Lottie completed the medical examination required for military service and on January 16, 1916, she formally attested with No. 6 Canadian General Hospital (Laval University) at Montreal, QC. Established in December 1915, the unit recruited its personnel from the staff and graduates of Laval University’s medical and nursing programs, a large number of whom were bilingual.

No. 6 Canadian General Hospital (CGH) departed Halifax aboard SS Baltic on March 23, 1916 and arrived in England two and a half weeks later. Its nursing sisters reported to various hospitals for further training. Lottie was posted to Moore Barracks Hospital, Shorncliffe, which serviced the medical needs of soldiers at a nearby military camp.

On July 3, the Laval Unit departed for Saint-Cloud, on the outskirts of Paris, France. The bilingual skills of its largely Montreal-based staff allowed it to service soldiers from the French Army. Lottie. perhaps less fluent than many of her colleagues, remained at Moore Barracks for almost one year. Finally, on March 4, 1917, she crossed the English Channel and rejoined No. 6 CGH’s nursing staff.

Two months prior to Lottie’s arrival, No. 6 CGH had relocated to Troyes, southeast of Paris, where its personnel operated a 1,400-bed French hospital. Lottie spent the next eight months working at the Troyes facility. While the majority of its patients were “stretcher cases” from other hospitals, about one month after her arrival, the hospital received several hundred soldiers directly from the front lines, casualties of a French Army offensive in the Champagne region.

In late July, Lottie received a 14-day leave, and likely took the opportunity to view the sites in nearby Paris. The following month’s most notable occurrence was the admission of almost 600 patients—“mostly all gas cases”—on August 20 and 21. Lottie’s service at Troyes was temporarily interrupted on October 2, when she was transported to No. 8 General Hospital, Rouen, for treatment of a sprained right ankle. Discharged to a nearby convalescent home at mid-month, she rejoined No. 6 CGH on October 30. Within two weeks of her return, however, Lottie was transferred to No. 1 Canadian General Hospital, Étaples, and reported to her new unit on November 14.

Located on the French coast, the city of Étaples was home to several large British and Canadian general hospitals tasked with processing wounded from the front. Soldiers with minor injuries or illnesses remained under care until sufficiently recovered to permit discharge to nearby convalescent facilities. Once fit for duty, they returned to their front-line units. Patients with serious wounds or illnesses were evacuated by hospital ship to medical facilities in England. As a result, all Étaples hospitals experienced a steady patient turnover.

Map of Hospitals, Étaples, France
Organized at Valcartier, QC in September 1914, No. 1 CGH was the Canadian Army Medical Corps’ most experienced general hospital, having arrived at Étaples in May 1915. Lottie served with the unit throughout the winter of 1917-18. While located well out of range of enemy artillery and ground forces, a major German Spring Offensive in late March 1918 brought the front lines significantly closer. The hospitals were still a safe distance from the forward area when the offensive ground to a halt by mid-April, but a new threat soon materialized.

The previous year, German aircraft manufacturers commenced production of a new aircraft. Dubbed the “Gotha,” the plane was a long-range bomber, specifically designed to conduct night raids on Allied targets well behind the front lines. By the following spring, the aircraft was available for use. The failure of the recent Spring Offensive to make significant progress created a sense of urgency amongst the German high command, who sought new ways to disrupt the Allied war effort. Targeting strategic infrastructure and supply depots behind the forward area, it was hoped, would lessen the effectiveness of Allied forces in the front lines.

On the evening of May 19, 1918, “at the close of what had been a peaceful Sunday[,] enemy aircraft came over the [No. 1 CGH] camp in large numbers… at 10.00 p.m.” The unit’s Matron, Edith Campbell, described the subsequent events in her month-end report:

“The hospital was wrapt in slumber when the planes were immediately overhead. The raid was obviously planned to take place in relays, and during the first pass stage the part that suffered most was the sleeping quarters of the personnel, particularly that of the N.C.O.s [non-commissioned officers] and men. A number of bombs, incendiary and high explosive, were dropped in the midst of the men’s quarters. Fires were immediately started which offered a splendid target for the second part of the attack. The scene was immediately converted into a conflagration and charnel house of dead and wounded men. Bombs were also dropped on the Officers’ and Sisters’ quarters, [the] building being wrecked. The S. E. part of the Sisters’ quadrangle was completely wrecked by a bomb, the inmates being killed and wounded. The portion of the Staff and personnel that had escaped injury immediately attended to the needs of those who had been hit. Sisters and Officers were in attendance upon their wards within a very short time, and while the raid was in progress the operating-room Staff were working on the cases injured. The devotion to duty, with absolute disregard to personal safety, that was exhibited by all ranks is very highly commendable.”

In the raid’s aftermath, the unit’s war diary summarized its casualties. Amongst its staff, one Officer, one Nursing Sister, and 51 “other ranks” (OR) were killed, while one Officer, seven Nursing Sisters and 45 OR were wounded. A total of eight patients were killed, while 31 suffered wounds. During the days following the raid, two Nursing Sisters succumbed to their injuries. Meanwhile, staff constructed a dugout air raid shelter and banked all wards with sand bags.

No. 1 CGH's Nursing Sisters' Quarters after May 19, 1918 air raid
Uninjured during the raid, Lottie was among the Nursing Sisters who tended to the casualties. On May 24, their regular quarters having been destroyed in the raid, 30 Nursing Sisters assumed night-time accommodations in a nearby lodge, while the remainder slept in a wooded area adjacent to No. 1 CGH’s location. A second raid on the night of May 30 spared the hospitals, but the medical units were not so fortunate on May 31, when aircraft returned to the area and several bombs landed on No. 1 CGH’s facilities.

The unit’s war diary summarized the night’s events:

“The raid took the form of three relays and lasted two and a half hours. Much damage was done to Government property, Wards ‘A’ and ‘B’ were disabled. The sand-bagging that had been done round these wards saved the lives of several patients. The patients’ diet-kitchen and bath-house were totally wrecked. The Administration block was hit, and the laboratory rendered temporarily useless. Much damage of a minor nature in the form of broken windows was done over the rest of the hospital. Bombs were dropped in large numbers. One patient was dangerously wounded, but happily no other casualties were reported.”

According to Matron Campbell, the second raid in less than two weeks left “the patients in the Wards terribly shaken and unnerved.” The unit’s Nursing Sisters once more “did splendid work under this awful strain. Sisters off duty in one hut entrenched and sandbagged were uninjured.” On this occasion, Lottie’s efforts received particular notice from her superiors, who described her “gallantry and devotion to duty…, when four bombs fell on her wards. Regardless of danger, she attended to the wounded. Her courage and devotion were an inspiring example to all.” Four months later, Matron Campbell, Lottie and four other No. 1 CGH Nursing Sisters officially received the Military Medal for “bravery in the field,” in acknowledgment of their actions during the May 1918 air-raids.

As No. 1 CGH’s facilities suffered significant damage during the second raid, its patients were quickly evacuated to other hospitals and medical staff were temporarily assigned to other units. On June 1, Lottie was attached “for temp. duty” to No. 2 CGH at Le Tréport, 80 kilometres south of Étaples. Within days of her arrival, no doubt exhausted by the recent events, she received 14 days’ leave. Upon returning to duty, Lottie was transferred to No. 7 CGH (Queen’s University), Le Tréport, where she remained for the duration of her time in France.

Following the November 11, 1918 Armistice, Lottie was fortunate enough to receive 14 days’ leave to Paris during the last two weeks of December. Returning to duty on New Years’ Eve, she served at Le Tréport throughout the first two months of 1919. On March 7, Lottie was admitted to No. 46 Stationary Hospital, Étaples, with a case of scarlet fever. She remained under observation for two weeks before being discharged.

With the exception of an eight-day leave to Paris in mid-April, Lottie remained with No. 7 CGH until May 30, when she proceeded to England with its staff. After several weeks at No. 4 CGH, Basingstoke, and No. 15 CGH, Taplow, Lottie departed for Canada aboard SS Celtic on July 3. The vessel docked at Halifax after an eight-day passage. The following day—July 12, 1919—Lottie was formally discharged from military service.

While Lottie headed home to Pictou County after her discharge, she eventually returned to Montreal, and was living in a Tupper St. apartment when she received her British War and Victory service medals in November 1922. According to available documents, she remained in Montreal at least into the late 1930s. While her whereabouts for most of the following decade are unknown, by 1949, Lottie had relocated to Vancouver, BC. Her two oldest sisters, Margaret Jane (Atkinson) and Anne Louise (Smith), had married and settled there, along with her younger sister, Mabel, who never married. City directories from the period indicate that Lottie worked as a clerk for R. S. Day & Sons, a general insurance broker, for several years after arriving on the west coast.

Sometime in the late 1950s or early 1960s, Lottie met and married Reginald William Seys, a native of Monmouthshire, Wales, who had immigrated to Canada in April 1907. Reginald initially lived with an older brother, Charles, and his wife, who had obtained a homestead in Saskatchewan. While he eventually received a land grant, Reginald later enlisted with a Canadian Expeditionary Force artillery unit at Winnipeg, MB, in March 1916. He subsequently served with the 14th Brigade, Canadian Field Artillery, in France from August 1917 until the end of the war.

Upon returning to Canada, Reginald took up residence with Charles and his family near Regina, SK. By 1945, Reginald had relocated to Saskatoon, where he worked as a salesman. Following his retirement, he and a second older brother, Francis, moved to Vancouver, where Reginald met Lottie. By 1962, the couple had married and were living in an apartment on Pandrell St.

Reginald Seys passed away on June 3, 1977. Following her husband’s death, Lottie remained in Vancouver, where she passed away on December 30, 1987, three months shy of her 100th birthday. Lottie Urquhart Seys was laid to rest in Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Burnaby, BC. 

*****

Sources:

Service file of Nursing Sister Lottie Urquhart, Canadian Army Medical Corps (CAMC). Available online at Library & Archives Canada's website.

War Diaries of No. 1 & No. 6 Canadian General Hospitals, CAMC. Available online at Library & Archives Canada’s web site through its “Enhanced Archives Search” service.

Map of Étaples, France hospitals obtained from E. W. Meynell's article, "Some Account of the British Military Hospitals of World War I at Étaples, in the orbit of Sit Almoth Wright."Journal of the Royal Army Medical Corps, Volume 142, 1996, pages 43 - 47. Available online.

Photograph of No. 1 Canadian General Hospital's Nursing Sisters' quarters after the May 19, 1918 air raid obtained from G. W. L. Nicholson's Canada's Nursing Sisters. Toronto, ON, Hakkert & Company, 1975. Available online.
Instructions for using LAC’s “Enhanced Archives Search” available at Steve Clifford’s excellent Doing Our Bit blog.

Special thanks to Lori Podolsky, McGill University Archives, and Lily Szczygiel, Osler Library of the History of Medicine, McGill University, who provided information on Lottie’s years at Montreal General Hospital’s School of Nursing and photographs of its 1913 graduating classes. Unfortunately, no index exists for either photograph, making it impossible to identify Lottie Urquhart in either image.

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Remembering Stoker 2nd Class John Howard Henderson—Died of Sickness May 29, 1918

John Howard Henderson was born at Stormont, Guysborough County on March 1, 1897, the third child and eldest son of James Shier and Pamela (Latham) Henderson. On his father’s side, John was a direct descendant of the families who settled the area in the years following the American Revolutionary War. Like several of his ancestors, he initially earned his livelihood at sea, working aboard coal boats that travelled the American coast as far south as Virginia.

The journeys were long and John did not enjoy being away from home for extended periods of time. By late 1917, a second factor—the passage of the Military Service Act—may have prompted him to seek an alternative pursuit closer to home. Perhaps preferring the familiarity of service at sea to the prospect of conscription into the Canadian Expeditionary Force, John enlisted with the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Service at Halifax, NS on November 6, 1917. At the time, he had two years of sea experience and thus was given the rank of “ordinary seaman.”

John was initially assigned to HMCS Niobe, the RCNVR’s Halifax depot ship. On April 1, 1918, he received a transfer to HMCS Stadacona, an American-built, steam-powered yacht that had been commissioned into service as a patrol ship in August 1915. Selected as the East Coast fleet’s flagship early the following year, the vessel conducted regular reconnaissance voyages in the Cabot Strait.

After one month’s service aboard the Stadacona, John was promoted to the rank of “Stoker 2nd Class” and transferred to HMCS Guelph. The vessel had been designated the “nominal depot ship” for Halifax patrols in late April 1918. John’s days in his new assignment, however, were brief. Sometime in early May, he was admitted to Camp Hill Hospital, Halifax, for treatment of pneumonia.

As the days passed, John developed empyema, a build-up of pus between the lung and inner chest wall. His health rapidly declined and John passed away in hospital at 9:50 a.m. May 29, 1918. Military authorities transported his remains to Guysborough County, where John was laid to rest in Stormont Cemetery. The family chose to erect a private memorial at his gravesite.

John Howard Henderson's headstone, Stormont Cemetery
Despondent at the death of her eldest son, Pamela slipped into a deep depression and passed away on July 14, 1918 at 49 years of age. James subsequently died at Victoria General Hospital, Halifax, on February 25, 1920, the cause of his passing attributed to a combination of arteriosclerosis and myocarditis.

Pamela and James’ youngest child, James Montgomery Henderson, eventually settled in the United States, where he also worked at sea. Following the American entry into the Second World War, James joined the United States Merchant Marine as an Able Seaman. On June 29, 1942, he perished at sea when a German U-boat torpedoed the American merchant steamship Ruth, the vessel on which James was working.

A detailed description of John Howard Henderson's family background and military service will be available in an updated digital version of Bantry Publishing's "First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume II," scheduled for release in autumn 2018.

Monday, 28 May 2018

Remembering Private Samuel Robert Stewart—Died of Sickness May 28, 1918

Samuel Robert Stewart was born at Two Mile Lake, Guysborough County on July 22, 1877. While later records list his parents as William and Mary E. Stewart, Samuel was raised in the home of his grandparents, Donald and Janet Stewart, Forks at St Mary’s, whose daughter, Mary, was Samuel’s mother.

Private Samuel Robert Stewart

In 1904, Samuel married Viola MacKenzie, a native of Centredale, Pictou County. The newlyweds established residence at Westville, where Samuel worked in the local coal mines. Two sons, Donald Alexander (DOB April 9, 1905) and John Robert ((November 6, 1906), soon joined the family, although the elder died in a childhood accident, when he drank a small bottle of cleaning fluid.

Despite the fact that Samuel was married with a dependent child and several years older than most recruits, he enlisted with the 40th Battalion (Halifax Rifles) at New Glasgow, NS on March 31, 1915. After a summer’s training at Camp Aldershot, near Kentville, the unit departed for England in mid-October 1915 but was disbanded the following year. Prior to its dissolution, Samuel received a transfer perhaps connected to his age and previous work experience. On February 3, 1916, he was assigned to the 3rd Canadian Pioneer Battalion and crossed the English Channel with the unit early the following month.

Throughout the spring and summer of 1916, Samuel served with 3rd Pioneer in Belgium’s treacherous Ypres Salient. Its personnel endured steady artillery fire while constructing the required infrastructure—roads, bridges, trenches, dugouts, etc,—in the forward area. In early June 1916, its soldiers were caught in the midst of a major German attack on the Canadian line at Hill 62, three kilometres east of Ypres. During a heavy artillery bombardment, Samuel suffered shrapnel wounds to his upper right arm and head. The force of an exploding shell also dislocated his right wrist.

Evacuated for medical treatment, Samuel was quickly invalided to England, where he was admitted to Kitchener Hospital, Brighton. While he steadily recovered from his wounds, a piece of shrapnel had entered above the elbow. As a result, Samuel lost a significant amount of movement at the shoulder, elbow and wrist joints, and was deemed medically unfit for service.

On February 19, 1917, Samuel departed England aboard the hospital ship Essequibo and spent the spring and summer months in Halifax, where he received physiotherapy. On November 30, 1917, he was officially discharged from military service and returned home to Westville. Medical authorities estimated that his injury reduced the use of his arm by approximately 50 %. Unable to complete the physical tasks required of a miner, Samuel was hired as a “shot-firer,” setting and detonating explosives.

Life appeared to have returned to normal until six months later, when Samuel became gravely ill. He passed away on May 28, 1918, the cause of death listed as cerebrospinal meningitis. Samuel was laid to rest in St. Philips Cemetery, Westville. Samuel’s widow, Viola, and their young son,John Robert, subsequently moved to nearby Stellarton.

While Viola later received Samuel’s British War and Victory service medals, for years she pressured the Canadian government to recognize the role that his overseas experience played in causing his death. Finally, in September 1940, authorities finally issued a Memorial Plaque and Scroll and Memorial Cross, acknowledging that Samuel’s premature death was due in part to his military service. The following year, a military headstone was erected on Samuel’s final resting place.

Samuel’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, 22 May 2018

Remembering Private Harry Lee Sutherland—Died of Sickness May 22, 1918

Harry Lee Sutherland was born at Country Harbour, Guysborough County on February 20, 1897, the youngest of Robert Henry and Elizabeth Jane “Libby” (McKeen) Sutherland’s 12 children. Robert died of pulmonary tuberculosis on July 19, 1913, leaving Libby to provide for Harry and four older siblings.

Harry Lee Sutherland (pre-war portrait)

Sometime after the outbreak of the First World War, Harry relocated to Millinocket, ME, where an older sister, Mary, and her husband, William Joseph Boddy, resided. For two years, Harry trained with the Maine State Guard while working in the local community. In spring of 1918, Harry made his way to Saint John, NB and attested for overseas service with the Canadian Expeditionary Force on April 4, 1918.

Harry immediately commenced training with the 1st Depot Battalion, New Brunswick Regiment. On May 16, however, he was admitted to hospital with a case of measles. Two days later, he began experiencing severe pain in his left side. While his sister, Mary, rushed to his bedside, Harry’s health rapidly deteriorated and he passed away at Saint John Military Hospital on May 22, 1918.

Medical officials identified the cause of Harry’s death as pneumonia. His remains were transported to Nova Scotia, where Private Harry Lee Sutherland was laid to rest in Evergreen Cemetery, Country Harbour Crossroads, Guysborough County.

Harry’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 .

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Remembering Sergeant Horace Goddard MacMillan—Died of Wounds May 19, 1918

Horace Goddard MacMillan was born at Isaac’s Harbour, Guysborough County, on December 22, 1892, the youngest of Stephen and Jane (Buckley) MacMillan’s six children. Stephen owned and operated a store, warehouse and wharf in the local community. Following his father’s death on June 17, 1914, Horace assumed operation of the family business, as his two older brothers had left home to pursue careers elsewhere.

Sgt. Horace Goddard MacMillan (seated) & Captain J. J. McRitchie

The outbreak of the First World War, however, soon impacted Horace’s life. During the winter of 1915-16, recruitment efforts reach fever pitch as military officials canvassed the province, in search of soldiers for three recently established Nova Scotia Highland Brigade battalions. At the same time, the Canadian government authorized the formation of two Canadian Army Medical Corps (CAMC) units—No. 7 Stationary Hospital (Dalhousie University) and No. Stationary Hospital (St. Francis Xavier University).

On March 3, 1916, Horace attested for service with No. 9 Stationary Hospital at Antigonish, NS. The unit initially organized and trained on the StFX campus before relocating to Halifax in early May 1916. After six weeks’ training at local military hospitals, No. 9 Stationary departed for overseas aboard SS Missanabie on June 19.

Upon arriving in England, its Nursing Sisters were assigned to London area hospitals for further training, while male personnel made their way to military camps in southern England. Horace was initially assigned to Moore Barracks Hospital, Shorncliffe, but was transferred to Bramshott Military Hospital on September 15. No. 9 Stationary assumed operation of the Bramshott facility in late November 1916, its personnel servicing the medical needs of the soldiers stationed at nearby military camps.

Horace’s service at Bramshott over the subsequent months earned him a promotion to the rank of “Acting Sergeant” on October 1, 1916. He advanced to the rank of Sergeant on December 5, the same day that No. 9 Stationary departed England for France. Upon landing on the continent, the unit’s personnel proceeded to the village of Longuenesse, near Saint-Omer, France, where personnel commenced establishment of a working hospital.

Within less than a month, the facility—located approximately 50 kilometres west of the forward area near Armentières, France—received its first patients. While the hospital initially helped ease “overflow” problems at other hospitals, it was ready to accept combat casualties by March 1918. The timing coincided with the anticipated resumption of combat as weather conditions improved. Within weeks, in fact, German forces launched a major spring offensive, called “Operation Michael,” in sectors to the south of No. 9 Stationary’s location.

By early April, the facility was processing “a steady stream of casualties,” many of them soldiers suffering from exposure to poison gas. Within days, however, the launch of a second offensive near Armentières placed the unit’s personnel and patients in jeopardy, as German forces advanced to within artillery range of Saint-Omer. In response, on April 12, military authorities ordered No. 9 Stationary to commence the process of evacuating its patients and dismantling the facility. Within a week, its personnel retreated to Étaples, on the French coast.

While No. 9 Stationary’s male staff immediately commenced work on a new facility at nearby Le Faux, its Nursing Sisters were temporarily assigned to nearby hospitals. Work at the new location proceeded steadily and by mid-May the hospital anticipated the arrival of its first patients within a week. Nobody anticipated the events about to unfold in a location previously untouched by the perils of the forward area.

In the aftermath of its failed “Spring Offensive,” German military authorities launched a new strategy, designed to hinder Allied forces’ operation in the forward area. Utilizing its newly developed Gotta bomber, Germany commenced a series of bombing raids on strategic locations well behind the front lines. The plan was to disrupt the flow of supplies to units in the line by targeting supply depots and railway facilities located along the French coast.

While Étaples was home to numerous medical facilities, it was also an important port of entry for supplies destined for the forward area. On the night of May 19, German aircraft launched the first of several night-time raids on locations in and around Étaples. While supply depots and rail facilities were targeted, numerous bombs also struck British and Canadian medical facilities in the area, despite that fact that they were clearly marked as non-military locations.

A total of seven bombs landed on the the No. 9 Stationary facility, striking personnel tents and hospital buildings. Thankfully, no patients had been admitted to the hospital. However, several staff members were wounded in the attack. Horace was amongst the injured, struck in the head by debris when a bomb landed nearby. He was rushed to a nearby hospital but died of wounds shortly after admission. Sgt, Horace Goddard MacMillan was laid to rest in Étaples Military Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France.

Horace’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 .