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Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Remembering Private Leonard Shirley Archibald—KIA September 19, 1918

Leonard Shirley Archibald was born at Sonora, Guysborough County, on October 3, 1893, the fifth of Susan (Hartling) and William Alexander Archibald’s eight children. William died of tuberculosis on June 8, 1910, leaving Susan to care for a large family. Her three eldest sons—Herman, Leonard and Henry—were still at home at the time and assisted in supporting the family. While Herman worked as a labourer in the local community, Henry and Leonard were employed on coastal fishing schooners, occasionally travelling as far south as the West Indies.

Brothers Henry Seymour (left) & Leonard Shirley Archibald
The Canadian government’s decision to introduce compulsory military service soon impacted  the lives of the two younger Archibald brothers. Leonard and Henry registered as required under the terms of the Military Service Act (1917) and completed their medical examinations at Halifax on January 9, 1918. Six days later, they signed their attestation papers and were assigned to the 1st Depot Battalion, Nova Scotia Regiment.

The Archibald brothers departed for overseas on April 7 and were assigned to the 17th Reserve Battalion upon landing in England. The next several months were spent in training at Camp Bramshott. Leonard was the first to leave for the front line, receiving a transfer to the 25th Battalion on August 21 and joining the unit in the forward area at month’s end.

At the time of Leonard’s arrival, the battalion had recently fought at Amiens and Arras—part of a major Allied counter-offensive against German forces—and was training at Chérisy. On September 12, the 25th briefly returned to support positions for three days before retiring to camp near Écoivres for several days’ training. On September 18, the unit received sudden orders to report to the reserve area and returned to Chérisy. Later that night, personnel entered the front line southeast of Inchy-en-Artois amidst heavy German artillery shelling.

While the unit was in place by 1:00 a.m. September 19, the 25th’s war diary reported one fatality during the relief process. Private Leonard Shirley Archibald was “hit in the head and chest by enemy shell fire and instantly killed” while “proceeding with his Battalion to the front line.” Leonard was laid to rest in nearby Quéant Communal Cemetery British Extension.

Leonard’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, 16 September 2018

Remembering Corporal Leslie Reuben MacPherson—KIA September 16, 1918

Cpl. Leslie MacPherson's headstone, Argonne-Meuse American Cemetery
Leslie Reuben MacPherson was born at Guysborough Intervale, Guysborough County, on December 12, 1895, the fourth of Maria (Knocton) and James R. MacPherson’s five children. Sometime after 1911, Leslie left the family home for Massachusetts, where his eldest sibling, Mary Jane “Minnie,” had married and established residence.

Shortly after the United States’ entrance into the First World War on April 6, 1917, the American Congress approved the implementation of a military draft. On June 5, 1917, Leslie completed the required draft registration form at Brookline, MA. At the time, he was employed as a “helper on [an] ice wagon” for the Boston Ice Company, Chestnut Hill, and living at 17 Sheafe St., Chestnut Hill, Brookline.

Leslie was called into service with the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) soon after his registration and assigned to the 60th Infantry Regiment. Established in June 1917, the 60th initially trained at Camp Green, North Carolina, and later organized its ranks at Gettysburg, PA. The regiment consisted of three separate battalions—Leslie was part of its 2nd Battalion’s ranks—and was assigned to AEF’s 5th Division, where it served in its 9th Infantry Brigade alongside the 61st Regiment.

The 5th Division crossed the Atlantic to France in April 1918 and established its training camp near Bar-sur-Aube, a commune east of Troye, France, in early May. Before month’s end, the Division was attached to the French 7th Army’s 33rd Corps, which occupied the extreme southern portion of the front line in the Upper Alsace and Vosges Mountains. For six weeks, the Americans received instruction from experienced French Officers and soldiers, trained with live ammunition, and completed introductory trench tours in the Anould Sector.

While the mountainous terrain resulted in little active fighting, German forces soon realized that inexperienced American troops occupied the positions opposite their lines and subjected them to several small-scale gas and infantry attacks. The novice soldiers stood their ground in every instance, demonstrating their readiness for regular front-line duty.

In mid-July, the 5th Division was assigned to the Saint-Dié Sector, approximately 16 kilometres north of Anould, France, and commenced a regular rotation along a 25-kilometer section of the front line. As with its previous location, the area was “quiet,” but its terrain was considerably less mountainous. On August 17, soldiers from the 10th Brigade’s 6th Infantry Regiment successfully completed the 5th Division’s first combat assignment, capturing the town of Frapelle and an adjacent area of high ground.

Five days later, the 5th Division received notice of its selection for the first “all-American” operation of the war—an attack on the Saint-Mihiel Salient. Located between Verdun and Pont-à-Mousson, the area had been occupied by German forces during the war’s opening days and posed a persistent threat to communication and supply lines between Verdun and Nancy. By late August, all 5th Division units had made their way to Lunéville, south of Nancy, where personnel commenced preparations for their first major combat assignment.

Early the following month, the 5th Division’s personnel began a lengthy march into their assigned sector, located along the salient’s southern boundary. Seven American Divisions in the southern sectors and three Divisions—two American and one French—along its northwestern corner were to launch “pincer-like drives” into the salient, cutting off German soldiers in its more mountainous tip and securing possession of the area.

The 5th Division was located close to the salient’s southeastern corner, where its soldiers occupied approximately two kilometres of the line. Their objective was to push northward for approximately eight kilometres to a section of the Hindenburg line east of Thiaucourt. The 5th’s 9th Infantry Brigade, consisting of the 6th and 11th Regiments, would initiate the attack, while the 10th Brigade’s 60th and 61st Regiments stood by in reserve. Once the 9th Brigade’s soldiers had reached their first-day objectives, the 10th Brigade’s soldiers would enter the line and complete the final push to the Hindenburg Line.

In the early morning hours of September 12, supporting artillery units launched a preliminary barrage of the German line. At 5:00 a.m., the 10th Brigade’s soldiers advanced toward their first objective. As the fighting progressed, personnel succeeded in securing all objectives by early afternoon. Meanwhile, American units from the northwest pushed southward, making contact with their southern comrades before midnight. As a result, German forces in the salient’s tip were unable to retreat and surrendered during the ensuing hours.

Over the next 48 hours, the victorious American units established a consolidated defensive line and set the stage for the final push to the Hindenburg Line. On the night of September 1516, the 9th Brigade’s 60th and 61st Regiments entered the trenches and prepared for combat. As he entered the line for his first major combat experience, Leslie was attached to the 60th Regiment’s Headquarters Company, where he held the rank of Corporal. His 2nd Battalion comrades assumed positions on the 5th Division’s left flank, along the southern edge of Bois de Bonvaux.

Throughout their first full day in the line, the 2nd Battalion’s soldiers endured continuous harassing artillery fire. A particularly intense bombardment targeted the entire 60th Regiment sector at 4:00 p.m. September 16 and lasted for half an hour. Despite the difficult circumstances, personnel maintained their positions and participated with their 61st Regiment colleagues in a successful early evening attack on the German line.

The 5th Division’s soldiers remained in the trenches for another 24 hours before being relieved on the night of September 16/17. During its Saint-Mihiel combat tour, the Division suffered a total of 1,612 casualties—13 Officers and 305 “other ranks” (OR) killed in action, 44 Officers and 1,123 OR wounded, 11 Officers and 116 OR “gassed.”

Corporal Leslie Reuben MacPherson was one of the 9th Brigade’s September 16,1918 fatalities. While no details are available on the circumstances of his death, accounts of the day’s events suggest that he was killed either during the afternoon artillery bombardment or the early evening attack on the German line. Leslie was laid to rest in Meuse - Argonne American Cemetery, Romagne, France.

A detailed description of Leslie Reuben Mac Pherson’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.

Friday, 7 September 2018

Remembering Private Joseph Edward Avery—KIA September 7, 1918

Joseph Edward Avery was born at Larry’s River, Guysborough County, where he was baptized on October 10, 1887. His parents, Elizabeth (Deslauriers) and Alexander John Avery, moved their growing family to Cambridge, MA, in 1895. At the time, there were nine children in the household. Two more were born in the United States, making Joseph the “middle child”—sixth-born—among his 11 siblings.
Private Joseph Edward Avery, AEF
Alexander was stricken with tuberculosis at age 45 and passed away on July 18, 1904. While several older brothers remained at home and assisted Elizabeth in caring for a large family, Joseph made his way to New York, where family sources claim that he worked as a bell-hop at a hotel. Later documents indicate that he was employed as a clerk at a Long Beach, Long Island “water works establishment.”

While the United States remained neutral during the first two and a half years of the First World War, a series of events resulted in an American declaration of war on Germany in early April 1917. Six weeks later, The United States Congress approved the introduction of a military service registration system. In the autumn of 1917, Joseph enlisted with the 326th Infantry Regiment. He spent the winter of 1917-18 training at Camp Gordon, near Atlanta, GA. In April 1918, the 326th relocated to Camp Upton, NY, and crossed the Atlantic Ocean to Le Havre, France, early the following month.

The 326th set foot on the European continent on May 17, 1918. Within days, its soldiers commenced introductory tours in the line with experienced units, the regiment reporting its first fatality on June 9. Shortly afterward, the 326th’s 82nd Division was placed under the command of the French 7th Army. Joseph and his comrades logged their first tours in the line in the Tour sector, west of Nancy. The Division engaged in its first offensive action on August 4, when its soldiers launched an attack on the German line opposite their trenches.

Meanwhile, American and Allied commanders completed plans for the war’s first American offensive—an attack on the St. Mihiel salient, a 200-square mile triangle protruding for 14 miles into the Allied line between the Moselle and Meuse Rivers. German forces had captured the area early in the war, disrupting communication lines between Verdun and Nancy. American forces officially assumed responsibility for a large portion of the salient’s trenches in late August, the 82nd becoming one of five Divisions occupying sections along its most eastern portions.

In early September, the 326th’s solders entered the salient’s trenches as military commanders completed preparations for the assault, initially scheduled for September 10. Tragically, Private Joseph Edward Avery was not among the victorious American soldiers who secured the salient in a series of attacks that commenced two days after the scheduled date. He was killed in the line on September 7, 1918, and laid to rest in Saint-Mihiel American Cemetery, Thiaucourt, France. No details are available on the specific circumstances of his death.

Joseph’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, 2 September 2018

Remembering Drum Sergeant Robert Lyons—KIA September 2, 1918

Joseph Robert Armstrong Lyons was born in London, England, on March 25, 1883. While there is some speculation among descendants that his surname may have been Armstrong, according to his 1906 marriage license, Bob’s parents were William—a fruit dealer—and Mary Lyons, His first-born child Mary Rosina “Rosie,” recalled that Bob had a sister, Rosina. He also demonstrated musical ability at an early age, learning to play violin and cornet.
Drum Sergeant Robert Lyons (193rd Battalion portrait)
Around 1902, Bob immigrated to Canada and made his way to the industrial area of Cape Breton, where he found work as a locomotive fireman and engineer with the Sydney and Louisbourg Railway.
In 1905, while living at Louisbourg, Bob assumed the duties of band master with the community’s brass band. Young Catherine McAulay, a native of nearby Kennington Cove and daughter of Angus and Christie McAulay, soon caught his eye. The couple married at Louisbourg on February 14, 1906, and relocated to Glace Bay sometime afterward, forcing Bob to abandon his band master duties.

In his new community, Bob sang and played with St. Mary’s Anglican Church Choir. He also became a member of the Independent Order of Oddfellows and the Tyrian Youth Lodge. A later news item stated that he was “well known [locally] in musical circles, being cornet soloist for some years with the Wight orchestra,” a local musical group. Around 1909, Bob enlisted with the 94th Victoria Regiment (Argyll Highlanders), a local militia unit. A major attraction may have been the unit’s brass band, of which he became a member. Each summer, Bob attended a militia training session with the unit at Camp Aldershot, near Kentville.
94th Victoria Regiment Band, Aldershot (1911)—Robert Lyons at right end, 2nd row
As the years passed, a growing family emerged. The young couple welcomed their first child—a daughter, Mary Rosina “Rosie”—in July 1910. In the ensuing years, three more children joined the household—John Angus (1912), Robert William “Bob” (1914), and Margaret (1915). While life unfolded for the young and growing Lyons family, events occurring on the European continent soon impacted their lives.

In the months following the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914, Bob’s family circumstances provided sufficient justification for him to remain at home. Certainly, there were several opportunities for Bob to volunteer for overseas service during the war’s first 18 months. Within weeks of the British declaration of war, the 94th joined militia units across the country in sending volunteers to Camp Valcartier, QC, to form the First Canadian Contingent. On November 7, 1914, military officials authorized the formation of the 25th Battalion (Nova Scotia Rifles). The unit canvassed the province in search of recruits, establishing a recruitment office in Sydney.

During the autumn of 1915, the 85th Battalion (Nova Scotia Highlanders) conducted a similar province-wide campaign. The subsequent formation of the Nova Scotia Highland Brigade in January 1916 and formation of the 185th Battalion (Cape Breton Highlanders) on February 1, 1916 provided another enlistment option. In the end, perhaps a combination of factors—loyalty to his British homeland, involvement with the 94th Victoria Regiment, the wave of military enthusiasm that swept the province at the time, a desire not to miss out on the opportunity—finally tipped the scales. On July 6, 1916, Bob Lyons, father of four young children, enlisted with the 193rd Battalion at Camp Aldershot, NS.

Bob was actually added to the unit’s pay list two days earlier, with the comment “to be Sgt. (Prov.) fr. 4-7-16” recorded on his pay card. The following month, he was promoted to the rank of “Band Sgt. fr. 4-7-16.” A 193rd Brass Band photograph, taken sometime during training at Aldershot, depicts a mustached Bob Lyons, cornet in hand and turned slightly to the left, Sergeant’s stripes plainly visible on his right sleeve.


Prior to his overseas departure, members of the local railway brotherhood held a special ceremony, during which they presented their co-worker with a watch “as a visible evidence of our friendship.” The presenter also noted that the Highland Brigade, to which Bob’s unit belonged, is “known throughout the land as ‘The Breed of Manly Men’ and we know no matter the colour of the feather you wear, the red, green, purple or blue],] the enemy will never see you show the white.”

After a summer of intense training at Camp Aldershot, the Highland Brigade’s four units—the 85th (Nova Scotia Highlanders), 185th (Cape Breton Highlanders), 193rd and 219th Battalions—made their way to Halifax and departed for England aboard SS Olympic on October 12, 1916. That same day, Bob was officially appointed the 193rd Band’s Acting Band Sergeant. Six days later, the vessel docked at Liverpool and the Brigade’s soldiers made their way by train to Camp Witley in southern England.

Over the next several weeks, personnel resumed training and completed the various tasks required prior to deployment at the front. On November 30, Bob signed his military will, bequeathing his real and personal property to his young wife. At some point during his time in camp, he found a few minutes to write a letter to his elder son, John:

“Dear old curly head,

“Just a line to let you know I’m alive and well. I am glad to hear that you like going to school and are a good boy. You must be a little man to mama and your sisters and brother Bob. Help mama all you can and if papa is spared to come back home we will have lots of little rides once again. Well dear I must close now[,] hoping you will get someone to answer this for you in your own little [way]. I conclude with lots of love from your own soldier’s daddy.

“PS: Kiss Margaret and Bobbie for me and tell them papa sent them. Say prayers for papa.”
Drum Sgt. Robert Lyons, 193rd Battalion
Before year’s end, the Highland Brigade underwent a dramatic reorganization. Two of its four units–the 193rd and 219th Battalions—were dissolved and their personnel distributed to other units. Needless to say, the action directly impacted Bob’s situation. While other 193rd soldiers were assigned to reinforcement drafts destined for units at the front, on January 23, 1917, Bob was transferred to the 17th Reserve Battalion, the unit responsible for servicing two Nova Scotian infantry units in France—the 25th and 85th Battalions.

Not surprisingly, Bob quickly found a place in the 17th’s musical ensemble. On Saturday, April 28, the unit’s regimental band gave three performances in the new concert hall of London’s famous Wyndham Theatre. Its 11:30 a.m. playlist included the selection, “If You Were the Only Girl,” with “Drum Major Lyons” identified as the cornet soloist. The band performed two more sets—mid-afternoon and evening—and included a wide variety of selections, from waltzes to military airs and marches, in its playlist.

The program’s reference to Bob’s rank suggests that he played a prominent role in the musical ensemble. On May 10, he was officially appointed “Sergeant Drummer to complete establishment,” a position he held for the next five months. Unfortunately, nothing more is known of Bob’s activities throughout the summer of 1917, although one can surmise that his involvement with the 17th’s band occupied a considerable amount of his time.
Robert Lyons in 17th Reserve Battalion uniform
As summer gave way to autumn, the October 2, 1917 edition of “The Clansman”—the 17th Reserve Battalion’s regimental newspaper—described a trip to London “one night not so many moons ago [by] a party of our Other Ranks and Officers…for a banquet and general nice evening with some of the boys then due to go overseas.” While the party “numbered 22 when it left the camp,” upon arriving in London, “it was found that a count of noses showed but 21 to be present.”

The group nevertheless continued with its plans, sitting down at the “banquet table” only to discover that “a plate had been laid for the missing man and that his dinner had been prepared.” The situation presented somewhat of a problem:

“The full bill must be paid, but how? Then came Drum Major Lyons to the rescue. Seating himself next to the vacant place[,] he gave the signal to say he was ready for what might come. When the eats appeared [,] he was there for a double—and when the liquids came to the scene[,] he was ready to drink a toast to Hosie [Pipe Major Alexander Hosie, 17th Reserve Battalion] with a vim.”

The news item concluded by posing a number of questions about the various individuals in attendance. In referring to Bob, the reporter asked: “Does Drum Major Lyons dislike Burgundy and was this dislike the cause of his not being able to find White Chapel?”

While “The Clansman” related the story in a light-hearted manner, several more serious matters took place around the time of its publication, according to a document in Bob’s service file, on October 17, he “reverted to Private (absent without leave).” It is unclear whether an infraction occurred during his recent visit to London. A second document in his file mentions the demotion, but makes no reference to violation of military rules, creating the possibility that he may have relinquished his rank to accommodate a transfer to France.

The newspaper’s subsequent edition published another item that may provide an alternative explanation. Under the heading “Many changes made in Camp Arrangements,” the article described several major events that had recently taken place in the 17th’s camp, particularly the fact that “several Reserves have gone out of existence through amalgamation.” Specifically, the “Nova Scotia Reserve [17th] and the Seaforths [Seaforth Highlanders of Canada, a prominent British Columbia military unit] have been cast together under the Seaforth rule and the two units, which had been strong rivals in musketry, football and baseball, are now one.”

“The Clansman” went on to note one additional change that may have impacted Bob’s circumstances:

“A regrettable feature of the amalgamation… is the breaking up of Lieut. [John Thomas] Arenburg’s [26th Reserve Battalion] band, in the organization of which he has worked so strenuously for the past several months. A number of his men have been taken on the strength of our band, filling vacancies made by a recent draft. Similar changes were made in the north camp and another band, one of the best in the camp, went out of existence.”

Lt. Arenburg, a native of Lunenburg, NS, had initially enlisted with the 106th Battalion (Nova Scotia Rifles) but following its dissolution was eventually transferred to the 26th Reserve Battalion, where he presided over the musical ensemble mentioned in the article. Its absorption into the 17th’s ranks suggests that some of the 17th’s band members had been selected for service at the front. This raises the possibility that Bob voluntarily “reverted to ranks,” in order to proceed overseas. In fact, his inclusion in the London excursion suggests that he may have already been selected for service at the front, a possibility that may also explain his decision not to return to camp prior to his leave’s expiration.

Whatever the case, Bob was officially “struck off [the] strength” of the 17th Reserve Battalion on November 11 and proceeded to France on the same day, destined for the ranks of the 85th Battalion (Nova Scotia Highlanders). He arrived in his new unit’s camp at Raimbert, France, on November 23, part of a reinforcement draft that included 22 Officers and 222 “other ranks.” A little more than three weeks previously, the 85th had suffered what proved to be its worst losses of the entire war during the second stage of the Canadian Corps’ attack on Passchendaele Ridge, Belgium, and was in the process of rebuilding its ranks.

The 85th Battalion had arrived in France of February 10, 1917, and became part of the 4th Division’s 12th Brigade shortly after the Canadian Corps’ successful April 9, 1917 capture of Vimy Ridge, France. The unit served alongside the 38th (Ottawa, ON), 72nd (Seaforth Highlanders of Canada) and 78th (Winnipeg Grenadiers) Battalions for the remainder of the war. Upon arriving in camp, Bob was assigned to “B” Company’s No. 5 Platoon and commenced regular rotations in the forward area shortly after his arrival.

Throughout the winter of 1917-18, the 85th served in the Avion, Méricourt and St. Émile sectors, near Lens, France. Tours were for the most part uneventful, a mid-January 1918 thaw presenting perhaps the greatest challenge, creating “mud and water was from three to four feet deep, too thin to shovel and too thick to pump.” As spring approached and weather conditions improved, Allied forces braced for an anticipated attack on their lines.

The cessation of hostilities between Russia and Germany on the Eastern Front—the result of a December 1917 peace treaty—combined with the anticipated arrival of large numbers of American troops on the Western Front, prompted the German High Command to plan a major spring offensive. Given the code name “Operation Michael,” the campaign commenced in British sectors south of the Canadian Corps on March 21, 1918, and was designed to push westward to the French coast, driving a wedge between British forces to the north and French units to the south.

In response, all Canadian Corps units were placed on high alert, in anticipation of an attack in their sectors. In late March, officials assigned the 85th to “Odlum’s Composite Brigade,” a combination of 11th and 12th Brigade units under the command of the 11th’s Brigadier General Victor Odlum. The unit entered the line near Bailleul on the evening of March 29 and “stood to” the following morning, in anticipation of a German attack. While no subsequent assault materialized, the battalion suffered significant casualties during two days in the line.

As time passed, it became apparent that German forces had no plans to attack the Canadian sector and the 85th returned to its regular 12th Brigade rotation in early April. During subsequent days, Bob found several opportunities to write home to his family. On April 9, 1918, he wrote to his “darling daughter” Rosie:

“Just a few lines in answer to your letter. You sure have surprised me [with] the way you have got on in school. In am sure proud of you and I will expect a note from you often. You must help Johnnie to get along with his lessons and tell him to send Papa a copy of his work in school. Well, sweetheart, we are having pretty hard times in France this spring, but you must pray to spare your Daddy to come home. Also, you must try to help Mama along and be good to Johnnie, Bobbie and your dear little sister [Margaret].”

Four days later, Bob wrote to his “dear wife and kiddies”:

“Just a few lines to let you know I am still alive and well. I hope you and the Bairns are enjoying the best of health. I am scribbling this on a box by candle light in the dugout which was once belonging [sic] to our old friend “Heinie,” who departed from here toot sweet [sic - tout suite] some time ago when the Canadians got busy. Well, kid, you should certainly be proud to be a Canadian as we certainly get good praise from every nationality, even from Fritzie, for the way we do things. In fact, our friend Fritz would just as soon know the devil was in front of him as our boys, as we are everlastingly tormenting him with our patrols…. [We are] all well and fine and wishing for this war to end but [are] willing to stick until a satisfactory peace is obtained which I think should come about around this summer. Well, Kate, kiss the children for me and tell them to pray for a safe return of their daddy. Hoping to hear from you soon, I remain your loving Husband and Father.”

On April 16, Bob departed the 85th’s camp to complete a training course with the 4th Canadian Machine Gun Battalion. During a six-week assignment with the unit, he once again found a few minutes to write home on May 12, which happened to be Mother’s Day:

“Just a few lines to let you know I am still alive and well. Hoping this will find you enjoying the same…. I am still on the machine gun course way back from the lines in a quiet and peaceful spot which, when I go to bed—if it can be called such—the frogs in the marsh and the scream of the locomotive’s whistle remind me of home and you all that I get a little homesick, and can it be wondered at after two years and all we have been through since we left our homes and loved ones. But we are still cheerful and longing for the day when we will be in a position to drive Heinie and his cursed tribe out of this country and come back to straighten things out over there…. It has been three weeks since I had a line from you. Do try and write a little oftener as a letter is the only link between us that helps to keep up the courage to carry on this murderous business…. I shall certainly have some fine old tales to tell when I get back…. I will close with the best of love and kisses to you all from your loving husband and father.”

A portion of a fourth, undated letter described an incident that illustrates the perils of service in the forward area:

“I think the Lord has been with me all the time this last while back. I had a very narrow escape about a week ago just passing an ammunition dump when Heinie landed a shell [that] killed four men… just ahead of me and wounded the chap that was with me, so you can tell how close a call it was for me…. Well sweetheart tell Rosie I still have the letter and lessons she sent me and tell her to write me another and get Johnnie to write. Tell Bobbie that his card made papa homesick. Tell him I thank him very much for it and if God spares his papa to come home again we will have some dandy times again. Say, see if you cannot spare a dollar or two and have your picture taken again so I can see the change that a year makes in you all and if I can get out to some civilized town where there is a photographer I will have mine taken…. I will close with all the best love and wishes from your affectionate and loving husband Bob.”
Lyons family 1917 portrait—Johnnie (left), Kate, Margaret, Rosie & Bobbie (sitting)
On the night of May 4/5, the 85th withdrew from the Arleux Sector and made its way to Monchy Breton, where its soldiers commenced a lengthy period of training, shortly after mid-month, the unit received authorization to wear the “Argyle and Sutherland” tartan as “the 85th becomes officially a Highland Battalion.” Training continued into the following month, the soldiers rehearsing a “Brigade attack scheme” that involved “open warfare” with the support of tanks. Clearly, some kind of major action was on the horizon.

The break from the line continued through the month of June, the training schedule pausing to allow personnel to attend a Brigade Sports Day at Ferfay on June 12.  Bob rejoined the 85th before month’s and as training extended into a third month. A Canadian Corps Sports Day was held at Tinques on July 1, in honor of “Dominion Day.” Five days later, the entire battalion participated in a “full dress rehearsal of [the attack] scheme” as training continued into a third month. On July 19, the 85th returned to the forward area and entered Divisional Reserve at Sterling Camp, northeast of Arras.

The unit provided working parties for several nights before entering the Fampoux sector’s front trenches on the night of July 25 for its first tour in almost three months. Within days of its deployment, rumors circulated that “the whole Corps is moving in a few days—in fact has started now. For where—no one knows, but it looks like a big scrap ahead.”

At month’s end, personnel withdrew from the line. Within days, the accuracy of the recent rumors became fact. At mid-day August 2, the 85th boarded a train for an “unknown” destination. After departing, personnel learned that they were heading southward to Hangest-sur-Somme, approximately 25 kilometers northwest of Amiens. Sometime during the day—perhaps while aboard the train—Bob once again penned a short note to his family:

“Just a few lines to let you know that I am back again safe and sound from the front lines but I am sorry to say... I have lost [my] old pal Jimmie [Pte. James Forbes McDonald, regimental number 877646]. He volunteered for a risky piece of work and died facing the enemy like a soldier and a man. He was well liked and was thought quite a lot of by the boys and we all feel this loss very much. Such is the fortune of war…. I am writing to Jimmie’s mother tonight. I know she would like to hear from the boys. Well kids old Fritz is catching Hell just now and don’t think he can stick what he is going to get much longer. Well as it is fearful hot and not having much news of the present will close with the best. Love and Kisses from your loving Husband and Father.

“Bob

“PS: I should love to have another picture of you all as a year makes a lot of difference.”

While Bob had no idea of what the move to Amiens held for him and his mates, his comments concerning the enemy soon proved uncannily accurate. The Canadian Corps was about to participate in the commencement of a massive Allied counter-offensive, slated to take place east of Amiens within days. Having withstood the German spring offensive, Allied commanders set about planning a response, knowing that the enemy now faced the task of manning a longer front line while grappling with troop shortages and declining morale. The appropriate blow might break the stalemate and bring four years of fighting to an end.

The operation was to take place along a 20 to 30 mile section of the front line east of Amiens and would involve the Canadian Corps, the 3rd British Army Corps, the French 3rd Army and the Australian Corps. The 85th’s 12th Brigade would not participate in the initial assault but was scheduled to follow the 9th Brigade’s advance, leap-frogging through its lines toward a location east of Bayeux Wood.

While the 85th would initially occupy support positions during its Brigade’s advance, its soldiers were assigned the day’s final task—passing through their comrades’ lines and capturing a defensive trench system to the right of the village of Caix and in front of Bayeux Wood. Within the 85th’s ranks, the advance was in turn divided among its Companies, “B” and “C” carrying out the attack’s initial phase, while “A” and “D” would pass through their mates and press onward to the final objective.

In the early hours of August 7, the 85th arrived at the assembly area near Bois de Boves. That evening, personnel moved into their assigned “jumping off” position to the left of Gentelles Wood. At 4:20 a.m. August 8, a massive artillery barrage signalled the commencement of the day’s attack. One hour later, the unit made its way around the southern edge of Gentelles to a second assembly point southwest of Demuin. A thick morning mist prevented German forces from detecting their movement and protected personnel from retaliatory artillery and machine gun fire.

The soldiers arrived at their jumping off positions at 10:00 a.m. and rested while they watched the battle unfold in front of them. Two hours later, the 85th moved out in column formation, following the 38th and 72nd Battalions in the first stage of the 12th Brigade’s advance. Within minutes, the soldiers encountered their first enemy fire of the day—“considerable machine gun fire from the woods.” Upon reaching Bayeux Wood, resistance was so fierce that military commanders altered the plan of attack, placing “A” Company under direct command of the 12th Brigade while the remaining three Companies pressed forward around the southern edge of Caix and passed through the 38th’s lines.

A message received from an observation plane indicated that “the enemy were retiring in disorder,” allowing the three Companies to push onward toward their final objective without significant resistance. By 4:30 p.m., the soldiers had occupied the trenches in front of Bayeux Wood and set about establishing a consolidated line. An attempted German counter-attack launched four hours later “did not reach” the 85th’s positions.

By day’s end, the battalion had advanced a total of 11 miles from its initial starting point, a stunning accomplishment by any measure. German General Erich Ludendorff later described August 8, 1918 as the “black day of the German army.” While the one-day advance would not bring the war to an end, it raised significant questions about the ability of German forces to maintain their positions in the face of a concerted Allied counter-attack.

The 85th held its position throughout the battle’s second day and retired to a valley south of Caix following relief on the night of August 9/10. The next morning, as the second phase of the Amiens operation commenced, the unit’s soldiers moved forward to their assigned “jumping off” position under cover of darkness. At 10:10 a.m. August 10, the 85th advanced toward Rosières, with the support of several tanks. The soldiers captured the village without resistance but encountered heavy machine gun fire as they advanced beyond its boundaries.

Australian units to the 85th’s left—where Bob’s “B” Company had led the advance—failed to keep pace, exposing the flank to withering fire. Personnel found themselves “without cover” and hastily set about establishing a defensive line. While ultimately successful, the unit incurred significant casualties throughout the day. The following morning, its soldiers “stood to” in anticipation of a German counter-attack but none materialized. The situation stabilized when the Australians finally managed to secure the left flank, allowing “B” and “D” Companies to retire to support positions as the 38th Battalion continued the attack.

While the 85th’s soldiers remained in the forward area for another 48 hours, they saw no further combat at Amiens. Upon retiring from the line on August 14, the battalion enjoyed several days’ rest before moving into Divisional Reserve near Rouvroy on August 18. The unit provided working parties for several nights before returning to Caix Wood on August 23. Two days later, personnel relocated to Gentelles Wood, where they rested while the unit reorganized its ranks.

During the evening of August 27, the battalion marched to Longueau Station, near Amiens, and departed by train shortly after midnight. Under cover of darkness, the entire 4th Division made its way northward to the outskirts of Arras. Upon arriving at Marœuil at 1:00 p.m. August 28, the soldiers marched to billets. The following afternoon, the 85th relocated to Monchy-le-Preux and entered accommodations in “old trenches.” Two days later, the soldiers commenced preparations to return to the line for their next combat assignment.

While other Canadian units carried out preliminary attacks east of Arras during the last week of August, the Canadian Corps’ primary objective was the Drocourt - Quéant line, a section of the German Hindenburg defensive system east of Arras. Breaking through this barrier was key to a final victory, and the first stage of the attack—dubbed the “Scarpe Operation,” as its primary target was located on the opposite bank of the Scarpe River—was slated to commence in early September.

The 12th Brigade’s units were among the Canadian battalions selected for the assignment and returned to the forward area on the night of August 31/September 1. The 85th’s soldiers occupied a 500-yard section of the front line immediately behind the planned “jumping off” position. “A” and “D” Companies would lead the advance, their objective being the capture of the Drocourt - Quéant line’s first three trenches. “”B” Company would then pass through their comrades’ lines and seize support positions in the rear, along the edge of Mount Dury. Finally, “D” Company would pass through “B” Company and capture the day’s final objective.

At 4:15 a.m. September 2, the 85th’s soldiers assumed their attack positions, the 10th Brigade’s 47th (British Columbia) on their left while their 38th Battalion Brigade comrades occupied trenches to the right. While eight tanks were scheduled to assist the advance, none reached the area prior to Zero Hour. The soldiers commenced the attack at 5:00 a.m. and immediately encountered heavy resistance: “In passing through the first 300 yards of the advance, the Battalion losses amounted to approximately 50 % of… total casualties throughout the whole action.”

Despite the withering fire, personnel continued on to their first objective, securing the location by 6:15 a.m. “after severe fighting.” The significant casualties incurred in the opening hour required three “first wave” platoons to reinforce the attack on the second objective, which was secured by 7:30 a.m. Having broken through the major portion of the Hindenburg system, the 85th’s soldiers pressed onward toward their final objective.

Once again, personnel encountered severe machine gun fire. In response, “B” Company and available reinforcements advanced in support, targeting German strongpoints and propelling the unit forward to its final goal, an area of high ground near Dury. While the final wave suffered heavy casualties, the unit managed to capture the location by 9:30 a.m.

While its orders required no further advance, the soldiers faced formidable German resistance as they set about consolidating their position. A heavy artillery barrage inflicted considerable casualties, but no German counter-attack materialized. The 85th held the line until mid-day, when 11th Brigade personnel reached its position and the unit’s soldiers retired to Brigade Reserve, located at the morning’s first objective. In the early evening hours, personnel marched out to Divisional Reserve at Vis-en-Artois.

During its Scarpe assignment, the 85th suffered three Officer and 62 OR fatalities, while 10 Officers and 160 OR were wounded. Two more OR remained at duty despite their wounds, while 36 OR were listed as “missing, believed wounded,” for a total of 260 casualties “all ranks”—approximately one-third of the unit’s pre-combat fighting strength.

Private Robert Armstrong Lyons was one of the day’s early fatalities. According to his “circumstances of casualty” card: “During the advance about 7:30 a.m. on 2nd September 1918, he was hit in the head and instantly killed by an enemy machine gun bullet.” The 35-year-old father of four was laid to rest in Dury Mill British Cemetery, 10 miles southeast of Arras, France.
Robert Lyons' headstone, Dury Mill British Cemetery
In the aftermath of her husband’s death, Bob’s widow, Catherine, focused on preserving his memory. Shortly after the war ended, she paid for a stained-glass window that was placed in St Mary’s Anglican Church, Glace Bay, NS. The inscription below a picture of Christ as the Good Shepherd read: “Sacred to the memory of Robert Lyons, who fell in the Great War, Sept. 2nd, 1918. This window was erected by his widow.” Sadly, the window was lost when a 1980s fire destroyed the church.

Catherine also requested the following epitaph on Bob’s Imperial [now Commonwealth] War Graves Commission headstone in Dury Mill Cemetery: “Gone But Not Forgotten—Inserted by his loving wife C. Lyons.” She never re-married, dedicating herself to raising her children and ensuring that they also preserved the memories of a father lost so early in their lives. Catherine Lyons passed away at her Reserve St., Glace Bay home on September 24, 1952, at 64 years of age.
Memorial window & plaque, St. Mary's Church, Glace Bay, NS
The lives of Bob and Catherine’s four children reflected their father’s commitment to service. Mary Rosina “Rosie” (1910 - 2002) received a bursary from the Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire (I.O.D.E.), part of a fund “established… to perpetuate the memory of the men and women who gave their lives in defence of the Empire in the Great War, 1914 - 1918.” Rosie became a teacher and spent several years teaching in Glace Bay and England before her marriage to Archibald MacDonald MacKeigan.

John Angus “Johnnie” (1912 - 1982) was working as an insurance agent in Glace Bay when he married Mary Adelaide Lawley at North Sydney, NS, on October 8, 1938. John served with the Royal Canadian Artillery during the Second World War. His younger brother, Robert William “Bobbie” (1914 - 2009), also received an I.O.D.E. bursary and entered the teaching profession He married Goldye Patricia Williams, a native of Florence, Cape Breton, in a ceremony held at Sydney, NS, on May 24, 1940. Bob also served with the Royal Canadian Navy during the Second World War, rising to the rank of Instructor Lieutenant-Commander. In the years following the war, he served as Principal of Pictou Academy, Pictou, NS, and later became Superintendent of Schools for the Pictou County school system.

Margaret Ann (1915 - 2009)—the youngest child, born shortly before her father’s enlistment—married Douglas Wilson, a Second World War veteran who served with the Canadian Forestry Corps in Scotland.

*****

Sources:

Service file of Drum Sergeant Robert Lyons, 902533. Library & Archives Canada, Ottawa, ON. Available online.

War diary of the 85th Battalion (Nova Scotia Highlanders). Library & Archives Canada, Ottawa, ON. Available online through LAC’s Enhanced Archives Search web page.

Special thanks to Terry, McCully, Calgary, AB, Drum Sergeant Robert Lyons’ great-grandson, who provided images, transcripts of Robert Lyons’ letters, and background information on the Lyons family.

Remembering Private Simon O' Haley & Private Gordon Vincent Potter—KIA September 2, 1918

Gordon Vincent Potter was born at Fisherman’s Harbour, Guysborough County, on October 13, 1898, the youngest of Martha (Bingley) and Thomas Potter’s four sons. Gordon enlisted with the 193rd Battalion at Guysborough town on April 4, 1916. At the time, he gave his birth year as 1897, perhaps attempting to disguise the fact that he was six months shy of his eighteenth birthday.

Pte. Gordon Vincent Potter's headstone, Dury Mill British Cemetery
Three days previously, Simon O’Haley, a native of Port Felix, Guysborough County, had enlisted with the 193rd at Canso. Born on October 28, 1898, to Matilda (Richard) and John Adam O’Haley, Simon was only two weeks younger than Gordon. The two young men were destined to follow the same path for the duration of their military careers.

Pte. Simon O'Haley's headstone, Vis-en-Artois Cemetery
Gordon and Simon spent the summer of 1916 training at Camp Aldershot, NS, and departed for overseas with their 193rd companions aboard SS Olympic on October 12. Also on board were three other Nova Scotian units—the 85th (Nova Scotia Highlanders), 185th (Cape Breton Highlanders) and 219th Battalions—all members of the Nova Scotia Highland Brigade. Its arrival in England coincided with the Canadian Corps’ two months of service at the Somme, prompting military authorities to dissolve two of the Brigade’s four units—the 193rd and 219th—before year’s end and distribute their personnel to existing units.

On January 17, 1917, Simon and Gordon were transferred to the 17th Reserve Battalion, the unit responsible for providing reinforcements for the 25th and 85th Battalions, Nova Scotia’s two front-line combat units. Three months later, Gordon proceeded overseas for service with the 85th, while Simon joined him in late June.

The two young soldiers were in the line during the 85th’s late October 1917 Passchendaele tour. The unit participated in the second stage of the Canadian Corps’ attack on Passchendaele Ridge, securing its objective but suffering what later proved to be its worst losses of the war. Gordon and Simon came through the bloody engagement without injury and followed the 85th back to France, where its personnel served in sectors near Lens throughout the winter of 1917-18.

Unaffected by the German spring offensive launched in sectors to the south of the Canadian Corps, the 85th served a regular rotation in the line until early May 1918, when its personnel retired to Divisional Reserve for a period of rest and training. While the unit returned to duty in late July, its soldiers were on the move early the following month, travelling by train to Hangest-sur-Somme, near Amiens.

On the morning of August 8, 1918, the Canadian Corps participated in a major Allied counter-offensive launched on the German line east of Amiens. While the 85th did not participate in the early morning opening advance, its soldiers moved forward in the afternoon and continued the advance. After a 24-hour break, the unit participated in an attack on the village of Rosières at mid-morning August 10.

Once again, Gordon and Simon emerged from the battlefield unscathed. The 85th remained in the line until the night of August 13/14 and spent several days in the Amiens area before travelling northward to sectors near Arras in late August. Shortly before the 85th’s return to the Arras area, Allied forces launched a second attack on the German line east of the town.

The assault was a prelude to a concerted attempt to break through the Hindenburg Line, a major German system constructed during the winter of 1916-17, extending from Arras to Laffaux. The first stage of the plan involved an attack on a section east of Arras called the Drocourt-Quéant Line. During the evening of August 31, the 85th returned to the trenches and spent the following day completing preparations for its third combat assignment in less than a month.

At 5:00 a.m. September 2, 1918, the unit’s soldiers went “over the top” toward its assigned segment of the Drocourt-Quéant trenches. During the advance’s first 300 yards, the battalion suffered an estimated 50 % of the day’s casualties. Upon securing its first objective one hour and 15 minutes later, the 85th paused to re-organize before resuming the attack.  The determined soldiers reached their intermediate objective at 8:40 a.m. and pressed onward to their final goal 50 minutes later.

Despite a heavy artillery barrage, the 85th stubbornly held its position and retired from the line shortly before mid-day. The Drocourt-Quéant engagement proved much more costly than the unit’s Amiens tour. Three Officers and 62 “other ranks” (OR) were killed during the morning’s advance, while 10 Officers and 160 OR were wounded and an additional 36 OR “missing believed wounded” by day’s end.

Only weeks shy of their twentieth birthdays, neither Private Gordon Potter nor Private Simon O’Haley survived the day’s fighting. According to Simon’s “circumstances of casualty” card, he was one of the unit’s earliest fatalities: “Whilst taking part in the attack from South of Harcourt to South of Dury, at about 5:00 a.m. on September 2 1918, he was hit in the head and instantly killed by an enemy machine gun bullet.” Simon was laid to rest in Vis-en-Artois British Cemetery, eight miles south of Arras.

While Gordon survived the day’s advance and retreated with his comrades to their first objective at mid-day, he fell victim to the incessant artillery fire that followed the attack: “He was instantly killed by shrapnel which struck him in the chest at about 3:00 p.m. September 2, 1918, whilst on a carrying party south of Dury.” Gordon’s remains were buried in Dury Mill British Cemetery, 10 miles southeast of Arras.

Gordon’s and Simon’s story are two 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, 30 August 2018

Remembering Private Edward Lewis Connolly—DOW August 30, 1918

Edward Lewis Connolly was born at Milford Haven Bridge, Guysborough County, on June 20, 1891, the youngest of Margaret (Cudahee) and Patrick Connolly’s four children. Edward was among the county’s earliest First World War enlistments, volunteering for service with the 25th Battalion at Halifax, NS, on November 20, 1914.

Pte. Edward Lewis Connolly's headstone, Ligny-sur-Canche British Cemetery
The 25th departed Halifax aboard SS Saxonia on May 20, 1915, and spent the summer training in England. Its soldiers crossed the English Channel to the continent in mid-September as part of the 2nd Canadian Division’s 5th Brigade. The unit made its was northward to Belgium’s Ypres Salient, where its soldiers served a regular rotation throughout the winter of 1915-16.

Edward and his mates received their first major combat experience in mid-April 1916, when German forces launched a major attack on the 25th’s line at St. Eloi, Belgium. Edward was among the casualties, struck by shrapnel in the elbow, knee and hand. Carried by stretcher to No. 6 Canadian Field Ambulance on April 14, he was subsequently transported to No. 17 Casualty Clearing Station. Following his evacuation by ambulance train to hospital at Camiers, France, surgeons removed several shrapnel fragments from his hand and elbow.

On April 28, Edward was invalided to England and admitted to the Duke of Connaught Red Cross Hospital, Taplow. Several days later, surgeons removed a large metal fragment from his knee during a second operation. Edward spent two months at Taplow before receiving a transfer to Hillingdon House Canadian Convalescent Hospital, Uxbridge, on July 7. Two weeks later, he was admitted to Bearwood Military Convalescent Home, Woodcote Park, Epsom.

After a month’s rest, Edward was discharged from medical care on August 18. 1916, and reported to the 2nd Canadian Corps Depot at Shoreham. As was often the case with wounded soldiers, he remained in England for a lengthy period of time, awaiting orders to return to the front. Finally, on April 18, 1918—two years after being wounded at St. Eloi, Belgium—Edward crossed the English Channel to Le Havre, France, and rejoined his 25th Battalion comrades near Arras on June 21.

At month’s end, the 25th retired to Grand-Rullecourt for a period of rest and training. Four weeks later, its soldiers travelled to Briquemesnil-Floxicourt, west of Amiens, and prepared to return to the line. Having withstood a major German spring offensive in late March and April 1918, Allied military commanders set about planning a major counter-offensive, scheduled to commence east of Amiens in early August.

On August 7, the 25th made its way to its assigned “jumping off” positions near Cachy. The following morning, its soldiers occupied support positions as the 24th and 26th Battalions—two of its 5th Brigade mates—participated in the initial attack. The units secured their objectives by mid-day and the 25th’s soldiers assisted in establishing a consolidated line.

The advance resumed during the early afternoon hours of August 9, the 25th’s soldiers leading the attack on the village of Caix. Following its capture, the unit secured the village of Vrély and moved on to occupy Méharicourt by late afternoon. Personnel once again consolidated their location during the evening hours, having suffered only light casualties during the day’s fighting.

The 25th remained on the outskirts of Méharicourt until the night of August 16/17, when its soldiers retired to Caix for several days’ rest. Edward came through the Amiens tour without injury and followed the unit northward to Beauvains, south of Arras, on August 25. Its numbers reduced to 23 Officers and 502 OR, the battalion nevertheless returned to the line the following morning and prepared for its second combat assignment of the month.

As the attack commenced at mid-morning August 27, the 25th occupied support positions behind its three Brigade mates. Its soldiers moved forward shortly afterward and managed to enter the German front line, but were forced to take cover as units to their right failed to keep pace. The unit suffered casualties throughout the afternoon, “as the front line was unable to advance owing to the flanks being open.”

While the day’s casualties were relatively light—one Officer killed and two wounded; two OR killed and 17 OR wounded—Edward was once again among of the soldiers affected: “While with his Company consolidating a trench, in front of Chérisy… he was hit in the right side by an enemy machine gun bullet.”

Evacuated to 2/2 London Field Ambulance that afternoon, Edward was transported to No. 43 Casualty Clearing Station on August 28. Private Edward Lewis Connolly lingered for two days before “succumb[ing] to his wounds” on August 30, 1918. He was laid to rest in Ligny-sur-Canche British Cemetery, seven miles south of Saint-Pol-sur-Ternoise, France.

Edward’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, 28 August 2018

Remembering Private Vincent Stephen Hallett—Died of Wounds August 28, 1918

Private Vincent Stephen Hallett was born at Country Harbour, Guysborough County, on December 20, 1898, the seventh of Sarah Elizabeth (Davidson) and Freeman Hallett’s eight children and the youngest of their four sons. Vincent enlisted with the 193rd Battalion at Guysborough on April 15, 1916.

Private Vincent Stephen Hallett
Following a summer of intense training at Camp Aldershot, Vincent and his 193rd comrades boarded SS Olympic at Halifax on October 12 and departed for overseas. Also on board were three other units, the four battalions comprising the Nova Scotia Highland Brigade. Following its overseas arrival, two of the Brigade’s units—the 193rd and 219th Battalions—were disbanded and their soldiers transferred to other units.

Initially assigned to the the 17th Reserve Battalion (Nova Scotia) on January 23, 1917, Vincent was transferred to the 161st Battalion (Ontario) two weeks later. He remained in England with the unit—part of the newly created 5th Canadian Division—throughout the year. When military authorities decided to dissolve the Division in early 1918, Vincent was re-assigned to the 4th Reserve Battalion on March 8, 1918. Within two weeks of his transfer, he received orders to report for duty with the 18th Battalion (Western Ontario) in France.

The 18th was one of four Ontario units assigned to the 2nd Canadian Division’s 4th Brigade. Vincent joined the battalion at Wailly Huts, southwest of Arras, France, on May 15 and served a regular rotation in the line until June 21, when the 18th retired to Divisional Reserve at Wailly. Following three weeks of  training, the battalion returned to the forward area near Arras in mid-July.

At month’s end, personnel travelled southward to Pissy, west of Amiens, in preparation for their next major assignment. Having withstood a major German spring offensive in late March and April 1918, Allied commanders set about planning a counter-offensive scheduled for early August.

In the early hours of August 8, the 18th participated in a major attack on the German line east of Amiens, capturing its objective—a cluster of rock quarries east of Marcelcave—after three hours’ fighting. The unit remained in the line until the afternoon of August 10, at which time its soldiers retired to Divisional Reserve.

The 18th remained in the Amiens area for another week, participating in a second attack on German positions on August 16. The following day, the unit withdrew from the line and over several days made its way northward to sectors near Arras. Personnel returned to the trenches on the evening of August 24 and set about preparing for their third combat assignment of the month—an attack on German positions east of Arras.

On the morning of August 26, the 18th’s soldiers advanced in support behind the 21st Battalion as their Brigade mates participated in the initial advance. During the early afternoon, the 18th moved forward, with orders to capture the village of Guémappe. While the daylight attack initially advanced well beyond the village, units on the 18th’s left flank failed to keep pace, forcing its soldiers to retreat to Guémappe, where they established a defensive line.

The following morning, the 18th resumed the advance, attacking the village of Villers-lès-Cagnicourt. While personnel passed through Vis-en-Artois and managed to reach the Sensée River, a scheduled artillery barrage failed to materialize, forcing the soldiers to form an outpost along the river’s bank and settle in for the night.

The 18th reported 10 “other ranks” (OR) killed and 150 OR wounded during the day’s advance. Private Vincent Stephen Hallett was one of the day’s casualties. Struck in the back by shrapnel from an artillery shell, he was evacuated to No. 42 Casualty Clearing Station for treatment. The following day—August 28, 1918—Vincent succumbed to his injuries and was laid to rest in Aubigny Communal Cemetery Extension, six and a half miles northwest of Arras, France. At the time of his death, Vincent was four months shy of his twentieth birthday.

Vincent’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 .