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Friday, 17 August 2018

Remembering Private Wilfred Joseph Whitman—KIA August 17, 1918

Wilfred Joseph Whitman was born at Manchester, Guysborough County, on March 29, 1897, the only child of Rufus William and Nellie (Gavin McDonald) Whitman. Rufus also had an older daughter, Ida, by a previous marriage. Following Rufus’s death in 1907, Wilfred was adopted by his paternal uncle, James Winthrop Whitman, and his wife, Margaret Elizabeth Leet, who operated a boarding house near Mulgrave.

Pte. Wilfred Joseph Whitman's headstone, Villers-Brettoneux Military Cemetery
By 1915, Wilfred had moved to Revere, MA, where his half-sister, Ida, operated a home for the sick. For two years, Wilfred worked as a salesman in the local area. The United States’ entrance in to the First World War in April 1917 and its introduction of a military draft prompted Wilfred to volunteer for service with the 236th Battalion, a New Brunswick unit, at Boston, MA, on June 16, 1917. Before month’s end, he travelled to Fredericton, NB, by train and formally attested for overseas service with the Canadian Expeditionary Force.

On July 4—one week after his attestation—Wilfred married Philomena “Phyllis” Ghilo, in a ceremony held at Fredericton. While Wilfred departed for Camp Valcartier, QC, for basic training, Phyllis returned to Boston, where she gave birth to a son, Wilfred George, on December 8, 1917. By that time, Wilfred Sr. was stationed at Camp Bramshott, England, awaiting orders to proceed to France.

Following the 236th’s dissolution in March 1918, Wilfred was transferred to the 13th Battalion (Royal Highlanders of Canada) and joined the unit in the forward area on April 22. A Montreal-based Highland battalion, the 13th was among the Canadian Corps’ most experienced units, having landed on the continent with the 1st Canadian Division in early 1915.

Wilfred served in sectors near Arras, France, throughout the remainder of the month and retired to Divisional Reserve with the 13th in early May. For two and a half months, personnel trained and participated in a variety of recreational activities before returning to trenches near Beaurains in late July. Within days, the unit was on the move, relocating to Épaumesnil, west of Amiens, in early August.

Having withstood a major German spring offensive in late March and April 1918, Allied commanders set about planning a response. The counter-offensive commenced in the French sector in mid-July, moving northward to British sectors early the following month. The Canadian Corps was part of the plan, its well-rested and fully reinforced units relocating to the Amiens area in early August, in preparation for the attack.

In the early morning hours of August 8, Canadian, Australian and British units launched a carefully planned assault on German positions east of Amiens. The 13th Battalion’s soldiers participated in the action as Wilfred received his first exposure to major combat on the Western Front. Before day’s end, the unit succeeded in capturing its objective, a location known as Hangard Wood. Its soldiers remained in the line until the afternoon of August 9, at which time they withdrew to support positions.

The 13th spent the next six days in support and reserve positions as units in the front line consolidated the significant progress made east of Amiens. On the evening of August 15, its personnel returned to the line near Parvillers-le-Quesnoy in relief of the 42nd Battalion, a fellow “Royal Highlanders of Canada” unit.

Early the following morning, two battle patrols of 30 soldiers advanced toward the village of La Chavatte, When German soldiers holding the position rebuffed the attack, supporting artillery shelled the village, in an attempt to “soften up” resistance. In the early hours of August 17, two Companies advanced toward the objective. While German machine guns once again offered strong resistance, the second attack proved successful as the 13th’s soldiers cleared enemy troops from the village.

The 13th held its position until relieved on the night of August 21/22. While its war diary provided no casualty statistics following the capture of La Chavatte, a report appended to the month’s entries listed one “other rank” (OR) killed, one Officer and 28 OR wounded during the La Chavatte tour.

Private Wilfred Joseph Whitman was among the week’s casualties. Most likely wounded during the advance on La Chavatte, he was evacuated to No. 48 Casualty Clearing Station, where he died of wounds on August 17, 1918. Wilfred was laid to rest in Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery, Somme, France. His widow, Phyllis, subsequently re-married and raised a second family. The couple’s son, Wilfred George Whitman Jr., later served with the United States Navy during the Second World War.

Friday, 10 August 2018

Remembering Private James Edward O’Brien—KIA August 10, 1918

James Edward O’Brien was born at Canso, Guysborough County, on March 26, 1896, the fourth of John J. and Elizabeth (Landry) O’Brien’s six children and the youngest of their four sons. James was working as a clerk in the local community when he enlisted with the 193rd Battalion at Canso on April 11, 1916.

Private James Edward O'Brien
Transferred to the 85th Battalion (Nova Scotia Highlanders) on October 12—the same day on which he departed for England with the Nova Scotia Highland Brigade—James was admitted to Bramshott Military Hospital in early November, suffering from “shortness of breath and weakness on exertion.” Medical staff could not identify a specific cause for his symptoms and James was discharged after spending two weeks in hospital.

Shortly after his discharge, James was re-assigned to the 219th Battalion, but the unit’s dissolution in December 1916 resulted in another transfer to the 161st Battalion, an Ontario unit. Throughout the following year, James remained in England with the 161st. When the 6th Reserve Battalion absorbed its personnel in early 1918, James was assigned to the 47th Battalion (British Columbia) on February 15, 1918, and joined his new unit in France on March 4.

Throughout the spring and early summer of 1918, James served a regular rotation with the 47th in sectors near Lens, France. While German forces launched a major “spring offensive” in late March, Canadian sectors were not targeted. The 47th’s personnel spent much of May and all of June in Divisional Reserve and saw little in the way of combat with German forces following their return to trenches near Oppy on July 10.

Allied Commanders, however, were busy planning a major counter-offensive in which the well-rested  Canadian Corps would play a significant role. In early August, the 47th made its way southward to Fourdrinoy, 15 kilometres west of Amiens. After several days’ rest, its personnel entered the line on the evening of August 7 and completed final preparations for an attack on German positions east of Amiens.

At 4:40 a.m. August 8, a massive artillery barrage signalled the beginning of the Battle of Amiens. The 47th’s soldiers advanced in support behind the 44th Battalion, one of its Brigade mates. Forward progress continued throughout the day, the 47th’s personnel reaching the outskirts of Beaucourt-en-Santerre before dark and settling in for the night.

James and his comrades rested throughout the following day before relieving the 11th Brigade’s 87th Battalion in the front trenches during the late evening hours. As morning approached, the 47th prepared for its first major combat since James’ arrival in France. At 10:15 a.m. August 10, its soldiers resumed the attack on the German line.

Despite heavy artillery bombardment, the soldiers steadily moved forward throughout the day, until machine gun fire halted the advance west of Fouquescourt. While personnel managed to drive enemy forces from the village by early evening, stiff resistance and dwindling light forced the unit to consolidate its position and settle in for the night.

Private James O’Brien’s first combat experience proved to be his last. Around 6:00 p.m. August 10, while taking part in the 47th’s attack on Fouquescourt, James was struck by a machine gun bullet and instantly killed. He was laid to rest in the Australian Imperial Forces Burial Ground, Flers, France.

James' 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 .

Thursday, 9 August 2018

Remembering Private Clayton R. Mills—KIA August 9, 1918

Clayton R. Mills was born at Port Hilford, Guysborough County, on January 15, 1888, the youngest of Anne Scott “Annie” (McKeen) and Robert Bruce Mills’ five children. Sometime before 1901, the family moved to Sherbrooke, where Robert worked at a local saw mill. In 1904, Robert, Annie and children relocated to a farm at The Forks (Glenelg), where the couple spent their remaining days.

Clayton R. Mills (pre-war portrait)

During the years prior to the First World War, Clayton travelled to Western Canada on the annual “harvest trains,” usually in the company of his older brother, Frank. Clayton eventually remained out west, made his way to Vancouver, BC, sometime after 1911, and found work as a carpenter.

Following the outbreak of war, British Columbia provided a large number of soldiers for overseas service. Clayton was among the volunteers, enlisting with the 121st Battalion (“Western Irish”) at New Westminster, BC, on January 9, 1916. He spent seven months training at Camp Vernon, BC, before following the unit across the country by train. On August 14, the 121st departed for overseas and arrived at Liverpool, England, after a 10-day passage.

Before year’s end, the 121st was designated a “reserve battalion” for the 29th Battalion (British Columbia). While Clayton was transferred to the 29th on November 28, 1916, he spent more than three months working with 2nd Entrenching Battalion before finally joining his new unit on March 5, 1917. Before year’s end, Clayton saw combat with the 29th at Vimy Ridge, France (April 9, 1917) and Passchendaele, Belgium (November 6, 1917).

Throughout the winter of 1917-18, Clayton served a regular rotation with the 29th in sectors near Arras, France. Tours in the line extended into early summer before the unit retired to Divisional Reserve in late June 1918. After a month’s rest and training, personnel returned to the line east of Amiens, France, in early August and prepared for its role in a major counter-offensive on the German line.

While the attack commenced at 4:30 a.m. August 8, the 29th did not participate in the first day’s fighting. The following morning, however, its soldiers prepared for battle, their objective being the village of Rosières. At precisely 10:00 a.m. August 9, Clayton and his comrades advanced toward the German line. The soldiers immediately encountered a fierce barrage of machine gun and artillery fire but determinedly made their way forward, securing their objective by mid-afternoon. Before day’s end, the 29th’s soldiers advanced six kilometres into German-held territory.

In total, Canadian units suffered more than 2,500 casualties during the fighting at Amiens. Following its August 9, 1918 advance, the 29th’s war diary reported 159 soldiers lost in the initial minutes of fighting. Private Clayton Mills was one of the early fatalities, “hit in the head and instantly killed by an enemy machine gun bullet” shortly after leaving the “jumping off” trenches. Clayton was laid to rest in Rosières Communal Cemetery Extension, Somme, France.

Clayton’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 .

Remembering Private Henry “Harry” McLeod—KIA August 9, 1918

Henry “Harry” McLeod was born at Halifax, NS, on July 12, 1887, the eldest of Lavina Grace (O’Hara) and Neil McLeod’s four children. Grace was a native of New Harbour, Guysborough County, while Neil was a sea captain from St. Ann’s, Cape Breton. When Neil passed away sometime during the 1890s, the family appears to have disintegrated, as the children were taken in by various O’Hara relatives. Harry was adopted by his maternal uncle, James O’Hara, New Harbour, while his two younger brothers lived nearby. Their sister, Ethel, was raised at Milton, Queen’s County, by O’Hara relatives.

Private Henry "Harry McLeod

By 1911, Harry had established residence at Stellarton, Pictou County, where he worked in the local coal mines. Following the outbreak of the First World War, mining towns received particular attention from military recruiters. On April 6, 1916, Harry enlisted with the 193rd Battalion at Stellarton. After a summer’s training at Camp Aldershot, he departed for England with the 193rd and its Nova Scotia Highland Brigade counterparts on October 12, 1916.

Shortly after its overseas arrival, two of the Brigade’s units—the 193rd and 219th Battalions—were dissolved, in order to provide reinforcements for Canadian units at the front. In late December 1916, Harry was transferred to the 185th Battalion (Cape Breton Highlanders), one of two Highland Brigade units to remain intact.

Harry trained in England with the 185th for five months before receiving a transfer to the 25th Battalion (Nova Scotia) on May 27, 1917. He immediately crossed the English Channel to France, but was temporarily assigned to 2nd Entrenching Battalion, one of several labour units working in the forward area. After several months’ service with 2nd Entrenching, Harry finally joined the 25th’s ranks on August 20.

The unit had just withdrawn from the line following the Canadian Corps’ successful attack on Hill 70, near Lens, France. For the next two months, Harry served a regular rotation with the 25th in sectors near the city. In early November, the battalion relocated to Ypres, Belgium, where its soldiers occupied support positions during the final stage of the Canadian Corps’ attack on Passchendaele Ridge.

The 25th withdrew from the line several days after the ridge’s capture and returned to France before month’s end. Throughout the winter of 1917-18, Harry served regular tours alongside his 25th comrades in sectors near Lens. In late March 1918, German forces launched a major offensive south of the Canadian Corps. While unaffected by the subsequent fighting, the unit’s soldiers nevertheless remained on the alert, conducting regular night-time patrols in No Man’s Land.

On the night of April 21/22, 1918, while participating in one such assignment, Harry suffered a shrapnel wound to his right hand during a skirmish with enemy soldiers. Evacuated for medical treatment, Harry made a rapid recovery, as the wound was slight. He spent one month at the Canadian Corps Reinforcement Centre before rejoining the 25th at Neuville-Vitasse on June 8. The unit remained in the line until month’s end, at which time its personnel retired to Divisional Reserve for a month’s rest and training.

In late July 1918, the 25th made its way south to a location near Amiens as the Canadian Corps prepared to return to the line. In the early hours of August 5, its soldiers entered trenches near Bois de Blangy. Two days later, they advanced to “jumping off” positions near Cachy and made final preparations for combat. Harry and his comrades were about to participate in a major Allied counter-attack on the German line east of Amiens, France.

At 4:20 a.m. August 8, the 24th and 26th Battalions—two of the 25th’s 5th Brigade mates—launched an attack on German trenches opposite their position. As the 25th followed in close support, a heavy mist hanging over the battlefield made it difficult for the soldiers to find their way. The Brigade nevertheless succeeded in capturing its objective—a location 1,000 yards beyond the village of Guillaucourt—by mid-day and personnel set about consolidating their position.

The following day—August 9, 1918—the 25th resumed the attack at 1:00 p.m. and succeeded in capturing three French villages before evening. During the advance, however, its soldiers encountered considerable enemy machine gun fire, resulting in numerous casualties. As night fell, Private Harry McLeod was officially reported “missing.” Sometime afterward, Harry’s remains were located, his “circumstances of casualty” stating that he “was killed while taking part in operations in the vicinity of Méharicourt.” Private Harry McLeod was laid to rest in Hillside British Cemetery, near Moreuil, France.

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 .

Friday, 3 August 2018

Remembering Sapper Francis Stewart “Frank” Manson—DOS August 3, 1918

Francis Stewart “Frank” Manson was born at Sherbrooke, Guysborough County, on December 2, 1892, the youngest of Lucy (Walters) and George W. Manson’s four sons. Only months after Frank’s birth, his mother, Lucy, died of tuberculosis. While George remained in the area—he was a school teacher at nearby Country Harbour—the four boys were taken in by local relatives.

Sapper Francis Stewart "Frank" Manson
Frank spent his childhood in the Forks at St. Mary’s home of his paternal aunt, Elizabeth Manson, and her husband, Alfred E. McKeen. Sometime after 1901, two of Frank’s older brothers, John Gidison “Jack” and Lowell, left for British Columbia, where they found employment in the mines. By 1907, the pair had saved enough money to have their younger siblings, Alexander and Frank, join them. All four worked at the Britannia Beach copper mine, where Frank was a pipe fitter.

Following the outbreak of the First World War, British Columbia’s lumber camps and mining towns were fertile ground for military recruiters. Young Frank was the first of the Manson brothers to respond, enlisting with the 143rd Battalion at Vancouver, BC, on January 26, 1017. His older brother, Jack, was later conscripted into military service and served in the forward area with an engineering unit.

The 143rd Battalion (BC Bantams) was authorized in November 1915 and commenced its recruitment campaign three months later. Initially designed as a unit for men unable to meet the minimum requirements for service with regular units—height of five feet four inches and chest measurement of 34 inches—the 143rd was only one of two “bantam” units recruited in Canada. Its minimum requirements were reduced to five feet one and a half inches and 30-inch chest measurement, although its recruits had to be at least 22 years of age.

Limited response eventually forced the unit to open its ranks to volunteers above its lower requirements. Frank was one such recruit, his height and chest measurements—five feet seven inches and 35 inches respectively—well beyond the unit’s minimum standards. The 143rd departed Halifax on February 17, 1917 and landed in England 10 days later. Disbanded shortly after its overseas arrival, 750 of its personnel were transferred to the 24th Reserve Battalion and gradually assigned to British Columbia units at the front. A remaining group of 135 “other ranks” (OR) were transferred to the 3rd Battalion, Canadian Railway Troops (CRT), on March 15.

Frank was one of the soldiers assigned to 3rd CRT. The recently formed unit crossed the English Channel to France on March 22. Before month’s end, two of its Companies—“A” and “B”—commenced work at Poperinghe, near Ypres, Belgium, while the remaining two Companies travelled  to Fosse, France. Frank was part of the Poperinghe group, which worked on a railway grade near Ypres throughout the following month.

On April 6, Frank reported to 3rd New Zealand Field Ambulance for treatment of bronchitis. Transferred to hospital at Dieppe, France, the following day, he remained under medical care for three weeks. Shortly after Frank returned to his unit, the two Companies working in Belgium joined their comrades at Barlin, France, where the entire unit commenced maintenance work on a local, small-gauge railway line. The “sappers,” as they were called, toiled in the open, under constant threat of German artillery fire.

Frank remained with the battalion throughout the summer of 1917, working without incident on various projects in the forward area. As autumn arrived, however, the health issues that plagued his first weeks in Belgium returned. On October 24, Frank was admitted to No. 3 Casualty Clearing Station with a suspected case of “phthisis,” a contemporary term for pulmonary tuberculosis. Transported to No. 5 General Hospital, Rouen, shortly afterward, medical staff determined that Frank should be “invalided” to England before month’s end.

On November 2, Frank was admitted to Grove Military Hospital, Tooting Grove, England, where staff confirmed the initial diagnosis. Transferred to No. 16 Canadian General Hospital, Orpington, Kent, at mid-month, Frank received treatment for “chronic tuberculosis.” On January 4, 1918, he was transferred to No. 5 Canadian General Hospital, Liverpool,  the first step of the journey home. One month later, Frank departed for Canada. Upon arrival, he made his way across the country by train to British Columbia, where he was admitted to Vancouver General Hospital’s Military Annex.

Frank’s prognosis was not promising. By early June. a medical report confirmed that he was suffering from “tubercle of lung,” likely contracted in France in October 1917 through exposure and infection “while on active service.” On July 4, 1918, Frank was transferred to Tranquille Sanatorium, Royal Inland Hospital, Kamloops, BC. Four days later, he was officially discharged from military service. Frank remained at Tranquille Sanatorium until his death on August 3, 1918. Two days later, Sapper Francis Stewart Manson was laid to rest in Pleasant Street Cemetery, Kamloops, BC.

Frank’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 .

Monday, 16 July 2018

Remembering Corporal Daniel Angus Chisholm—KIA July 16, 1918

Daniel Angus Chisholm was born at Salmon River Lake, Guysborough County, on February 8, 1879, the fifth of Andrew and Catherine (Boyle) Chisholm’s 11 children. His parents married at St. Andrews, NS, in 1873. Their first six children were born while the couple was living at Salmon River Lake. Around 1884, the family relocated to Caledonia Mills, where their remaining five children were born. A son, Angus, and a daughter, Margaret Ann, passed away in the late 1890s.

Private Daniel Angus Chisholm, AEF
Following their father Andrew’s death in 1901, the Chisholm siblings gradually left for the United States. The eldest, Roderick, was the first to depart, establishing residence in New York. When their mother, Catherine, passed away in 1904, the others followed Roderick’s example, the last and youngest—William A. “Will”—departing Nova Scotia in 1911 after his brother Andrew’s death at Caledonia Mills. Altogether, six Chisholm brothers found employment as linemen or electricians with New York area utility or telephone companies.

Following the United States’ entrance into the First World War in April 1917, five of the six brothers enlisted for military service with the American Expeditionary Force. Charles was the first, joining an artillery unit in early May 1917. A second brother, Will, enlisted with the National Guard several days later. On May 19, 1917, Daniel enlisted with the 6th Regiment, US Engineers, at Fort Slocum, near New Rochelle, York, where was working as an electrician with a local utility company.

Early the following month, Hugh registered for the United States draft and was later assigned to the 501st Engineers’ Service Battalion. A fifth brother, Alexander, also enlisted with the 58th Artillery, also his brother Will’s unit. In November 1917, Hugh was the first of the five brothers to sail for France. Early the following month, Daniel departed for overseas, while the remaining three brothers made the crossing in early May 1918.

Following several months’ training, Daniel’s unit completed its first deployment in the forward area during the “Somme Defensive (March 21 - April 6, 1918), in support of British and French soldiers resisting the German “Spring Offensive east of Amiens, France. Before month’s end, Daniel was promoted to the rank of Corporal. 6th Engineers remained in the Amiens area until mid-June, at which time personnel relocated to the Champagne - Marne Sector, approximately 100 kilometres east of Paris.

The unit immediately commenced work on a defensive system at locations well within the range of German artillery fire. Over the next six weeks, personnel constructed rifle pits, fox holes, slit trenches and strong points in their assigned sector. By mid-July, work was “in an elemental stage” and personnel “scattered over the entire area” when events took a dramatic turn.

Shortly after midnight July 15, 1918, German artillery launched a massive barrage on the 6th Engineers’ sector. Company A—Daniel’s unit—was particularly hard-hit, as “German guns, small and large, were concentrated on [its] position to an extent never before experienced.” In response, personnel took shelter in emergency trenches located in the centre of their camp.

As the barrage continued, one shell struck the trenches, killing four and wounding many others. At 5:15 a.m., the Company received orders to move to trenches at a nearby farm and assume a position in reserve. If attacking German forces succeeded in capturing the nearby village of Crézancy, Company A would be called upon to launch a counter-attack.

The Company held its position into the following day, “the men that were not actually needed in the line [carrying] ammunition for a battery… which was directly behind the trenches.” At 2:00 p.m. July 16, personnel received orders to return to camp, “but on the way back… [were] spotted by an enemy scout plane, which later drew fire on the camp. This barrage set off an ammunition dump only 60 yards away, throwing missiles of death in and around the camp for more than an hour, killing four and wounding forty.” Later that night, “the dead were buried and the Company moved to [a nearby] hillside.”

Corporal Daniel Angus Chisholm was one of Company A’s July 16, 1918 fatalities. In the aftermath of his passing, his younger brother, Charles, shared the details surrounding his death in a letter to their oldest sibling, Roderick. According to Charles, Daniel was “following his squad to cover” when he “was killed by shell fire.” He was “buried with 16 comrades in separate graves with a cross and name affixed to each of them,” at a location two kilometers south of Crézancy and eight kilometers east of Château-Thierry, France.

Following the end of hostilities, Daniel’s remains and those of his fallen comrades were relocated to Oise Aisne American Cemetery, Seringes-et-Nesles, 20 kilometers north of Crézancy. Under a repatriation program implemented by the American government following the war, Daniel’s remains returned to the United States in July 1921 and he was reinterred in Cypress Hills National Cemetery, Brooklyn, NY.

Saturday, 30 June 2018

Remembering Private Harold Brown Layton—Died of Sickness June 30, 1918

Harold Brown Layton was born at Canso, Guysborough County, on July 16, 1897, the second child and only son of Herbert Lauren and Rebecca (Mosher) Layton. Herbert, a men’s tailor by profession, was working in the Canso area at the time of Harold’s birth. Tragically, Rebecca passed away before year’s end, leaving her husband to care for two young children.
Private Harold Brown Layton
Herbert subsequently remarried and relocated the family to Middleton, NS, where his father, Rev. Thomas Brown Layton, resided. After completing his secondary education, Harold secured a position as a “druggist’s apprentice” with a local doctor. In late summer 1915, however, he abandoned his civilian career, travelled to Sussex, NB, and enlisted with the 64th Battalion on September 1, 1915. Before year’s end, the unit relocated to Halifax, NS, and departed for England on March 31, 1916.

When the 64th was disbanded shortly after its overseas arrival, Harold was transferred to the 40th Battalion (Halifax Rifles) on July 7. Before summer’s end, the 40th was designated a reserve battalion. As a result, on September 26, Harold was assigned to the 25th Battalion (Nova Scotia) and joined his new unit in France in mid-October.

Throughout the winter of 1916-17, Harold served with the 25th in sectors near Vimy Ridge. In late January 1917, he was treated for “myalgia” at a field ambulance and spent 10 days at a nearby rest camp. While he resumed his regular duties shortly afterward, Harold was re-admitted to a Casualty Clearing Station on March 11 and subsequently transferred to No. 10 Canadian General Hospital, Camiers, for treatment of the same ailment.

Invalided to England in early April, Harold was admitted to the Canadian Convalescent Hospital, Bromley, Kent, suffering from pains in his right hip, thigh and neck. Following a transfer to the Canadian Red Cross Hospital, Buxton, in late April, his condition appeared to improve. While medical staff continued to diagnose the source of his symptoms as “myalgia,” his circumstances worsened after a second transfer to Moore Barracks Hospital, Shorncliffe, on June 7. Harold’s back, neck and leg pain now extended to his right knee and ankle, and was particularly severe after walking.

When a surgical team punctured a small abscess that had developed over Harold’s right sacroiliac joint, the extracted fluid tested positive for tubercle bacilli. Medical authorities concluded that he was no longer fit for service, and Harold was transferred to Kirkdale Canadian Hospital, Liverpool, for “invalidation” to Canada. A second series of tests at Kirkdale verified the presence of tubercle bacilli, prompting doctors to change his diagnosis to “tuberculosis of the sacroiliac joint.”

On September 14, 1917, Harold departed for Canada and arrived at Quebec after an 11-day passage. He returned by train to Halifax and was admitted to Military District No. 6’s Convalescent Home. By this time, Harold had developed a swelling “larger than a hen’s egg” above his right buttock, a condition that made walking painful. In mid-November, he was transferred to a medical facility at Pine Hill.

Over time, Harold’s situation worsened. Medical records describe his appearance as “pale and emaciated.” A late January 1918 Medical Board concluded that, while not seriously ill at the time, his condition was “probably tubercular in origin and will be gradually progressive.” On February 2, Harold was transferred to Camp Hill Hospital, where staff reported that he was in “almost constant pain.”

As the weeks passed, Harold’s condition deteriorated, as the Medical Board had predicted. By late May 1918, he was very weak and confined to bed. Both lungs were affected with “probably T. B.,” and his right lung showed signs of pleurisy. A test of his sputum also revealed the presence of tubercle bacilli. Private Harold Brown Layton lingered for another month, finally passing away at Camp Hill Hospital, Halifax, on June 30, 1918. His remains were transported to Truro, where he was laid to rest in Robie St. Cemetery.
Pte. Layton's headstone, Robie St., Cemetery, Truro, NS
Harold’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 .