Place of Birth: Queensport, Guysborough County, NS
Mother: Cynthia Feltmate (1870 - 1918)
Father: Alexander Jamison (1859 - 1942)
Marital Status: Single
Enlistment: April 4, 1916 at Guysborough, NS
Regimental #: 901984
Force: Canadian Expeditionary Force (Infantry)
Units: 193rd Battalion; 42nd Battalion (Royal Highlanders of Canada)
Service: England, Belgium & France
Next of Kin: Alexander Jamieson, Queensport, Guysborough County, NS (father)
* Date of birth obtained from the 1911 census. Bill’s attestation papers list his birth year as 1893.
Two of Bill’s younger brothers, Allan Alexander (DOB October 26, 1894) and John Charles “Charlie” (DOB June 19, 1897) enlisted under the Military Service Act at Camp Aldershot, NS in May 1918 and departed for England on August 2. Charlie subsequently served with the Royal Canadian Regiment (RCR) in France and Belgium during the war’s final days. Allan was discharged at Halifax on January 2, 1919, while Charlie received his discharge on July 15, 1919.
William Lewis “Bill” Jamison was the third of 10 children born to Alexander and Cynthia (Feltmate) Jamison of Queensport, Guysborough County. The second oldest of the couple’s sons, Bill worked in the local fishery in the years prior to the First World War.
|Private William Lewis "Bill" Jamison.|
The 193rd (Blue Feather) Battalion was authorized on January 27, 1916, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel John Stanfield, Member of Parliament for Colchester. Headquartered at Truro, NS, the battalion initially focused on recruitment in the Cumberland and Colchester areas. The following month, however, Lt.-Col. Stanfield received notice of the193rd’s assignment to the newly created Nova Scotia Highland Brigade, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Alison Hart Borden. As a result, its recruitment area expanded to include northeastern Nova Scotia’s remaining four counties—Pictou, Antigonish, Guysborough and Hants.
For the first time since the war’s outbreak, military recruiters visited the province’s smaller towns and communities. Their arrival in Guysborough County in late March and early April aroused considerable interest in such places as Sherbrooke, Canso and Guysborough town. Caught up in the campaign’s excitement, Bill attested for overseas service and commenced training with a small detachment at nearby Guysborough town.
On May 23, 1916, the 193rd Battalion mobilized at Camp Aldershot, NS, where its recruits passed the summer in training, alongside their comrades from the Highland Brigade’s three other units—the 85th (Nova Scotia Highlanders), 185th (Cape Breton Highlanders) and 219th Battalions. The camp’s population rose to the size of a small town, as over 7000 men received instruction in trench warfare, bayonet fighting and bomb throwing and participated in route marches in the summer heat.
With the arrival of autumn, the Brigade’s Officers and “other ranks” (OR) made final preparations for departure. On October 12, Bill was among the 193rd’s 1024 OR who travelled to Halifax by train and boarded SS Olympic for the journey to England. One week later, the vessel sailed into Liverpool Harbour, its passengers disembarking on October 19 and making their way to Witley Camp, Surrey for further training.
Initially slated for service with a 5th Canadian Division scheduled to deploy at the front in the spring of 1917, the Highland Brigade fell victim to the war’s rising human cost. Significant Canadian casualties in two battles in the Somme region of France—Courcelette (September 1916) and Ancre Heights (October - November 1916)—forced military officials to dissolve several of the newly arrived units and assign their personnel to existing units in the field. By year’s end, two of the Brigade’s battalions—the 193rd and 219th—met such a fate.
As a result, Private Bill Jamison was transferred to the 42nd Battalion on December 5, 1916. He crossed the English Channel to France the following day and awaited further orders at the Canadian Base Depot (CBD), Le Havre. On December 30, he departed for the forward area, arriving in the 42nd Battalion’s camp on January 2, 1917.
Authorized on November 7, 1914, the 42nd Battalion (Royal Highlanders of Canada) was the second of three battalions recruited by the 5th Battalion, Royal Highlanders of Canada, a Montreal militia unit affiliated with Scotland’s famous “Black Watch.” While the term was not part of its official title, soldiers and the public commonly used the expression when referring to the 42nd and its “sister” RHC units, the 13th and 73th Battalions.
The 42nd departed for England on June 10, 1915 and landed in France on October 9. Its personnel made their way northward into Belgium, providing work parties for trench repair in the Ypres Salient for two months before being assigned to the 3rd Canadian Division’s 7th Infantry Brigade. Its soldiers entered the line for their first tour of duty near Dranoutre, Belgium on January 7, 1916, serving alongside their Brigade mates—the Royal Canadian Regiment (RCR), Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI), and 49th (Edmonton) Battalion—for the war’s duration.
After eight months in Belgium, the 42nd followed the 3rd Division to France’s Somme region, seeing action at Courcelette on September 15 and 16, 1916. The battle inflicted an astounding 436 casualties on its ranks, only 266 soldiers “all ranks” reporting for roll call following the battle. The unit spent the next several months in the Courcelette area, training, providing work parties and serving a regular rotation in the line while gradually rebuilding its ranks.
On January 2, 1917, a group of 250 “other rank” (OR) reinforcements arrived in the 42nd’s camp at Neuville-Saint-Vaast, France. Private Bill Jamison was among the new recruits, along with at least one other Guysborough County native, Kendall Bright of Sherbrooke. The young soldiers had little time to adjust to their circumstances, as the 42nd returned to the trenches five days after their arrival.
Wintertime tours were much less eventful, due largely to cold, damp conditions. Personnel focused mainly on trench construction and repair during Bill’s first tour, the 42nd’s war diary reporting only five wounded during its days in the front line. The battalion completed a regular rotation throughout the remainder of January and February, retiring to support positions or retiring to Brigade Reserve for rest and training when not occupying the front trenches.
Shortly after the Brigade withdrew to Divisional Reserve in early March, Canadian Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden observed its soldiers as they trained over “taped trenches.” Upon returning to the line on the night of March 22/23, German forces detonated a mine beneath a 30-yard sector of the 42nd’s trenches at 3:00 a.m.. Its soldiers managed to hold the resulting crater despite heavy enemy fire, suffering only light casualties under difficult circumstances as they rebuilt trenches and saps in the gap created by the explosion.
After a brief break from the line in early April, two Companies returned to the forward area on the night of April 5/6 as the Canadian Corps prepared for its attack on Vimy Ridge. Two nights later, the remaining Companies joined their comrades in the line, the unit’s Officers “getting platoons into their proper places for moving into their assembly trenches and [distributing]… material to be carried over with the attacking waves. By Sunday midnight [April 8], final preparations were completed, and the men were waiting [sic] the order to move out.”
Bill was among the 42nd’s 722 soldiers “all ranks” who moved into the assembly trenches at 4:00 a.m. April 9, PPCLI to their right and the 102nd Battalion (Northern British Columbia) to their left. All were in position within 45 minutes and awaited the opening barrage, scheduled for 5:30 a.m.. The unit moved forward as planned, following a “creeping [artillery] barrage” across No Man’s Land and up the ridge toward the German front line. According to the unit’s war diary, conditions were far from ideal: “Visibility was very low, [and] the men had to advance in drizzling rain, changing to sleet.”
While the unit captured its initial objective by 8:15 a.m., the 102nd failed to keep pace on its left flank, subjecting the 42nd to “sniping and rifle fire” from an elevated position known as Hill 145. By 10:10 a.m., Officers estimated initial casualties at 20 “all ranks” and reported difficulty evacuating the wounded: “After three different calls for stretchers none have arrived yet.”
Commanders delayed plans to launch an attack on points of resistance along the ridge, subjecting the 42nd’s ranks to heavy shelling as they “dug in.” Fortunately, the war diary reported only one “direct hit” on the battalion’s position as its men settled in for the night. The following morning, 25 wounded soldiers still awaited evacuation due to a “scarcity of stretchers.” By mid-day, the unit received confirmation that Hill 145 had been secured as its soldiers continued to consolidate the newly captured position.
At 5:45 a.m. April 11, “what was left” of the 42nd’s “D” Company was relieved in the line, the remaining Companies withdrawing as the day progressed. As personnel retired to billets at Villers au Bois, the war diary summarized its losses—five Officers killed, died of wounds or wounded; 291 OR killed or wounded.
Sometime during the first day’s fighting at Vimy Ridge, Bill received a severe shrapnel wound and may have been amongst the soldiers awaiting evacuation at day’s end. He was admitted to No. 1 Canadian Field Ambulance (CFA) on April 11, suffering from a “gaping wound [to his] r. [right] buttock.” Evacuated hours later to No. 2 Casualty Clearing Station (CCS), Bill’s “wound laid freely open, extending over whole of [his] R. buttock and round to his pubis. Clean.” Medical staff also noted that he was suffering from “trench feet,” although noting that there were “no wounds” from the condition.
Surgeons at No. 2 CCS performed initial surgery on Bill’s wound and evacuated him to No. 2 Canadian General Hospital, Boulogne on April 13. After one week’s rest, Bill crossed the English Channel aboard the hospital ship Princess Elizabeth and was admitted to Bradford War Hospital the following day. On May 7, Bradford surgeons performed an “ether operation” in which they “scraped… and treated… [a] large raw surface 9 “ x 6 “ at back of rt. buttock…. Raw edges trimmed, undercut a little, and stitched together with deep silk.”
Bill spent the next six weeks recuperating from his wound and surgeries. During his time at Bradford, he was officially posted to No. 1 Quebec Regimental Depot until fit for duty. On June 23, Bill was discharged to the Canadian Convalescent Hospital, Woodcote Park, Epsom, where he received physical therapy and massage. He remained there until August 3, at which time he was attached to No. 3 Canadian Corps Depot (CCD), Shoreham.
Transferred to No. 2 CCD Seaford in mid-October, Bill returned to regular duty with the 20th Reserve Battalion on November 2. He formally returned to the 42nd’s ranks on January 26, 1918 and crossed the English Channel to the Canadian Corps Reinforcement Centre (CCRC) at Le Havre, France three days later. On March 9—exactly eleven months after being wounded at Vimy Ridge—Bill departed CCRC for the forward area, arriving in the 42nd’s camp one week later.
At the time of Bill’s return, the 42nd was completing its first tour of 1918 in trenches near Vimy, France. The unit “stood to” on March 28 as German forces launched “Operation Michael—the much-anticipated “spring offensive” intended to bring the war to a conclusion—to the south of its position, attacking British forces from Oppy to the Scarpe River. The 42nd’s light casualties for the month—one Officer wounded (gas), one OR killed and 16 wounded—indicate its sector’s limited activity.
The 42nd continued to serve in the Vimy area throughout the month of April, a rotation that lasted a total of 55 days. Its war diary once again reported light casualties—two Officers wounded, five OR killed, two OR died of wounds, 25 wounded to hospital, six wounded but remaining at duty, and 10 OR missing—as “the longest continuous tour which the Battalion had ever done in the front line” came to an end.
Personnel spent the months of May and June in camp near St. Hilaire, the soldiers training in the morning and participating in sports and recreational activities for the remainder of the day. The 42nd returned to the line at Neuville-Vitasse on the night of June 28/29, once again experiencing little action in its sector. The unit relocated to Dury, south of Amiens, at the end of July, its furthest point south since landing in France. Its war diary described the local response to its arrival: “Much interest was displayed by the French troops and civilians in the Highland dress of the Battalion.”
|Private Bill Jamison wearing 193rd Battalion uniform.|
The 42nd suffered a major blow on August 3, prior to the offensive’s launch, when its Commanding Officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Bartlett McLennan, DSO, was “killed [by German shell fire] while making a personal reconnaissance of the country over which the Battalion was to attack some days later.” McLennan had joined the unit as a Junior Major upon its formation and served with the unit since that time. Lieutenant-General Sir Arthur Currie, Canadian Corps Commander, attended his funeral the following day, along with the battalion’s pipe band and a firing part of 40 OR.
Bill and his comrades spent the following days preparing for the offensive’s commencement, scheduled to take place at Amiens in early August. Personnel moved to Gentelles Wood on the night of August 7/8, “the tremendous amount of troops, transport, tanks, guns and other machinery of war which was passed on the road up making… progress very slow.”
The attack commenced the following morning along a 20-mile front, the Canadian Corps occupying a central position and given the task of capturing a section of the main rail line between Amiens and Paris. With French troops to their right and the Australian Corps to their left, the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Canadian Divisions occupied forward positions, the 4th Division held in reserve and slated to pass through the 3rd Division’s line as the attack progressed.
The 42nd was one of three Brigade battalions scheduled to participate in the initial assault, to be launched without preliminary artillery bombardment to preserve the element of surprise. At precisely 4:20 a.m. August 8, the 3rd Division’s 9th Brigade launched the attack, the 42nd and its Brigade mates assuming their “jumping off” positions at 6:00 a.m. and moving out at 8:20 a.m., despite a “heavy mist which hung over everything.”
Its soldiers reached their objective two hours later, the 4th Division passing through their lines as scheduled at 2:00 p.m.. Casualties were light, considering the scale of the assault—12 OR killed, two OR died of wounds, two Officers and 29 OR wounded in the morning attack. Bill and his comrades rested in nearby Claude Wood on the following day, moving forward to the newly-captured village of Folies that evening. German aerial bombardment killed three and wounded 12 OR on August 10, with the 42nd returning to the newly established front line at Parvillers the following day, occupying trenches that were part of the British line prior to the German Spring Offensive.
On the night of August 13/14, the battalion participated in a 10-hour assault on the German line, its war diary describing “hand to hand fighting during which the attack was many times pressed home with the bayonet.” Personnel retired on the night of August 15/16, having sustained significant losses at Amiens—two Officers and 30 OR killed, 10 OR died of wounds, five Officers and 101 OR wounded.
Two days later, French Premier George Clemenceau and British Commander-in-Chief, Field Marshall Sir Douglas Haig, reviewed the 7th Brigade’s troops and acknowledged their key role in the fighting at Amiens and Parvillers. The 42nd relocated to Manin on August 23, its soldiers scheduled to re-enter the line at Arras for their second major engagement of the month. At 3:00 a.m. August 26, the 42nd assumed reserve positions prior to the attack, moving forward at 10:00 a.m.. The RCR’s inability to keep pace hindered the unit’s advance as heavy German shelling in late afternoon inflicted several casualties.
The attack continued the following day, the 42nd occupying positions in the newly established line on the night of August 27/28 and securing a salient that jutted for 500 yards into German lines. Heavy fighting took place later in the day as personnel once again moved forward, capturing a sector of enemy trench. Upon relief later that night, personnel retired to billets near Arras.
Their progress in previous days was remarkable, when compared to months of stalemate—the 7th Brigade had advanced 9,000 yards along a 3,000 yard front that gradually expanded to 7,000 yards over four days, crossing five German defensive lines and capturing six French villages. The 42nd’s war diary reported three Officers and 60 OR killed, 12 OR died of wounds, 12 Officers and 225 OR wounded in the fighting at Arras.
Bill and had endured two major engagements in less than a month, but there was little time to rest and recover, as the 42nd returned to the line west of Cognicourt on the night of September 5/6. The 42nd relocated to positions near Canal du Nord, a strategic waterway, three days later. The men dug in along a reverse slope in clear view of the enemy, rendering daytime movement impossible. In fact, German forces attacked their line twice on September 10, personnel repelling both assaults.
The 42nd was relieved on the night of September 11/12 and spent the following week in Divisional Reserve, its soldiers training and resting after a challenging month in the line. A group of 78 much-needed reinforcements arrived in camp during the week, the battalion relocating to Danville on September 19 for a second week of training. One week later, the unit returned to the forward area, in preparation for the attack on Canal du Nord.
The assault commenced at 5:20 a.m. September 27, the 3rd Division in support as the remaining three Canadian Divisions advanced on the German line north of Moeuvres. The 7th Brigade was the first 3rd Division unit sent forward following the initial attack, the 42nd once gain in reserve as its three “sister” battalions entered the fray. Bill and his mates crossed the canal via an infantry bridge in early afternoon, spending the night in the open amidst a heavy gas shell bombardment as “the men… [were] compelled to sleep with their Box Respirators adjusted.”
At 7:00 a.m. the following day, the 42nd’s soldiers assumed positions behind a railway embankment east of Bourlon Wood. The battalion once again remained in reserve as the 7th Brigade’s remaining units advanced, encountering “heavy opposition.” The soldiers spent the day sheltered behind the embankment, receiving orders to capture the railway embankment and establish a bridgehead on the St. Quentin Canal the following day.
The 42nd’s war diary described the situation at daybreak on September 29: “The morning was fine with a heavy ground mist which prevented any visibility…. It was feared that direction might be difficult to maintain.” The attack nevertheless proceeded as scheduled, slowed by “a withering fire from Machine Guns at point blank range… [that] caused very severe casualties.”
In the face of fierce resistance, four groups of soldiers managed to cross the Douai-Cambrai Road and establish a post. Despite a supporting artillery bombardment at mid-day, the battalion was unable to advance further, its soldiers digging in behind whatever shelter was available. The assault resumed the following morning, once again progressing slowly in the face of significant fire. The unit finally captured the high ground near the embankment on October 1, retiring from the line later that night.
The 42nd’s casualties at Canal du Nord were considerable—six Officers and 55 OR killed, 11 Officers and 221 OR wounded. Bill, however, once again emerged unscathed, although Sherbrooke native Kendall Bright was amongst the wounded evacuated for treatment, after exposure to poison gas. The unit’s remaining personnel camped at nearby Quéant, training and resting in the aftermath of their third major engagement in two months.
HRH Edward, Prince of Wales, paid an informal visit to the 42nd’s camp on October 17, while the following day 20 OR received one week’s leave, “a considerable increase on the recent allotment which the Battalion had been receiving.” Three days later, the 7th Brigade moved to the Auberchicourt area, the 42nd entering billets at Somain. On October 25, the unit received word that one of its OR, Private Thomas Dineson, a native of Rungsted, Denmark, had received the Victoria Cross “for extreme gallantry in action at Parvillers on August 11/12.”
The following day, Bill departed the 42nd’s camp to receive instruction in Lewis Gun operation, rejoining the unit on November 17. During his absence, the 42nd trained at Harnon and Quiévrechain, France for ten days, crossing the frontier into Belgium on November 8 and moving onto Jemappes the following day. Its war diary recorded the response to their arrival in Belgium: “Throughout the whole march the streets were lined with cheering civilians who gave the Battalion a tremendous reception.”
On November 10, the 42nd relieved PPCLI in the front lines and “commenced to press the attack on Mons [Belgium] from the Western and Southern outskirts[, penetrating] the city in the neighbourhood of the Railway Station at 0100 Hours on the 11th.” Afternoon shelling of its transport lines inflicted “most unfortunate casualties,” an artillery shell striking the battalion farrier’s shop, killing two and wounding 10, four of whom later died of wounds.
At 9:00 a.m. November 11, the 42nd’s Officers received notice of the 11:00 a.m. Armistice. After receiving the keys to the city from the Mayor in a ceremony held in Grand Place as the ceasefire took effect, three of the unit’s Companies remained at outposts along the forward line of advance. Upon relief late in the day, all personnel retired to billets at Caserne d’Infantrie, Mons.
The 42nd remained in the Belgian city, Bill rejoining their ranks on November 17. The soldiers participated in daily parades and followed a regular training syllabus that included route marches, although the war diary noted: “Steel helmets and small Box Respirators were packed and turned in to Quarter Master’s stores.” The unit’s football team also played a series of matches against other units, winning all three contests.
The battalion billeted at Mons into the following month, its soldiers lining both sides of Grand Place on December 5 as HM King George V passed through the city, accompanied by Edward, Prince of Wales, and Prince Albert, who later assumed the throne as King George VI. The soldiers attended parades and educational classes each morning, while participating in recreational activities in the afternoon and evening.
Bill and his comrades departed Mons on December 11, marching to billets at Nivelles for two days before moving onto Genval, Belgium on December 15. The war diary mentioned one significant location along its route: “On the march up we passed through the historic battlefield of Waterloo.” In subsequent days, soldiers received two-day passes to Brussels in small groups.
Bill was more fortunate than his comrades, receiving a 14-day leave to the United Kingdom on December 14. Meanwhile, the battalion celebrated Christmas with dinner in two local halls, its Quarter Master purchasing sufficient turkey to feed the entire unit.
On December 27, the 42nd proceeded westward on foot, finally encamping at Nechin on January 3, 1919. Bill rejoined his comrades the following day, as classes and training resumed and pre-discharge medical examinations commenced. Officers also began preparations for the unit’s return to England. Personnel departed Belgium by train on February 3, spending an uncomfortable 48 hours in box cars before disembarking at Le Havre.
|Private Bill Jamison wearing 42nd Battalion Glengarry.|
Bill disembarked at Halifax eight days later and awaited final processing. His medical report described a “transverse scar” eight inches long on his right buttock, concluding that he was “otherwise healthy.” Upon receiving his discharge on March 27, Bill returned home to Queensport. In the years subsequent to the war, he received British War and Victory medals in recognition of his overseas service.
Bill quickly settled into civilian life, marrying Reta Rhynold, also a native of Queensport, on October 13, 1919 The couple subsequently raised a family of six children, three boys and three girls. “Soldier Bill”, as he was locally known, fished on a smack with his older brother, Aldrige, and worked as keeper of the Queensport Light. Bill also maintained a hobby farm, working in the woods and snaring rabbits each winter.
A very particular man, Bill maintained a neat and tidy appearance throughout his adult years. In later years, declining health required admission to a nursing home at Hazel Hill. Bill also developed a toe infection, a problem attributed to his “trench foot” while in France, and underwent a partial leg amputation. After a period of time in hospital at Canso, Bill Jamison passed away on June 27, 1973 and was laid to rest in St. James Church Cemetery, Half Way Cove.
Service file of Private William Lewis Jamison, number 901984. Library & Archives Canada, Ottawa: RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box 4787 - 6. Attestation papers available online.
War Diary of the 42nd Infantry Battalion (Royal Highlanders of Canada), CEF. Library & Archives Canada, Ottawa: RG9, Militia & Defence, Series III-D-3, Colume 4938, Reels T-10743 & 10744, File: 433. Available online.