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Thursday, 31 March 2016

Guysborough County CEF Enlistments - March 31, 1916

For the past two years, I have been "tweeting" Guysborough County enlistments, in addition to events related to Nova Scotia's First World War battalions, one hundred years to the day after their occurrence. The tweets are available on my Twitter feed @brucefmacdonald and also appear in a window to the right of this blog column. If you have a Twitter account, you are invited to "follow" me.

Due to the large number of enlistments in late March and early April 1916, I am posting information for March 31 on this blog. Similar posts will follow, covering enlistments from April 1 to 5 inclusive. Enlistment tweets will resume on April 6, when numbers become more manageable. You may wonder why were there so many enlistments during this six-day period. Here is a brief explanation.

In March and April 1916, military recruiters visited Nova Scotia's smaller communities for the first time since the First World War's commencement. Their goal was to raise personnel for three recently authorized battalions—the 193rd, 185th and 291th—who, along with the 85th Battalion (Nova Scotia Highlanders), formed the Nova Scotia Highland Brigade.

Each of the new battalions focused its recruiting efforts on a specific geographic area. The 185th raised its complement on Cape Breton Island, hence the name "Cape Breton Highlanders." The 219th recruited in Halifax County, South Shore and Annapolis Valley districts. The 193rd ("Blue Feather Battalion") campaigned throughout northeastern Nova Scotia—Cumberland, Colchester, Pictou, Antigonish, Guysborough and Hants counties.

Recruiters visited Canso, Guysborough and Sherbrooke, attracting a considerable number of volunteers in each community. Today's post lists the names and background information for 14 Guysborough County natives who attested for overseas service with the Canadian Expeditionary Force on March 31, 1916. All but one enlisted with the 193rd Battalion.


Armsworthy, Arthur Borden:

Born at Canso on August 1, 1898, son of Joseph & Mary (George) Armsworthy.

Enlistment: 193rd Battalion at Canso; transferred to 42nd Battalion (Royal Highlanders of Canada on December 5, 1916.

Hospitalized with inflammation of right knee June 9, 1917, rejoined the 42nd on December 12, 1917. Slightly wounded March 10, 1918, rejoined unit April 18, 1918. Wounded in right foot at Cambrai, France on September 28, 1918 and invalided to England.

Post-war: married Sadie Ethel Leslie, Eagle Head, Queens Co., NS, and settled at North River, Colchester County. Passed away on August 29, 1946 and laid to rest in Canso, NS.

Carter, Elisha William:

Born at Half Island Cove on December 20, 1887, son of Thomas & Meahalah Carter. Married (wife’s name Christina) at time of enlistment.

Enlistment: 193rd Battalion at Canso. Discharged as “no longer physically fit for War Service” (problems with sciatic nerve) at Halifax on September 30, 1916.

Dort, George Louis:

Born at Peas Brook on November 25, 1897, son of George L. & Martha Jane (George) Dort.

Enlistment: 193rd Battalion at Canso. Transferred to 85th Battalion on February 24, 1917, George was killed in action at Vimy Ridge, France on April 9, 1917.

Eustace, Robert Michael “Bob”:

Born at Canso on November 29, 1898, son of Robert Richard & Sarah (Flaherty) Eustace.

Enlistment: 193rd Battalion at Canso. Transferred to the 85th Battalion on February 5, 1918. Wounded in right shoulder at Amiens, France on August 9, 1918, Robert was invalided to England.

Post-war: Robert returned to Canso, where he was employed as a lighthouse keeper. He never married, passing away at Canso in 1975.

Fanning, Louis Joseph:

Born at Canso on June 19, 1897, son of William S. & Catherine (Hanlon) Fanning.

Enlistment: 193rd Battalion at Canso. Transferred to 85th Battalion on February 24, 1917. Hospitalized with appendicitis in May 1917, Louis was invalided to England. He returned to service with the 85th in January 1918 and remained in France for the duration of the war.

Post-war: No information available.

Jack, Hugh Ellsworth:

Born at Caribou Mines, Halifax Co. on January 30, 1898, son of Daniel and Margaret “Maggie” (Taylor) Jack.

Enlistment: 224th Canadian Forestry Battalion at Antigonish.

Hugh’s family was living at Melrose, Guysborough County at the time of his enlistment. Hugh served with the Canadian Forestry Corps in Scotland. Before returning to Canada, Hugh married Catherine Brown Hislop at Edinburgh, Scotland.

Post-war: Hugh worked in the Northern Ontario mines following the war, moving further west to Ponoka, AB after Catherine’s death. A lover of horses, Hugh worked with local rodeos in his new community, passing away there on February 12, 1982.

MacDonald, Donald Frank:

Born at Canso on April 9, 1894, son of Angus D. & Margaret “Maggie” MacDonald.

Enlistment: 193rd Battalion at Canso. Joined 85th Battalion on March 4, 1918, wounded at Oppy, France on March 30 but remained at duty. Promoted to Corporal on October 10, 1918 and Sergeant on January 9, 1919.

Post-war: No additional information available.

MacIsaac, Arthur Vincent: 

Born at Fox Island on October 20, 1897, grandson of Daniel & Jane (Watkin) MacIsaac, son of Sarah “Sadie” MacIsaac.

Enlistment: 193rd Battalion at Canso. No additional service information available.

Post-war: Arthur married Ella Elizabeth Fitzgerald at Canso on August 18, 1925 and raised a family of five children. He also had three children with a second wife, Isabel. Arthur passed away at Canso on December 19, 1969.

McNeil, Ambrose:

Born at Canso on October 19, 1897, son of James Murdock & Bridget (Eaton) Mc Neil.

Enlistment: 193rd Battalion at Canso. No additional service or post-war information available.

Munroe, Willoughby Knowles:

Born at Canso on September 9, 1894, son of Lewis William & Henrietta (Carrigan) Munroe.

Enlistment: 193rd Battalion at Canso. No additional service or post-war information available.

Myers, Fred Russell:

Born at Canso on August 1, 1891, son of George W. & Jane (Barss) Myers.

Enlistment: 193rd Battalion at Canso. No additional service or post-war information available.

Rhynold, John Scott:

Born at Canso on August 5, 1885, son of William D. & Mary M. (Hurst) Rhynold.

Enlistment: 193rd Battalion at Canso, NS. Married at enlistment, John Scott was transferred to the 85th Battalion on July 21, 1918 and was wounded in the right arm at Cambrai, France on September 29, 1918. Invalided to England, doctors amputated John’s right arm and he was discharged as medically unfit for service.

Post-war: Father of four children, John Scott died of tuberculosis attributed to his military service at Camp Hill Hospital, Halifax, on October 13, 1920.

Swaine, Benjamin Wallace:

Born at Canso on December 11,1897, son of Samuel Isaiah & Emily Myra “Emma” (McLellan) Swaine.

Enlistment: 193rd Battalion at Canso, NS. Transferred to the 85th Battalion on March 5, 1917, Ben was gassed in June and invalided to England. Returning to the 85th on November 23, he served at the front throughout the winter of 1917-18. On March 23, 1918, Ben died in the cellar of a billet at Cité St. Pierre, France, when a comrade’s firearm accidentally discharged, the bullet striking him in the head.

Swaine, Wilfred Laurier “Fred”:

Born at Canso on April 13, 1897, son of Rupert & Eunice Jane (Talbot) Swaine.

Enlistment: 193rd Battalion at Canso. Transferred to the 85th Battalion on February 2, 1917, Fred was wounded at Lens on June 28, rejoining the battalion on September 26. Wounded a second time at Passchendaele on October 30, 1917, Fred never returned to the front.

Post-war: Fred married Mary Evelyn Burns, a Canso native, on November 9, 1929 and subsequently raised a family of two children while working as a fisheries officer in the Canso area. Relocating to Central Canada in his later years, Fred passed away at Frankford, Ontario on February 1, 1987.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Guysborough's "Valcartier Boys"—Part II

This month’s post profiles two more of Guysborough County’s six “Valcartier boys”—soldiers who travelled to Camp Valcartier, Quebec in August 1914 and subsequently crossed to England with the First Canadian Contingent in October 1914.

Charles Berry Hadley was the oldest of five children—three daughters and two sons—born to Robert Harris and Jessie (Till) Hadley. Robert, a native of Truro and carpenter by trade, married Jessie, a native of Leicester, England, at Mulgrave, Guysborough County on December 27, 1894. Charles was born at Mulgrave on January 16, 1896, followed by a sister, Hilda, in August 1898 and a second son, James Harris, in December 1901.

Sometime after James’ birth, the Hadleys relocated to Winnipeg, Manitoba. As a young man, Charles took an active interest in the military, enlisting with 106th Regiment, Winnipeg Light Infantry on November 13, 1913. When Britain declared war on Germany nine months later, the unit was immediately placed on active service for local duty. On August 19, Charles enlisted with Lord Stratchona’s Horse (LSH), another Winnipeg unit. He travelled to Camp Valcartier, Quebec, with LSH before month’s end, formally attesting for overseas service with the Canadian Expeditionary Force on September 25, 1914.

Lord Stratchona’s Horse, a mounted cavalry regiment, took its name from its patriarch, Donald Smith, who made a personal fortune as co-founder of the Canadian Pacific Railway. When the Boer (South African) War broke out in 1899, the Scottish-born Smith—named to the British House of Lords as Baron Strathcona and Mount Royal in 1897—offered to raise and equip a mounted regiment to serve in the conflict. Its personnel, recruited from the “cowboys” and “frontiersmen” of western Canada, included members of the North West Mounted Police and was commanded by Sir Sam Steele.

Military authorities disbanded the unit following its service in South Africa, only to re-establish Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians) in 1909. Following the British declaration of war on Germany, LSH made its way to Valcartier, departing for England on October 3 as part of the First Canadian Contingent. Charles travelled across the North Atlantic with with the unit, crossing the English Channel to France with his comrades on May 4, 1915.

During its first eight months in the line, LSH fought “dismounted” as an infantry unit attached to the 1st Canadian Division. On January 27, 1916, its members “remounted” and served the remainder of the war with the 1st Canadian Cavalry Brigade, which was attached to the British 4th Army’s 5th Cavalry Division.

While mounted cavalry units played a limited role in the trench warfare that dominated the Western Front, they were called into action in several crucial situations. LSH distinguished itself in the line on two particular occasions. In March 1917, the unit provided key defensive support on the Somme front. Its most notable service, however, occurred during the early days of “Operation Michael,” the German spring offensive launched on March 21, 1918.

The Canadian Cavalry Corps was assigned the task of preventing German forces from crossing the L’Avre River, near Amiens, France. On March 30, the Canadian Cavalry Brigade crossed the river and proceeded toward the advancing German units. Upon encountering the enemy at Moreuil Wood, three LSH squadrons dismounted and entered the wooded area, which was occupied by German forces at the time.

While their comrades fought their way into the woods, a fourth LSH Squadron, under the command of Lieutenant Gordon Flowerdew, rode around the forested area, charging German infantry and a supporting artillery battery from their flank. While more than half of the mounted soldiers died in the action, the daring move swung the balance in favour of the Canadians. LSH’s war diary described the attack’s impact:

“Although [Flowerdew’s] squadron suffered heavy casualties, their bold action had a great moral effect on those of the enemy who were still fighting in the wood. Hearing the clatter of hoofs behind them and thinking themselves surrounded, their resistance to our dismounted troops weakened considerably.”

Alfred Munning's "Charge of Flowerdew's Squadron"

While the determined Canadian counter-attack cleared German forces from Moreuil Wood, the cost was considerable. Of the 350 LSH personnel who participated in the fighting, 37 “other ranks” (OR) were killed, while nine Officers and 111 OR were wounded. Flowerdew was among the Officers severely wounded in the cavalry charge, dying of wounds the following day. He posthumously received the Victoria Cross, in acknowledgment of his outstanding bravery.

The decisive action at Moreuil Wood halted German forces at a critical point, preventing its army from driving a wedge between the British and French defence lines. Within weeks, the German advance turned into a retreat, momentum gradually swinging in favour of Allied forces. Operation Michael’s failure in large measure sealed the fate of the German army on the Western front. Within months, depleted in both human and physical resources, it was forced into retreat by an Allied counter-offensive that led to the November 11, 1918 armistice agreement.

Charles Hadley was among the LSH soldiers wounded that day at Moreuil Wood. Evacuated to No. 5 Canadian General Hospital, Rouen, he was admitted with a gun shot wound to his “lower extremities.” Fortunately, the injury was not serious and Charles returned to duty with LSH in early June. Promoted to the rank of Lance Corporal on August 15, Charles served with LSH in France for the duration of the war, returning to England with the unit on May 6, 1919 and departing for Canada seven weeks later.

LSH landed on Canadian soil on July 5, Charles receiving his military discharge five days later. He returned to western Canada and married Elsie Jane Large shortly after his homecoming. The couple travelled further west to Hope, BC, where he and his young bride obtained a homestead. They passed their remaining days on Canada’s west coast, retiring in their later years to Denman Island, between Vancouver Island and the British Columbia mainland. Charles Berry Hadley died on December 20, 1987 at nearby Cumberland, BC.


William Edward Long was born at Rogerton, Guysborough County on October 11, 1889, the second of eight children raised by Edward and Mary Jane “Minnie” (Burns) Long. The family relocated to Hardwood Hills, near New Glasgow, Pictou County, shortly after William’s birth. Edward went to work at Nova Scotia Steel & Coal Co., Trenton, his son William joining him there several years later.

After the British declaration of war in early August 1914, the 78th Regiment “Pictou Highlanders”, a local militia unit, dispatched a small group of soldiers to Camp Valcartier, QC. Despite a lack of military experience, William was among the eager volunteers who travelled to Valcartiet and attested for service with the Canadian Expeditionary Force’s 17th Battalion (Nova Scotia) on September 26.

Several months after arriving in England with the 1st Canadian Contingent, the 17th was re-designated a “reserve” battalion, its members redistributed to 1st Canadian Division units preparing for deployment in Belgium. On February 27, 1915, William received a transfer to the 15th Battalion (48th Highlanders of Canada), subsequently crossing the English Channel to France on April 7 and joining the unit near Steenvorde, France five days later.
15th Battalion (48th Highlanders) Badge

Within one week of William’s arrival, the 15th crossed the Belgian border and proceeded to billets at Poperinge, near Ypres. On the night of April 20, its soldiers entered the Ypres Salient trenches near St. Julien for its first regular rotation in the line. Its inexperienced soldiers had no inkling of the horrors about to unfold in the ensuing days.

On April 22, German forces on their left flank released a large cloud of poison gas from canisters laying along their trenches’ bulwark. The French Algerian troops holding the opposing line dropped their weapons and fled as the gas penetrated their position. While German soldiers moved cautiously into the gap, Canadian units in reserved moved forward in place of the Algerians, desperately attempting to halt the German advance.

The 15th, located a considerable distance to the right of the attack, was not directly affected. On April 24, however, German forces opposite its line launched a second gas attack at 4:00 a.m., supported by an intense artillery bombardment. Unlike their French counterparts, the Canadians stood their ground as best they could, but the fighting took its toll. The 15th’s war diary reported that 33 of its soldiers died as a result of exposure to poison gas, although the number was likely higher.

While forced to retreat, the 15th and its adjacent Canadian units halted where possible, stiffly resisting the German advance. When the 15th withdrew to reserve trenches north of Ypres on April 25, its war diary reported a staggering 674 OR casualties—killed, wounded and missing—in the fighting at St. Julien.

William Edward Long's Memorial Plaque, Royal Cdn. Legion, Warkworth, ON

William Edward Long was among the soldiers reported “missing, presumed dead” in the aftermath of what became known as the Second Battle of Ypres, His remains were never recovered from the battlefield. In the years following the war, William’s name was inscribed on Ypres’ Menin Gate, alongside those of his 15th Battalion comrades, lost somewhere “in Flanders Fields.”



Service file of Charles Berry Hadley, number 2385. Library & Archives Canada, Ottawa: RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box 3911 - 50. Available online.

Service file of William Edward Long, number 47017. Library & Archives Canada, Ottawa: RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box 5729 - 55. Attestation papers available online.

A detailed version of William Edward Long’s story is included in Bruce MacDonald’s “First World War Veterans of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume I: 1915 - 1917,” available for purchase at Bantry Publishing’s website.