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Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Remembering Private Arthur Swaine - KIA September 21, 1916

Arthur Swaine was born at Canso, Guysborough County, NS on May 10, 1891, the second of six children and oldest son of Samuel Isaiah and Emily Myra “Emma” (MacLellan) Swaine. All four Swaine boys enlisted for service with Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) units. One brother, Edward, returned home as medically unfit. All three remaining brothers—Arthur, Roland Judson “Jud” and Benjamin—served at the front. None returned home to Canso.

Arthur enlisted with the 40th Battalion (Halifax Rifles) at Camp Aldershot, NS on August 14, 1915. The unit departed from Quebec City aboard SS Saxonia on October 18, 1915, its recruits spending the winter of 1915-16 in England. During that time, the 40th provided several reinforcement drafts to units at the front and was eventually reduced to the status of a “reserve” battalion.

In late April 1916, Arthur received a transfer to the 17th Reserve Battalion (Nova Scotia). Finally, on August 17, he was selected for service with the 43rd Battalion (Cameron Highlanders of Canada) and crossed the English Channel to France. Ten days later, Arthur reported to the 43rd’s camp near Steenvoorde, Belgium.

Within days of his arrival, the 43rd relocated to the Somme region of France with the Canadian Corps’ first three Divisions. Its soldiers arrived at Albert on September 14 and two days later provided work , carrying and wiring parties for Canadian units in the aftermath of their attack on the village of Courcelette. During the evening of September 18, Arthur entered the front trenches for the first time.

In the early hours of September 20, one of the 43rd’s Companies attacked and captured a German position known as Zollern Trench. Later that same day, a massive German counter-attack and severe bombardment forced the soldiers to abandon the position. One Officer was killed and two wounded, while 59 “other ranks” (OR) were killed and 73 OR wounded in the fighting.

The following day—September 21—German artillery heavily shelled the section of the line occupied by the 43rd’s “C” Company, near Mouquet Farm. The unit’s war diary reported 11 OR killed, 19 OR wounded and two missing following the bombardment. Private Arthur Swaine was one of the two soldiers reported missing and presumed dead, when the 43rd withdrew from the line later that night.

Arthur’s remains were never located. His name in inscribed on the Canadian War Memorial, Vimy Ridge, erected in honour of more than 11,000 Canadian soldiers who died on the battlefields of northern France and who have no known grave. Arthur was the second Swaine fatality of the war. His younger brother, Jud, was killed in action on April 14, 1916 near St. Eloi, Belgium, while serving with the 25th Battalion (Nova Scotia). Their stories are among the 72 profiles contained in “First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume I: 1915 - 1917,” available at .

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