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Saturday, 1 October 2016

Remembering Private James Richmond & Private John Berrigan Gunn - KIA October 1, 1916

James Richmond was born at Mulgrave, Guysborough County on September 29, 1891. His parents are unknown, although James listed a brother, Charlie Richmond of Tracadie, Antigonish County, as his next of kin at the time of his military enlistment.

Pte. James Richmond's name on the Canadian War Memorial, Vimy Ridge, France.
James attested for service with the 25th Battalion at Halifax, NS on November 26, 1914. He was a sizeable lad for the day, standing six feet tall and weighing 175 pounds. James and the 25th departed Halifax aboard HMT Saxonia on May 20, 1915, arriving in England nine days later. Following a summer’s training, he crossed the English Channel to France on September 15, 1915 and one week later entered the trenches of Belgium’s Ypres Salient.

Throughout the winter of 1915-16, James and the 25th served a regular rotation in the line. The unit’s soldiers received their first introduction to combat near St. Eloi in April and May 1916 and remained in the Ypres Salient throughout the spring and summer months. During that time, several reinforcement drafts reported to the 25th’s camp. John Berrigan Gunn was part of a group of 42 “other ranks” (OR) who arrived on July 23, 1916.

Born at Country Harbour, Guysborough County on September 7, 1891 to William and Barbara Jane (Hines) Gunn, John was the fourth of six children and his parent’s oldest son. He attested with the 64th Battalion at Sussex, NB on August 24, 1915 and was subsequently transferred to the 40th Battalion (Halifax Rifles) the following spring. John departed Halifax aboard SS Adriatic on March 31, 1916, landing at Liverpool, England nine days later. He was officially transferred to the 25th’s ranks on June 28, 1916 and reached its Belgian camp one month later.

Pte. John Berrigan Gunn (Source: Salsman's Homeland, Vol. I).
In early September 1916, James and John followed the 25th to the Somme region of France. The unit participated in the Canadian Corps’ successful September 15 attack on the village of Courcelette. Following a brief rest, the 25th returned to the line on September 27, with orders to capture Kenora Trench, a German stronghold located in front of Regina Trench.

The attack commenced in the early hours of October 1. While the 25th’s soldiers succeeded in capturing a portion of the trench, flanking battalions failed to keep pace. The unit endured fierce counter-fire throughout the day and was finally forced to retreat, more than half of its personnel becoming casualties during the fighting.

Private James Richmond was killed in the hours prior to the advance, while on a reconnaissance patrol in No Man’s Land. Private John Gunn went over the top with the first wave of attackers but was not amongst the retreating soldiers. Initially reported “wounded - missing,” he was later officially deemed “killed in action.”

Neither James’ nor John’s remains were recovered from the battlefield. Their names are engraved on the Canadian War Memorial, Vimy Ridge, France, erected in memory of more than 11,000 Canadian soldiers who died somewhere on the battlefields of northern France and who have no known final resting place.

A detailed version of James Richmond’s and John Berrigan Gunn’s stories is printed in “First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume I: 1915 - 1917,” available at bantrypublishing.ca .

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