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Friday, 27 January 2017

Guysborough County Enlistments - January 1917

Eleven Guysborough County natives enlisted for military service during the month of January 1917.

Lt. Catherine Mary Nichols Gunn
1. Lieutenant Catherine Mary Nichols Gunn was born at East River St. Mary’s, Pictou County on December 6, 1886 to William and Margaret (McInnis) Gunn. "Nichols," as she became known during her military career, completed her nursing training at Seattle, Washington and enlisted for military service with the Canadian Army Medical Corps at Calgary, Alberta on January 1, 1917. A detailed summary of her military service and later life is available here.

2. Frank Leslie Carter (248652) was born at Liscomb, Guysborough County on October 21, 1894 to Jacob L. and Florence (Pelley) Carter. Frank enlisted with the Howitzer Brigade Ammunition Column at Halifax, NS on January 6, 1917. Two days prior to his enlistment, Frank married Cordelia Rudolph. On February 28, Frank was transferred to the Special Services Corp, Military District No. 6. A subsequent medical examination detected the presence of rheumatism and Frank was discharged from military service on April 17, 1917.

Frank returned to Guysborough County and eventually settled at Philips Harbour, where he worked in the fishery, operated a small retail business and served for a time as a County Councillor. During the Second World War, he served in Canada with the Pictou Highlanders. Frank Carter passed away on October 26, 1986 and was laid to rest in Union Cemetery, Queensport.

3. James Burton Cluney (1060309) was born at Indian Harbour, Guysborough County on November 22, 1876 to Thomas and Sarah Catherine (Bennett) Cluney. James gave his birth year as 1888 when he enlisted with the 246th Battalion at Halifax on January 10, 1917. Married with two young children at the time, his wife, Mary, passed away from tuberculosis in late February 1917.

James was subsequently transferred to No. 2 Nova Scotia Forestry Company. He departed for England aboard SS Justicia on June 25, 1917 and crossed the English Channel to France one month later. James served with No. 59 Company, Canadian Forestry Corps, in the Bordeaux District of France for the next 14 months.

In September 1918, James was hospitalized with an infected left leg and subsequently diagnosed with nephritis (kidney disease). Invalided to England on November 29, 1918, he spent several months in hospital before returning to Canada in March 1919. Discharged from military service on March 25, 1919, he returned to Sherbrooke, Guysborough County, where he worked in a lumberman and subsequently married Ethel Munro in 1922.

James Burton Cluney passed away at Sherbrooke on May 11, 1934 and was laid to rest in St. James Anglican Church Cemetery, Sherbrooke.

Gunner George Edward Croft (standing) & Pte. Perry Ellis Croft
4. George Edward Croft (2163305) was born at Gegoggin, Guysborough County on August 5, 1898 to Edward and Bessie (Jack) Croft. George enlisted with the 1st Reinforcement Draft, No. 8 Siege Battery, Royal Canadian Garrison Artillery at Halifax, NS on January 20, 1917. A detailed summary of George’s military service and later life is available here.

5. Matthew Day (931408) was born at Upper Big Tracadie in January 1875 to Matthew and Margaret Day. He enlisted with No. 2 Construction Battalion at Truro, NS on January 20, 1917. Married with six children and 41 years of age at the time, Matthew departed Halifax with No. 2 Construction Battalion on March 25, 1917 and arrived at Liverpool, England on April 8.

While the unit proceeded to France on May 17, Matthew remained in England, where he was posted to the Depot Company, Camp Bramshott. Transferred to the 17th Reserve Battalion on July 6, 1917, Matthew exhibited several health issues connected to his age. He suffered from “pain in muscles, [was] easily fatigued and [experienced] much distress about shoulders when carrying anything.” A medical examination detected evidence of pleurisy in his right lung and reported a family history of tuberculosis.

As a result, on September 13, Matthew returned to the Nova Scotia Regimental Depot, Bramshott, where he awaited embarkation to Canada for military discharge. He departed Liverpool on October 18 and landed at Quebec on October 28. Subsequently “taken on strength” by “B” Company, Military Hospitals Commission Command, Halifax on November 9, 1917, Matthew was discharged at Halifax as “medically unfit” on February 28, 1918.

Matthew Day returned to Upper Big Tracadie, where he passed away on January 19, 1948 and was laid to rest in Sunnyview Cemetery, Tracadie, NS. 

Pte. Louis John Burns' headstone, St. Patrick's Cemetery, Wine Harbour
6. Louis John Burns (1060325) was born at Sonora, Guysborough County on June 2, 1896 to John Penney and Helen “Nellie” (Cass) Burns. Louis enlisted with the 246th Battalion at Halifax on January 23, 1917. While his initial medical examination detected no health problems, Louis was admitted to Rockhead Military Hospital on February 27 and subsequently diagnosed with “acute nephritis.” He died of kidney failure and pulmonary oedema (fluid in the lungs) on March 1, 1917 and was laid to rest in St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Cemetery, Wine Harbour, Guysborough County. 

Private Howard Ellsworth Croft
7. Howard Ellsworth Croft (1060323) was born at Gegoggin, Guysborough County on February 16, 1897 to Captain James David and Harriet Jane (Croft) Croft. Howard enlisted with the 246th Battalion at Halifax on January 23, 1917. He stood 5’ 11” and weighed 160 pounds at the time. Howard departed Halifax on May 31 and was assigned to the 185th Battalion shortly after arriving in England.

Transferred to the 17th Reserve Battalion on February 23, 1918, he proceeded overseas for service with the 85th Battalion (Nova Scotia Highlanders) on March 16. Howard received gunshot wounds to his left thigh and right arm at the Battle of the Scarpe on September 2, 1918 and was invalided to England six days later.

Admitted to Croydon War Hospital, Howard fully recovered from his wounds and was discharged to Woodcote Military Convalescent Hospital, Epsom on September 27. Discharged on October 16, he reported to Camp Bramshott, where he was attached to the 17th Reserve Battalion on November 22.

Howard departed for Canada on January 9, 1919 and was discharged from military service on February 8, 1919. He returned to the Sherbrooke area, where he married Bessie Bell Ferguson on December 11, 1924. The couple raised a family of five—three sons and two daughters—while Howard worked as a fisherman and labourer. Howard Croft passed away at the MacKaracher Nursing Home, Sherbrooke on February 16, 1983 and was laid to rest in Riverside Cemetery, Sherbrooke, NS.

8. Patrick Gordon Malloy (1099751) was born at Isaac’s Harbour, Guysborough County on March 28, 1879 to Robert and Joanna (Sullivan) Malloy. Gordon enlisted with the 256th Battalion at New Glasgow, NS on January 25, 1917. He stood five feet 11 inches and weighing 180 pounds at the time. Gordon’s medical examination, conducted the same day, noted that he had lost his right eye. As a result, he was discharged from military service as “medically unfit” at Windsor, NS on March 3, 1917.

A widower at the time of his enlistment, Gordon returned to New Glasgow, where he worked in the local coal mines. He married Gertrude Hicken, also a widow, on April 8, 1924 but passed away from “organic heart disease” ten days later. 

Sapper Francis Stewart "Frank" Manson
9. Francis Stewart “Frank” Manson (827203) was born at Sherbrooke, Guysborough County on December 2, 1892 to George and Lucy (Walters) Manson. Frank enlisted with the 143rd Battalion at Vancouver, BC on January 26, 1917 and later served in France with the 3rd Battalion Canadian Railway Troops. A detailed summary of his family background, war experience and later life is available here.

10. Thomas Paul Pelrine (1934) was born at Tracadie, NS on September 21, 1894 to John Joseph and Susan (Delorey) Pelrine. Undeterred whtn the 165th Battalion rejected the five foot two inch Thomas as “unfit for military service," he enlisted with the Composite Battalion at Halifax, NS on January 26, 1917 for a three-year term. Thomas later worked as a machinist in Halifax, where he married Elizabeth Jane Gerroir, a native of Charlos Cove, Guysborough County, on May 26, 1923. The couple raised a family of six children. Thomas passed away at Charlos Cove on October 18, 1951 and was laid to rest in St. Joseph’s Cemetery, Charlos Cove.

Private Percy Ellis Crift (sitting) & Gunner George Edward Croft
11. Percy Ellis Croft (2163342) was born at Gegoggin, Guysborough County on May 15, 1899 to Solomon and Margaret “Maggie” Croft. Percy in initially enlisted for “home service” with the Royal Canadian Garrison Artillery at Halifax on October 27, 1916. Three months later, he exaggerated his age by one year when he enlisted for overseas service with the Royal Canadian Artillery on January 31, 1917.

Percy departed Halifax on February 17, 1917 and landed at Liverpool, England ten days later. He was assigned to the Reserve Brigade, Canadian Field Artillery, Shorncliffe on May 24, 1917 and made his way to France on July 18, 1917 for service with the 4th Canadian Divisional Ammunition Column. Transferred to the 8th Artillery Brigade one month later, Percy was slightly wounded in the field on September 2, but remained at duty.

Percy’s mother, Maggie, was displeased with her young son’s decision to serve overseas and submitted a letter from her parish priest to military authorities, proving that he was only 18 years of age as of May 15, 1917. As a result, on September 21, 1917, authorities ordered Percy to report to the 1st Army School of Instruction as a “minor.”

Percy under went clerical training and subsequently served as a clerk with Canadian General Headquarters in France. Returning to England on January 24, 1919, he departed for Canada on March 13 and landed at Halifax 12 days later. He was formally discharged from military service on March 30, 1919.

Following the war, Percy married Gladys Hattie Hallett and emigrated to the United States. The couple took up residence in Connecticut and raised two sons in their new home. Percy Ellis Croft passed away at Rockledge, Brevard, Florida on May 24, 1988.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Remembering Pte. Roland "Rollie" Ash & Pte. James William Clooney - KIA January 16, 1917

Roland "Rollie" Ash was born at Guysborough, NS on September 6, 1894, the eldest child of Esther Ann (Parris) Shepard and James Stanley Ash. Several years later, the family relocated to Antigonish, where Esther and James raised a family of 11 children.

Rollie married Reta Jackson, a native of Boston, Massachusetts, in a Baptist ceremony held at Antigonish on May 27, 1915. A little more than a year later, he entered military service, enlisting with the 106th Battalion (Nova Scotia Rifles) at Truro, NS on July 11, 1916. The fact that Rollie’s younger brother, Norman, had enlisted with the same unit four days previously likely influenced his decision to serve overseas. One of several infantry battalions recruited across the province in 1916, the 106th accepted at least 16 African Nova Scotian men into its ranks, a fact that
distinguished the unit from the vast majority of Canadian battalions.

The 106th's ranks also contained several other Guysborough natives. Private James William Clooney, born at Sherbrooke on November 8, 1889, was the third of six children and eldest son of Elizabeth Ann "Bessie" (Bennett) and William H. Clooney, James enlisted with the 106th at Truro on December 27, 1915. As with the Ash family, James' brother, Garfield, joined the same unit two months later. Prior to departing for England, James married Elizabeth Mary Reinhof, a native of St. George's NL, at Bible Hill on March 1, 1916.

The Ash and Clooney brothers departed Halifax on July 15 and arrived in England ten days later. Shortly afterward, the 106th was disbanded and its personnel assigned to various units in the field. The pairs of brothers, however, managed to stay together. Rollie and Norman Ash received a transfer to the 26th Battalion (New Brunswick) on September 27, while James and Garfield joined them one week later.

The four inexperienced soldiers arrived in the 26th's camp at Bouzincourt, west of Albert, France, in  early October as the battalion rebuilt its ranks following significant losses at the Somme. Several days later, the unit moved northward  and returned to the trenches near Lens at mid-month.

While the arrival of cold, damp weather ended major combat operations throughout the winter months, trench raids, probing the enemy's defences and gaining valuable intelligence, were a regular occurrence. On the night of November 23/24, 1916, the 26th conducted one such operation. Its soldiers destroyed German trenches and dugouts and inflicted an estimated 15 casualties on the enemy, before returning to their trenches. The unit suffered only light casualties, its war diary reporting one "other rank" (OR) killed, one Officer and one OR wounded.

Personnel were not so fortunate during a second raid, launched late in the afternoon of January 16, 1917. Three parties of 26th Battalion soldiers, each consisting of one Officer and 45 OR, entered No Man's Land under the protection of an artillery barrage. While one party provided cover, the other two groups entered the German front line following the detonation of an underground mine.

The soldiers proceeded to destroy several dugouts, gun emplacements and sentry posts and inflicted an estimated 45 casualties on enemy forces. German artillery fire, however, inflicted several casualties as the raiding parties returned across No Man's Land. In the raid’s aftermath, five OR were reported killed, while 14 were wounded and one soldier was missing.

Pte. Rollie Ash was the "missing" OR. He never returned to the 26th's trenches and his remains were never located. Rollie’s name is inscribed on the Canadian War Memorial, Vimy Ridge, one of more than 11,000 Canadian soldiers "missing, presumed dead" somewhere on the battlefields of northern France.

Pte. Rollie Ash's name engraved on the Canadian War Memorial.
Pte. James William Clooney was one of the five OR killed during the raid. He was laid to rest in Tranchée de Mecknes Cemetery, Aix-Noulette, France. Before year's end, his widow Elizabeth, who had given birth to a daughter after James' departure, fell ill with tuberculosis and passed away at Trenton, NS on November 23, 1917. Young Elizabeth J. Clooney was subsequently adopted by a local family.

Pte. James Clooney's headstone, Tranchée-de-Mecknes Cemetery.
Pte. Norman Ash was later killed in action at Hill 70 on August 15, 1917 while serving with the 26th. Pte. Garfield Clooney served in the trenches with the 26th until mid-November 1917, at which time he was transferred to 5th Canadian Infantry Brigade Headquarters for service as a "batman." He returned to Nova Scotia following the war, married and raised a large family at Maitland, NS, where he passed away on August 23, 1963.

Detailed versions of Rollie Ash's and James Clooney's stories are included in First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume I: 1915 - 1917, available for purchase online at .