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Saturday, 13 May 2017

Remembering Private Arthur MacKenzie—Died of Sickness May 13, 1917

Arthur MacKenzie was born at Canso, Guysborough County on November 12, 1897, the eldest of David and Maria (Uloth) MacKenzie’s six children. Following the First World War, soldiers became a regular sight in and around the community, as personnel from two militia regiments—the 94th Victoria Regiment (Argyll Highlanders) and 78th Pictou Highlanders—guarded the Commercial Cable Company offices at Hazel Hill and several other strategic sites in Canso town and vicinity.

Pte. Arthur MacKenzie
On April 4, 1916, Arthur enlisted for service with the 94th Victoria Regiment. Authorized on October 13, 1871, the militia regiment was based at Baddeck, Victoria County, but had established eight Companies throughout western Cape Breton prior to the outbreak of the First World War. In the aftermath of Britain’s August 4, 1914 declaration of war on Germany, the 94th mobilized its 377 soldiers and commenced protective duties at strategic locations along the Cape Breton and Canso coastlines.

Upon enlistment, Arthur was assigned to “G” Company and immediately placed on the unit’s payroll, receiving a wage of $1.00 and a field allowance of 10⍧ for each day’s service. According to the 94th’s records, Arthur became a full-time soldier throughout the following year, setting aside his previous occupation as a fisherman for regular militia duty. As spring approached, however, health problems interrupted his military service.

Pte. Arthur MacKenzie's headstone.
On March 15, 1917, Arthur was hospitalized for treatment of diphtheria, a highly contagious disease transmitted through respiratory droplets. Military barracks’ damp, crowded conditions meant that illness frequently spread from soldier to soldier. While Arthur initially showed signs of improvement, he developed “symptoms of myocarditis” in late April. His health rapidly declined and Arthur died of heart failure on May 13, 1917. Private Arthur MacKenzie was laid to rest in Fourth Hill Cemetery, Canso, dressed in his “Uniform, Serge [and] drab.”

Bantry Publishing's First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume I: 1915 - 17 contains a detailed description of Arthur's story, along with profiles of 71 other Guysborough soldiers who died in uniform during the war's first three years. Copies are available for purchase online at bantrypublishing.ca .

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Remembering Sergeant Alexander Hugh Cameron, MM—Killed in Action May 7, 1917

Alexander Hugh Cameron was born at Caledonia, Guysborough County, NS on February 28, 1891, the fifth of Daniel Angus and Margaret A. Cameron’s nine children. Sometime after 1911, Alexander relocated to Alberta, where his older brother, John Angus, was employed as a school teacher.

Alexander enlisted with the 56th Battalion (Calgary Highlanders) at Calgary, AB on June 15, 1915, while John Angus joined the 63rd Battalion (Loyal Edmonton Regiment) two weeks later. Before year’s end, the brothers reunited when Alexander obtained a transfer to John Angus’s unit. Following a winter’s training in Western Canada, the 63rd traveled by train to Saint John, NB and departed for overseas aboard SS Metagama on April 22, 1916.

Upon arriving at Liverpool, England on May 5, the Cameron brothers traveled with their comrades to Shorncliffe Military Camp. Within two months of its overseas arrival, the 63rd was disbanded and its personnel dispersed to existing units. John Angus, a commissioned Lieutenant, remained in England until late June 1917, when he was transferred to the 31st Battalion. Alexander, however, made his way to the forward area shortly after the 63rd’s dissolution. On June 29, 1916,  he was assigned to the 29th Battalion (BC)—part of the 2nd Canadian Division’s 6th Brigade—and immediately departed for France. He joined his new unit at Albert Camp, near St. Eloi, Belgium, on July 30.

Alexander served in Belgium with the 29th for six weeks, at which time the unit relocated to the Somme region of France with the Canadian Corps. While the battalion did not participate in the Corps’ September 15 attack on Courcelette, France, personnel provided “carrying parties” for front line units throughout the operation.

While its soldiers subsequently took part in the initial attacks on German defences in front of Regina Trench in late September and early October, Alexander was not part of the attacks. A solid lad who was five feet, eleven inches tall and weighed 185 pounds, Alexander completed a Lewis Gun course during that time and rejoined his comrades on October 4.

The 29th departed the Somme region following Alexander’s return and moved northward to sectors near Arras, France. During his winter service, Alexander was promoted to Lance Corporal and soon advanced to the full rank of Corporal. On February 20, 1917, he was appointed Lance Sergeant—a Corporal acting in the rank of Sergeant.

The 29th participated in the Canadian Corps’ historic April 9, 1917 attack on Vimy Ridge, its soldiers initially playing a support role while the 4th and 5th Brigades spearheaded the attack in the 2nd Division’s sector. Shortly after mid-day. the 29th’s soldiers entered the battle as the 6th Brigade carried out the attack’s second phase. Personnel succeeded in securing their objectives on the outskirts of Farbus by mid-afternoon.

Alexander’s actions at Vimy Ridge earned him the Military Medal for bravery:

“This N.C.O.[,] after completing consolidation under heavy fire and great difficulties, showed much skill in handling his Lewis Guns. In spite of heavy shell, fire, he harassed the enemy’s gunners and did splendid work in causing them to retire, leaving their guns.”

Throughout the remainder of the month, the 29th served on rotation in sectors in front of the newly captured ridge. On the night of May 3/4, its soldiers occupied a section of a newly established line beyond the village of Fresnoy and endured “heavy artillery fire” as they set about consolidating the position. By May 6, “[the] men [were} beginning to show [the] strain of continual bombardment,” although casualties were light.

Conditions were “cloudy” on the morning of May 7, but the weather improved as the day progressed. During the evening hours, 19th Battalion arrived to relief the 29th’s soldiers. As they were retiring from the line, their location “came under heavy enemy shelling during [an enemy] attack to recapture Fresnoy.” Three of “B” Company’s Lewis Gun crews remained in the line with the 19th’s soldiers and assisted in defending the position. During the fighting, “two guns were put out of action, and of the third crew, all but No. 1 were killed or wounded.”

Sergeant Alexander Cameron was one of six “other ranks” (OR) killed during the evening attack. His remains were never recovered from the battlefield where he fell. His name is inscribed on the Canadian War Memorial, Vimy Ridge, one of 11,285 Canadian soldiers “missing, presumed dead” somewhere beneath the battlefields of northern France.

Memorial Stone—Bethel Presbyterian Cemetery, Caledonia, NS
Bantry Publishing’s First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume I: 1915 - 1917 contains a detailed description of Alexander’s story, along with profiles of 71 other soldiers and sailors with connections to Guysborough County, all of whom died during the first three years of Canadian service on the Western Front. The book is available for purchase online at bantrypublishing.ca .

Monday, 1 May 2017

Remembering Private James Arthur Hayne—Killed in Action May 1, 1917

James Arthur Hayne was born at Country Harbour, Guysborough County on August 18, 1892, the third of Viola (McNeil) and William Hayne’s seven children. Viola passed away sometime before 1911, leaving William to care for his three youngest children. By that time, Arthur—as he was known to family—was living in Red Deer, Alberta, where he was working as a miner.

James Arthur Hayne (c. 1915)
Arthur later travelled further west to British Columbia, where he found employment in a fishing camp. There, he met Lily Alice Fisk, a native of Norwich, England, a camp cook and sister of its owner. The couple married on September 12, 1914 and established residence in Steveston, south of Vancouver. Their first child, Gordon, arrived shortly afterward, followed by a daughter, Mary Frances.

The outbreak of the First World War soon disrupted Arthur’s civilian and family life. He initially enlisted with the 104th Regiment (Westminster Fusiliers of Canada), a local militia unit that provided basic instruction to soldiers interested in overseas service. On March 24, 1916, Arthur attested for overseas service with the 131st Battalion, the second overseas unit recruited, organized and trained by the 104th Regiment.

Mary Frances, Lilly Alice & Gordon Hayne.
Following seven months of training in British Columbia, Arthur and his fellow recruits made their way to Halifax by train and departed for overseas aboard SS Caronia on November 1, 1916. Ten days later, the unit arrived in England, only to be disbanded within days. The 131st’s personnel dispersed among existing British Columbia battalions. On November 27, Private James Arthur Hayne, attestation number 790031, was transferred to the 47th Battalion, the first of the 104th Regiment’s overseas units.

The day following his transfer, Arthur crossed the English Channel to France and joined the 47th in the field on December 11, 1916. He served with the unit in sectors near Lens, France throughout the winter of 1916 - 17. The battalion was part of the Canadian Corps’ planned assault on Vimy Ridge, France. As one of the 4th Division’s 10th Brigade units, its personnel were located on the left flank and played a support role in the initial April 9, 1917 attack, advancing as required to maintain contact with Canadian units on their right flank.

On the morning of April 12, the 47th’s Company “C” assisted the 44th and 50th Battalions—two of their Brigade mates—in capturing “The Pimple,” an area of high ground to the left of Hill 145 and the last location under German control, in the aftermath of the Corps’ attack on Vimy Ridge. The following day, the entire 47th Battalion occupied trenches atop the newly captured location.

For the remainder of the month, the 47th served on rotation in sectors near Vimy Ridge. On the evening of April 30, Arthur and his mates returned to the front line, in relief of the 44th Battalion. The following day—May 1, 1917—the unit’s war diary described “very active” machine gun fire as work parties improved the front and support trenches.

While the situation was “fairly quiet throughout the day,” the diary entry reported one casualty: “790031 killed in action.” Neither the war diary nor Arthur’s “circumstances of casualty” record provide any details as to the events leading to his death in “trenches south west of La Coulotte.” Arthur was laid to rest in La Chaudière British Cemetery, three miles south-southwest of Lens.

Pte. J. A. Hayne's headstone, La Chaudière Military Cemetery.
Tragically, Arthur’s widow, Lilly Alice, fell victim to the 1919 influenza epidemic that swept across Canada in the months following the war’s end. A Vancouver family subsequently adopted the couple’s two children, Gordon and Mary Frances. In 1922, when the city of Richmond, BC erected a cenotaph in honour of the community’s fallen First World War soldiers, Gordon and Mary Frances Hayne unveiled the monument whose plaque bore their deceased father’s name.

Bantry Publishing’s “First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume I: 1915 - 1917,” contains a detailed version of James Arthur Hayne’s story, along with profiles of 71 other Guysborough County natives who lost their lives during the first three years of the “Great War.” The book is available for purchase online at bantrypublishing.ca .