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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 .

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