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Sunday, 4 June 2017

Remembering Private Arthur McCallum—Died of Wounds June 4, 1917

Arthur McCallum was born at Ogden, Guysborough County on April 20, 1895, the third of James and Bridget (Fitzgerald) McCallum’s seven children. Sometime after 1911, Arthur relocated to Pictou County, where he found employment as a blacksmith.

Pte. Arthur McCallum.
On February 26, 1916, Arthur enlisted with the 106th Battalion (Nova Scotia Rifles) at Pictou, NS and departed for England with the unit in mid-July. Following the 106th’s dissolution, Arthur was transferred to the 87th Battalion (Canadian Grenadier Guards) on December 10, 1916 and joined his new unit near Frévillers, France three days later.

Throughout the winter of 1916-17, Arthur served a regular rotation with the 87th, which was part of the 4th Canadian Division’s 11th Brigade. On the morning of April 9, 1917, Arthur was in the line as the 87th’s soldiers went “over the top” toward German positions atop Hill 145, the ridge’s highest elevation. The 87th and its Brigade mates, the 102nd Battalion, suffered heavy casualties throughout the morning as German forces atop the ridge held out against the assault. The intervention of two 85th Battalion companies later in the day turned the tide of battle and dislodged enemy forces from Hill 145’s western slopes.

Arthur was not injured in the fighting and remained in the line until the night of April 11, when the 87th’s remaining personnel retired to billets. The unit suffered seven Officers killed and one wounded, while 110 of its “other ranks” (OR) were killed, 157 wounded and 25 missing following three days’ fighting at Vimy Ridge.

Within weeks of his Vimy experience, health issues disrupted Arthur’s service. On April 30, he was evacuated “sick” and admitted to the 7th Convalescent Depot, Boulogne. Medical personnel initially determined that Arthur was suffering from myalgia in his legs and transferred him to the 7th Convalescent Depot, Écault. Arthur spent the remainder of the month recovering his strength and was discharged to No. 3 Rest Camp, Boulogne at month’s end.

A June 2 Medical Board determined that Arthur was “fit for duty.” Two days later, he began the journey back to the 87th’s camp, travelling by train to Étaples on the morning of June 4. Upon arriving at Étaples shortly after mid-day, Arthur began the march to No. 4 Canadian Base Depot, a distance of less than one mile. Within minutes, he felt weak and was unable to proceed any further. Taken into the kitchen of a nearby bakery, Arthur rested for several hours before several soldiers arrived to escort him to his quarters.

His companions later reported that Arthur complained of pains in his leg and nausea as he made his way toward camp. Upon arrival, an orderly assisted him up the steps and into the Orderly Room, where he collapsed. Arthur was immediately carried by stretcher to the medical tent, where a Medical Officer “failed to find any sign of life.” Private Arthur McCallum was pronounced dead at 10:00 p.m. June 4, 1917.

A subsequent inquiry failed to determine a specific cause of death, although its report emphatically stated that Arthur was “in no way to blame…. It would appear that he was in a debilitated condition on leaving the Details Camp, Boulogne, and was overcome on the journey from there to the 4th Canadian Base Depot, Étaples.” Private Arthur McCallum was laid to rest in Étaples Military Cemetery, Étaples, France.

A detailed account of Arthur's story is one of 72 profiles published in "First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume I: 1915 - 1917," available for purchase at Bantry Publishing's website.

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