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Monday, 19 June 2017

Remembering Private Philip Sydney Beals & Private John Rhynold—KIA & DOW June 19, 1917

On June 19, 1917, two First World War soldiers with connections to Guysborough County were killed or died of wounds while serving with two separate units.

Philip Sydney Beals was born at Billtown, Kings County on July 4, 1889, the oldest of three children in the family of Reverend Frank H. and Annie (Smith) Beals. Several years after Philip’s birth, Rev. Beals became Pastor of the Baptist congregation at Canso, Guysborough County, where Philip’s two siblings, Helen and Carlyle, joined the family.

Private Philip Sydney Beals.
By 1901, the family had relocated to Digby, Annapolis County, where Phillip completed his grammar school education and went on to complete a Bachelor of Science degree at Acadia University. On June 30, 1914, he married Mabel Bateaux Easson, a native of Factorydale—near Berwick—Kings County. The couple settled at Morristown, near Mabel’s home, where Philip took up farming.

Following the outbreak of the First World War, Philip initially enlisted with the 14th Independent Field Battery, Royal Canadian Artillery, Halifax. In early 1916, military recruiters canvassed the province, in search of soldiers for the Nova Scotia Highland Brigade. Philip enlisted with the 219th Battalion at Berwick, NS on March 2, 1916 and departed Halifax aboard SS Olympic on October 12.

Before year’s end, significant Canadian Corps casualties incurred at the Somme during the autumn of 1916 led military officials to dissolve two of the Highland Brigade’s four battalions. Philip’s 219th was one of the two units whose soldiers were dispersed to other battalions. On December 28, he was transferred to the 85th Battalion (Nova Scotia Highlanders), the Brigade’s senior unit. On February 10, 1917, he crossed the English Channel to France with his new unit and commenced preparations to enter the line.

Due to its lack of combat experience, in the weeks prior to the Canadian Corps’ historic attack on Vimy Ridge, the 85th was attached to the 4th Division’s 11th Brigade as a “working unit.” When the 11th Brigade’s soldiers failed to capture Hill 145 during the initial assault on the morning of April 9, two of the 85th’s companies entered the line late in the day and succeeded in dislodging German forces from the hill’s western slopes in an early evening attack. While Philip’s “A” Company was not part of the action, the following morning, he and his comrades joined their 85th colleagues atop the ridge.

Shortly its Vimy debut, military officials assigned the 85th to the 4th Division’s 12th Brigade, where it commenced a regular rotation in the line. On the night of June 15, “A” and “B” Companies relieved their “C” and “D” counterparts in the Liévin Sector’s front trenches. Four days later, “A” Company participated in an operation to clear German forces from a “triangle of trenches” adjacent to its line, in conjunction with an Imperial regiment to its left.

The soldiers vacated their position prior to a massive artillery barrage, which commenced at 2:30 p.m.. Four minutes later, the Company re-occupied the front trenches and dispatched a small party into the triangle, to ensure that German forces had been removed from the targeted area. While there were no casualties during the operation, German retaliatory artillery fire commenced at 2:40 p.m. and continued into the early evening. Private Philip Sydney Beals was one of five “other rank” (OR) fatalities inflicted in the bombardment, “instantly killed by a high explosive shell.”

Philip was laid to rest in Cabaret-Rouge British Cemetery, Souchez, France. His bereaved widow, Mabel, never re-remarried and spent her remaining years at Morristown, Kings County, where she passed away on June 23, 1962.


Private John Reynolds [Rhynold] was born at Canso, Guysborough County on January 5, 1883, the third of Margaret Louise (Haines) and Anthony Reynolds’ five children and the couple’s second son. John was married with four children when he enlisted for service with the 40th Battalion at Camp Valcartier, Quebec on July 13, 1915. The unit departed for overseas on October 18, 1915 and arrived at Plymouth, England nine days later.

Within weeks of his overseas arrival, John was transferred to the 17th Reserve Battalion (Nova Scotia). He remained with the 17th for six months, finally receiving a transfer to the Canadian Machine Gun Corps (CMGC) on June 23, 1916. John immediately reported to the CMGC Depot at Crowborough, where he completed his training. In mid-December 1916, he crossed the English Channel to the CMGC Depot at Camiers, France. On January 22, 1917, John was assigned to the 9th Canadian Machine Gun Company (9th CMG) and joined his new unit in the field four days later.

John served with 9th CMG at Vimy Ridge, its guns providing barrage fire in support of the 7th Canadian Brigade’s attack. The unit’s three batteries fired an estimated 334,000 rounds during the day’s advance, suffering only two “other ranks” (OR) slightly wounded. The unit served in the Vimy area throughout the spring of 1917, returning to trenches near the ridge on the night of June 14/15 for a routine tour in the line.

As the tour progressed, German artillery subjected 9th CMG’s position to scattered daytime shelling that intensified after nightfall. On the night of June 18/19, the unit endured particularly heavy fire along its section of the line shortly after midnight. Two OR were killed, while three others were evacuated to No. 7 Casualty Clearing Station (CCS) for treatment of their wounds.

Private John Reynolds was one of the three wounded OR. He “died of wounds (gun shot wounds, multiple)” at No. 7 CCS on June 19, 1917 and was laid to rest in Noeux-les-Mines Communal Cemetery, Noeux-les-Mines, France.

Philip’s and John’s stories are among the 72 profiles included in Bantry Publishing’s First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume I: 1915 - 1917, available for purchase online at .

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