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Monday, 31 July 2017

Guysborough County Enlistments—July 1917

Four Guysborough County natives enlisted for service with Canadian Expeditionary Force units during the month of July 1917:

1. Whitfield Raymond Strople (1031140) was born at North Intervale, Guysborough County on September 20, 1894, the eighth of James Robert and Mary Eliza (Lipsett) Strople’s 11 children and the sixth of the couple’s seven sons. In March 1915, Whitfield departed for the United States, where he joined his oldest brother, Ralph, who was living at Cambridge, MA.

When the United States entered the war in early April 1917 and implemented a military draft shortly afterward, Whitfield completed his draft registration card at Cambridge but decided to serve with the Canadian Expeditionary Force. Returning to Canada, he attested with the 236th Battalion (New Brunswick Kilties) at Fredericton, NB on July 2, 1917. No further information is presently available on his military service.

Two of Whitfield’s older brothers also enlisted during the First World War. Howard Nightingale Strople (DOB July 4, 1887) attested with the 5th Regiment, Royal Highlanders of Canada at Montreal, QC on June 14, 1917, while his older brother, Chester Alvin (DOB December 28, 1883), joined the same unit on August 6, 1917. The Royal Highlanders of Canada recruited three infantry battalions for service on the Western Front—the 13th, 42nd and 73rd Battalions.

Following the war, Whitfield returned to the Boston area, where he worked as a “servant” in the household of Herbert Nelson, Sharon, MA. Available documents suggest that he spent some time in Seattle, WA in 1923. Whitfield passed away at Montreal, QC on May 4, 1929. Online genealogical sources claim that he died “from the effects of poison gas,” but provide no documentary evidence to support the assertion. Commonwealth War Graves Commission files contain no record of his death, indicating that his passing was never officially connected to his military service.

2. Hugh Everett Bingley (2303811) was born on May 6, 1886 at Fisherman’s Harbour, Guysborough County. Hugh was the sixth child in a family of nine and the fifth of Nicholas and Mary Ann (Potter) Bingley’s six sons. On July 3, 1917, Hugh enlisted with the New Brunswick Forestry Draft at Inverness, NS. His time in uniform was brief. He was discharged as “medically unfit” at Camp Aldershot, NS on August 8, when a thorough medical examination discovered that Hugh had severely defective vision in his right eye. He eventually settled at Halifax, and appears to have remained single throughout his life. Hugh Everett Bingley passed away at Camp Hill Hospital on January 4, 1970.

3. Nathaniel “Neil” Morrison (2330457) was born at Melford, Guysborough County on October 20, 1879, the fifth of Roderick and Euphemia (McIsaac) Morrison’s six children and the third of their four sons. An experienced lumberman, Neil enlisted with the Nova Scotia Forestry Draft at Camp Aldershot, NS on July 16, 1917. He departed Halifax aboard SS Canada on November 6. Upon landing at Liverpool, England two weeks later, Neil reported to the Canadian Forestry Corps (CFC) Headquarters at Sunningdale.

On February 28, 1918, Neil was assigned to No. 139 Company, CFC and shortly afterward departed for No. 52 District operations near Jedburgh, Scotland with his new unit. Recognizing Neil’s expertise and leadership skills, authorities promoted him to the rank of Acting Sergeant the day after his transfer. In March 1918, No. 139 Company established operations in forests near Jedburgh, where its personnel harvested and milled timber throughout the spring and summer months.

On the morning of Thursday, October 10, Neil was overseeing operations at No. 139 Company’s harvesting site. A strong wind was blowing as he stood beside a load of logs being readied for transport to the mill. Without warning, a tree about 75 feet away teetered and fell, striking Neil and one of the horses hitched to the load. Neil was immediately rendered unconscious, but had recovered somewhat by the time the unit’s Medical Sergeant arrived on the scene.

Neil was immediately transported to a nearby doctor’s residence and subsequently taken to a local hospital. He died later that evening, the blow from the tree having fractured his spine in two places. A subsequent investigation determined that the tree had fallen as the result of the windy conditions and had not been touched by CFC personnel. Sergeant Neil Morrison was laid to rest in Castlewood Cemetery, Jedburgh, Scotland.

4. John William Ryan (67300) was born at Mulgrave, Guysborough County on October 14, 1885. The second of five children child and second of three sons in the family of John and Isabel (McKeough) Ryan, John attested for service with the Canadian Army Medical Corps at Halifax on July 24, 1917.

It was John’s second attestation of the war. On November 15, 1914, he joined the 25th Battalion at Halifax and logged 13 months’ service with the unit. Discharged as medically unfit on April 30, 1917—the result of gunshot and shrapnel wounds to his left shoulder and hand—John spent less than three months out of uniform before re-enlisting.

No further details are currently available on John’s military service, but it appears that he may not have remained in uniform for the war’s duration. On February 4, 1918, John married Johanna “Hannah” Boutilier, a native of Glace Bay, at Halifax. At the time, he was working as an “oiler” aboard SS Scotia, the ferry that carried automobiles and train cars between Mulgrave and Point Tupper. John and Hannah took up residence in Mulgrave, where John continued to work aboard the ferry. He died of coronary heart disease at Mulgrave on January 18, 1935.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Remembering Private Joseph Manson "Joe" McIsaac—KIA July 21, 1917

Joseph Manson “Joe” McIsaac was born at Fox Island, Guysborough County on August 28, 1899. His mother, Sarah “Sadie,” was the daughter of Daniel “The Piper” and Jane (Watkins) McIsaac, Canso. Joe was raised in his grandparents’ home, his grandfather Daniel passing away shortly after his birth.

Pte. Joseph Manson "Joe" McIsaac
When military recruiters visited the area in the spring of 1916, Joe enlisted with the 193rd Battalion at Canso on April 1, 1916. Not yet 17 years old the time, he misreported his birthdate by two years in order to qualify for service. Joe spent the summer of 1916 training with the 193rd and its Highland Brigade mates—the 85th (Nova Scotia Highlanders), 185th (Cape Breton Highlanders) and 219th (Halifax and southwestern Nova Scotia) Battalions. On October 12, all four units departed Halifax aboard SS Olympic and arrival at Liverpool, England one week later.

Before year’s end, military authorities dissolved two of the Brigade’s four units—the 193rd and 219th Battalions—and redistributed their personnel to other units. On December 29, Joe was transferred to the 185h Battalion (Cape Breton Highlanders) and remained at Witley Camp for the duration of the winter. On May 27, 1917, he was transferred to the 25th Battalion and crossed the English Channel to France, joining his new unit in the forward area on June 15.

The first of two volunteer units recruited across the province of Nova Scotia, the 25th Battalion (Nova Scotia Rifles) departed Halifax on May 20, 1915 and four months later landed on the continent as part of the 2nd Canadian Division’s 5th Brigade. For almost one year, its soldiers served in Belgium’s Ypres Salient alongside their Brigade mates—the 22nd (Quebec’s “Van Doos”), 24th (Victoria Rifles of Canada, Montreal) and 26th (New Brunswick) Battalions.

Following several weeks’ service at the Somme, France during September 1916, the 25th relocated northward to sectors near Lens, France for the winter of 1916-17. The unit participated in the Canadian Corps’ historic April 9, 1917 attack on Vimy Ridge and was enjoying a break from the line at the Canadian Corps Rest Area near Gouy-Servins, France when Joe and 146 “other ranks” (OR) reinforcements joined its ranks in mid-June.

The 25th spent the remainder of the month training, its personnel returning to trenches near Cité Beaumont, France on the night of July 2/3. German artillery subjected its sector to “heavy shelling,” while its soldiers worked to consolidate the front line. The 25th’s war diary reported a total of 44 OR casualties during a four-day tour. There was little respite when the battalion retired to support positions, which were also within German artillery range.

On July 10, the 25th withdrew to the safety of Brigade Reserve after a “hard tour in the line.” Following several days’ rest and drill, personnel returned to the Laurent Sector’s trenches on the night of July 16/17. German artillery once again subjected its soldiers to heavy artillery fire throughout a two-day tour. Following relief, the battalion retired to support positions at Maroc on the night of July 18/19, its personnel providing nightly work parties for trench repair for several days.

The 25th’s war diary notes for July 21, 1917 described what appeared to be a routine day in the forward area: “Battalion in support at Maroc. Work Parties supplied, 16 Officers and 515 OR.” The entry makes no mention of casualties. Private Joe McIsaac’s service file, however, states that he was “killed in action at Maroc” that same day, likely a victim of German artillery fire.

Five weeks shy of his eighteenth birthday at the time of his death, Private Joseph Manson McIsaac’s remains were never recovered from the battlefield. His name is inscribed on the Canadian War Monument at VImy Ridge, France, one of 11,285 Canadian soldiers who died on the battlefields of northern France and whose final resting place is unknown.

Bantry Publishing’s “First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume I: 1915 - 1917” contains a detailed summary of Joe’s family background and war service, along with 71 other profiles of Guysborough County personnel who died during the war’s first three years.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Remembering Private Courtney Alban Hull—KIA July 10, 1917

Courtney Alban Hull was born at New Glasgow, Pictou County on October 6, 1897, the eldest of Joseph and Alice (Moser) Hull’s five children. Joseph was a native of Country Harbour, Guysborough County, the community in which Courtney spent his formative years. Sometime after 1901, the family relocated to Linacy, Pictou County, where Courtney later worked as a “chainman” with a local surveyor.

Pte. Courtney Alban Hull
On January 10, 1916, Courtney enlisted with the 106th Battalion at Pictou, NS. He departed from Halifax aboard SS Empress of Britain on July 15 and arrived at Liverpool, England 10 days later. Following the 106th’s dissolution, Courtney was transferred to the 26th Battalion (New Brunswick), along with 250 of his former 106th colleagues. The group crossed the English Channel to France the following day and joined the 26th in the field during the second week of October.

During the previous month, the 26th had suffered significant casualties in fighting at the Somme, after which it relocated northward to sectors near Lens, where it gradually rebuilt its ranks. The battalion served in the Lens area throughout the winter of 1916-17. As winter gave way to spring, the unit prepared for its role in the Canadian Corps’ historic attack on Vimy Ridge, France.

On the morning of April 9, 1917, the 26th was one of two 5th Brigade battalions participating in the initial stage of the operation in its sector—an attack on the German front line and a supporting defensive position called “Zwischen Stellung.” Within half an hour, the Brigade achieved its objectives, at which point the 25th Battalion (Nova Scotia)—another 5th Brigade unit—passed through its lines and onto the final objective.

While the 26th’s war diary reported “light” casualties, Courtney was wounded at some point during the day’s fighting and evacuated to a nearby field ambulance. He was admitted to No. 11 General Hospital, Boulogne on April 11, suffering from “multiple gunshot wounds.” A closer examination revealed “multiple contusions,” none of which proved serious. He spent the remainder of the month recovering and was discharged to No. 1 Convalescent Depot on May 6. Five days later, he was deemed “fit for duty” and returned to the Canadian Base Depot at Le Havre.

Courtney rejoined the 26th at Estrée Cauchie on June 7 as its personnel trained during a break from duty in the forward area. On July 2, the battalion entered Brigade Reserve near Angres and subsequently moved into the front trenches on the night of July 6/7. Personnel found the location “only in fair condition…. Companies are not linked up and parts of the line are not fit for occupation.”

In subsequent days, Allied guns conducted “harassing fire” on enemy defences, while German forces responded with artillery and mortar fire. Throughout the exchanges, personnel focused on “deepening and joining up” the intermittent front line defences. The battalion’s July 10 entry described a routine day during which artillery was active and “work was carried out improving the trenches.” The unit was relived later that night and retired to Divisional Reserve at Fosse.

While the entry makes no reference to casualties, Private Courtney Alban Hull was killed sometime during the day in what his “Circumstances of Casualty” form describes as “an attack near Lens.” He was laid to rest in Bully Grenay Communal Cemetery Extension, three and a half miles southeast of Noeux-les-Mines, France. At the time of his death, Courtney was three months shy of his twentieth birthday.

Pte. Courtney Alban Hull's headstone, Bully Grenay Communal Cemetery

Bantry Publishing”s “First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume I: 1915 - 1917” contains a detailed summary of Courtney’s family background and military service, along with profiles of 71 other Guysborough personnel who died in uniform during the first three years of Canada’s overseas service.

Friday, 7 July 2017

Remembering Private Ralph Leslie Stoutley—KIA July 6/7, 1917

Ralph Leslie Stoutley was born at Guysborough, Guysborough County on March 10, 1894, the fourth of nine children and second son in the family of James Edward Albert “Ned” and Rachel A. (Bacchus) Stoutley. Shortly after Ralph’s birth, the family relocated to Truro, where Ralph spent his childhood.

On June 14, 1916, Ralph enlisted for service with the 106th Battalion (Nova Scotia Rifles). Headquartered at Truro, the infantry battalion was one of a handful of CEF units that accepted African Canadians into its ranks, initially hoping to recruit an entire platoon. In the end, approximately 16 to 20 men of African descent joined the battalion.

One month after Ralph’s enlistment, the 106th departed Halifax aboard SS Empress of Britain and landed at Liverpool, England after 10 days at sea. When the unit was dissolved shortly after its overseas arrival, Ralph was part of a draft of 251 soldiers transferred from the 106th to the 26th (New Brunswick) Battalion on September 27. The group crossed the English Channel to France three days later and reported to the 26th’s camp during the second week of October.

Throughout the autumn and winter of 1916-17, Ralph served a regular rotation with the 26th in sectors near Lens, France. With the arrival of spring, the unit prepared for its role in the Canadian Corps’ attack on Vimy Ridge. At 5:20 a.m. April 9, 1917, the 26th and 24th Battalions (Victoria Rifles of Canada)—one of its Brigade mates—spearheaded the 5th Brigade’s attack on the German front line north of the village of Thélus, securing Zwischen Stellung within 30 minutes. The 25th Battalion (Nova Scotia)—a second Brigade mate—subsequently passed through its line and continued to advance up the ridge.

The 26th remained in trenches along the ridge for three days, its personnel assisting with construction of a new “Main Line of Resistance.” On the night of April 12/13, the battalion received instructions to advance almost 3,000 yards into an area of No Man’s Land east of a nearby railway line. At 6:00 a.m. April 13, its soldiers moved forward and established “New Brunswick Trench,” the “farthest advanced trench in the Canadian Corps area” at the time.

Throughout the remainder of the spring, the 26th served in sectors near Vimy. During an early May tour in the line, an artillery shell struck the area where Ralph was located. He was “buried by [the] shell burst, [and remained] unconscious until reaching [an] aid post.” Evacuated to No. 4 Canadian Field Ambulance for treatment, Ralph was subsequently transferred to No. 22 Casualty Clearing Station, where he was diagnosed with “shell shock.”

On May 4, Ralph was admitted to No. a Stationary Hospital, Arques, where he remainded under medical care for the duration of the month. Discharged on June 1, Ralph rejoined the 26th at Estree Cauchie two days later, as personnel trained during a break from trench duty. On July 2, the battalion entered Brigade Reserve at Angres and resumed its tours in the line.

On the night of July 6/7, the 26th relieved the 22nd Battalion in front trenches near Lens. While all personnel were in place by 2:00 a.m. July 7, the unit’s war diary reported “great” German artillery activity “shelling roads in [the] vicinity of Angres and Liévin” during the process. Sometime during the bombardment, Private Ralph Leslie Stoutley was “killed in action by [an] enemy shell.” He was laid to rest in Bully-Grenay Communal Cemetery, British Extension, Pas de Calais, France.

Pte. Ralph Leslie Stoutley's headstone, Bully-Grenay Communal Cemetery

Bantry Publishing's “First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume I: 1915 - 1917” contains a detailed summary of Ralph’s family background and military service, along with profiles of 71 other Guysborough personnel who died in uniform during the first three years of Canada’s overseas service.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Remembering Private Leo Harold Dort—Died of Wounds July 4, 1917

Leo Harold Dort was born at Cole Harbour, Guysborough County on June 11, 1896, the second oldest of David H. and Lilla (O’Leary) Dort’s 11 children and their second son. Leo enlisted with the 193rd Battalion at Canso on April 1, 1916. Following a summer of training at Camp Aldershot, NS, he departed Halifax with the 193rd and its three Highland Brigade compatriots—the 85th (Nova Scotia Highlanders), 185th (Cape Breton Highlanders) and 219th Battalions—on October 12, 1916.

Pte. Leo Harold Dort
When military authorities decided to dissolve the 193rd and 219th Battalions, Leo became part of a draft of Highland Brigade soldiers transferred to the 42nd Battalion (Royal Highlanders of Canada) on December 5. He crossed the English Channel to France the following day and arrived in the 42nd’s camp at Neuville-Saint-Vaast on January 2, 1917.

Within one week, the new arrivals entered the trenches for their first tour and served with the 42nd in sectors near Arras for the remainder of the winter. As spring approached, the battalion began preparations for its role in the Canadian Corps’ attack on Vimy Ridge. On the morning of April 9, a total of 772 “all ranks” participated in the early morning assault, advancing “in drizzling rain changing to sleet” toward their objective.

While the 42nd made steady progress up the ridge, the 102nd Battalion on its left flank faced formidable resistance from German forces atop Hill 145 and failed to keep pace. Throughout much of the day, the 42nd’s left flank was thus exposed to “sniping and rifle fire,” causing numerous casualties. The 42nd nevertheless captured and held its objectives, although it suffered more than 300 casualties during three days of fighting at Vimy.

Throughout the remainder of the spring and early summer, the 42nd served a regular rotation in sectors near the newly captured ridge. On the night of July 2/3, personnel endured “very active” artillery fire during the relief process as they “occupied part of the village of Avion.” Shelling continued throughout the week-long tour, one “shoot” demolishing “all of the houses occupied by ‘C’ Company, including advanced Company Headquarters.”

A total of 15 “other ranks” (OR) were killed or died of wounds during the tour, while one Officer and 44 OR were wounded. Private Leo Harold Dort was one of the tour’s early fatalities. Evacuated to No. 6 Casualty Clearing Station on July 4, medical records indicate that he had been “dangerously wounded.” Before day’s end, Leo succumbed to his injuries and he was laid to rest in Barlin Communal Cemetery Extension, France.

Pte. Leo Harold Dort's headstone, Barlin Communal Cemetery.

Bantry Publishing’s “First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume I: 1915 - 1917” contains a detailed description of Leo’s family background and military service, along with profiles of 71 other Guysborough County military personnel who died in service during the war’s first three years. 

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Remembering Private Martin Smith—Died of Sickness July 2, 1917

Martin Smith was born at St. Francis Harbour, Guysborough County on November 9, 1894, the youngest of Thomas and Mary (MacNeil) Smith’s five children. Thomas passed away sometime prior to 1901, and Martin was taken in by Rev. A. G. McAuley, Parish Priest of St. Ann’s Roman Catholic Church, Guysborough. He later accompanied Rev. McAuley to Victoria Mines, Cape Breton.

Morton Cemetery Plaque, Keileigh, England.
On June 16, 1915, Martin attested with the 40th Battalion at Camp Aldershot, NS and spent the summer training at Camp Valcartier, QC. The unit returned to Halifax by train in early autumn and departed for overseas aboard SS Saxonia on October 18. Upon landing at Plymouth, England 10 days later, the 40th travelled to Bramshott, where it spent the winter of 1915-16 training as part of the 3rd Canadian Division’s 9th Brigade.

Martin’s service with the 40th came to an end on February 24, 1916, when he was transferred to the 11th Brigade Machine Gun Section and reported to its camp at East Sandling. Following a month of training, he was assigned to the 8th Canadian Infantry Brigade Machine Gun Company (CMGC) on March 30. Two days later, he crossed the English Channel with his new unit and deployed in the Ypres Salient with its personnel during the last week of April.

Martin’s time in the line with 8th CMGC was brief. On May 4, he was “attached for duty” to the 2nd Battalion Canadian Mounted Rifles (CMR), the unit with which he served for the remainder of his time in the forward area. A former mounted infantry unit that was transformed into a regular infantry battalion in January 1916, 2nd CMR served regular rotations in the line throughout the spring of 1916.

On June 1, its soldiers hastily returned to the front trenches in response to a German attack on Hill 60, east of Ypres. Personnel immediately found themselves in the midst of a full-fledged battle, supported by a massive German artillery barrage. As some point during the day, Martin “injured [the] left side of [his] chest and [his] left hip” when he was “buried” in a shower of mud from an exploding artillery shell. While neither injury was serious enough to require evacuation for treatment, many of Martin’s comrades were not as fortunate. The unit reported one Officer and 40 “other ranks” (OR) killed, while 10 Officers and 180 OR were wounded and 23 OR missing after three days of combat at Hill 60.

Following its withdrawal from the line on June 4, 2nd CMR retired to Divisional Rest Camp at Godewaersvelde, France—adjacent to the Belgian border—where its remaining soldiers rested and trained for six weeks as the unit rebuilt its strength. Martin remained with the unit through the summer months and was formally transferred to its ranks in mid-August. Early the following month, he followed 2nd CMR southward to the Somme region of France, where the unit participated in a series of attacks on Regina Trench—a fortified German position located along Thiepval Ridge—during the final days of September.

Martin and his comrades completed a second tour near Regina Trench in mid-October, after which the unit moved northward to a “very quiet” sector of the line. 2nd CMR served in sectors near Arras throughout the winter of 1916-17. As spring approached, its personnel prepared for their role in the impending Canadian Corps attack on Vimy Ridge.

Martin was not destined to participate in the historic battle. On March 11, he was admitted to No. 9 Canadian Field Ambulance, where he was diagnosed with “pleural effusion from bronchitis.” Transferred to No. 23 Casualty Clearing Station three days later, medical personnel described his illness as “lobar pneumonia.” While initially placed on the “seriously ill” list, Martin’s condition improved by month’s end. As a result, medical personnel transferred Martin to No.. 11 General Hospital, Dannes, Camiers, where he received treatment for pleurisy.

When it became apparent that Martin required long-term care, he was invalided to England on April 20 and admitted to Keighley War Hospital, Keighley, England. Within days, Martin’s condition worsened. By May 11, laboratory tests indicated the presence of “large numbers of tubercular bacilli” in his sputum. While he received treatment “in open air” and “special nourishment,” his health continued to deteriorate. Private Martin Smith passed away from pulmonary tuberculosis on July 2, 1917 and was laid to rest in Morton Cemetery, Keighley, England.

Memorial, Morton Cemetery, Keileigh, England.
Bantry Publishing’s “First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume I: 1915 - 1917” contains a detailed description of Martin’s family background and military service, along with profiles of 71 other Guysborough County military personnel who died in service during the war’s first three years.