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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.

Private 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 “other ranks” (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 headston, 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. 

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