Perhaps inspired by their daily activities, John enlisted with the 94th Victoria Regiment during the summer of 1917. After 11 month’s service in the Canso area, he attested with the Canadian Expeditionary Force at Canso on June 29, 1918. Shortly afterward, John made his way to Halifax, where he was assigned to “F” Company, 6th Battalion, Canadian Garrison Regiment. He was less than three months shy of his 19th birthday at the time.
Under the terms of his attestation, John’s military service would continue for six months after the signing of the November 11, 1918 Armistice. As autumn gave way to winter, the damp, crowded conditions at the Halifax barracks became a breeding ground for sickness. The situation was further complicated by the rapid spread of the deadly “Spanish flu,” carried to ports around the world by vessels arriving from Europe.
On November 30, John was admitted to the Cogswell St. Military Hospital with influenza and a suspected case of pleurisy. Medical records indicate that his body temperature was 101.6 degrees Fahrenheit (38.7 Celsius) and his heart beat an alarming 127 beats per minute at the time of his admission.
During the ensuing days, John’s condition did not improve. A December 10 laboratory report indicated the presence of streptococcal bacteria in his lungs. Three days later, a note in his medical file stated: “Patient very toxic, rapid pulse, feeble breathing.”
|Pte. John J. Rabbie's headstone, Mount Olivet Cemetery, Halifax, NS|
John’s story is one of 64 profiles contained in Bantry Publishing’s First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume II: 1918 - 1937, available for purchase online at bantrypublishing.ca .