Contact Information


Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Remembering Stoker 2nd Class John Howard Henderson—Died of Sickness May 29, 1918

John Howard Henderson was born at Stormont, Guysborough County on March 1, 1897, the third child and eldest son of James Shier and Pamela (Latham) Henderson. On his father’s side, John was a direct descendant of the families who settled the area in the years following the American Revolutionary War. Like several of his ancestors, he initially earned his livelihood at sea, working aboard coal boats that travelled the American coast as far south as Virginia.

The journeys were long and John did not enjoy being away from home for extended periods of time. By late 1917, a second factor—the passage of the Military Service Act—may have prompted him to seek an alternative pursuit closer to home. Perhaps preferring the familiarity of service at sea to the prospect of conscription into the Canadian Expeditionary Force, John enlisted with the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Service at Halifax, NS on November 6, 1917. At the time, he had two years of sea experience and thus was given the rank of “ordinary seaman.”

John was initially assigned to HMCS Niobe, the RCNVR’s Halifax depot ship. On April 1, 1918, he received a transfer to HMCS Stadacona, an American-built, steam-powered yacht that had been commissioned into service as a patrol ship in August 1915. Selected as the East Coast fleet’s flagship early the following year, the vessel conducted regular reconnaissance voyages in the Cabot Strait.

After one month’s service aboard the Stadacona, John was promoted to the rank of “Stoker 2nd Class” and transferred to HMCS Guelph. The vessel had been designated the “nominal depot ship” for Halifax patrols in late April 1918. John’s days in his new assignment, however, were brief. Sometime in early May, he was admitted to Camp Hill Hospital, Halifax, for treatment of pneumonia.

As the days passed, John developed empyema, a build-up of pus between the lung and inner chest wall. His health rapidly declined and John passed away in hospital at 9:50 a.m. May 29, 1918. Military authorities transported his remains to Guysborough County, where John was laid to rest in Stormont Cemetery. The family chose to erect a private memorial at his gravesite.

John Howard Henderson's headstone, Stormont Cemetery
Despondent at the death of her eldest son, Pamela slipped into a deep depression and passed away on July 14, 1918 at 49 years of age. James subsequently died at Victoria General Hospital, Halifax, on February 25, 1920, the cause of his passing attributed to a combination of arteriosclerosis and myocarditis.

Pamela and James’ youngest child, James Montgomery Henderson, eventually settled in the United States, where he also worked at sea. Following the American entry into the Second World War, James joined the United States Merchant Marine as an Able Seaman. On June 29, 1942, he perished at sea when a German U-boat torpedoed the American merchant steamship Ruth, the vessel on which James was working.

A detailed description of John Howard Henderson's family background and military service will be available in an updated digital version of Bantry Publishing's "First World War Honour Roll of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, Volume II," scheduled for release in autumn 2018.

No comments:

Post a Comment