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Saturday, 16 June 2018

Remembering Captain James Tennant Whitworth Boyd—Died of Sickness June 16, 1918

James Tennant Whitworth Boyd was born at Glenelg, Guysborough County, on May 13, 1891, the second of Reverend Andrew and Margaret (Stewart) Boyd’s four children. A native of Glasgow, Scotland, Rev. Boyd was ministering to the Glenelg Presbyterian Church’s congregation at the time of James’ birth.

Captain James Tennant Whitworth Boyd, CAMC
Sometime after 1901, the family relocated to Port Arthur, ON. James subsequently completed medical studies at Queen’s University, Kingston, ON, and enlisted with No. 7 Canadian General Hospital (Queen’s University) reinforcements, Canadian Army Medical Corps (CAMC), on January 4, 1916. Two months later, he departed for England. In late March, James crossed the English Channel and joined the staff of No. 7 Canadian General Hospital (CGH), which was operating a medical facility at Le Tréport, France.

In November 1916, the unit relocated to nearby Étaples. Its personnel immediately assumed operation of a facility that contained 500 patients and provided care for almost 2,000 sick and wounded soldiers during its first month. As winter set in, lack of heat in the facility produced uncomfortable conditions, particularly for “nephritis [kidney inflammation] and bronchial cases.”

Patients were not the only ones affected by the circumstances. On January 22, 1917, Captain James Boyd was admitted to nearby Liverpool Merchants Hospital. He had been suffering from severe headaches for several months and began to experience pain in his left chest several days prior to his admission. James was quickly invalided to England, where he was admitted to Royal Free Hospital, Grays Inn Road, London, before month’s end.

Upon further examination, medical staff diagnosed James with “chronic interstitial nephritis,” a condition that can result in kidney failure. A Medical Board subsequently concluded that, while James was no longer fit for “general service,” his condition permitted him to serve in England or Canada. Discharged from hospital on February 24, 1917, he spent one month convalescing before commencing a new assignment at Kitchener Military Hospital, Brighton, with No. 10 CGH.

James’ new facility provided care for limbless soldiers returning from the front, preparing them for prosthetic limbs and a return to civilian life. James worked in the hospital’s Pathology Department, where the workload was considerably less demanding than his previous assignment. While he suffered from the “occasional headache,” for more than a year, James completed his assigned tasks and engaged in light physical activity without any health issues.

In May 1918, James experienced an “influenza attack,” after which his severe headaches resumed. He took a brief leave and appeared to recover, but upon returning to work he began to experience episodes of “nocturnal dyspnoea”—night-time attacks of shortness of breath and coughing—in addition to bloody sputum, chest pain and vomiting.

On May 29, James was admitted to Kitchener Military Hospital, where staff diagnosed his condition as chronic hypertensive nephritis, uraemia and cardiac failure. His heart was enlarged and doctors predicted gradual circulatory system failure. As the days passed, James became weaker and “more comatose.” Captain James Boyd passed away at 10:10 p.m. June 16, 1918.


James’ younger brother, Andrew, had enlisted with a Canadian artillery unit and received 14 days’ special leave on the day prior to his passing. While he may not have been at his bedside during his final hours, Andrew was quite likely in attendance when James was laid to rest in Brighton Military Cemetery, Brighton, England.

James’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 .

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