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Thursday, 30 August 2018

Remembering Private Edward Lewis Connolly—DOW August 30, 1918

Edward Lewis Connolly was born at Milford Haven Bridge, Guysborough County, on June 20, 1891, the youngest of Margaret (Cudahee) and Patrick Connolly’s four children. Edward was among the county’s earliest First World War enlistments, volunteering for service with the 25th Battalion at Halifax, NS, on November 20, 1914.

Pte. Edward Lewis Connolly's headstone, Ligny-sur-Canche British Cemetery
The 25th departed Halifax aboard SS Saxonia on May 20, 1915, and spent the summer training in England. Its soldiers crossed the English Channel to the continent in mid-September as part of the 2nd Canadian Division’s 5th Brigade. The unit made its was northward to Belgium’s Ypres Salient, where its soldiers served a regular rotation throughout the winter of 1915-16.

Edward and his mates received their first major combat experience in mid-April 1916, when German forces launched a major attack on the 25th’s line at St. Eloi, Belgium. Edward was among the casualties, struck by shrapnel in the elbow, knee and hand. Carried by stretcher to No. 6 Canadian Field Ambulance on April 14, he was subsequently transported to No. 17 Casualty Clearing Station. Following his evacuation by ambulance train to hospital at Camiers, France, surgeons removed several shrapnel fragments from his hand and elbow.

On April 28, Edward was invalided to England and admitted to the Duke of Connaught Red Cross Hospital, Taplow. Several days later, surgeons removed a large metal fragment from his knee during a second operation. Edward spent two months at Taplow before receiving a transfer to Hillingdon House Canadian Convalescent Hospital, Uxbridge, on July 7. Two weeks later, he was admitted to Bearwood Military Convalescent Home, Woodcote Park, Epsom.

After a month’s rest, Edward was discharged from medical care on August 18. 1916, and reported to the 2nd Canadian Corps Depot at Shoreham. As was often the case with wounded soldiers, he remained in England for a lengthy period of time, awaiting orders to return to the front. Finally, on April 18, 1918—two years after being wounded at St. Eloi, Belgium—Edward crossed the English Channel to Le Havre, France, and rejoined his 25th Battalion comrades near Arras on June 21.

At month’s end, the 25th retired to Grand-Rullecourt for a period of rest and training. Four weeks later, its soldiers travelled to Briquemesnil-Floxicourt, west of Amiens, and prepared to return to the line. Having withstood a major German spring offensive in late March and April 1918, Allied military commanders set about planning a major counter-offensive, scheduled to commence east of Amiens in early August.

On August 7, the 25th made its way to its assigned “jumping off” positions near Cachy. The following morning, its soldiers occupied support positions as the 24th and 26th Battalions—two of its 5th Brigade mates—participated in the initial attack. The units secured their objectives by mid-day and the 25th’s soldiers assisted in establishing a consolidated line.

The advance resumed during the early afternoon hours of August 9, the 25th’s soldiers leading the attack on the village of Caix. Following its capture, the unit secured the village of Vrély and moved on to occupy Méharicourt by late afternoon. Personnel once again consolidated their location during the evening hours, having suffered only light casualties during the day’s fighting.

The 25th remained on the outskirts of Méharicourt until the night of August 16/17, when its soldiers retired to Caix for several days’ rest. Edward came through the Amiens tour without injury and followed the unit northward to Beauvains, south of Arras, on August 25. Its numbers reduced to 23 Officers and 502 OR, the battalion nevertheless returned to the line the following morning and prepared for its second combat assignment of the month.

As the attack commenced at mid-morning August 27, the 25th occupied support positions behind its three Brigade mates. Its soldiers moved forward shortly afterward and managed to enter the German front line, but were forced to take cover as units to their right failed to keep pace. The unit suffered casualties throughout the afternoon, “as the front line was unable to advance owing to the flanks being open.”

While the day’s casualties were relatively light—one Officer killed and two wounded; two OR killed and 17 OR wounded—Edward was once again among of the soldiers affected: “While with his Company consolidating a trench, in front of Chérisy… he was hit in the right side by an enemy machine gun bullet.”

Evacuated to 2/2 London Field Ambulance that afternoon, Edward was transported to No. 43 Casualty Clearing Station on August 28. Private Edward Lewis Connolly lingered for two days before “succumb[ing] to his wounds” on August 30, 1918. He was laid to rest in Ligny-sur-Canche British Cemetery, seven miles south of Saint-Pol-sur-Ternoise, France.

Edward’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 .

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