|Private Vincent Stephen Hallett|
Initially assigned to the the 17th Reserve Battalion (Nova Scotia) on January 23, 1917, Vincent was transferred to the 161st Battalion (Ontario) two weeks later. He remained in England with the unit—part of the newly created 5th Canadian Division—throughout the year. When military authorities decided to dissolve the Division in early 1918, Vincent was re-assigned to the 4th Reserve Battalion on March 8, 1918. Within two weeks of his transfer, he received orders to report for duty with the 18th Battalion (Western Ontario) in France.
The 18th was one of four Ontario units assigned to the 2nd Canadian Division’s 4th Brigade. Vincent joined the battalion at Wailly Huts, southwest of Arras, France, on May 15 and served a regular rotation in the line until June 21, when the 18th retired to Divisional Reserve at Wailly. Following three weeks of training, the battalion returned to the forward area near Arras in mid-July.
At month’s end, personnel travelled southward to Pissy, west of Amiens, in preparation for their next major assignment. Having withstood a major German spring offensive in late March and April 1918, Allied commanders set about planning a counter-offensive scheduled for early August.
In the early hours of August 8, the 18th participated in a major attack on the German line east of Amiens, capturing its objective—a cluster of rock quarries east of Marcelcave—after three hours’ fighting. The unit remained in the line until the afternoon of August 10, at which time its soldiers retired to Divisional Reserve.
The 18th remained in the Amiens area for another week, participating in a second attack on German positions on August 16. The following day, the unit withdrew from the line and over several days made its way northward to sectors near Arras. Personnel returned to the trenches on the evening of August 24 and set about preparing for their third combat assignment of the month—an attack on German positions east of Arras.
On the morning of August 26, the 18th’s soldiers advanced in support behind the 21st Battalion as their Brigade mates participated in the initial advance. During the early afternoon, the 18th moved forward, with orders to capture the village of Guémappe. While the daylight attack initially advanced well beyond the village, units on the 18th’s left flank failed to keep pace, forcing its soldiers to retreat to Guémappe, where they established a defensive line.
The following morning, the 18th resumed the advance, attacking the village of Villers-lès-Cagnicourt. While personnel passed through Vis-en-Artois and managed to reach the Sensée River, a scheduled artillery barrage failed to materialize, forcing the soldiers to form an outpost along the river’s bank and settle in for the night.
The 18th reported 10 “other ranks” (OR) killed and 150 OR wounded during the day’s advance. Private Vincent Stephen Hallett was one of the day’s casualties. Struck in the back by shrapnel from an artillery shell, he was evacuated to No. 42 Casualty Clearing Station for treatment. The following day—August 28, 1918—Vincent succumbed to his injuries and was laid to rest in Aubigny Communal Cemetery Extension, six and a half miles northwest of Arras, France. At the time of his death, Vincent was four months shy of his twentieth birthday.
Vincent’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 .