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Sunday, 30 September 2018

Remembering Private Raymond Edward Smith—KIA September 30, 1918

Raymond Edward Smith was born at Mulgrave, Guysborough County, on January 25, 1887, to Mary (MacNeil) and Thomas Smith. The eldest of the couple’s three children, Raymond worked as a trackman on the Intercolonial Railway prior to the outbreak of the First World War. During the winter of 1915-16, Raymond travelled to Halifax, where he served for an period of time with the “Composite Battalion.” On March 10, 1916, he attested with a Royal Canadian Regiment (RCR) reinforcement draft and departed for England in late June.

Pte. Raymond Edward Smith's headstone, Raillencourt Communal Cemetery Extension
On July 6, Raymond arrived in England aboard SS Olympic. He spent six weeks at Caesar’s Camp, Folkestone, before proceeding to France on August 17. Following a brief time with 3rd Entrenching Battalion, one of several working units in the forward area, Raymond joined the RCR’s ranks near Warloy, France, on September 23, 1916.

At the time of Raymond’s arrival, the battalion was deployed in the Somme region of France, where it had participated in an attack on the German line on the day following the Canadian Corps’ September 15th capture of Courcelette. In early October, its soldiers took part in an attack on Kenora and Regina Trenches, two well-fortified defensive positions located on Thiepval Ridge. Following its withdrawal from the line on October 10, the unit made its way northward to sectors near Lens, where its soldiers served throughout the winter of 1916-17.

On the morning of April 9, 1917, the RCR was one of three 7th Brigade units participating in the initial attack on Vimy Ridge. During the advance, Raymond was wounded in the right hand and evacuated to hospital at Boulogne, France, on April 11. The following day, he was invalided to England, where he received treatment for a serious wound to his right thumb. Discharged on June 16, he remained at Camp Bramshott throughout the remainder of the summer and early autumn, finally rejoining the RCR at Rely, France, on November 23, 1917.

Raymond thus missed the opportunity to participate in the Canadian Corps’ successful capture of Passchendaele Ridge, Belgium. The RCR served in sectors near Lens, France, throughout the winter of 1917-18. While the battalion and other Canadian Corps units were placed on alert during the German “Spring Offensive” of late March and April 1918, no attack materialized in the Canadian sector and tours quickly returned to normal.

The unit’s personnel enjoyed a break from the forward area during the month of May, retiring to Lières for a period of rest, training and recreation. In late June, the soldiers returned to the Neuville-Vitasse sector, where they served regular tours throughout the following month. In late July, the battalion made its way south to Saleux, near Amiens, and prepared for their first major combat assignment of the year.

Having successfully withstood the German “Spring Offensive,” Allied commanders commenced planning a major counter-offensive, scheduled to occur east of Amiens in mid-summer. On the morning of August 8, the RCR’s 7th Brigade waited in support while the 9th Brigade launched the initial phase of the attack at 4:20 a.m. Four hours later, three 7th Brigade units—the RCR, 42nd and 49th Battalions—passed through their 3rd Division comrades’ lines and continued the advance, securing its objectives by mid-day.

While the RCR’s soldiers remained in the line until mid-month, its most intense combat occurred on the tour’s first day. Several days later, the unit made its way northward, receiving only a brief rest before returning to the trenches on August 25 for its second combat assignment of the month—an attack on German positions east of Arras. The following morning, the unit once again participated in the attack’s second wave. Despite heavy machine gun and rifle fire, its personnel made steady progress into German-held territory throughout the day.

During the ensuing 48 hours, the RCR’s personnel remained in support positions before withdrawing to billets at Arras in the early hours of August 29. Having survived two major battles in less than a month, Raymond enjoyed several days’ rest before marching through Tilloy to the old British line, approximately three kilometres east of Arras. For the next two and a half weeks, he and his mates conducted salvage operations in the area as the RCR rebuilt its ranks.

Following a week’s training at Berneville, the battalion travelled by bus to Bullecourt, west of Cambrai, and prepared for its third major combat assignment—the Canadian Corps’ attack on Canal du Nord, on the outskirts of the strategic city. In the early morning hours of September 28, the unit’s soldiers advanced to Bourlon Wood, captured only hours previously by other Canadian units, and “jumped off” toward the German line south of Raillencourt at 5:30 a.m.

While the battalion encountered heavy machine gun fire along its right flank, it managed to reach its objective—a section of the German front trench—and secured possession of the area shortly after mid-day, pressing forward into the support trenches as the afternoon progressed. Despite suffering considerable losses, the RCR remained in the line throughout the night and was ordered to resume the advance the following morning.

At 5:30 a.m. September 30, the unit’s personnel moved forward and immediately encountered “intense machine gun fire… from both flanks… as well as frontal [fire].” As the day passed, the soldiers twice attempted to push forward, each time being “checked by cross-fire from both flanks.” The RCR maintained its position along a sunken road throughout the night. At 5:00 a.m. October 1, 9th Brigade units passed through its lines and resumed the attack. Later in the day, the battalion’s remaining personnel retired to camp at Quarry Wood.

The RCR’s advance, while less successful than perhaps desired, managed to capture 54 German machine guns, five anti-tank and field guns, and 130 prisoners, and inflicted an estimated 700 casualties on the enemy. The achievements, however, came at a price. Three Officers were killed, a fourth died of wounds, and 16 others—including its Commanding Officer—were wounded. Among its “other ranks” (OR), 31 soldiers were killed, one died of wounds, 185 were wounded and 53 were missing after three days in the line.

Private Raymond Edward Smith was one of the OR lost in the fighting on the outskirts of Cambrai. While initial reports indicated that he had been “wounded in action,” a subsequent entry in his service file, made by the Burial Officer, reads: “Buried. Now reported killed in action 30-9-18.” Raymond was laid to rest in Raillencourt Communal Cemetery Extension, Nord, France.

Raymond’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 .

Remembering Private Charles William “Charlie” Marr—KIA September 30, 1918

Charles William Marr was born at Boylston, Guysborough County, on April 16, 1896, the fourth of Mary Amanda (McPherson) and Lawrence M. Marr’s 10 children. On March 1, 1916, Charlie commenced training with the Composite Battalion at Halifax, NS. While he attested for overseas service before month’s end, he left the battalion’s ranks after several weeks’ service and was officially “struck off strength” in late July. A later Court of Inquiry, held in August 1916, officially discharged him from military service.
Pte. Charles William Marr's headstone, Canada Cemetery, Tilloy-lez-Cambrai, France
Charlie eventually made his way to Ontario and was working in Toronto when he attested for service with the 2nd Depot Battalion, 1st Central Ontario Regiment, on November 11, 1917. On this occasion, his enlistment was not voluntary—Charlie was ordered to report for duty, under the terms of the Military Service Act (1917). His second enlistment, however, followed a pattern similar to the first—Charlie was officially listed as “AWL [absent without leave]” from the date of his attestation until March 31, 1918.

Officially placed on the pay list the following day, Charlie made his way to Halifax in the company of other conscripts and departed for overseas aboard HMT Tunisian on April 8. Upon landing in England 11 days later, he was posted to the 12th Reserve Battalion (Central Ontario), the unit that provided reinforcements for five Ontario infantry battalions at the front. Charlie spent the next four months at Camp Witley, where he and his fellow draftees completed their training.

On August 15, Charlie was assigned to the 75th Battalion (Mississauga, ON) and two days later crossed the English Channel to France. He joined the 75th in the forward area on September 6. The unit had recently seen combat at Amiens (August 8 & 9) and Arras (September 2 & 3), battles that marked the beginning of a major Allied counter-offensive. The battalion’s soldiers spent the early part of the month resting and training, in preparation for the Canadian Corps’ next major assignment—an attack on Canal du Nord and the strategic city of Cambrai that lay behind it.

During the late evening of September 26, the 75th’s soldiers returned to the forward area and prepared for the following day’s assignment—the capture of Bourlon Wood, an elevated area adjacent to the village bearing the same name. Personnel reached their assembly point north of the road between Pronville and Inchy-en-Artois in the early morning hours of September 27. At precisely 5:20 a.m., the opening barrage signalled the beginning of the attack.

One hour later, the 75th moved forward, passing the northern outskirts of Inchy and proceeding toward the banks of Canal du Nord. After crossing the canal in mid-morning, the unit continued eastward toward Bourlon Wood. As the 11th Brigade’s designated reserve battalion during the advance, the 75th followed in the wake of two attacking Brigade mates—the 54th and 102nd Battalions—and the supporting 87th Battalion.

The 75th advanced to support positions as the attack commenced, and occupied Bourlon Wood following its capture. The soldiers spent the night in the wooded area, establishing a consolidated defensive position. At dawn the following day, 3rd Canadian Division units passed through the 11th Brigade’s lines and continued the attack. Meanwhile, Charlie and his mates rested in the wooded area.

In the early hours of September 29, the 75th received notice that its Brigade would provide support for a 12th Brigade attack north of the village of Sailly. Personnel moved to the assembly area at 7:00 a.m. and advanced in support as the 12th Brigade launched the attack. When fierce German resistance prevented the attacking units from capturing the village, the 75th remained in support. Before day’s end, the battalion was informed that its soldiers would join the 54th Battalion in resuming the advance the following day.

During the early hours of September 30, the 75th moved forward to jumping off positions along the Douai - Cambrai road, south of Sancourt. As the supporting artillery barrage commenced at 6:00 a.m., its soldiers went “over the top” toward their objective. Despite intense retaliatory fire, the unit over-ran a number of machine gun nests and continued toward its final objective. However, 3rd Division units to its right failed to keep pace, exposing its flank to heavy fire.

The two battalions therefore retreated to a railway cutting and established defensive positions. The soldiers repelled a German counter-attack and held their ground until mid-afternoon, when military commanders ordered them to retreat to a more secure location. While German artillery heavily shelled their trenches throughout the remainder of the day, the 75th’s soldiers maintained their position. Later intelligence revealed that the units’ attack had occurred immediately prior to a planned German counter-attack, information that explained the stiff resistance the soldiers encountered.

At 5:00 a.m. October 1, the “remnants” of the 75th’s soldiers withdrew from the line, having suffered eight Officer and 85 “other rank” (OR) fatalities, while 280 OR were wounded during the tour. As the unit regrouped in quarries near Bourlon Wood, initial reports indicated that Charlie was among the soldiers listed as “missing.”

Subsequent inquiries confirmed that Charlie was one of the day’s fatalities: “He was killed while taking part in the attack southeast of Sancourt. No further information as to the actual circumstances under which he may his death is available.” Private Charles William Marr was laid to rest in Canada Cemetery, Tilloy-lez-Cambrai, France.

Charlie’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 .

Saturday, 29 September 2018

Remembering Lance Corporal Ralph Stanley Lipsett & Corporal Willard Spurgeon Myers—KIA September 29, 1918

Ralph Stanley Lipsett was born at Middle Manchester, Guysborough County, on March 16, 1891, the second of Caroline “Carrie” (O’Brien) and Edward Stanley Lipsett’s two sons. While his older brother, Robert Bruce Lipsett, married and left the family home, Ralph remained on the farm, where he worked alongside his father.

Lance Corporal Ralph Stanley Lipsett
As with many young men living in the county at the time, the appearance of military officials in Guysborough County during the early spring of 1916—part of a recruitment campaign for the Nova Scotia Highland Brigade—soon impacted Ralph’s life. On March 13, 1916, he enlisted with the 193rd Battalion at Guysborough.

As the campaign continued, numerous young men from the county’s communities joined Ralph in uniform. One such recruit was Willard Spurgeon Myers, born at Cole Harbour, Guysborough County, on June 27, 1892, the son of Catherine Margaret (Gillie) and William George Myers. Willard enlisted with the 193rd at Canso on April 1, 1916, and commenced training with its Guysborough detachment shortly afterward. Unbeknownst to Willard and Ralph at the time, their military journeys would intertwine throughout the upcoming months.
Corporal Willard Spurgeon Myers
In late May 1916, Ralph and Willard followed the Guysborough detachment to Camp Aldershot, where the four Highland Brigade units—85th (Nova Scotia Highlanders), 185th (Cape Breton Highlanders), 193rd and 219th—spent the summer in training. The battalions departed Halifax aboard SS Olympic on October 12, 1916, and arrived in England after a six-day passage. On the day prior to their departure, both Ralph Willard were promoted to the rank of Acting Lance Corporal.

The Brigade’s overseas arrival coincided with the Canadian Corps’ involvement in the bloody Battle of the Somme (September - October 1916). The resulting casualties created a pressing need for reinforcements and led to the dissolution of the 193rd and 219th Battalions before year’s end. Eager to serve at the front, both Ralph and Willard “reverted to ranks” on December 4, 1916. The following day, the soldiers were selected for service with the 42nd Battalion (Royal Highlanders of Canada) and crossed the English Channel to France with a “reinforcement draft” destined for its ranks.

The group joined the 42nd at Neuville-Saint-Vaast on January 2, 1917. Quickly integrated into its Companies, the inexperienced soldiers soon commenced regular rotations in sectors near Vimy Ridge, France. Ralph and Willard received their first combat experience on the morning of April 9, 1917, as the 42nd participated in the Canadian Corps’ historic capture of Vimy Ridge.

While its soldiers succeeded in securing their initial objective by early morning, units on its left flank, facing the daunting challenge of capturing Hill 145, failed to keep pace. As a result, the 42nd was exposed to devastating German fire from the ridge’s highest elevation and incurred significant casualties until an early evening attack secured the location.

Ralph and Willard came through the experience without injury and served regular rotations in sectors near Lens, France, throughout the spring and summer of 1917. In mid-October, the 42nd made its way northward to Caëstre, France, near the Belgian border, as the Canadian Corps prepared for its next major assignment—an attack on Passchendaele Ridge, Belgium. Its soldiers relocated to Ypres, Belgium, on October 23 and three days later provided support services for attacking units during the assault’s opening stage.

On October 29, while on a work party near Ypres, a piece of artillery shrapnel struck Ralph in the left shoulder. While the wounds was “superficial,” he was evacuated to hospital at Rouen and subsequently invalided to England on November 6. Discharged to duty one month later, Ralph spent four months at Camp Bramshott with the 20th Reserve Battalion before finally rejoining the 42nd’s ranks.

Meanwhile, Willard and his mates occupied reserve positions during the second stage of the Passchendaele assault, which took place on October 30. The unit retired from the line in early November and made its way back to France, where it served in sectors near Lens throughout the winter of 1917-18. Willard was promoted to the rank of Lance Corporal on January 10, 1918, while Ralph rejoined the unit on May 30 as its personnel was training near Bomy, France.

The 42nd returned to the line in late June and served in sectors near Lens for one month before making its way southward to Dury, near Amiens, in late July. Having successfully withstood a major German offensive in late March and April 1918, Allied commanders set about planning a major counter-offensive, scheduled to commence in sectors east of Amiens in early August. The 42nd entered the line on the night of August 7/8 and participated in the second stage of the following morning’s attack.

The soldiers remained in the line for several days, participating in a 10-hour assault on German positions during the night of August 13/14, action that involved significant “hand to hand fighting.” Two nights later, the unit retired from the line, having incurred 143 casualties during a week-long tour. Once again, Willard and Ralph emerged from the line without injury. In subsequent days, the 42nd made its way northward to Manin, near Arras, where Canadian Corps units launched a second offensive on August 26.

In this instance, the 42nd’s soldiers occupied reserve positions during the initial advance, moving forward to occupy a newly established front line on the night of August 27/28 and capturing a section of enemy trench the following day. While personnel retired from the line on the night of August 28/29, the brief tour had inflicted an additional 312 casualties. Once again, Ralph and Willard had escaped harm. Shortly after withdrawing from the line, Willard was promoted to the rank of Acting Corporal.

There was little time to rest as the 42nd returned to the line near Cagnicourt on the night of September 5/6. Three days later, the unit moved forward to positions near Canal du Nord, on the outskirts of Cambrai. The soldiers retired to Divisional Reserve near Chérisy on the night of September 11/12 and spent the next two weeks recovering from their recent tours. On the evening of September 26, the 42nd made its way to an assembly area north of Quéant, in preparation for an impending attack on Canal du Nord.

The battle commenced at 5:20 a.m., the 3rd Division—to which the 42nd belonged—occupying support positions while the remaining three Canadian Divisions advanced toward an incomplete section of the canal north of Mœuvres. The 42nd’s Brigade passed through the line following the initial attack, the unit moving forward in reserve while its three “sister” battalions continued the attack.

Shortly after mid-day, the battalion crossed the canal via a newly constructed infantry bridge and spent the night in the open, enduring a heavy gas bombardment that forced the men to don their box respirators. At 7:00 a.m. September 28, the unit assembled behind a railway embankment east of Bourlon Wood and west of Cambrai. When its Brigade mates attempted to resume the advance later in the day, they encountered “heavy opposition,” forcing the 42nd to remain stationary.

During the evening hours, the battalion received orders to resume the advance the following day, with the goal of establishing a bridgehead across the St. Quentin Canal. Weather on the morning of September 29 was “fine with a heavy ground mist which prevented any visibility.” As the unit moved forward, “a withering fire from Machine Guns at point blank range… caused very severe casualties.” Despite the resistance, small groups of soldiers managed to cross the Douai - Cambrai Road and establish a forward post.

Allied artillery provided supporting fire early during the afternoon, but the 42nd was still unable to advance and dug in behind whatever shelter was available. The following day, personnel attempted to move forward but once again encountered fierce resistance. Finally, on October 1, the unit succeeded in capturing an area of high ground near the railway embankment and withdrew from the line later that night.

The 42nd suffered heavy losses during its Canal du Nord tour—six Officers and 55 “other ranks” (OR) were killed, while 221 OR were wounded. Neither Ralph nor Willard survived the fighting. On the morning of September 29, Corporal Willard Spurgeon Myers “was hit in the head by a machine gun bullet and instantly killed, while taking part with his Company in at attack west of Tilloy.” He was laid to rest in Mill Switch Cemetery, Tilloy-lez-Cambrai.

Lance Corporal Ralph Stanley Lipsett also died during the second day’s fighting: “During an attack on Cambrai in the morning of the 29th September 1918, he was instantly killed by a machine gun bullet.” His “circumstances of casualty” card’s description suggests that Ralph fell victim to the same fire that killed Willard. Ralph was laid to rest in Cantimpre Canadian Cemetery, Sailly-lez-Cambrai, France.

Ralph’s and Willard’s stories are two 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 .

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Remembering Lieutenant Charles Kingston O’Donoghue—KIA September 27, 1918

Charles Kingston O’Donoghue was born at Canso, Guysborough County, on August 11, 1897, the oldest of Frances (Baird) and Charles O’ Donoghue’s four children. Charles Sr. was a manager at Commercial Cable Company, where Kingston—as he was known to family—eventually worked as a cable operator.

Lieutenant Charles Kingston O'Donoghue
In the autumn of 1915, Kingston travelled to Halifax and commenced training with the 85th Battalion (Nova Scotia Highlanders). He formally attested with the unit on November 8, 1915. The battalion spent almost one year training in the province, as military authorities recruited three additional battalions to form the Nova Scotia Highland Brigade. On October 12, 1916, the four units departed for overseas aboard SS Olympic and made their way to Witley Camp, England, after their overseas arrival.

Unfortunately, the Canadian Corps’ significant casualties incurred during fighting at the Somme in September and October 1916 resulted in the dissolution of two Highland Brigade units. The 85th, however, remained intact and proceeded to France on February 10, 1917. Kingston, promoted to the rank of Lance Corporal as the Brigade departed from Nova Scotia, was among the young soldiers about to receive an introduction to combat on the Western Front.

Following several weeks of training and preliminary tours with experienced units, the 85th was attached to the 4th Canadian Division’s 11th Brigade for service as a “working unit” during the Canadian Corps’ impending attack on Vimy Ridge. As the battle unfolded on the morning of April 9, 1917, the Brigade’s units failed to secure their primary objective—Hill 145, the ridge’s highest elevation. In response, commanders ordered two of the 85th’s Companies into the “jumping off” trenches in late afternoon. Despite their lack of combat experience, the Nova Scotia Highlanders pushed German forces from the ridge’s western slopes in a daring, early evening attack.

The following day, the entire battalion entered the front trenches atop the ridge. Before month’s end, the 85th was assigned to the 4th Division’s 12th Brigade and commenced a regular tour of duty in the line. In the aftermath of the battalion’s Vimy debut, Kingston was promoted to the rank of Acting Corporal and served without incident in sectors near Lens throughout the spring and summer of 1917. On October 1, he was “confirmed in [the] rank of Sergeant.” Two weeks later, the unit moved northward to Staples, France, where personnel prepared for the Canadian Corps’ next major assignment—an attack on Passchendaele Ridge, Belgium.

While Canadian units launched the first phase of a four-stage attack on October 26, the 85th’s soldiers were located at St. Lawrence Camp, near Ypres. Two days later, its personnel made their way into the line under cover of darkness. At precisely 4:50 a.m. October 30, the unit advanced toward its objective—a cluster of fortified German positions at a location known as Vienna Cottage. While the 85th secured its objective within two hours, it suffered what proved to be the worst losses of its entire overseas service during the advance.

Kingston was one of its earliest casualties, struck in the foot by a bullet while going “over the top” toward the German line. Admitted to a field ambulance the following day, he was evacuated to hospital at Étaples, France, on November 1 and invalided to England 10 days later. The bullet had fractured the long bone in the middle of his foot and thus Kingston required considerable time to fully recover. Finally discharged from medical care on March 4, 1918, he continued his regain his strength and mobility at No. 2 Depot, Camp Bramshott, and was finally deemed “fit for service” on April 26.

Assigned to the 17th Reserve Battalion, which provided reinforcements for Nova Scotia’s 25th and 85th Battalions, Kingston was offered a commissioned rank shortly afterward. On May 11, he reported to the Cadet Training School, Bexhill, and spent the next three months completing his officer’s training. He returned to the 17th’s ranks on August 5 and awaited orders to return to France. As the Canadian Corps commenced a major counter-offensive three days later, it was not long before he received the call.

On September 15, Lieutenant Kingston O’Donoghue proceeded to France and rejoined his 85th comrades in the field six days later. The unit had recently participated in a series of combat engagements—Amiens (August 8) and the “Scarpe Operations” along the Drocourt-Quéant Line (September 1 and 2)—and was training in preparation for an impending attack on German positions west of Cambrai at the time of his return.

The battalion broke camp in the early evening of September 25 and marched to the Arras train station. When its transportation failed to arrive at the appointed time, the soldiers crammed into a large freight shed and settled in for the night. Around 11:30 p.m., German aircraft dropped a bomb that landed “about two feet from the edge of the building…, killing one Officer and nine other ranks and wounding one Officer and 58 other ranks.”

The train finally arrived in the early morning hours and carried the battalion to the outskirts of Bullecourt. Upon disembarking, personnel made their way to a staging area one mile north of Quéant and established camp. The soldiers spent the remainder of the day resting while the unit’s Officers completed preparations for combat.

At 12:15 a.m. September 27, the 85th marched out to the assembly area near Inchy-en-Artois. Five hours later, an artillery barrage signalled the start of the attack. Fifteen minutes later, the unit’s soldiers advanced toward its objective—the village of Bourlon, adjacent to a well-fortified, wooded area bearing the same name. Heavy fire forced the lead Company to pass around the southern edge of Inchy toward the day’s first obstacle—the incomplete Canal du Nord.

While crossing the canal, heavy shelling resulted in the lead and rear Companies losing contact. Pausing to re-group once all personnel had reached the other side, the soldiers encountered “considerable machine gun fire” shortly after resuming their advance. Despite the resistance, the unit reached its preliminary objective on the village’s outskirts at 7:45 a.m.

The supporting artillery barrage was scheduled to lift 30 minutes later, but appeared to end “very soon after” the battalion reached the location. As a result, the forward Companies pressed onward toward the final objective and overran German positions in front of the village with little resistance. During the process, however, German artillery shells and machine gun fire from nearby Bourlon Wood inflicted “a considerable number of casualties.”

Suddenly, the supporting artillery barrage resumed, causing numerous casualties among two Companies moving forward in support of the advance. Personnel hastily found whatever shelter was available on the battlefield and waited for the barrage to lift. Once it had passed, the 85th advanced through the remainder of Bourlon, securing it with “little resistance” by 9:45 a.m. Throughout the day, the battalion connected with adjacent units and established outposts in front of the newly-constructed defensive line.

Later that night, the 72nd and 78th Battalions—two of the 85th’s Brigade mates—passed through its line and established “jumping off” positions for the attack’s second phase, scheduled for the following morning. The 85th suffered a total of eight Officer and 75 OR casualties during the day’s advance. Lieutenant Charles Kingston O’Donoghue was one of the day’s earliest fatalities, “killed by a shell while crossing the Canal” during the advance’s first stage. He was laid to rest in Quarry Wood Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France.

Kingston’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 .

Remembering Private Jacob Lachlan “Lockie” Mailman—KIA September 27, 1918

Jacob Lachlan Mailman was born at Gegogan, Guysborough County, on September 26, 1896, the third of Harriet Louise (Baker) and Jacob Mailman’s seven children. “Lockie,” as he was known to family, completed his medical examination under the terms of the Military Service Act (1917) at Halifax on November 7, 1917, and was conscripted into service on March 15, 1918. Three weeks later, he departed for England aboard SS Ulua and landed at Liverpool, England, on April 19.

Private Jacob Lachlan Mailman
Assigned to the 17th Reserve Battalion (Nova Scotia) upon landing in England, Lockie trained at Camp Bramshott throughout the spring and early summer. On September 5, 1918, he was assigned to the Royal Canadian Regiment (RCR) and proceeded to France. Within days of arriving on the continent, however, Lockie received a second transfer to the 2nd Battalion (Eastern Ontario) and arrived in its camp near Agnez-lès-Duisans on September 11.

The 2nd Battalion spent the next two weeks training before returning to the line on the evening of September 26 and preparing for its role in the Canadian Corps’ attack on Canal du Nord, a waterway near the strategically important city of Cambrai. At 5:20 a.m. September 27, Allied guns commenced an artillery barrage on the German line. One hour and 20 minutes later, the 2nd Battalion’s soldiers advanced in “Diamond Formation,” one Company at a time, at 10-minute intervals.

The soldiers followed in the wake of the initial attacking units and faced no enemy resistance until 9:00 a.m., when they encountered “shelling and machine gun fire.” Personnel nevertheless continued forward, passed through the 4th Battalion’s lines and followed the 1st Battalion toward Bourlon Wood, its main objective. At this point, the intensity of enemy fire increased and the unit suffered “numerous” casualties.

The 2nd Battalion nevertheless maintained its forward momentum, passing through the 1st Battalion’s line at 10:00 a.m. and advancing toward German positions. While fierce resistance slowed their progress, the support of units on each flank enabled its soldiers to resume forward progress shortly after mid-day and secure possession of Bourlon Wood. Personnel spent the remainder of the day consolidating the position and settled in for the night.

Private Jacob Lachlan Mailman did not survive his first day of combat. According to his “circumstances of casualty” card: “The Company to which he belonged was in support during an advance west of Raillencourt, and came under heavy machine gun fire, Private Mailman being hit in the chest and instantly killed.” Lockie was laid to rest in Ontario Cemetery, Sains-lès-Marquion, France.

Lockie’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 .

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Remembering Private Sydney Garfield Swain—KIA September 25, 1918

Sydney Garfield Swain was born at Grosvenor, Antigonish County, on June 11, 1898, the oldest of Harriet Amelia “Hattie” (Fitt) and Charles Swain’s 10 children. Charles was a native of Steep Creek, Guysborough County, the son of William and Margaret Swain, while Hattie was born at Little Tracadie, Antigonish County, the daughter of Stephen and Sarah M. (Kinney) Fitt. Following their July 21 1896 marriage, the couple took up residence in the Fitt family’s Grosvenor home.

Private Sydney Garfield Swain
On December 7, 1915, Sydney attested with the 106th Battalion (Nova Scotia Rifles) at Antigonish. Six months shy of his eighteenth birthday at the time, Sydney reported his birth year as 1897 at the time of his enlistment. The 106th departed for England aboard SS Empress of Britain on July 16, 1916, but was disbanded shortly after its overseas arrival.

Sydney was part of a large group of 106th soldiers transferred to the 26th Battalion (New Brunswick) on September 27, 1916. Two weeks later, he joined the unit’s ranks near Bouzincourt, France and served in sectors near Lens, France, throughout the winter of 1916-17. Sydney was temporarily attached to a Canadian Engineers unit while his 26th comrades participated in the Canadian Corps’ April 9, 1917 capture of Vimy Ridge. He rejoined the unit two months later and was “in the line” on August 15, 1917, as the 26th participated in the successful capture of Hill 70, near Lens. Two months later, Sydney travelled to Ypres, Belgium with the battalion and took part in the final stage of the Canadian Corps’ assault on Passchendaele Ridge.

During the November 6, 1917 advance, a piece of shrapnel struck Sydney in the back and shoulder. Evacuated to a casualty clearing station, Sydney was invalided to England at mid-month with a severe wound to his left scapula. He spent almost six months in various medical facilities before reporting to the Canadian Corps Depot, Camp Bramshott, on May 8, 1918. Assigned to the 13th Reserve Battalion in late June, Sydney finally returned to France on September 5 and rejoined the 26th’s ranks at Hendecourt-lès-Cagnicourt five days later.

Much had transpired during Sydney’s absence. The 26th had recently participated in two major attacks near Amiens and Arras that marked the start of a major Allied counter-offensive. On September 12—two days after Sydney’s return—the unit entered support positions near Cagnicourt. One week later, personnel returned to the front trenches east of Inchy-en-Artois.

While no major combat took place during the ensuing tour, the 26th’s war diary reported daily casualties as German rifle grenades and trench mortars struck its positions and soldiers on both sides wrestled for control of No Man’s Land. The fighting followed a consistent pattern, the Canadians establishing forward posts that were promptly subjected to German attack.

Determined to establish and maintain an advance post, a platoon of the 26th’s soldiers “pushed forward” on the night of September 24, established a fortified position, and were immediately subjected to fierce enemy fire. At dawn September 25, 1918, German soldiers launched a counter-attack on the location, forcing its occupants to withdraw to a second position that they managed to maintain, despite heavy bombardment.

As the day passed, the platoon endured consistent rifle grenade and mortar fire, and held out against a second counter-attack in late morning. Determined the capture the post, German soldiers launched a third attack at mid-afternoon and drove the 26th’s platoon back to shell-holes behind the location. Undeterred, the New Brunswickers organized a counter-attack and re-captured the position later that evening.

While a handful of its soldiers remained at the advance post, the 26th withdrew from the line later that night. In the aftermath of the September 25 fighting, Private Sydney Garfield Swain was among the soldiers listed as “missing after [the] action.” His remains were subsequently recovered from the battlefield and identified by the “Burial Officer, Canadian Corps.” Sydney was laid to rest in Ontario Cemetery, Sains-les-Marquion Nord, France.

Sydney’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 .

Remembering Private Arthur James Manuel—DOW September 25, 1918

Arthur James Manuel was born at Canso, Guysborough County, on February 4, 1893, the oldest of Mary (McNeary) and William Manuel’s children. William was lost at sea before the end of the decade and Mary was left to care for three young sons. As a young man, Arthur went to work in the fishery but was soon caught up in the events of the First World War as he entered adulthood.

Private Arthur James Manuel
On November 8, 1917, Arthur completed his medical examination at Canso, as required under the terms of the Military Service Act (1917). Four months later, he reported to Halifax, NS, and attested with the 1st Depot Battalion, Nova Scotia Regiment, on March 5, 1918. One month later, he departed for England and was assigned to the 17th Reserve Battalion, Camp Bramshott, upon arriving overseas.

Arthur spent the remainder of the spring and early summer in training at Bramshott. On August 29, he received a transfer to the 25th Battalion and immediately departed for France. One week later, he joined the unit’s ranks at Chérisy. Throughout the following days, small groups of reinforcements continued to arrive in camp as the battalion rebuilt its strength following combat at Amiens and Arras during the previous month.

On the evening of September 19, the 25th returned to the front line southeast of Inchy-en-Artois, where its soldiers were subjected to constant German artillery fire. In subsequent days, personnel resisted several German counterattacks and launched raids on German posts in No Man’s Land, in an effort to secure the area in front of its trenches. Casualties were light but consistent throughout the tour.

On the morning of September 25, German forces launched an artillery barrage on the 25th’s trenches as its soldiers advanced toward the battalion’s position. While supporting Allied artillery assisted the soldiers in repelling the attack, the day’s casualties—six “other ranks” (OR) killed and 16 OR wounded—were the tour’s heaviest losses. Private Arthur James Manuel was one of the fatalities, “wounded by  enemy shrapnel previous to an attack” and “evacuated to the rear” for treatment. He “died [of wounds] before reaching a dressing station.” Arthur was laid to rest in Mœuvres Communal Cemetery, France.

Arthur’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 .

Sunday, 23 September 2018

Remembering Private William Croft “Willie” Hadley—KIA September 23, 1918

William Croft “Willie” Hadley was born on March 14, 1899, at Guysborough town, the youngest of Martha J. (McKenzie) and James Edward Hadley’s four children. Tragically, Martha’s mental health deteriorated shortly after Willie’s birth and the children were raised in the home of their paternal grandparents, Godfrey and Mary (Renton) Hadley.

Private William Croft Hadley
By the spring of 1916, Willie had left home and was working as a sailor in the Sydney area. On March 13, 1916, he enlisted with the 185th Battalion (Cape Breton Highlanders). Willie immediately commenced training with the unit at Broughton, near Sydney, and followed the battalion to Camp Aldershot in late May for a summer of intense military drill.

The 185th was one of four battalions that comprised the Nova Scotia Highland Brigade. On October 12, its soldiers departed for England with their Brigade comrades—the 85th (Nova Scotia Highlanders), 193rd and 219th Battalions. By year’s end, military authorities dissolved the 193rd and 219th. Willie remained at Camp Witley with the 185th throughout the winter of 1916-17 before receiving a transfer to the 25th Battalion (Nova Scotia Rifles) on May 27, 1917. He immediately departed for France and joined the 25th’s ranks at Gouy-Servins on June 15.

Throughout the summer of 1917, Willie served a regular rotation with the 25th in sectors near Lens, France. In late October, the unit made its way northward to Ypres, Belgium, where its soldiers occupied support positions during the final phase of the Canadian Corps’ attack on Passchendaele Ridge. Personnel entered the front lines on the evening of November 7—the day following the attack’s final stage—and assisted in establishing a new defensive line for several days.

After returning to France at mid-month, the 25th served in sectors near Lens, France, throughout the winter of 1917-18. Unaffected by the German Spring Offensive of late March and April 1918, the unit’s soldiers continued their routine front-line rotations. On the morning of May 6, Willie was struck in the right leg by artillery shrapnel during a barrage of the 25th’s trenches near Neuville-Vitasse. Evacuated for medical treatment, he spent the remainder of the month in hospital at Trouville before being discharged to a convalescent camp on June 1.

At month’s end, Willie was released from hospital and made his way to the Canadian Corps Reinforcement Camp, where he awaited orders to return to his unit. He departed for the forward area on August 3 and rejoined his comrades at Saint-Pierre-à-Gouy, northwest of Amiens, shortly afterward. Willie’s return proved timely, as the 25th was preparing for its role in a major Allied counter-offensive against German forces east of Amiens.

The unit returned to the line on the evening of August 7 and the following morning was in support positions with its 5th Brigade mates as other Canadian Corps units commenced the attack. Later that morning, the 25th remained in support while the 24th (Victoria Rifles, Montreal) and 26th (New Brunswick) Battalions—two of its Brigade mates—continued the advance. The following day, the 25th and 22nd (Quebec’s “Vandoos”)—the 5th Brigade’s two remaining battalions—continued the advance during the early afternoon hours, capturing the village of Méharicourt.

Willie and his mates remained in the line until the early hours of August 17, at which time they retired to camp at Caix. Willie came through the experience without injury and followed the unit northward toward Arras in subsequent days. On the morning of August 27, the 25th was once again in support as its three Brigade mates participated in the second day of fighting east of Arras. Personnel remained in the line for 48 hours before retiring to billets at Achicourt.

Following a brief period of rest and training, the battalion retired to the support area on September 12 for several days before returning to trenches near Chérisy on the night of September 18/19. Over the next several days, personnel played a game of “cat and mouse” with German forces in No Man’s Lands. Amidst consistent enemy shelling, the 25th repelled several German counterattacks and attempted to capture several German outposts.

On September 23, 1918, a party of its soldiers succeeded in capturing two enemy outposts and resisted two German attempts to recapture the positions. The day’s fighting, however, resulted in “heavy casualties—four “other ranks” (OR) killed and 21 OR wounded. Private William Croft Hadley was one of the deceased soldiers: “When on a raid near Inchy-en-Artois, he was shot through the head by a machine gun bullet and died a few minutes later.” He was laid to rest in Triangle British Cemetery, Oeuvres, France.

Willie’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 .

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Remembering Private Leonard Shirley Archibald—KIA September 19, 1918

Leonard Shirley Archibald was born at Sonora, Guysborough County, on October 3, 1893, the fifth of Susan (Hartling) and William Alexander Archibald’s eight children. William died of tuberculosis on June 8, 1910, leaving Susan to care for a large family. Her three eldest sons—Herman, Leonard and Henry—were still at home at the time and assisted in supporting the family. While Herman worked as a labourer in the local community, Henry and Leonard were employed on coastal fishing schooners, occasionally travelling as far south as the West Indies.

Brothers Henry Seymour (left) & Leonard Shirley Archibald
The Canadian government’s decision to introduce compulsory military service soon impacted  the lives of the two younger Archibald brothers. Leonard and Henry registered as required under the terms of the Military Service Act (1917) and completed their medical examinations at Halifax on January 9, 1918. Six days later, they signed their attestation papers and were assigned to the 1st Depot Battalion, Nova Scotia Regiment.

The Archibald brothers departed for overseas on April 7 and were assigned to the 17th Reserve Battalion upon landing in England. The next several months were spent in training at Camp Bramshott. Leonard was the first to leave for the front line, receiving a transfer to the 25th Battalion on August 21 and joining the unit in the forward area at month’s end.

At the time of Leonard’s arrival, the battalion had recently fought at Amiens and Arras—part of a major Allied counter-offensive against German forces—and was training at Chérisy. On September 12, the 25th briefly returned to support positions for three days before retiring to camp near Écoivres for several days’ training. On September 18, the unit received sudden orders to report to the reserve area and returned to Chérisy. Later that night, personnel entered the front line southeast of Inchy-en-Artois amidst heavy German artillery shelling.

While the unit was in place by 1:00 a.m. September 19, the 25th’s war diary reported one fatality during the relief process. Private Leonard Shirley Archibald was “hit in the head and chest by enemy shell fire and instantly killed” while “proceeding with his Battalion to the front line.” Leonard was laid to rest in nearby Quéant Communal Cemetery British Extension.

Leonard’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 .

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Remembering Corporal Leslie Reuben MacPherson—KIA September 16, 1918

Cpl. Leslie MacPherson's headstone, Argonne-Meuse American Cemetery
Leslie Reuben MacPherson was born at Guysborough Intervale, Guysborough County, on December 12, 1895, the fourth of Maria (Knocton) and James R. MacPherson’s five children. Sometime after 1911, Leslie left the family home for Massachusetts, where his eldest sibling, Mary Jane “Minnie,” had married and established residence.

Shortly after the United States’ entrance into the First World War on April 6, 1917, the American Congress approved the implementation of a military draft. On June 5, 1917, Leslie completed the required draft registration form at Brookline, MA. At the time, he was employed as a “helper on [an] ice wagon” for the Boston Ice Company, Chestnut Hill, and living at 17 Sheafe St., Chestnut Hill, Brookline.

Leslie was called into service with the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) soon after his registration and assigned to the 60th Infantry Regiment. Established in June 1917, the 60th initially trained at Camp Green, North Carolina, and later organized its ranks at Gettysburg, PA. The regiment consisted of three separate battalions—Leslie was part of its 2nd Battalion’s ranks—and was assigned to AEF’s 5th Division, where it served in its 9th Infantry Brigade alongside the 61st Regiment.

The 5th Division crossed the Atlantic to France in April 1918 and established its training camp near Bar-sur-Aube, a commune east of Troye, France, in early May. Before month’s end, the Division was attached to the French 7th Army’s 33rd Corps, which occupied the extreme southern portion of the front line in the Upper Alsace and Vosges Mountains. For six weeks, the Americans received instruction from experienced French Officers and soldiers, trained with live ammunition, and completed introductory trench tours in the Anould Sector.

While the mountainous terrain resulted in little active fighting, German forces soon realized that inexperienced American troops occupied the positions opposite their lines and subjected them to several small-scale gas and infantry attacks. The novice soldiers stood their ground in every instance, demonstrating their readiness for regular front-line duty.

In mid-July, the 5th Division was assigned to the Saint-Dié Sector, approximately 16 kilometres north of Anould, France, and commenced a regular rotation along a 25-kilometer section of the front line. As with its previous location, the area was “quiet,” but its terrain was considerably less mountainous. On August 17, soldiers from the 10th Brigade’s 6th Infantry Regiment successfully completed the 5th Division’s first combat assignment, capturing the town of Frapelle and an adjacent area of high ground.

Five days later, the 5th Division received notice of its selection for the first “all-American” operation of the war—an attack on the Saint-Mihiel Salient. Located between Verdun and Pont-à-Mousson, the area had been occupied by German forces during the war’s opening days and posed a persistent threat to communication and supply lines between Verdun and Nancy. By late August, all 5th Division units had made their way to Lunéville, south of Nancy, where personnel commenced preparations for their first major combat assignment.

Early the following month, the 5th Division’s personnel began a lengthy march into their assigned sector, located along the salient’s southern boundary. Seven American Divisions in the southern sectors and three Divisions—two American and one French—along its northwestern corner were to launch “pincer-like drives” into the salient, cutting off German soldiers in its more mountainous tip and securing possession of the area.

The 5th Division was located close to the salient’s southeastern corner, where its soldiers occupied approximately two kilometres of the line. Their objective was to push northward for approximately eight kilometres to a section of the Hindenburg line east of Thiaucourt. The 5th’s 9th Infantry Brigade, consisting of the 6th and 11th Regiments, would initiate the attack, while the 10th Brigade’s 60th and 61st Regiments stood by in reserve. Once the 9th Brigade’s soldiers had reached their first-day objectives, the 10th Brigade’s soldiers would enter the line and complete the final push to the Hindenburg Line.

In the early morning hours of September 12, supporting artillery units launched a preliminary barrage of the German line. At 5:00 a.m., the 10th Brigade’s soldiers advanced toward their first objective. As the fighting progressed, personnel succeeded in securing all objectives by early afternoon. Meanwhile, American units from the northwest pushed southward, making contact with their southern comrades before midnight. As a result, German forces in the salient’s tip were unable to retreat and surrendered during the ensuing hours.

Over the next 48 hours, the victorious American units established a consolidated defensive line and set the stage for the final push to the Hindenburg Line. On the night of September 1516, the 9th Brigade’s 60th and 61st Regiments entered the trenches and prepared for combat. As he entered the line for his first major combat experience, Leslie was attached to the 60th Regiment’s Headquarters Company, where he held the rank of Corporal. His 2nd Battalion comrades assumed positions on the 5th Division’s left flank, along the southern edge of Bois de Bonvaux.

Throughout their first full day in the line, the 2nd Battalion’s soldiers endured continuous harassing artillery fire. A particularly intense bombardment targeted the entire 60th Regiment sector at 4:00 p.m. September 16 and lasted for half an hour. Despite the difficult circumstances, personnel maintained their positions and participated with their 61st Regiment colleagues in a successful early evening attack on the German line.

The 5th Division’s soldiers remained in the trenches for another 24 hours before being relieved on the night of September 16/17. During its Saint-Mihiel combat tour, the Division suffered a total of 1,612 casualties—13 Officers and 305 “other ranks” (OR) killed in action, 44 Officers and 1,123 OR wounded, 11 Officers and 116 OR “gassed.”

Corporal Leslie Reuben MacPherson was one of the 9th Brigade’s September 16,1918 fatalities. While no details are available on the circumstances of his death, accounts of the day’s events suggest that he was killed either during the afternoon artillery bombardment or the early evening attack on the German line. Leslie was laid to rest in Meuse - Argonne American Cemetery, Romagne, France.

A detailed description of Leslie Reuben Mac Pherson’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.

Friday, 7 September 2018

Remembering Private Joseph Edward Avery—KIA September 7, 1918

Joseph Edward Avery was born at Larry’s River, Guysborough County, where he was baptized on October 10, 1887. His parents, Elizabeth (Deslauriers) and Alexander John Avery, moved their growing family to Cambridge, MA, in 1895. At the time, there were nine children in the household. Two more were born in the United States, making Joseph the “middle child”—sixth-born—among his 11 siblings.
Private Joseph Edward Avery, AEF
Alexander was stricken with tuberculosis at age 45 and passed away on July 18, 1904. While several older brothers remained at home and assisted Elizabeth in caring for a large family, Joseph made his way to New York, where family sources claim that he worked as a bell-hop at a hotel. Later documents indicate that he was employed as a clerk at a Long Beach, Long Island “water works establishment.”

While the United States remained neutral during the first two and a half years of the First World War, a series of events resulted in an American declaration of war on Germany in early April 1917. Six weeks later, The United States Congress approved the introduction of a military service registration system. In the autumn of 1917, Joseph enlisted with the 326th Infantry Regiment. He spent the winter of 1917-18 training at Camp Gordon, near Atlanta, GA. In April 1918, the 326th relocated to Camp Upton, NY, and crossed the Atlantic Ocean to Le Havre, France, early the following month.

The 326th set foot on the European continent on May 17, 1918. Within days, its soldiers commenced introductory tours in the line with experienced units, the regiment reporting its first fatality on June 9. Shortly afterward, the 326th’s 82nd Division was placed under the command of the French 7th Army. Joseph and his comrades logged their first tours in the line in the Tour sector, west of Nancy. The Division engaged in its first offensive action on August 4, when its soldiers launched an attack on the German line opposite their trenches.

Meanwhile, American and Allied commanders completed plans for the war’s first American offensive—an attack on the St. Mihiel salient, a 200-square mile triangle protruding for 14 miles into the Allied line between the Moselle and Meuse Rivers. German forces had captured the area early in the war, disrupting communication lines between Verdun and Nancy. American forces officially assumed responsibility for a large portion of the salient’s trenches in late August, the 82nd becoming one of five Divisions occupying sections along its most eastern portions.

In early September, the 326th’s solders entered the salient’s trenches as military commanders completed preparations for the assault, initially scheduled for September 10. Tragically, Private Joseph Edward Avery was not among the victorious American soldiers who secured the salient in a series of attacks that commenced two days after the scheduled date. He was killed in the line on September 7, 1918, and laid to rest in Saint-Mihiel American Cemetery, Thiaucourt, France. No details are available on the specific circumstances of his death.

Joseph’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 .

Sunday, 2 September 2018

Remembering Drum Sergeant Robert Lyons—KIA September 2, 1918

Joseph Robert Armstrong Lyons was born in London, England, on March 25, 1883. While there is some speculation among descendants that his surname may have been Armstrong, according to his 1906 marriage license, Bob’s parents were William—a fruit dealer—and Mary Lyons, His first-born child Mary Rosina “Rosie,” recalled that Bob had a sister, Rosina. He also demonstrated musical ability at an early age, learning to play violin and cornet.
Drum Sergeant Robert Lyons (193rd Battalion portrait)
Around 1902, Bob immigrated to Canada and made his way to the industrial area of Cape Breton, where he found work as a locomotive fireman and engineer with the Sydney and Louisbourg Railway.
In 1905, while living at Louisbourg, Bob assumed the duties of band master with the community’s brass band. Young Catherine McAulay, a native of nearby Kennington Cove and daughter of Angus and Christie McAulay, soon caught his eye. The couple married at Louisbourg on February 14, 1906, and relocated to Glace Bay sometime afterward, forcing Bob to abandon his band master duties.

In his new community, Bob sang and played with St. Mary’s Anglican Church Choir. He also became a member of the Independent Order of Oddfellows and the Tyrian Youth Lodge. A later news item stated that he was “well known [locally] in musical circles, being cornet soloist for some years with the Wight orchestra,” a local musical group. Around 1909, Bob enlisted with the 94th Victoria Regiment (Argyll Highlanders), a local militia unit. A major attraction may have been the unit’s brass band, of which he became a member. Each summer, Bob attended a militia training session with the unit at Camp Aldershot, near Kentville.
94th Victoria Regiment Band, Aldershot (1911)—Robert Lyons at right end, 2nd row
As the years passed, a growing family emerged. The young couple welcomed their first child—a daughter, Mary Rosina “Rosie”—in July 1910. In the ensuing years, three more children joined the household—John Angus (1912), Robert William “Bob” (1914), and Margaret (1915). While life unfolded for the young and growing Lyons family, events occurring on the European continent soon impacted their lives.

In the months following the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914, Bob’s family circumstances provided sufficient justification for him to remain at home. Certainly, there were several opportunities for Bob to volunteer for overseas service during the war’s first 18 months. Within weeks of the British declaration of war, the 94th joined militia units across the country in sending volunteers to Camp Valcartier, QC, to form the First Canadian Contingent. On November 7, 1914, military officials authorized the formation of the 25th Battalion (Nova Scotia Rifles). The unit canvassed the province in search of recruits, establishing a recruitment office in Sydney.

During the autumn of 1915, the 85th Battalion (Nova Scotia Highlanders) conducted a similar province-wide campaign. The subsequent formation of the Nova Scotia Highland Brigade in January 1916 and formation of the 185th Battalion (Cape Breton Highlanders) on February 1, 1916 provided another enlistment option. In the end, perhaps a combination of factors—loyalty to his British homeland, involvement with the 94th Victoria Regiment, the wave of military enthusiasm that swept the province at the time, a desire not to miss out on the opportunity—finally tipped the scales. On July 6, 1916, Bob Lyons, father of four young children, enlisted with the 193rd Battalion at Camp Aldershot, NS.

Bob was actually added to the unit’s pay list two days earlier, with the comment “to be Sgt. (Prov.) fr. 4-7-16” recorded on his pay card. The following month, he was promoted to the rank of “Band Sgt. fr. 4-7-16.” A 193rd Brass Band photograph, taken sometime during training at Aldershot, depicts a mustached Bob Lyons, cornet in hand and turned slightly to the left, Sergeant’s stripes plainly visible on his right sleeve.

Prior to his overseas departure, members of the local railway brotherhood held a special ceremony, during which they presented their co-worker with a watch “as a visible evidence of our friendship.” The presenter also noted that the Highland Brigade, to which Bob’s unit belonged, is “known throughout the land as ‘The Breed of Manly Men’ and we know no matter the colour of the feather you wear, the red, green, purple or blue],] the enemy will never see you show the white.”

After a summer of intense training at Camp Aldershot, the Highland Brigade’s four units—the 85th (Nova Scotia Highlanders), 185th (Cape Breton Highlanders), 193rd and 219th Battalions—made their way to Halifax and departed for England aboard SS Olympic on October 12, 1916. That same day, Bob was officially appointed the 193rd Band’s Acting Band Sergeant. Six days later, the vessel docked at Liverpool and the Brigade’s soldiers made their way by train to Camp Witley in southern England.

Over the next several weeks, personnel resumed training and completed the various tasks required prior to deployment at the front. On November 30, Bob signed his military will, bequeathing his real and personal property to his young wife. At some point during his time in camp, he found a few minutes to write a letter to his elder son, John:

“Dear old curly head,

“Just a line to let you know I’m alive and well. I am glad to hear that you like going to school and are a good boy. You must be a little man to mama and your sisters and brother Bob. Help mama all you can and if papa is spared to come back home we will have lots of little rides once again. Well dear I must close now[,] hoping you will get someone to answer this for you in your own little [way]. I conclude with lots of love from your own soldier’s daddy.

“PS: Kiss Margaret and Bobbie for me and tell them papa sent them. Say prayers for papa.”
Drum Sgt. Robert Lyons, 193rd Battalion
Before year’s end, the Highland Brigade underwent a dramatic reorganization. Two of its four units–the 193rd and 219th Battalions—were dissolved and their personnel distributed to other units. Needless to say, the action directly impacted Bob’s situation. While other 193rd soldiers were assigned to reinforcement drafts destined for units at the front, on January 23, 1917, Bob was transferred to the 17th Reserve Battalion, the unit responsible for servicing two Nova Scotian infantry units in France—the 25th and 85th Battalions.

Not surprisingly, Bob quickly found a place in the 17th’s musical ensemble. On Saturday, April 28, the unit’s regimental band gave three performances in the new concert hall of London’s famous Wyndham Theatre. Its 11:30 a.m. playlist included the selection, “If You Were the Only Girl,” with “Drum Major Lyons” identified as the cornet soloist. The band performed two more sets—mid-afternoon and evening—and included a wide variety of selections, from waltzes to military airs and marches, in its playlist.

The program’s reference to Bob’s rank suggests that he played a prominent role in the musical ensemble. On May 10, he was officially appointed “Sergeant Drummer to complete establishment,” a position he held for the next five months. Unfortunately, nothing more is known of Bob’s activities throughout the summer of 1917, although one can surmise that his involvement with the 17th’s band occupied a considerable amount of his time.
Robert Lyons in 17th Reserve Battalion uniform
As summer gave way to autumn, the October 2, 1917 edition of “The Clansman”—the 17th Reserve Battalion’s regimental newspaper—described a trip to London “one night not so many moons ago [by] a party of our Other Ranks and Officers…for a banquet and general nice evening with some of the boys then due to go overseas.” While the party “numbered 22 when it left the camp,” upon arriving in London, “it was found that a count of noses showed but 21 to be present.”

The group nevertheless continued with its plans, sitting down at the “banquet table” only to discover that “a plate had been laid for the missing man and that his dinner had been prepared.” The situation presented somewhat of a problem:

“The full bill must be paid, but how? Then came Drum Major Lyons to the rescue. Seating himself next to the vacant place[,] he gave the signal to say he was ready for what might come. When the eats appeared [,] he was there for a double—and when the liquids came to the scene[,] he was ready to drink a toast to Hosie [Pipe Major Alexander Hosie, 17th Reserve Battalion] with a vim.”

The news item concluded by posing a number of questions about the various individuals in attendance. In referring to Bob, the reporter asked: “Does Drum Major Lyons dislike Burgundy and was this dislike the cause of his not being able to find White Chapel?”

While “The Clansman” related the story in a light-hearted manner, several more serious matters took place around the time of its publication, according to a document in Bob’s service file, on October 17, he “reverted to Private (absent without leave).” It is unclear whether an infraction occurred during his recent visit to London. A second document in his file mentions the demotion, but makes no reference to violation of military rules, creating the possibility that he may have relinquished his rank to accommodate a transfer to France.

The newspaper’s subsequent edition published another item that may provide an alternative explanation. Under the heading “Many changes made in Camp Arrangements,” the article described several major events that had recently taken place in the 17th’s camp, particularly the fact that “several Reserves have gone out of existence through amalgamation.” Specifically, the “Nova Scotia Reserve [17th] and the Seaforths [Seaforth Highlanders of Canada, a prominent British Columbia military unit] have been cast together under the Seaforth rule and the two units, which had been strong rivals in musketry, football and baseball, are now one.”

“The Clansman” went on to note one additional change that may have impacted Bob’s circumstances:

“A regrettable feature of the amalgamation… is the breaking up of Lieut. [John Thomas] Arenburg’s [26th Reserve Battalion] band, in the organization of which he has worked so strenuously for the past several months. A number of his men have been taken on the strength of our band, filling vacancies made by a recent draft. Similar changes were made in the north camp and another band, one of the best in the camp, went out of existence.”

Lt. Arenburg, a native of Lunenburg, NS, had initially enlisted with the 106th Battalion (Nova Scotia Rifles) but following its dissolution was eventually transferred to the 26th Reserve Battalion, where he presided over the musical ensemble mentioned in the article. Its absorption into the 17th’s ranks suggests that some of the 17th’s band members had been selected for service at the front. This raises the possibility that Bob voluntarily “reverted to ranks,” in order to proceed overseas. In fact, his inclusion in the London excursion suggests that he may have already been selected for service at the front, a possibility that may also explain his decision not to return to camp prior to his leave’s expiration.

Whatever the case, Bob was officially “struck off [the] strength” of the 17th Reserve Battalion on November 11 and proceeded to France on the same day, destined for the ranks of the 85th Battalion (Nova Scotia Highlanders). He arrived in his new unit’s camp at Raimbert, France, on November 23, part of a reinforcement draft that included 22 Officers and 222 “other ranks.” A little more than three weeks previously, the 85th had suffered what proved to be its worst losses of the entire war during the second stage of the Canadian Corps’ attack on Passchendaele Ridge, Belgium, and was in the process of rebuilding its ranks.

The 85th Battalion had arrived in France of February 10, 1917, and became part of the 4th Division’s 12th Brigade shortly after the Canadian Corps’ successful April 9, 1917 capture of Vimy Ridge, France. The unit served alongside the 38th (Ottawa, ON), 72nd (Seaforth Highlanders of Canada) and 78th (Winnipeg Grenadiers) Battalions for the remainder of the war. Upon arriving in camp, Bob was assigned to “B” Company’s No. 5 Platoon and commenced regular rotations in the forward area shortly after his arrival.

Throughout the winter of 1917-18, the 85th served in the Avion, Méricourt and St. Émile sectors, near Lens, France. Tours were for the most part uneventful, a mid-January 1918 thaw presenting perhaps the greatest challenge, creating “mud and water was from three to four feet deep, too thin to shovel and too thick to pump.” As spring approached and weather conditions improved, Allied forces braced for an anticipated attack on their lines.

The cessation of hostilities between Russia and Germany on the Eastern Front—the result of a December 1917 peace treaty—combined with the anticipated arrival of large numbers of American troops on the Western Front, prompted the German High Command to plan a major spring offensive. Given the code name “Operation Michael,” the campaign commenced in British sectors south of the Canadian Corps on March 21, 1918, and was designed to push westward to the French coast, driving a wedge between British forces to the north and French units to the south.

In response, all Canadian Corps units were placed on high alert, in anticipation of an attack in their sectors. In late March, officials assigned the 85th to “Odlum’s Composite Brigade,” a combination of 11th and 12th Brigade units under the command of the 11th’s Brigadier General Victor Odlum. The unit entered the line near Bailleul on the evening of March 29 and “stood to” the following morning, in anticipation of a German attack. While no subsequent assault materialized, the battalion suffered significant casualties during two days in the line.

As time passed, it became apparent that German forces had no plans to attack the Canadian sector and the 85th returned to its regular 12th Brigade rotation in early April. During subsequent days, Bob found several opportunities to write home to his family. On April 9, 1918, he wrote to his “darling daughter” Rosie:

“Just a few lines in answer to your letter. You sure have surprised me [with] the way you have got on in school. In am sure proud of you and I will expect a note from you often. You must help Johnnie to get along with his lessons and tell him to send Papa a copy of his work in school. Well, sweetheart, we are having pretty hard times in France this spring, but you must pray to spare your Daddy to come home. Also, you must try to help Mama along and be good to Johnnie, Bobbie and your dear little sister [Margaret].”

Four days later, Bob wrote to his “dear wife and kiddies”:

“Just a few lines to let you know I am still alive and well. I hope you and the Bairns are enjoying the best of health. I am scribbling this on a box by candle light in the dugout which was once belonging [sic] to our old friend “Heinie,” who departed from here toot sweet [sic - tout suite] some time ago when the Canadians got busy. Well, kid, you should certainly be proud to be a Canadian as we certainly get good praise from every nationality, even from Fritzie, for the way we do things. In fact, our friend Fritz would just as soon know the devil was in front of him as our boys, as we are everlastingly tormenting him with our patrols…. [We are] all well and fine and wishing for this war to end but [are] willing to stick until a satisfactory peace is obtained which I think should come about around this summer. Well, Kate, kiss the children for me and tell them to pray for a safe return of their daddy. Hoping to hear from you soon, I remain your loving Husband and Father.”

On April 16, Bob departed the 85th’s camp to complete a training course with the 4th Canadian Machine Gun Battalion. During a six-week assignment with the unit, he once again found a few minutes to write home on May 12, which happened to be Mother’s Day:

“Just a few lines to let you know I am still alive and well. Hoping this will find you enjoying the same…. I am still on the machine gun course way back from the lines in a quiet and peaceful spot which, when I go to bed—if it can be called such—the frogs in the marsh and the scream of the locomotive’s whistle remind me of home and you all that I get a little homesick, and can it be wondered at after two years and all we have been through since we left our homes and loved ones. But we are still cheerful and longing for the day when we will be in a position to drive Heinie and his cursed tribe out of this country and come back to straighten things out over there…. It has been three weeks since I had a line from you. Do try and write a little oftener as a letter is the only link between us that helps to keep up the courage to carry on this murderous business…. I shall certainly have some fine old tales to tell when I get back…. I will close with the best of love and kisses to you all from your loving husband and father.”

A portion of a fourth, undated letter described an incident that illustrates the perils of service in the forward area:

“I think the Lord has been with me all the time this last while back. I had a very narrow escape about a week ago just passing an ammunition dump when Heinie landed a shell [that] killed four men… just ahead of me and wounded the chap that was with me, so you can tell how close a call it was for me…. Well sweetheart tell Rosie I still have the letter and lessons she sent me and tell her to write me another and get Johnnie to write. Tell Bobbie that his card made papa homesick. Tell him I thank him very much for it and if God spares his papa to come home again we will have some dandy times again. Say, see if you cannot spare a dollar or two and have your picture taken again so I can see the change that a year makes in you all and if I can get out to some civilized town where there is a photographer I will have mine taken…. I will close with all the best love and wishes from your affectionate and loving husband Bob.”
Lyons family 1917 portrait—Johnnie (left), Kate, Margaret, Rosie & Bobbie (sitting)
On the night of May 4/5, the 85th withdrew from the Arleux Sector and made its way to Monchy Breton, where its soldiers commenced a lengthy period of training, shortly after mid-month, the unit received authorization to wear the “Argyle and Sutherland” tartan as “the 85th becomes officially a Highland Battalion.” Training continued into the following month, the soldiers rehearsing a “Brigade attack scheme” that involved “open warfare” with the support of tanks. Clearly, some kind of major action was on the horizon.

The break from the line continued through the month of June, the training schedule pausing to allow personnel to attend a Brigade Sports Day at Ferfay on June 12.  Bob rejoined the 85th before month’s and as training extended into a third month. A Canadian Corps Sports Day was held at Tinques on July 1, in honor of “Dominion Day.” Five days later, the entire battalion participated in a “full dress rehearsal of [the attack] scheme” as training continued into a third month. On July 19, the 85th returned to the forward area and entered Divisional Reserve at Sterling Camp, northeast of Arras.

The unit provided working parties for several nights before entering the Fampoux sector’s front trenches on the night of July 25 for its first tour in almost three months. Within days of its deployment, rumors circulated that “the whole Corps is moving in a few days—in fact has started now. For where—no one knows, but it looks like a big scrap ahead.”

At month’s end, personnel withdrew from the line. Within days, the accuracy of the recent rumors became fact. At mid-day August 2, the 85th boarded a train for an “unknown” destination. After departing, personnel learned that they were heading southward to Hangest-sur-Somme, approximately 25 kilometers northwest of Amiens. Sometime during the day—perhaps while aboard the train—Bob once again penned a short note to his family:

“Just a few lines to let you know that I am back again safe and sound from the front lines but I am sorry to say... I have lost [my] old pal Jimmie [Pte. James Forbes McDonald, regimental number 877646]. He volunteered for a risky piece of work and died facing the enemy like a soldier and a man. He was well liked and was thought quite a lot of by the boys and we all feel this loss very much. Such is the fortune of war…. I am writing to Jimmie’s mother tonight. I know she would like to hear from the boys. Well kids old Fritz is catching Hell just now and don’t think he can stick what he is going to get much longer. Well as it is fearful hot and not having much news of the present will close with the best. Love and Kisses from your loving Husband and Father.


“PS: I should love to have another picture of you all as a year makes a lot of difference.”

While Bob had no idea of what the move to Amiens held for him and his mates, his comments concerning the enemy soon proved uncannily accurate. The Canadian Corps was about to participate in the commencement of a massive Allied counter-offensive, slated to take place east of Amiens within days. Having withstood the German spring offensive, Allied commanders set about planning a response, knowing that the enemy now faced the task of manning a longer front line while grappling with troop shortages and declining morale. The appropriate blow might break the stalemate and bring four years of fighting to an end.

The operation was to take place along a 20 to 30 mile section of the front line east of Amiens and would involve the Canadian Corps, the 3rd British Army Corps, the French 3rd Army and the Australian Corps. The 85th’s 12th Brigade would not participate in the initial assault but was scheduled to follow the 9th Brigade’s advance, leap-frogging through its lines toward a location east of Bayeux Wood.

While the 85th would initially occupy support positions during its Brigade’s advance, its soldiers were assigned the day’s final task—passing through their comrades’ lines and capturing a defensive trench system to the right of the village of Caix and in front of Bayeux Wood. Within the 85th’s ranks, the advance was in turn divided among its Companies, “B” and “C” carrying out the attack’s initial phase, while “A” and “D” would pass through their mates and press onward to the final objective.

In the early hours of August 7, the 85th arrived at the assembly area near Bois de Boves. That evening, personnel moved into their assigned “jumping off” position to the left of Gentelles Wood. At 4:20 a.m. August 8, a massive artillery barrage signalled the commencement of the day’s attack. One hour later, the unit made its way around the southern edge of Gentelles to a second assembly point southwest of Demuin. A thick morning mist prevented German forces from detecting their movement and protected personnel from retaliatory artillery and machine gun fire.

The soldiers arrived at their jumping off positions at 10:00 a.m. and rested while they watched the battle unfold in front of them. Two hours later, the 85th moved out in column formation, following the 38th and 72nd Battalions in the first stage of the 12th Brigade’s advance. Within minutes, the soldiers encountered their first enemy fire of the day—“considerable machine gun fire from the woods.” Upon reaching Bayeux Wood, resistance was so fierce that military commanders altered the plan of attack, placing “A” Company under direct command of the 12th Brigade while the remaining three Companies pressed forward around the southern edge of Caix and passed through the 38th’s lines.

A message received from an observation plane indicated that “the enemy were retiring in disorder,” allowing the three Companies to push onward toward their final objective without significant resistance. By 4:30 p.m., the soldiers had occupied the trenches in front of Bayeux Wood and set about establishing a consolidated line. An attempted German counter-attack launched four hours later “did not reach” the 85th’s positions.

By day’s end, the battalion had advanced a total of 11 miles from its initial starting point, a stunning accomplishment by any measure. German General Erich Ludendorff later described August 8, 1918 as the “black day of the German army.” While the one-day advance would not bring the war to an end, it raised significant questions about the ability of German forces to maintain their positions in the face of a concerted Allied counter-attack.

The 85th held its position throughout the battle’s second day and retired to a valley south of Caix following relief on the night of August 9/10. The next morning, as the second phase of the Amiens operation commenced, the unit’s soldiers moved forward to their assigned “jumping off” position under cover of darkness. At 10:10 a.m. August 10, the 85th advanced toward Rosières, with the support of several tanks. The soldiers captured the village without resistance but encountered heavy machine gun fire as they advanced beyond its boundaries.

Australian units to the 85th’s left—where Bob’s “B” Company had led the advance—failed to keep pace, exposing the flank to withering fire. Personnel found themselves “without cover” and hastily set about establishing a defensive line. While ultimately successful, the unit incurred significant casualties throughout the day. The following morning, its soldiers “stood to” in anticipation of a German counter-attack but none materialized. The situation stabilized when the Australians finally managed to secure the left flank, allowing “B” and “D” Companies to retire to support positions as the 38th Battalion continued the attack.

While the 85th’s soldiers remained in the forward area for another 48 hours, they saw no further combat at Amiens. Upon retiring from the line on August 14, the battalion enjoyed several days’ rest before moving into Divisional Reserve near Rouvroy on August 18. The unit provided working parties for several nights before returning to Caix Wood on August 23. Two days later, personnel relocated to Gentelles Wood, where they rested while the unit reorganized its ranks.

During the evening of August 27, the battalion marched to Longueau Station, near Amiens, and departed by train shortly after midnight. Under cover of darkness, the entire 4th Division made its way northward to the outskirts of Arras. Upon arriving at Marœuil at 1:00 p.m. August 28, the soldiers marched to billets. The following afternoon, the 85th relocated to Monchy-le-Preux and entered accommodations in “old trenches.” Two days later, the soldiers commenced preparations to return to the line for their next combat assignment.

While other Canadian units carried out preliminary attacks east of Arras during the last week of August, the Canadian Corps’ primary objective was the Drocourt - Quéant line, a section of the German Hindenburg defensive system east of Arras. Breaking through this barrier was key to a final victory, and the first stage of the attack—dubbed the “Scarpe Operation,” as its primary target was located on the opposite bank of the Scarpe River—was slated to commence in early September.

The 12th Brigade’s units were among the Canadian battalions selected for the assignment and returned to the forward area on the night of August 31/September 1. The 85th’s soldiers occupied a 500-yard section of the front line immediately behind the planned “jumping off” position. “A” and “D” Companies would lead the advance, their objective being the capture of the Drocourt - Quéant line’s first three trenches. “”B” Company would then pass through their comrades’ lines and seize support positions in the rear, along the edge of Mount Dury. Finally, “D” Company would pass through “B” Company and capture the day’s final objective.

At 4:15 a.m. September 2, the 85th’s soldiers assumed their attack positions, the 10th Brigade’s 47th (British Columbia) on their left while their 38th Battalion Brigade comrades occupied trenches to the right. While eight tanks were scheduled to assist the advance, none reached the area prior to Zero Hour. The soldiers commenced the attack at 5:00 a.m. and immediately encountered heavy resistance: “In passing through the first 300 yards of the advance, the Battalion losses amounted to approximately 50 % of… total casualties throughout the whole action.”

Despite the withering fire, personnel continued on to their first objective, securing the location by 6:15 a.m. “after severe fighting.” The significant casualties incurred in the opening hour required three “first wave” platoons to reinforce the attack on the second objective, which was secured by 7:30 a.m. Having broken through the major portion of the Hindenburg system, the 85th’s soldiers pressed onward toward their final objective.

Once again, personnel encountered severe machine gun fire. In response, “B” Company and available reinforcements advanced in support, targeting German strongpoints and propelling the unit forward to its final goal, an area of high ground near Dury. While the final wave suffered heavy casualties, the unit managed to capture the location by 9:30 a.m.

While its orders required no further advance, the soldiers faced formidable German resistance as they set about consolidating their position. A heavy artillery barrage inflicted considerable casualties, but no German counter-attack materialized. The 85th held the line until mid-day, when 11th Brigade personnel reached its position and the unit’s soldiers retired to Brigade Reserve, located at the morning’s first objective. In the early evening hours, personnel marched out to Divisional Reserve at Vis-en-Artois.

During its Scarpe assignment, the 85th suffered three Officer and 62 OR fatalities, while 10 Officers and 160 OR were wounded. Two more OR remained at duty despite their wounds, while 36 OR were listed as “missing, believed wounded,” for a total of 260 casualties “all ranks”—approximately one-third of the unit’s pre-combat fighting strength.

Private Robert Armstrong Lyons was one of the day’s early fatalities. According to his “circumstances of casualty” card: “During the advance about 7:30 a.m. on 2nd September 1918, he was hit in the head and instantly killed by an enemy machine gun bullet.” The 35-year-old father of four was laid to rest in Dury Mill British Cemetery, 10 miles southeast of Arras, France.
Robert Lyons' headstone, Dury Mill British Cemetery
In the aftermath of her husband’s death, Bob’s widow, Catherine, focused on preserving his memory. Shortly after the war ended, she paid for a stained-glass window that was placed in St Mary’s Anglican Church, Glace Bay, NS. The inscription below a picture of Christ as the Good Shepherd read: “Sacred to the memory of Robert Lyons, who fell in the Great War, Sept. 2nd, 1918. This window was erected by his widow.” Sadly, the window was lost when a 1980s fire destroyed the church.

Catherine also requested the following epitaph on Bob’s Imperial [now Commonwealth] War Graves Commission headstone in Dury Mill Cemetery: “Gone But Not Forgotten—Inserted by his loving wife C. Lyons.” She never re-married, dedicating herself to raising her children and ensuring that they also preserved the memories of a father lost so early in their lives. Catherine Lyons passed away at her Reserve St., Glace Bay home on September 24, 1952, at 64 years of age.
Memorial window & plaque, St. Mary's Church, Glace Bay, NS
The lives of Bob and Catherine’s four children reflected their father’s commitment to service. Mary Rosina “Rosie” (1910 - 2002) received a bursary from the Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire (I.O.D.E.), part of a fund “established… to perpetuate the memory of the men and women who gave their lives in defence of the Empire in the Great War, 1914 - 1918.” Rosie became a teacher and spent several years teaching in Glace Bay and England before her marriage to Archibald MacDonald MacKeigan.

John Angus “Johnnie” (1912 - 1982) was working as an insurance agent in Glace Bay when he married Mary Adelaide Lawley at North Sydney, NS, on October 8, 1938. John served with the Royal Canadian Artillery during the Second World War. His younger brother, Robert William “Bobbie” (1914 - 2009), also received an I.O.D.E. bursary and entered the teaching profession He married Goldye Patricia Williams, a native of Florence, Cape Breton, in a ceremony held at Sydney, NS, on May 24, 1940. Bob also served with the Royal Canadian Navy during the Second World War, rising to the rank of Instructor Lieutenant-Commander. In the years following the war, he served as Principal of Pictou Academy, Pictou, NS, and later became Superintendent of Schools for the Pictou County school system.

Margaret Ann (1915 - 2009)—the youngest child, born shortly before her father’s enlistment—married Douglas Wilson, a Second World War veteran who served with the Canadian Forestry Corps in Scotland.



Service file of Drum Sergeant Robert Lyons, 902533. Library & Archives Canada, Ottawa, ON. Available online.

War diary of the 85th Battalion (Nova Scotia Highlanders). Library & Archives Canada, Ottawa, ON. Available online through LAC’s Enhanced Archives Search web page.

Special thanks to Terry, McCully, Calgary, AB, Drum Sergeant Robert Lyons’ great-grandson, who provided images, transcripts of Robert Lyons’ letters, and background information on the Lyons family.