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Monday, 12 November 2018

Remembering Corporal William Thomas Uloth, MM—Died Accidentally November 12, 1918

William Thomas Uloth was born at Whitehead, Guysborough County, on December 18, 1894, the youngest of Margaret Jane “Maggie” (George) and John Samuel Uloth’s nine children. Sometime prior to the outbreak of war, William relocated to Pictou County, where he found employment as a steelworker.

Corporal William Thomas Uloth, MM
On February 26, 1916, William enlisted with the 106th Battalion (Nova Scotia Rifles) at New Glasgow, NS. He completed his initial training with at Pictou before relocating to the unit’s Truro headquarters several weeks later. The 106th departed from Halifax aboard SS Empress of Britain in mid-July and landed at Liverpool, England, before month’s end.

Shortly after the 106th’s overseas arrival, the Canadian Corps made its way to Albert, France, where it participated in the final two months of the Somme offensive. A pressing need for reinforcements soon resulted in the unit’s dissolution. William was part of large group of 106th soldiers transferred to the 26th Battalion on September 21, 1916. The New Brunswick unit had suffered significant casualties at Courcelette in mid-September. Further losses incurred at Regina Trench before month’s end reduced its fighting strength to “about 200.”

In response, military authorities organized a reinforcement draft of 251 soldiers from the 106th. Private William Uloth was part of a group that joined the 26th’s ranks near Bouzincourt, France, on October 9 and immediately commenced service in the forward area. In late October, the 26th made its way northward to sectors near Lens, France, where its personnel served a regular rotation throughout the winter of 1916-17.

On the morning of April 9, 1917, William and his 26th Battalion mates were part of the first wave of Canadian soldiers who attacked a section of the German’s Vimy Ridge defences known as “Zwischen Stellung.” In less than 30 minutes, the unit secured its objective and held its position as the 25th Battalion (Nova Scotia)—one of its 5th Brigade mates—passed through its lines and continued the attack.

In the months following the Canadian Corps’ capture of Vimy Ridge, the 26th served a regular rotation in nearby sectors. On August 15, 1917, its personnel participated in the Canadian Corps’ successful attack on Hill 70, near Lens, France. The battalion made its way to Ypres, Belgium, in late October 1917, and took part in the final stage of the capture of Passchendaele Ridge on November 6.

In the aftermath of his Passchendaele service, William was promoted to the rank of Corporal. Upon returning to France in mid-November, the 26th served a regular rotation south of Lens throughout the winter of 1917-18. While Canadian units were unaffected by a series of German spring offensives that commenced on March 21, 1918, their soldiers “stood to” in anticipation of an impending attack and maintained extreme vigilance throughout subsequent tours.

Routine rotations continued until late June, when the 26th and its 5th Brigade comrades retired to General Headquarters Reserve Camp at Grand-Rullecourt for a period of rest and training. For the first time since arriving overseas, health issues interrupted William’s service. Diagnosed with “disordered action of the heart” on July 5, he spent the remainder of the month at several field ambulances and was finally evacuated to hospital at Camiers, France, at month’s end.

William spent three weeks at No. 20 General Hospital before he was discharged to a convalescent depot at Étaples in late August. He was deemed “fit for duty” in mid-September and rejoined the 26th in the forward area on September 20, 1918. During William’s absence, the battalion participated in the opening stage of a major Allied counter-offensive at Amiens in early August, followed by an attack on the German Hindenburg Line east of Arras in early September.

On the evening of September 25, the 26th withdrew from the line after a particularly bloody tour in trenches near Inchy-en-Artois. Following several days’ rest, the unit entered support positions northwest of Cambrai in early October and prepared for its next assignment. On the evening of October 8, William and his mates returned to the forward area. The following morning, 5th Brigade’s 22nd and 25th Battalions launched an attack on the village of Escaudoeuvres, while the 26th followed in support.

Late in the day, the 26th’s soldiers passed through their Brigade comrades’ lines and advanced toward the village of Naves. When enemy machine gun fire halted their progress, the unit consolidated its position and settled in for the night. On the morning of October 10, 4th Brigade units passed through the 26th’s lines and continued the attack. After spending five days in support positions, the battalion retired to an area east of Marquion, where personnel established camp.

While his comrades commenced training, William departed for temporary duty at 5th Brigade Headquarters. Two weeks later, he rejoined the 26th at Aniche, west of Valenciennes, France, as HRH Edward, Prince of Wales, observed its soldiers training. During the first days of November, the battalion marched toward the Belgian frontier in the wake of attacking Canadian units, arriving at Quiévrechain, France, on November 7.

The following morning, the 26th advanced in support as the 22nd and 25th Battalions—two of its 5th Brigade mates—crossed the Belgian border and captured the villages of Élouges and Dour. On November 9, 4th Brigade units passed through the 5th Brigade’s lines and continued the advance toward the city of Mons. Meanwhile, the 26th withdrew to billets at nearby Wasmes, where the remainder of the 5th Brigade later joined them.

On the morning of November 11, 1918, orders to “move forward to a village near Mons” were cancelled, “as an armistice would be signed at 1100 hours. There was great rejoicing in the village…. Lots of wine and cigars for everyone.” Later that day, William received a 14-day leave and immediately departed for England.

In the ensuing weeks, the 26th made its way toward the German border as part of the “Army of Occupation” accepted by Germany under the terms of the Armistice. Two weeks later, William failed to return to duty, an entry on his service record stating: “Not yet rejoined Battalion.” For several weeks, his whereabouts remained a mystery. Finally, on January 17, 1919, military authorities held a Court of Inquiry into his disappearance.

Private John Rafferty, one of William’s 26th comrades, had accompanied him on leave. Following his return to France, a brief illness delayed John’s return to the battalion. When he finally rejoined its ranks, John was able to shed light on William’s possible whereabouts.

The pair had arrived at Arras around mid-day November 12 and “entered an estimanet [a French café that sold alcoholic drinks],” where they remained until the establishment closed. As the soldiers attempted to return to their billets, they became lost and unwittingly encountered a local canal. The soldiers fell into the water, John stated that William called out his name in the darkness as the pair thrashed about.

John had no recollection as to how he managed to get out of the canal, but remembered stumbling into a nearby shack, where two “Military Linesmen” gave him some fuel and led him to a nearby shack. He spent several hours warming himself and resting before finding his way back to his billet. When he awoke the next morning, William’s gear was “where he had left it on the floor.” Assuming that he would return for it later in the day, John departed for the train station and continued his journey to England.

Based on John’s testimony, the Court of Inquiry concluded that “Corps. Uloth W. T. is missing and it is believed that he was drowned at Arras.” William’s service file contains no details as to how or when his remains were located. The information provided by Pte. Rafferty, however, may have helped officials identify a body recovered from the canal. Whatever the details, a headstone in Faubourg d’Amiens Cemetery, Arras, bears William’s name and lists his date of death as November 12, 1918.

Subsequent to his passing, Corporal William Thomas Uloth was awarded the Military Medal for bravery in the field. Unfortunately, neither the April 3, 1919 London Gazette issue in which the award was announced nor William’s service file contain the details of the actions that merited such a distinguished honour.

William’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, 10 November 2018

Remembering 2nd Lt. Alexander William McHardy—KIA November 10, 1918

Alexander William McHardy was born at McLellan’s Mountain, Pictou County, on June 3, 1894, the oldest of Alexander Campbell and Isabella (Fraser) McHardy’s six children. Billy, as he was known during his childhood years, was raised on a prosperous farm on the outskirts of New Glasgow. According to family sources, he was employed as a teacher in nearby Guysborough County prior to his military service.

2nd Lt. William Alexander "Bill" McHardy
Like many of his generation, as the war progressed, Bill felt it his duty to serve. Unlike many of his peers, however, he chose a different path, enlisting with the fledgling Canadian Aviation Corps in 1917 and completing his cadet training at Fort Worth, Texas. He received his wings on April 18, 1918 and a commission as Second Lieutenant with the Royal Air Force one week later.

As fighting on the ground intensified during the German Spring Offensive (March - April 1918) and subsequent Allied summer counter-offensive, air combat followed suit. Following his overseas arrival, Bill was posted to No. 2 Fighter Squadron on August 7, 1918, and commenced service as a Bristol fighter pilot in northeastern France. One month later, he was transferred to No. 154 Fighter Squadron, but following its dissolution was subsequently re-assigned to No. 20 Fighter Squadron on September 18.

Needless to say, service as a First World War fighter pilot was extremely perilous. On October 6, Bill was officially reported “missing” following a routine mission. His parents in distant Pictou County soon received a telegram, informing them of the situation. Thankfully, several days later, a second cable confirmed that Bill had safely returned to his squadron. According to a later news item in the Eastern Chronicle, Bill explained in a letter to his parents: “While in an air flight his engine went bad and he had to descend at a great distance from his headquarters and the trying cable had been dispatched to the father before he was able to report to his own command.”

The relief at Bill’s safe return was short-lived. On November 10, 1918, Bill departed from Iris Aerodrome, near present-day Clary, France, at mid-morning, in the company of seven other Bristol aircraft. In the observer seat with Bill was 2nd Lieutenant Alexander Rodger, a native of Edinburgh, Scotland, who had commenced his service in France barely one month previously. Their mission was to support a group of De Havilland D.H. 9 bombers as they executed a “bombing run” near the city of Charleroi, Belgium.

As the planes made their way toward their target, they encountered a large formation of German Fokker DVII aircraft from Justa 50 Squadron. Approximately 35 miles northeast of Froidchapelle, the aircraft engaged in a “dogfight.” While four of the German Fokkers were destroyed, the RAF lost two Bristol fighters and five De Havillands during the skirmish. According to German records, 2nd Lieutenant Alexander William McHardy’s aircraft fell victim to Lt. Commander Hans von Freden’s Fokker at approximately 11:35 a.m.

Gaston Descartes, a five-year-old resident of Martinsart at the time. later recalled that Bill’s plane crashed in a field approximately one kilometre from his home, becoming  Freden’s 20th and final victory of the First World War. Unverified sources claim that 2nd Lieutenant McHardy and his observer, Lt. Rodger, were the last Royal Air Force crew lost during the First World War.

For more than a week, Bill’s fate remained a mystery. Finally, on November 19, 1918, a military official wrote the following note on his RAF file: “In view of… lapse of time, death has been accepted as having occurred in action on or since 10 - 11 - 18.” Military authorities subsequently located the crash site and recovered the crew’s remains. 2nd Lt. Alexander William McHardy and 2nd Lt. Alexander Rodger were laid to rest in Tournai Communal Cemetery Allied Extension, Tourney, Hainaut, Belgium.

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Remembering Private Percy Feltmate—KIA November 7, 1918

Percy Feltmate was born at Hazel Hill, Guysborough County, on September 20, 1893. His parents’ names remain a mystery to genealogical researchers familiar with the Feltmate family tree. Adam and Mary Alice (Rhynold) Feltmate adopted Percy at an early age. The couple also raised a second adopted boy and three children of their own in their Hazel Hill home.
Private Percy Feltmate
On December 1, 1915, Percy enlisted with the 94th Victoria Regiment (Argyll Highlanders), a Cape Breton-based militia unit whose soldiers guarded several strategic locations in the Canso area throughout the First World War. Within months, an opportunity to serve overseas presented itself when recruiters for the 193rd Battalion visited the small fishing community. Percy attested with the unit on April 1, 1916 and departed for Camp Aldershot with other local volunteers in late May 1916.

The 193rd was one of four battalions that formed the Nova Scotia Highland Brigade. The 85th (Nova Scotia Highlanders), 185th (Cape Breton Highlanders) and 219th Battalions completed the Brigade’s ranks. The four units departed for England on October 12, 1916. Their overseas arrival coincided with the Canadian Corps’ service during the Battle of the Somme. The high number of casualties incurred at Courcelette (September 1916) and Regina Trench (October 1916) created a pressing need for reinforcements and resulted in the dissolution of two of the Brigade’s units—the 193rd and 219th Battalions—before year’s end.

On December 29, 1916, Percy was transferred to the 185th Battalion, one of two Brigade battalions to avoid dissolution. He spent several months with the unit before receiving a transfer to the 25th Battalion (Nova Scotia Rifles) on May 27, 1917. Percy immediately crossed the English Channel to France and joined his new unit in the forward area in mid-June.

Throughout the summer and autumn of 1917, Percy served a regular rotation in the line with the 25th. The battalion participated in the Canadian Corps’ successful August 15, 1917 attack on Hill 70, near Lens, France, and occupied support positions during the final stage of the Corps’ successful capture of Passchendaele Ridge, Belgium, in early November 1917.

The 25th spent the winter of 1917-18 in sectors near Lens, France, and was unaffected by a series of German spring offensives that commenced in late March 1918. Following a month-long, early summer break from the line, the 25th travelled southward to the outskirts of Amiens in late July and prepared for its role in an imminent Allied counter-offensive.

On the morning of August 8, 1918, the 25th occupied support positions while its 5th Brigade mates participated in the second stage of an attack on German positions east of Amiens. The following day, its soldiers continued the attack, securing the villages of Vrély and Méharicourt before days’ end. The battalion remained in the line until mid-month before retiring to a nearby camp. While Percy enjoyed a welcome two-week leave to the United Kingdom, his comrades returned to the Arras area, where they participated in an August 26 attack on German positions east of the town.

Percy rejoined the unit on September 2 and trained alongside his mates for several days before returning to the trenches at mid-month. While no major combat occurred during a tour near Inchy-en-Artois, both sides wrestled for control of No Man’s Land, with almost daily skirmishes resulting in daily casualties. While the 25th retired from the line on September 26, it assumed positions near the recently captured Canal du Nord two days later.

After spending a week and a half in support positions near Sailly, the unit participated in a successful attack on Canal de l’Escaut, north of the city of Cambrai, on October 9. Personnel remained in the line for five days before withdrawing to billets at nearby Tilloy. In subsequent weeks, the 25th’s 5th Brigade advanced northeastward toward the Belgian border, following in the wake of attacking Canadian Corps units.

On the night of November 6/7, Percy and his comrades returned to the front line near Rombies-et-Marchipoint, France. The following day, the 25th crossed the frontier into Belgium and advanced through the villages of Baisieux and Élouges. At day’s end, the unit’s war diary reported eight Officers wounded, 10 “other ranks” (OR) killed and 41 OR wounded.

While Percy had managed to escape injury during the first two months of the Allied counter-offensive, he was among the 25th’s November 7 fatalities. According to his “circumstances of casualty” card: “ During an attack on Élouges, he was shot through the head by an enemy sniper’s bullet and instantly killed.” Private Percy Feltmate was laid to rest in Élouges Communal Cemetery, Belgium.

Percy’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 .