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Tuesday, 25 December 2018

Remembering Private Martin Joseph Fogarty—Died of Sickness December 25, 1918

Martin Joseph Fogerty was born at Fox Island, Guysborough County, in November 1901, the seventh of Joseph and Catherine (Daley) Fogarty’s nine children and the youngest of their three sons. Joseph died of tuberculosis on November 21, 1907, leaving Catherine to care for several dependent children. Fortunately, her parents, Michael and Ann Daley, resided nearby and provided assistance. Tragically, Catherine also fell ill with tuberculosis during the winter of 1915-16 and passed away on April 4, 1916. Following her death, Michael and Ann took the four youngest Fogarty children into their home.

During the First World War, soldiers were a common sight in the Canso area. Two militia regiments—78th (Pictou Highlanders) and 94th Victoria (Argyll Highlanders)—established detachments in the town and guarded several local strategic locations. Their presence caught the attention of Canso’s young men, particularly those who were not yet old enough to enlist for overseas service.

The two elder Fogarty brothers—Ambrose and Vincent—joined the 94th’s ranks in October 1917. Two months later, their younger brother, Martin—one month shy of his 16th birthday—joined them in uniform. The trio served in the Canso area until late June 1918, at which time they attested for overseas service. While they were assigned to the 6th Battalion, Canadian Garrison Regiment shortly afterward, the brothers remained in the Canso area for the time being.

Within weeks of his attestation, Vincent fell ill and was diagnosed with pulmonary tuberculosis. Discharged as medically unfit in mid-September, he was admitted to the Nova Scotia Sanatorium, Kentville, before month’s end. Meanwhile, Ambrose and Martin continued their military service. In mid-December, the brothers were transferred to “F” Company, 6th Battalion, Canadian Garrison Regiment, and made their way to Halifax for duty.

Within days of arriving in the city, Martin became sick and was admitted to Cogswell St. Military Hospital on December 22 for treatment of influenza and pneumonia. Medical records stated that Martin was “almost unconscious” at the time of his admission and was immediately “placed on [the] danger list on sight.”

Diagnosed with bronchopneumonia, Martin’s health rapidly declined. Private Martin Joseph Fogarty died in hospital on December 25, 1918. His remains were transported to Canso, where Martin was laid to rest in Star of the Sea Roman Catholic Cemetery.  One month after Martin’s passing, Ambrose became ill and was admitted to hospital with influenza. While he remained under medical care for almost three months, Ambrose gradually recovered and was discharged from hospital in mid-April 1919.

Martin’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 December 2018

Remembering Private Lester Dean Hodgson—Died of Sickness December 23, 1918

Lester Dean Hodgson was born at Goldboro, Guysborough County, on August 28, 1896, the youngest of Hiram and Elizabeth (Reynolds) Hodgson’s four children. Lester’s older sister, Stella, married Otho Lee “Arthur” Charles, a native of Stowe, ME, at Goldboro on October 3, 1911. The newlyweds established residence at Ipswich, MA.

Four years later, Hiram and Elizabeth parted ways. While Hiram remained in Nova Scotia, Elizabeth and her two youngest children, James Carlyle and Lester, relocated to South Hamilton, MA, close to Arthur and Stella’s home. While the young men quickly found work in their new community, the war raging overseas soon disrupted their civilian lives.

Following the United States’ April 6, 1917 declaration of war on Germany, the American government introduced compulsory military service. On June 5, 1917, James registered for the draft at Wenham, MA. As a British subject, however, he chose to serve with the Royal Navy’s Inland Waterways & Docks Corps (Transportation Branch),formally joining the Corps at Sandwich, MA, on February 21, 1918.

One year later, Lester registered for the draft at Beverly, MA, on June 5, 1918, As with his brother, he exercised his right to serve with a British Imperial unit. After completing the required documents and medical examination, Lester enlisted with the Canadian Expeditionary Force at Boston, MA, on October 14, 1918 and departed for Canada.

One week later, Lester arrived at Halifax and proceeded to Camp Aldershot, near Kentville, NS, where he commenced training with the 1st Depot Battalion, Nova Scotia Regiment. As the war in Europe was entering its final stages, the prospects for overseas service were slim. Following the November 11 Armistice, many of the Camp Aldershot soldiers were dispersed to other units.

On December 3, Lester was assigned to the 6th Battalion, Canadian Garrison Regiment, Halifax. Within days of his transfer, he fell ill and was admitted to Cogswell St. Military Hospital, Halifax, on December 12, suffering from a combination of influenza and pneumonia. While his temperature and heart rate were initially quite elevated, Lester’s condition improved by mid-month. Within several days, however, his symptoms returned and by December 21 staff reported the first instance of “delirium.”

On the morning of December 23, 1918, medical notes initially described Lester’s circumstances as “somewhat better.” By early afternoon, however, his condition worsened rapidly and he passed away shortly after 3:20 p.m. Private Lester Dean Hodgson’s remains were transported to Goldboro, where he was laid to rest in Bay View Cemetery.

Pte. Lester Hodgson's headstone, Bay View Cemetery, Goldboro, NS

Lester’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, 15 December 2018

Remembering Private John J. Rabbie—Died of Sickness December 15, 1918

John J. Rabbie was born at Hazel Hill, Guysborough County, on September 18, 1899, the second of George and Elizabeth “Lizzy” (Barrie) Rabbie’s six children and the eldest of their four sons. John spent his adolescent years in a community where the presence of soldiers was a daily occurrence. Throughout the First World War, personnel from the 94th Victoria Regiment (Argyll Highlanders) and 78th Regiment (Pictou Highlanders) guarded strategic locations in and around Canso.

Perhaps inspired by their daily activities, John enlisted with the 94th Victoria Regiment during the summer of 1917. After 11 month’s service in the Canso area, he attested with the Canadian Expeditionary Force at Canso on June 29, 1918. Shortly afterward, John made his way to Halifax, where he was assigned to “F” Company, 6th Battalion, Canadian Garrison Regiment. He was less than three months shy of his 19th birthday at the time.

Under the terms of his attestation, John’s military service would continue for six months after the signing of the November 11, 1918 Armistice. As autumn gave way to winter, the damp, crowded conditions at the Halifax barracks became a breeding ground for sickness. The situation was further complicated by the rapid spread of the deadly “Spanish flu,” carried to ports around the world by vessels arriving from Europe.

On November 30, John was admitted to the Cogswell St. Military Hospital with influenza and a suspected case of pleurisy. Medical records indicate that his body temperature was 101.6 degrees Fahrenheit (38.7 Celsius) and his heart beat an alarming 127 beats per minute at the time of his admission.

During the ensuing days, John’s condition did not improve. A December 10 laboratory report indicated the presence of streptococcal bacteria in his lungs. Three days later, a note in his medical file stated: “Patient very toxic, rapid pulse, feeble breathing.”

Pte. John J. Rabbie's headstone, Mount Olivet Cemetery, Halifax, NS
While John showed slight improvement the following day, his condition worsened dramatically on the morning of December 15 and he passed away at 1:00 p.m. that afternoon. Private John J. Rabbie was laid to rest in Mount Olivet Cemetery, Mumford Road, Halifax, NS. John was 19 years and three months old at the time of his passing.

John’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 .

Thursday, 13 December 2018

Remembering Private James Walter Sullivan, MM—Canso, Nova Scotia's First CEF Enlistment

James Walter Sullivan was born at Canso, Guysborough County, on December 23, 1883, the seventh of David and Mary (Sutherland) Sullivan’s eight children and the sixth of their seven sons. As with many young men in his community, James went to work in the local fishery at an early age. On July 24, 1903, 19-year-old James married 26-year-old Mary Elizabeth “Minnie” Meagher, also a native of Canso. The couple soon welcomed their first children—twin daughters Mary Irene and Nora Kathleen—followed by a son, James Edmund.

A little more than a decade after their marriage, the outbreak of the war in Europe disrupted the Sullivan’s family life. A post-war news item in the Canso Breeze later stated that James, though married with a family to support, “… [felt] it his duty to offer his services, notwithstanding the fact that he would be obliged to leave his wife in delicate [circumstances] with three young children.” In early November 1914, he travelled to Halifax, NS, where “ he… enlisted with his wife’s consent and went overseas.”

On November 18, 1914, James officially enlisted with the 25th Battalion (Nova Scotia Rifles), the first volunteer unit recruited within the province. Authorized on November 4, 1914, the 25th established offices in major towns and cities from Sydney to Yarmouth. James was almost 31 years of age—considerably older than the average recruit—at the time of his enlistment.

Pay records indicate that James’ military service actually commenced two days after the unit’s authorization. His attestation papers also state that he had served with an “active militia” unit at Canso, but provided no further details. In fact, James was the first Canso area resident to enlist for overseas service during the First World War.

May 20, 1915: The 22nd & 25th Battalions depart Halifax
On May 20, 1915, the 25th Battalion departed Halifax aboard SS Saxonia and arrived in England nine days later. James spent the summer months training at East Sandling Camp, near Folkestone, UK. During that time, the 25th was assigned to the 2nd Canadian Division’s 5th Brigade, where it served alongside the 22nd (Quebec’s “Vandoos), 24th (Victoria Rifles of Canada, Montreal) and 26th (New Brunswick) Battalions.

The 25th crossed the English Channel to France on September 15, 1915, and made its way northward to Belgium with the 2nd Division. Before month’s end, its soldiers commenced regular rotations in the treacherous Ypres Salient. While James’ first months in the line passed without incident, the possibility of death or injury was omnipresent.

On January 13, 1916, the 25th was deployed in Belgian trenches when German artillery fire targeted its sector. Four “other ranks” were killed and five others wounded during the bombardment. James was one of the casualties, admitted to field ambulance for treatment of a shrapnel wound to his face. The following day, he was transferred to No. 8 British Red Cross Hospital, Paris Plage, France. Fortunately, his injuries proved to be minor and James was discharged to a nearby convalescent camp one week later.

Before month’s end, James was released from medical care and reported to a nearby Canadian Base Depot. On February 3, he rejoined his 25th Battalion mates in Belgium. James’ service continued without further incident throughout the spring and early summer months. In mid-June, he received an eight-day pass to the United Kingdom. As his leave was coming to an end, James was admitted to Queen Alexandra’s Military Hospital, London, for treatment of haemorrhoids. Medical records indicate that this condition developed during the winter of 1915-16 and persisted as the months passed.

James subsequently underwent surgery and spent three weeks recovering. On July 13, he was transferred to the Canadian Convalescent Hospital, Woodcote Park, Epsom, where he remained for the duration of the summer. James was discharged from hospital on September 29 and immediately reported for duty. Five days later, James joined the ranks of the 40th Reserve Battalion.

James’ time in reserve was brief. On November 20, he was transferred to the 25th Battalion and returned to France. Temporarily assigned to the 2nd Entrenching Battalion for the month of December, he rejoined the 25th’s ranks on January 6, 1917. At the time of James’ return, the unit was deployed in trenches near Angres, France.

During James’ absence, the 25th had relocated to Somme region of France in early September 1916 and participated in the Canadian Corps’ attacks on the village of Courcelette (September 15, 1916) and Thiepval Ridge (October 1916). In early November, the 25th moved northward to sectors near Arras, where its soldiers served throughout the winter of 1916-17. As winter gave way to spring, the unit prepared for its role in the Canadian Corps’ impending attack on Vimy Ridge.

On the morning of April 9, 1917, the 25th occupied support positions while its 24th and 26th Battalion comrades launched the first stage of the 5th Brigade’s plan of attack—an assault on Zwischen Stellung, a German defensive line along the ridge. After their mates secured the location, the 25th’s soldiers passed through their lines and advanced toward Turko Graben, a second German defensive position near the village of Thélus. Once the Nova Scotians had captured their target, two British battalions completed the day’s advance, pushing German soldiers down the ridge’s eastern slopes and reaching the outskirts of Vimy village.

James’ performance in his first major battle earned him the Military Medal for “bravery in the field.” His medal citation described his actions in detail:

“For conspicuous gallantry and ability during the attack on Vimy Ridge [on] April 9, 1917. As a battalion scout, he was of very great assistance in maintaining proper direction. He bombed parties of the enemy in shell holes, captured single-handed a number of prisoners…[,] directed sections of his battalion against machine gun and bombing posts[,] and disposed of enemy snipers. His absolute disregard for danger, his energy…[,] resources and devotion to duty were exceptional.”

Following the capture of Vimy Ridge, the Canadian Corps served in sectors near Lens, France, throughout the spring and summer of 1917. On August 15, the 25th participated in the Corps’ successful attack on Hill 70, near Lens. In early November, its personnel returned to Belgium and occupied support positions during the final stage of the Corps’ attack on Passchendaele Ridge. In the early evening of November 7—the day following the capture of the ridge’s last sections—the 25th entered front line positions, where its soldiers remained for 24 hours, enduring a fierce German bombardment before retiring from the line.

While his comrades made their way back to France, James received two weeks’ leave to the UK on November 12. Once again, he fell ill shortly as his leave came to an end. On November 27, James was admitted to Camp Bramshott Hospital for treatment of laryngitis. He remained under medical care until mid-January 1918, at which time he reported to 2nd Canadian Corps Depot, Bramshott. One month later, James was assigned to the 17th Reserve Battalion, the unit that provided reinforcements for the 25th and 85th Battalions.

While James may have anticipated rejoining his 25th Battalion comrades, a transfer to the front never materialized. In mid-August, he qualified as a 2nd Class Signaller, but perhaps due to his age did not return to France. On December 7, 1918—less than one month after the Armistice that brought combat to an end—James departed England aboard SS Olympic and arrived at Halifax six days later. A December 28, 1918 news item in the Canso Breeze described his homecoming:

“Word quickly spread over Canso that James Sullivan, Canso’s first soldier to enlist, had landed at Halifax from the steamer “Olympic” on 13th instant. While he was expected to return to Canso on Monday, [December] 16th, he did not arrive until Tuesday afternoon. A very large concourse of people waited at Whitman’s wharf for the arrival of the Robert G. Cann from Mulgrave and gave Mr. Sullivan a hearty welcome.”

While James’ return was a justifiably happy occasion, a significant number of the Canso area’s soldiers—29 in total—did not survive the war. Among the fatalities was James’ younger brother, Thomas, who was killed in action at Passchendaele, Belgium, on October 30, 1917, while serving with the 85th Battalion.

On January 18, 1919, Private James Sullivan, MM, was formally discharged from military service and returned to civilian life. He resumed his former occupation, finding work aboard the trawlers that fished along the Nova Scotian coast. For almost two years, life proceeded without incident for the Sullivan family. James’ trip to Sydney, NS, aboard a French fishing vessel in mid-September 1920, however, changed their lives forever.

On September 23, 1920, the Sydney Post printed a short news item with the heading “Seaman in Serious State.” Its content described an unfortunate incident that occurred at a local dock:

“The seaman Joseph [sic—James] Sullivan, of the French trawler Rayondor who met severe injuries by falling over the coal pier on Tuesday night [September 21] is reported by the hospital authorities to be regaining consciousness but his condition is still precarious and it is not yet known whether he will recover. Sullivan with two other sailors was standing at the edge of the pier at a distance 25 feet above the water when he missed his footing and fell. On the way down he struck a beam and was rendered [unconscious,] reaching the water in this condition. He was fished out by his companions and was taken in the ambulance to the city hospital.”

The following day—September 24, 1920—James Walter Sullivan succumbed to his injuries. His death certificate identified the cause of death as “fracture of spine.” James’ remains were transported to Canso, where he was laid to rest in Star of the Sea Roman Catholic Cemetery.