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Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Remembering Private John Rood Dickson—Died of Sickness February 26, 1919

John Rood Dickson was born at Sonora, Guysborough County, on December 7, 1891, the youngest of Druscilla (Hewitt) and John Dickson’s 10 children. Born into a family with a seafaring tradition, young John found employment on the SS Strathlorne, a coastal steamer that operated out of Halifax, NS and travelled along the Halifax and Guysborough County coastline.

John Rood Dickson, SS Strathlorne
Following the outbreak of war in Europe, the capital city and its port bustled with military activity. It was not long before John was enticed into uniform, enlisting with the 64th Battalion (Maritime Provinces) at Sussex, NB, on August 20, 1915. The unit crossed the North Atlantic in early April 1916 but was disbanded within three months of setting foot in England. Prior to its dissolution, its ranks provided several reinforcement drafts for units in the field.

On June 28, 1916, John was part of a group of soldiers assigned to the 25th Battalion (Nova Scotia Rifles). He immediately crossed the English Channel and reported to the 25th’s camp at Heksken, Belgium, one month later. In early September 1916, the new arrivals travelled to the Somme region of France with their new unit and participated in the Canadian Corps’ successful September 15, 1916 attack on the village of Courcelette.

The following day, German artillery heavily shelled the 25th’s position. During the bombardment, John suffered shrapnel wounds to his chin and back, and was evacuated for medical treatment. The injuries proved minor and John rejoined the 25th’s ranks early the following month. He served with the unit in sectors near Vimy Ridge, France, throughout the winter of 1916-17 and participated in the Canadian Corps’ successful April 9, 1917 attack on Vimy Ridge.

In subsequent months, John saw combat at Hill 70, near Lens, in mid-August 1917. Hospitalized for treatment of an infection in late September 1917, he remained under medical care for two months, thus missing the 25th’s combat tour at Passchendaele, Belgium. Following his discharge from hospital, John remained at the Canadian Corps Reinforcement Centre for several months before finally returning to the 25th’s ranks near Amiens, France, on August 15, 1918.

At the time of John’s return, his 25th comrades were still “in the line,” having recently participated in a major Allied counter-attack on the German line east of Amiens. The battle marked the beginning of Canada’s “100 Days,” a series of engagements that were part of a larger Allied offensive that led to the cessation of hostilities. Before month’s end, the 25th participated in a second attack east of Arras, France.

Following a brief period of rest and training, the 25th completed a series of challenging tours near Inchy-en-Artois during the third week of September. While the unit did not participate in the Canadian Corps’ attack on Canal du Nord, west of Cambrai, in late September, its soldiers followed retreating German forces northward toward the Belgian frontier during the subsequent weeks.

On the afternoon of November 6, 1918, John and his mates returned to front line duty and led an advance across the Belgian frontier on the following day. The action proved to be the 25th’s last combat assignment of the war as the November 11, 1918 Armistice brought fighting to an end. One week later, the unit set out on foot for Bonn, Germany, as part of the “army of occupation” accepted by Germany as part of the ceasefire’s terms.

The 25th’s soldiers crossed the German border on December 3, 1918, and eight days later reached their destination. The unit remained in quarters at Bonn until January 22, 1919, at which time personnel boarded a train and departed for Belgium. The following day, its personnel entered billets at Auvelais, east of Charleroi, Belgium.

On February 3, 1919, John reported to No. 20 Casualty Clearing Station, Charleroi, for treatment of bronchial pneumonia. While initially reported as “dangerously ill,” John appeared to recover after a week under care. By February 20, however, his condition worsened and his name was once again placed on the “dangerously ill” list.

Private John Rood Dickson lingered for six days before passing away from bronchial pneumonia on February 26, 1919. He was laid to rest in Charleroi Communal Cemetery, Charleroi, Belgium. 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 .

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Remembering Sgt. Perry Judson Giffen—Died of Sickness February 19, 1937

Perry Judson Giffen was born at Goldboro, Guysborough County, on June 21, 1895, the sixth of Theodosia (Bezanson) and Obed Chute Giffen’s seven sons. Sometime before 1911, the family relocated to Halifax, where Perry attended Halifax Grammar School and Halifax County Academy. During his time at the two institutions, he developed an interest in journalism and also served with the Halifax Academy Corps, a cadet militia unit.

Sgt. Perry Judson Giffen
On March 14, 1916, Perry enlisted with the 219th Battalion at Halifax, NS. One of four infantry units that constituted the Nova Scotia Highland Brigade, the 219th spent the summer months at Camp Aldershot, training alongside its three Brigade mates—the 85th (Nova Scotia Highlanders), 185th (Cape Breton Highlanders) and 193rd Battalions. On August 4, Perry was promoted to the rank of Sergeant.

The Highland Brigade departed for England on October 12, 1916, and arrived at Liverpool, England, six days later. Significant casualties incurred during the Canadian Corps’ autumn 1916 service at the Somme resulted in military authorities dissolving two Brigade units—the 193rd and 219th Battalions—before year’s end. As a result, Perry was transferred to the 26th Battalion (New Brunswick) on January 13, 1917.

The following day, Perry crossed the English Channel to France and joined the 26th’s ranks near Bully Grenay, France, several days later. On the morning of April 9, 1917, the 26th participated in the initial stage of the Canadian Corps’ attack on Vimy Ridge, securing its objectives within 30 minutes. The 25th Battalion (Nova Scotia Rifles)—one of the unit’s 5th Brigade mates—passed through its lines shortly afterward and successfully capturing the day’s final objective, a German position known as “Turko Graben.”

The 26th reported light casualties during the assault and served regular rotations in sectors near Lens throughout the spring and early summer of 1917. At 4:25 a.m. August 15, 1917, the battalion advanced in support positions during the opening stage of the Canadian Corps’ attack on Hill 70, near Lens. Later in the morning, its soldiers passed through their Brigade comrades’ lines and pressed onward toward Norman Trench, the day’s final objective.

While the unit successfully secured the position, it endured considerable enemy fire during the advance and repelled three German counter-attacks before day’s end. Personnel remained in the line until the night of August 16/17, its Hill 70 casualties significant enough to require Officers to reorganize its Companies into three platoons, rather than the conventional four, “until reinforcements arrive.”

Sgt. Perry Giffen was one of the first day’s casualties, a piece of shrapnel from an artillery shell striking the front of his right shoulder and exiting below his scapula [shoulder blade]. He remained on the battlefield for almost two days as artillery fire and German counter-attacks made it impossible for stretcher bearers fo evacuate the wounded. On August 19, Percy was finally admitted to No. 23 Casualty Clearing Station, where staff cleaned and dressed his wound. He was then evacuated by ambulance train to No. 4 General Hospital, Camiers, France.

A subsequent medical examination determined that Perry had suffered a compound fracture at the head of his humerus [upper arm bone] and scapula. After two surgeries and a lengthy recovery period, Perry was invalided to England in late September and admitted to 2nd General Hospital, Moston, Manchester. Following Perry’s transfer to the Canadian Convalescent Home, Bearwood Park, Wokingham, on November 23, staff began a rigorous program of physical therapy designed to restore his shoulder, arm and hand movement.

As his injuries eliminated any possibility of returning to France, Perry was transferred to No. 5 Canadian General Hospital, Kirkdale, Liverpool, in early February 1918, the first step on the journey home. During his time under medical care, Perry met Kathleen Mailing, a native of Oxford, England. On March 2, military authorities granted Perry “permission to marry” and the couple were wed shortly afterward. Before month’s end, Perry departed from Liverpool, England, aboard HS Llandovery Castle and arrived at Halifax, NS, on April 9. His bride followed him to Canada shortly afterward.

Assigned to the Hospital Section upon disembarking, Perry underwent surgery to remove a fragment of “necrosed bone” from the head of his humerus in early June. While physiotherapy restored his wrist movement, he had limited shoulder and elbow movement, and the “grasp of [his] rt. hand [was] reduced [by] one half.” As the effects of his war injury were deemed “permanent,” a Medical Board recommended Perry’s discharge as “medically unfit.”

On October 5, 1918, Perry was officially discharged from military service at Halifax. His time in uniform, however, was not over. Perry immediately enlisted with the Royal Canadian Navy’s Intelligence Staff and served with its Halifax office until late May 1919, at which time he was admitted to local hospital with appendicitis. Following surgery and recovery, Perry was discharged from the Navy on June 25, 1919.

Upon returning to civilian life, Perry briefly worked as a “confectioner” before joining the staff of the Halifax Herald. He and Kathleen welcomed their first child—Perry James—in 1920. A daughter, Betty, joined the family several years later. While Perry initially worked as a journalist, he soon moved into the newspaper’s advertising department, where he found “his life’s work.” He quickly rose to the position of advertising manager and assistant business manager with the Herald.

Employment opportunities subsequently took Perry and his family to Hamilton and Toronto. In 1928, he joined the Southam News organization and accepted a position as business manager of the Edmonton Journal. The following year, Perry was elected one of Southam’s directors. The Giffens returned to Ontario in 1935, when Perry accepted a position as managing editor of the Peterborough Examiner. The following summer, he found time to return to Nova Scotia to visit family.

While his war wound limited his right arm’s mobility and caused occasional discomfort, no major problems occurred until several months after the family relocated to Peterborough. Hospitalized for two months for treatment of an infection in his wounded shoulder, Perry appeared to make a complete recovery. In early February 1937, however, he once again fell ill and was admitted to Nicholls Hospital, Peterborough, on February 12.

By that time, Perry had developed “caries”—significant bone decay—in his right shoulder, a condition that produced multiple abscesses and resulted in septicaemia. Six days after his admission, doctors performed surgery, removing large pockets of pus at both the shoulder and elbow joints. Despite the surgical intervention, Sgt. Perry Judson Giffen died in hospital from complications attributed to his First World War injury on February 19, 1937. He was laid to rest in Little Lake Cemetery, Peterborough, ON.

Military authorities subsequently confirmed that Perry’s death was “due to military service” and approved the provision of a Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstone for his final resting place. Perry’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 .

Monday, 4 February 2019

Remembering Private Joseph Ernest Worth—Died of Sickness February 4, 1919

Joseph Ernest Worth was born at Ogden, Guysborough County, on October 29, 1896, the second of Katherine Ann “Kellie” (McCallum) and Edward King Worth’s 11 children. Sometime after 1911, Ernie relocated to Pictou County, where he obtained employment at the Trenton steel mill.

Pte. Joseph Ernest Worth's Headstone
On May 9, 1917, Ernie enlisted with the Nova Scotia Forestry Draft at Truro, NS. The draft’s recruits departed Halifax, NS, aboard SS Justicia on June 17, 1917, and arrived at Liverpool, England, after a 10-day voyage. Upon disembarking, Ernie and his comrades reported to the Canadian Forestry Corps (CFC) Headquarters, Sunningdale, England.

As the summer passed, the new arrivals were assigned to existing CFC units in the United Kingdom and France. On August 11, 1917, Ernie was transferred to the CFC’s No. 72 Company. The following day, he crossed the English Channel to Bordeaux, France. Two months prior to the unit’s arrival on the continent, other CFC units had commenced work in a large pine forest and wetland south of the French city.

By summer’s end, a total of seven CFC Companies were operating in No. 12 District (Bordeaux Group), enduring extremely hot conditions. In mid-September, Ernie was hospitalized for treatment of an unspecified ailment. While discharged on October 6, he returned to hospital four days later with a “slight” case of bronchitis. On November 8, Ernie returned to work alongside his No. 72 mates and experienced no further health issues during his time in France.

The CFC’s Bordeaux operations continued throughout the first 10 months of 1918. While timber harvesting activities ceased shortly after the signing of the November 11, 1918 Armistice, processing operations continued into the following month. On December 19, 1918, No. 12 District began evacuating its personnel to the United Kingdom as its Bordeaux operations gradually ceased. During the first month of 1919, equipment was dismantled and the remaining CFC soldiers departed the area.

On January 18, 1919, Ernie returned to England with the last group of No 72 Company personnel. One week later, he began to experience a “head-ache, sore chest, dry cough, [and] pain in [his limbs”—the same symptoms that had apparently occurred shortly after he arrived in France. Admitted to No. 14 Canadian General Hospital, Eastbourne, on January 29, medical staff determined that he was suffering from a combination of “Influenza and Pneumonia.”

Two days after Ernie’s admission, doctors noted “suppressed” breathing in the lower lobe of one lung. The condition spread to his second lung within 24 hours and staff soon noticed blood in his sputum. Ernie’s respiratory function quickly declined and he passed away at 3:00 a.m. February 4, 1919. Medical staff attributed his death to a combination of influenza and pneumonia. Private Joseph Ernest Worth was laid to rest in Seaford Cemetery, Seaford, East Sussex, UK.

Seaford Cemetery, Seaford, East Sussex, UK
Ernie’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 .