|John Rood Dickson, SS Strathlorne|
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 bantrypublishing.ca .