|Corporal Vernon Cecil Horton|
On the morning of April 9, 1917, the RCR and two of its 7th Brigade mates—the 42nd Battalion (Royal Highlanders of Canada) and Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI)—participated in the opening stage of the Canadian Corps’ successful attack on Vimy Ridge. Vernon came through his first combat experience without injury and served with the RCR in sectors near Lens, France, throughout the spring and early summer of 1917.
While the RCR did not participate in the combat stage of the Canadian Corps’ August 15, 1917 capture of Hill 70, near Lens, the unit entered trenches on the newly captured location one week later. During the ensuing tour, its soldiers were subjected to intense enemy fire, particularly from German artillery. On August 23, Vernon was buried by debris from an exploding shell, and also suffered a wound to his right thigh sometime during the incident. Rescued by comrades, he was immediately transported to a nearby casualty clearing station for treatment.
Two days later, Vernon was evacuated to hospital at Étaples, France, and invalided to England at month’s end. Medical notes indicate that while a foreign object was still embedded in his thigh, it caused “little inconvenience.” Discharged to duty in late November 1917, Vernon was assigned to the 17th Reserve Battalion (Nova Scotia), and commenced a program of musketry training shortly afterward. On April 7, 1918, he qualified as an Instructor and was promoted to the rank of Lance Corporal “while employed as Musket Instructor” at Camp Aldershot. In late July, he advanced to the rank of Corporal.
During Vernon’s time in England, several health issues surfaced. He was hospitalized for treatment of tonsillitis in early July, but quickly recovered. By the autumn of 1918, however, medical authorities identified more serious problems. Vernon had experienced heart palpitations while in hospital, shortly after his return from France. A Medical Board convened in late October 1918 stated that, while his war wound had not resulted in any permanent disability, Vernon was suffering from “precordial pain and palpitations, especially after exercise, also dyspnoea [shortness of breath].”
On November 15, military authorities recommended that Vernon be invalided to Canada and discharged as “medically unfit.” One week later, he departed England and arrived at Halifax before month’s end. A second Medical Board convened after his return to Nova Scotia confirmed the occurrence of significant health issues following physical exertion. In response to its findings and recommendations, Corporal Vernon Cecil Horton was discharged from military service as “medically unfit” on December 26, 1918.
Vernon immediately returned to the family farm at Roachvale. On February 24, 1920, he married Annie Margaret Dowling, a native of Inverness County, in a ceremony held at Boylston. The couple settled at Roachvale, where they planned to raise a family. Sadly, their first child—a son, Willard Dooley Horton—passed away from bronchial pneumonia on December 27, 1921, at one month of age.
One year later, the young couple welcomed a second son, Ralph, while a daughter, Doris, later joined the family. For several years, Vernon experienced no health problems. In the spring of 1926, however, he fell ill and was admitted to St. Martha’s Hospital, Antigonish. On March 31, 1926, Vernon passed away in hospital from a combination of “meningitis [and] probably tuberculosis,” and was laid to rest in Evergreen Cemetery, Guysborough.
Three and a half months after Vernon’s passing, military authorities agreed that his death was the “result of service” and approved the provision of an Imperial War Graves Commission headstone for his final resting place. Vernon’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 .