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Sunday, 13 October 2019

Remembering Private John Scott Rhynold—Died of Sickness October 13, 1920

John Scott Rhynold was born at Canso, Guysborough County, on August 4, 1885, the youngest of William David and Mary (Hurst) Rhynold’s six children and the couple’s fourth son. As a young man, John went to work in the local fishery, alongside his father. On February 12, 1908, John married Laura Snow, a native of nearby Whitehead. The couple established residence in Canso and soon welcomed two sons—Chesley Ross (1908) and Ellston (1912)—into their home. Tragically, a third child—a daughter, Kathleen—died on February 12, 1916, only two days after her birth.

Pte. John Scott Rhynold's headstone, Fourth Hill Cemetery, Canso, NS
Within weeks of his infant daughter’s passing, John enlisted with the 193rd Battalion at Canso on March 31, 1916. Two months later, he departed for Camp Aldershot, where the unit trained throughout the summer months. On October 12, John and his 193rd mates departed for England aboard SS Olympic. Also on board were the 85th (Nova Scotia Highlanders), 185th (Cape Breton Highlanders) and 219th Battalions, the four units together constituting the Nova Scotia Highland Brigade.

Shortly after the Brigade’s overseas arrival, two of its four units—the 193rd and 219th—were disbanded and their soldiers assigned to existing units. While the Brigade provided a sizeable reinforcement draft for units in France in early December, John, who was considerably older than many of his comrades, was transferred to the 185th Battalion on December 29, 1916, and remained in England.

Within one month of his transfer, John was hospitalized for treatment of a “hammer toe” on his right foot. The problem persisted for months, during which time the development of hemorrhoids further compromised his fitness for service at the front. On February 26, 1918, John was finally discharged from medical care and reported to the 17th Reserve Battalion, the unit responsible for providing reinforcements for the 25th and 85th Battalions, Nova Scotia’s two front-line infantry units.

Finally, on June 24, John was assigned to the 85th Battalion and crossed the English Channel to the Canadian Base Depot, Le Havre, France, shortly afterward. After a brief stay at the Canadian Corps Reinforcement Camp, he joined the 85th near Arras France, on July 21.

John’s arrival in the forward area occurred at a crucial point in the war. Having successfully withstood a massive German spring offensive, Allied forces were finalizing preparations for a massive counter-offensive. At month’s end, the 85th relocated to the outskirts of Amiens, where its soldiers completed final preparations for combat as part of the Allied plan.

On the morning of August 8, the 85th and its 4th Division comrades awaited orders to advance while units from the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Canadian Divisions commenced an attack on German positions east of Amiens. Shortly after mid-day, the 85th’s soldiers entered the fray near the village of Caix and remained in the line until the night of August 13/14. John came through the experience without injury and followed his unit back to the Arras area before month’s end.

On the morning of September 2, the 85th participated in its second combat engagement in less than one month—a Canadian Corps attack on the Drocourt - Quèant Line, a section of the German’s elaborate defensive system known to the Allies as the “Hindenburg Line.” While the battalion suffered significant casualties during three days in the line, John once again emerged from the line without injury.

After several weeks’ rest and training, the 85th once again returned to the line as part of the Canadian Corps’ September 27 attack on Canal du Nord, west of Cambrai. While its soldiers did not participate in the opening assault on the canal, they crossed the structure shortly after its capture and advanced toward the 85th’s objective—the village of Bourlon. While the unit captured the location before noon, its soldiers were subjected to enemy fire throughout the remainder of the day.

The 85th remained in the line for another 48 hours, its soldiers providing support for their 12th Brigade mates as the advance continued. Sometime during the third day of fighting, fragments from an artillery shell struck John in the right arm and shoulder, and he was evacuated to a casualty clearing station for treatment. On October 2, John was transported by ambulance train to Camiers, France, and admitted to hospital.

By the time John reached the Camiers facility, he had developed “gas gangrene” around his wound and was “dangerously ill.” In response, surgeons amputated his right arm “at [the] neck of the humerus [long bone of the upper arm].” Within 10 days, John had recovered sufficiently to be removed from the “dangerously ill” list and was evacuated by hospital ship to England on October 19.

Throughout the autumn and winter of 1918-19, John remained in hospital as medical personnel assisted with his recovery and completed preparations for an artificial arm. Transferred to No. 5 Canadian General Hospital, Liverpool, on May 17, 1919, John departed for Canada two weeks later aboard the hospital ship Essiquibo. Upon landing at Halifax on June 19, he was posted to the Hospital Section and received two weeks’ leave, which he most likely spent at home in Canso.

On July 8, John returned to Halifax and was admitted to Camp Hill Hospital. While staff had outfitted him with an artificial arm, it proved to be “of little value” due to the “shortness of [his] stump.” On November 11, 1919—the one-year anniversary of the Armistice that ended fighting in Europe—John was officially discharged from military service.

John returned to Canso and settled into civilian life as best he could. A fourth child—a daughter, Laura Jean—joined the family on May 20, 1920. Shortly afterward, John began to experience health issues. Admitted to Camp Hill Hospital on July 27, he was diagnosed with “military tuberculosis.” Medical notes in John’s service record indicate that he had been treated for “consumption” in his hip joint in 1911 and appeared to have made a complete recovery after several months’ treatment.

Pte. Rhynold's CWGC & Family Headstones, Fourth Hill Cemetery, Canso, NS
John remained in hospital for two and a half months, his health slowly worsening. He passed away at Camp Hill on October 13, 1920. John’s remains were returned to Canso, where he was laid to rest in Fourth Hill Cemetery, alongside his infant daughter. 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 .