We went to the Remembrance Day ceremony downtown today.
Shortly after that, I discovered the Government of Canada had a website for soldiers killed in combat in the world wars. Sure enough, I found information on John and his death. I then found the diaries his battalion kept had been scanned and were available online.
Here is the diary for the day he died, 27 April 1917. I tired to keep spelling and punctuation. Iâ€™m sharing it with you to try keeping a name and a face behind the nameless battles.
Appendix referred to in April, Diary.
REPORT ON OPERATIONS CARRIED OUT BY THE 5th CANADIAN INFANTRY BATTALION on April, 28th, 1917.
On the night of April 26th, the 5th Canadian infantry Battalion relieved the 4th Canadian Infantry Battalion. In the front line which the extended from T.22.d.0.0 to T.28.d.7.0. Northwest of the Town of ARLEUX.
During the night of the 26th a jumping-off trench was dug from T.22.d.9.0 to T.29.d.0.0.
On the following day it was seen by the enemy and heavily shelled. Fortunately, we had not placed any men in this trench.
On the evening of the 27th Operation Orders were received for the 5th C.I. Battalion to take part in an attack on a Brigade frontage by the 1st Canadian Division, with the object of taking and consolidating a line extending from T.30.b.2.9 to T.30.c.2.5.
It was decided that the Battalion should attack on a three Company frontage, four waves in depth, with one Company in support.
The Zero hour was set at 4.25 a.m.
At 2.00 a.m. the Battalion dug in about 150 yards in front of the jumping-off trench, already discovered by the enemy. The night was dark, and the operation of digging in was carried out without hindrance from the enemy and no casualties were sustained. The order of the battle was as follows:-
â€œDâ€ Company of the left flank of the Battalion, under Major K. Campbell.
â€œCâ€ Company in the centre of the Battalion, under Lieut. P. Andrews.
â€œBâ€ Company on the right flank of the Battalion, under Lieut. R. Lawson.
â€œAâ€ Company in Battalion support, under Lieut. M.M. McGregor.
The 10th C.I. Battalion were on our right, and the 25th Canadian Infantry Battalion on our left. At 4.25 a.m. it was possible to see 100 yards or so in the twilight.
Sharp on the Zero hour our guns opened up with an intense barrage. The enemy threw a curtain of fire in front of the discovered jumping-off trench, but the Battalion with the exception of â€œAâ€ Company was on the enemyâ€™s side of the curtain, and his barrage caused very few casualties, even among â€œAâ€ Company who went through it.
On advancing it was found that the wire on the left flank of the Battalion front was uncut, with the exception of one path. The enemyâ€™s parapet was lined with Germans and a great many machine guns, which accounted for a larger number of men, especially those who were unfortunate enough, to have become entangled in the grass covered trip wire.
Major Campbell, leading â€œDâ€ Company, saw that there was only one gap on his front, and that covered by machine gun fire, and knowing that it was a case of getting through at once, or not at all, he bravely attempted to rush the gun and bomb the crew, closely followed by his Company. The gun was eventually silenced by hand and rifle grenades, but not before it had taken its toll of lives, including the life of Major Campbell. By the times the support Company had come up, and seeing the difficulty that â€œDâ€ Company were having in gaining their objective on account of the wire, a party under Lieut. Foulkes entered the trench on â€œCâ€ Companyâ€™s frontage, and bombed up to the left, soon clearing the trench of all Germans. The centre and right flank of the Battalion found that the wire had been well cut, and everything progressed satisfactorily in that quarter.
Having cleared the first objective, the Battalion advanced onto the second objective, namely, a sunken road running from T.23.d.8.0 to T.29.d.9.5. and quickly took that and passed onto the final objective, leaving the mopping up parties to clear out the dug-outs. So far everything had been successful, and the number of casualties not as high as was at first feared might be the case, but as luck would have it this state of affairs did not last very long, for it was discovered that the left flank of the Battalion was in the air. The Battalion on our left hand, unfortunately, mistaken a sunken road some 300 yards in front of their jumping-off trench, for their final objective, which was a sunken road some 600 yards further on.
The enemy mounted a couple of machine guns on our left flank, and enfiladed our advancing waves, particularly down the sunken road, forcing our left flank to fall back to the first front line, in order to keep a connection with the left Battalion. The right flank progressed rapidly, and were soon in touch with the 10th C.I. Battalion on their right. The fighting at all stages was very stiff, and the enemy put up a much stronger resistance than is usually the case.
Work was at once commenced consolidating the new positions, and taking up posts ahead of our main front line, in order to be prepared for any counter attack, which he might launch. The enemy shell-fire was quite heavy all the day, but his shooting was wild and he seemed unable to locate the position of our men. As the Officer losses had been very heavy, Capt. E. Day, and Lieutts. W. Willis, D. Bissett and H.D. Hedley. were called up from the reserve of Officers at the Transport Line.
During the afternoon it had been reported that the Germans were massing on our left for a counter attack, and about 8.30 p.m. several S.O.S.â€™, a long distance to the right went up and the Germans immediately opened up with an intense barrage behind our lines., An S.O.S. was sent in, and our artillery replied at once with a very dense curtain of fire, and no attack developed. About 4.00 a.m. the above performance was repeated.
The following day, April, 29th, everything was more or less quite in the morning, but the shelling grew in intensity toward the evening, particularly in the area of the village of ARLEUX, where the enemy appeared to concentrated his heavies.
At 4.00 p.m. we received an order to withdraw our left flank toward ARLEUX, down to the point T.29.b.6.5., and that the heavies were to be opened up on the enemyâ€™s trenches north of this point, when the 25th Battalion would come up and occupy the position originally allotted to them. This operation was completed.
At dusk on the evening of the 29th, an Order stating that the 10th C.I. Battalion would probably relieve the 5th C.I. Battalion was received, but owing to their heaving casualties, they were unable to take over any great amount of our area, and the Battalion remained in the line until about 1.00 a.m., when relieved by the 13th Canadian Infantry Battalion.