Antigo­nish Ceno­taph Project

Pri­vate Alexan­der Ken­neth Chisholm

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Date of Birth:

Jan. 28, 1898 at Bri­erly Brook [Somers Road], Antigo­nish County, N.S.

Don­ald (Cut­ler) Chisholm and Is­abel ‘Belle’ Macken­zie

Par­ents:

Sib­lings:

Sis­ters Bar­bara Is­abel, Han­nah (died in in­fancy), Han­nah, Bar­bara Ellen, Annabelle, Mar­garet and Janet (‘Jen­nie’); broth­ers Alexan­der and

John

Fa­ther’s Oc­cu­pa­tion: Farmer Mar­i­tal Sta­tus: Sin­gle Oc­cu­pa­tion: Labourer En­list­ment: Dec. 7, 1915 at Antigo­nish, N.S.

106th Bat­tal­ion (Nova Sco­tia Ri­fles); 26th Bat­tal­ion (New Brunswick)

Ser­vice #: 715157

Rank: Pri­vate

Pre­vi­ous Mil­i­tary Ser­vice: None

Units:

Next of Kin:

Is­abel ‘Belle’ Chisholm, Bri­erly Brook, Antigo­nish County, N.S. (mother)

Sept. 28, 1918 at 83rd Gen­eral Hospi­tal, Boulogne, France

Date of Death:

Fi­nal Rest­ing Place:

Ter­linc­thun Bri­tish Ceme­tery, Boulogne, France

Alexan­der Ken­neth Chisholm was the sec­ond youngest of 10 children – three boys and seven girls – born to Don­ald (Cut­ler) and Is­abel “Belle” (Macken­zie) Chisholm of Bri­erly Brook [Somers Road]. Ac­cord­ing to his 1876 mar­riage record, Don­ald Cut­ler was born at Antigo­nish Har­bour about 1833, the son of Alexan­der Chisholm of that area and Bar­bara (Buidhe) Chisholm of North Grant. In 1838, Alexan­der and Bar­bara bought prop­erty at Somers Road, where Don­ald and his brother, John, later farmed. At that time, the area was re­ferred to as Bri­erly Brook.

Don­ald Cut­ler farmed the prop­erty still lo­cally de­scribed as the “Cut­ler farm.” Sadly, Don­ald Cut­ler passed away in 1894, leav­ing be­hind a griev­ing wife Is­abel (Belle Cut­ler) and eight sur­viv­ing children, all un­der the age of 16. The old­est, Alexan­der, was 15 year old when his fa­ther died. He re­mained on the farm for a few years but soon moved away from the area and later passed away in Idaho. The farm was then op­er­ated by the youngest child, John (Jack Cut­ler), un­til his death in 1940. To help with the farm du­ties and care of Jack’s in­valid sis­ter Bar­bara Ellen, Belle’s nephew — her sis­ter Jen­nie’s son — Joseph (Joe Dan) Macdon­ald moved into the house­hold. Bar­bara Ellen died in 1938, fol­lowed by her mother in 1942, at which time Joe Dan took over the farm. It is cur­rently the Kell View Farm, owned by Garry Kell, a great­grand­nephew of Belle.

Alexan­der Ken­neth’s mother, Is­abel, was the daugh­ter of Alexan­der Macken­zie, a na­tive of In­ver­ness-shire, Scot­land. Ac­cord­ing to Rev. D. J. Rankin’s His­tory of Antigo­nish, Alexan­der was a no­to­ri­ous plough­man and ex­pert sheep sheerer in the “Old Coun­try.” He mar­ried Han­nah Chisholm in 1846 and set out to Nova Sco­tia 10 days later. Alexan­der and Han­nah set­tled on a farm at Beech Hill, not far off the Old South River Road, where they built a com­fort­able home and raised a large fam­ily.

On Dec. 7, 1915, Alexan­der Ken­neth Chisholm en­listed with the 106th Bat­tal­ion (Nova Sco­tia Ri­fles), which was re­cruit­ing in Antigo­nish at that time. Alexan­der reg­is­tered along with a number of other Antigo­nish County com­pa­tri­ots. Based in Truro, with two of its four Com­pa­nies quar­tered at Pictou and

Springhill, the 106th had com­menced re­cruit­ing on Nov. 8,

1915. Pur­port­edly the first Mar­itime ri­fle reg­i­ment, the unit’s motto was “None So Re­li­able” and its Com­mand­ing Of­fi­cer was Lieu­tenant-colonel Robert Innes. At the time of his at­tes­ta­tion, Alexan­der was listed at 5’11” and 160 lbs.

The 106th de­parted Hal­i­fax aboard SS Em­press of Bri­tain on July 15, 1916, and ar­rived at Liver­pool, Eng­land, 10 days later. The bat­tal­ion trained at Lower Dib­gate, Shorn­cliffe, Eng­land. On

Aug. 1, Alexan­der was pro­moted to the rank of Lance Cor­po­ral. In or­der to ex­pe­dite his de­par­ture for the bat­tle­fields of France, three weeks later he re­verted to the rank of Pri­vate at his own re­quest.

Af­ter its ar­rival in Eng­land, the 106th was soon dis­solved and its mem­bers ab­sorbed into other bat­tal­ions to pro­vide much needed re­in­force­ments. On Sept.

27, Alexan­der was trans­ferred to the 26th Cana­dian Bat­tal­ion

(New Brunswick), which had in­curred sig­nif­i­cant ca­su­al­ties at the Somme. He landed in France the next day and was im­me­di­ately “taken on strength” by his new unit.

The 26th holds a place in Cana­dian mil­i­tary his­tory as one of the most es­teemed First World War bat­tal­ions. Orig­i­nally con­sist­ing of 1,250 men, the “Fight­ing 26th” de­parted Saint John, N.B., on June 13, 1915. Upon cross­ing to France three months later, the unit served with the 2nd Cana­dian Di­vi­sion’s 5th In­fantry Brigade in France and Flan­ders for the re­main­der of the war. The bat­tal­ion par­tic­i­pated in all of the Cana­dian Corps’ ma­jor bat­tles, in­clud­ing the Somme Of­fen­sive (Septem­ber – Oc­to­ber 1915), Vimy Ridge (April 1917), Hill 70 (Au­gust 1917), and Pass­chen­daele (Oc­to­ber – Novem­ber 1917). As a re­sult, ca­su­al­ties were sig­nif­i­cant and the bat­tal­ion was in con­stant need of re­in­force­ments.

On Oct.10, 1916, Alexan­der joined the 26th Bat­tal­ion in the field, fol­low­ing its com­bat tours at the Somme. Af­ter par­tic­i­pat­ing in com­bat at Courcelette and Regina Trench the pre­vi­ous month, its ranks had been re­duced to fewer than 300 men

“all ranks.” Five days af­ter Alexan­der’s ar­rival, the unit re­turned to the front trenches near Lens, France, where it served through­out the win­ter of 1916-17.

Ac­cord­ing to his mil­i­tary record, Alexan­der suf­fered a number of in­fec­tious ail­ments dur­ing this time with the 26th. In the years be­fore the dis­cov­ery of peni­cillin in 1928, in­fec­tions were po­ten­tially life threat­en­ing. On March 19, 1917, Alexan­der was evac­u­ated to Eng­land and ad­mit­ted to North­ern Gen­eral Hospi­tal, Lin­coln, with an ul­cer on his left foot. He later re­cov­ered at the Cana­dian Con­va­les­cent Home, Ep­som, and was dis­charged to the 13th Re­serve Bat­tal­ion on

June 16, 1917.

Alexan­der spent al­most 10 months in Eng­land be­fore fi­nally re­join­ing the 26th in France on April 4, 1918. Nine days later, he was taken to the No. 9 Cana­dian Field Am­bu­lance with an un­de­ter­mined ail­ment and moved on to No. 23 Ca­su­alty Clear­ing Sta­tion the same day. Ad­mit­ted to No. 51 Gen­eral Hospi­tal, Éta­ples at mid-month, a re­cur­rent in­fec­tion kept Alexan­der out of ac­tion un­til Aug. 31, 1918, when he re­joined the 26th in the field.

Im­me­di­ately prior to Alexan­der’s re­turn, the 26th Bat­tal­ion had par­tic­i­pated in ma­jor Al­lied counter-at­tacks at Amiens (Aug. 8-10) and Ar­ras (Aug. 26-28). The unit spent the first week and a half of Septem­ber in camp, train­ing and rest­ing as re­in­force­ments joined its ranks. The unit re­turned to sup­port po­si­tions near Cag­ni­court, France, on Sept. 12 and one week later en­tered the front trenches east of Inchy-enar­tois.

Through­out the en­su­ing tour, the 26th and German sol­diers op­po­site their po­si­tion wres­tled for con­trol of No Man’s Land, the New Brunswick unit es­tab­lish­ing ad­vance posts that were promptly sub­jected to German ri­fle grenade and mor­tar shelling, fol­lowed by a ground at­tack. On the night of Sept. 24, a 26th pla­toon “pushed for­ward” into No Man’s Land and set up a for­ti­fied post. The po­si­tion was im­me­di­ately tar­geted by ri­fle grenade and mor­tar fire. At dawn the fol­low­ing morn­ing, German sol­diers counter-at­tacked and forced the 26th’s per­son­nel to re­treat to a sec­ond post that they man­aged to hold, de­spite fierce en­emy bom­bard­ment.

The pla­toon en­dured con­stant fire through­out the day and re­pelled a late morn­ing coun­ter­at­tack. A sec­ond as­sault in midafter­noon suc­ceeded in push­ing the New Brunswick­ers back to shell-holes lo­cated be­hind the post. Un­de­terred, the pla­toon re­or­ga­nized and re­cap­tured the post that evening. While a hand­ful of its sol­diers held the ad­vance post, the re­main­der of the 26th’s per­son­nel with­drew from the line on the night of Sept.

Ac­cord­ing to his “cir­cum­stances of ca­su­alty” card, Alexan­der was wounded some­time dur­ing the Sept. 25 fight­ing:

“[He] was in an out­post on the western side of Canal-du-nord, when the post was raided by the en­emy. He was se­verely wounded in the legs by ma­chine gun bul­lets and af­ter be­ing dressed … was im­me­di­ately evac­u­ated.” By co­in­ci­dence, Alexan­der was wounded in the same skir­mish in which Pri­vate Syd­ney Garfield Swain, Grosvenor, was killed. The fol­low­ing morn­ing, Alexan­der was ad­mit­ted to Lon­don Field Am­bu­lance with “sw [shrap­nel wounds] both legs” and moved on to No. 23 Ca­su­alty Clear­ing Sta­tion later the same day.

On Sept. 27, Alexan­der was evac­u­ated by am­bu­lance train and ad­mit­ted to No. 83 Gen­eral Hospi­tal, Boulogne, where med­i­cal records de­scribed his con­di­tion at ad­mis­sion as “se­ri­ously ill.”

The fol­low­ing day — Sept. 28,

1918 — Pri­vate Alexan­der Ken­neth Chisholm “suc­cumbed to his wounds” in hospi­tal. He was laid to rest in Ter­linc­thun Bri­tish Ceme­tery, Wimille, one mile north of Boulogne, France.

The Cas­ket re­ported that Alexan­der’s mother was ini­tially in­formed by Ot­tawa that her son was dan­ger­ously wounded. The same day, an­other tele­gram ar­rived from mil­i­tary au­thor­i­ties, con­vey­ing the sad tid­ings of her son’s death. The ar­ti­cle ex­tended sym­pa­thy to his fam­ily and paid trib­ute to Alexan­der’s char­ac­ter as “a boy of ex­cel­lent habits, quiet and in­of­fen­sive; his friends in­cluded all his ac­quain­tances.”

In­ter­est­ingly, Alexan­der’s name­sake, Alexan­der Ken­neth ‘A. K.’ Macdon­ald, son of his aunt Jen­nie Chisholm and ‘Red Dan’ Macdon­ald, was born two years later. A. K. lived and farmed at Bri­erly Brook for his en­tire life. The farm was lo­cated ad­ja­cent to a dan­ger­ous curve on the Route 4 high­way, still lo­cally known as “A. K.’s turn.”

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