Antigo­nish Ceno­taph Project

Pte. Syd­ney Garfield Swain

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Date of Birth: June 11, 1897 at Grosvenor, Antigo­nish County, N.S.

Par­ents: Charles and Har­riet Amelia ‘Hat­tie’ (Fitt) Swain

Fa­ther’s Oc­cu­pa­tion: Fish­er­man

Sib­lings: Broth­ers Wil­liam ‘Willy,’ Stephen, Robert Vin­cent, Guy Leonard, and Charles Ed­ward; sis­ters Sarah Mar­garet, Maria Ann, Mary Florence and Vi­o­let Gertrude

Mar­i­tal Sta­tus: Sin­gle Oc­cu­pa­tion: Labourer En­list­ment: Dec. 5, 1915 at Antigo­nish, N.S.

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

Ser­vice #: 715154

Rank: Pri­vate

Pre­vi­ous Mil­i­tary Ser­vice: None

Next of Kin: Mr. Charles Swain, Grosvenor, Antigo­nish County, N.S. (fa­ther)

Date of Death: Sept. 25, 1918 near Inchy-en-ar­tois, France

Fi­nal Rest­ing Place: On­tario Ceme­tery, Sains-les-mar­quion Nord, France

Syd­ney Garfield Swain was the old­est of 10 children born to Charles and Har­riet Amelia ‘Hat­tie’ (Fitt) Swain of Grosvenor, Antigo­nish, County. Charles was a na­tive of Steep Creek, Guys­bor­ough County, the son of Wil­liam and Mar­garet (Jamieson) Swain. Wil­liam was of Ir­ish de­scent, born at Cape Por­cu­pine, Guys­bor­ough County, on Oct. 18, 1819. Mar­garet was Wil­liam’s sec­ond wife and a daugh­ter of Ken­neth Jamieson, who was born in Scot­land and im­mi­grated to Guys­bor­ough County with his fa­ther and three broth­ers in the early 1800s.

Syd­ney’s mother, Hat­tie, was born at Lin­wood, the daugh­ter of Stephen and Sarah Mar­garet (Kin­ney) Fitt. Stephen’s fa­ther, John Fitt, was born in Eng­land around 1799 and im­mi­grated to the Tra­cadie area in the early 1800s. Sarah’s grand­fa­ther, Sa­muel Kin­ney, was born at Lon­don, Eng­land, around 1760 and later set­tled at Tra­cadie, where he passed away in 1835. Charles and Har­riet mar­ried at Bay­field on

July 21, 1896, and sub­se­quently resided in the Fitt fam­ily’s Grosvenor home.

Syd­ney Garfield Swain en­listed with the 106th Bat­tal­ion at Antigo­nish on Dec. 7, 1915. Au­tho­rized one month pre­vi­ously, the 106th es­tab­lished its head­quar­ters at Truro, N.S. and re­cruited its ranks through­out north­ern Nova Sco­tia. The unit de­parted from Hal­i­fax aboard SS Em­press of Bri­tain on July 16, 1916, but was dis­banded shortly af­ter ar­riv­ing in Eng­land.

Syd­ney was part of a large group of 106th sol­diers trans­ferred to the 26th Bat­tal­ion on Sept. 27, 1916. Au­tho­rized on Nov. 7, 1914, the 26th ob­tained its sol­diers across the en­tire prov­ince of New Brunswick. The bat­tal­ion crossed the At­lantic to Eng­land in June 1915 and was as­signed to the 2nd Cana­dian Di­vi­sion’s 5th Brigade, where it served along­side the 22nd (Que­bec’s ‘Van­doos’), 24th (Vic­to­ria Ri­fles of Canada, Mon­treal) and 25th (Nova Sco­tia) Bat­tal­ions through­out the war.

The 26th crossed the English Chan­nel to France in Septem­ber 1915 and served in Bel­gium’s

Ypres Salient for al­most one year be­fore re­lo­cat­ing to the Somme re­gion of France in Septem­ber 1916. Re­duced to less than 300 men “all ranks” af­ter fight­ing at Courcelette (Sept. 15, 1916) and Regina Trench (Sept. 28, 1916), the unit re­tired from the line and set about re­build­ing its dec­i­mated Com­pa­nies.

The fol­low­ing month, two large drafts of 106th sol­diers, one of which in­cluded Pri­vate Syd­ney Swain, joined the bat­tal­ion’s ranks. Syd­ney served with the 26th in the trenches near Lens, France, through­out the win­ter of

1916-17, but was tem­po­rar­ily at­tached to 5th Field Com­pany, Cana­dian En­gi­neers, prior to the unit’s ser­vice at Vimy Ridge (April 1917). Af­ter re­turn­ing to the 26th in early June, Syd­ney re­ceived his first com­bat ex­pe­ri­ence at Hill 70, near Lens, on Aug. 15, 1917.

Syd­ney also ac­com­pa­nied the bat­tal­ion to Bel­gium in late Oc­to­ber 1917 and par­tic­i­pated in its Nov. 6, 1917 at­tack on Pass­chen­daele Ridge. Struck in the back and shoul­der by a piece of ar­tillery shrap­nel, he was evac­u­ated to hospi­tal in Eng­land for med­i­cal treat­ment.

Dis­charged as “fit for duty” on May 8, 1918, Syd­ney spent the sum­mer months in Eng­land with the 13th Re­serve Bat­tal­ion, await­ing or­ders to re­turn to France. On Sept. 5, he pro­ceeded over­seas as part of a “draft to [the] 26th Bat­tal­ion” and five days later re­joined his old com­rades in the for­ward area.

In the weeks prior to Syd­ney’s re­turn, Cana­dian units had par­tic­i­pated in three ma­jor at­tacks on the German line, part of a mas­sive Al­lied counter-of­fen­sive launched in early Au­gust. While the as­saults achieved con­sid­er­able suc­cess, German forces still held large por­tions of French ter­ri­tory and were de­ter­mined to re­sist any fur­ther ad­vance.

On Sept. 18, Syd­ney re­turned to the front trenches east of Inchy-en-ar­tois, France, with the 26th Bat­tal­ion. In sub­se­quent days, the unit’s sol­diers at­tempted to es­tab­lish sev­eral “for­ward posts” in No Man’s Land, ac­tions that prompted per­sis­tent German re­sis­tance.

Mat­ters came to a head on the morn­ing of Sept. 25, 1918, when German forces launched a “heavy counter-at­tack” on an ad­vanced post manned by the 26th’s sol­diers, forc­ing its oc­cu­pants to re­treat to a post closer to their front trench. The men sub­se­quently en­dured trench mor­tar and ri­fle grenade fire, and man­aged to re­pel a late morn­ing at­tack on their po­si­tion.

In mid-af­ter­noon, German forces re­grouped and launched a sec­ond at­tack, forc­ing the sol­diers to re­treat to “shell holes in [the] rear.” De­ter­mined to re­cap­ture the post, the New Brunswick­ers launched a counter-at­tack dur­ing the evening and re-es­tab­lished con­trol of the for­ward po­si­tion.

While the 26th’s sol­diers in the front trenches re­tired from the line later that night, a hand­ful of its per­son­nel main­tained con­trol of the ad­vance posts. Fol­low­ing their re­lief later that night, the unit at­tempted to ac­count for its per­son­nel. On Sept. 26, Pri­vate Syd­ney Swain was of­fi­cially re­ported “miss­ing af­ter ac­tion,” an ap­par­ent vic­tim of the day’s fight­ing.

One week later, fol­low­ing re­cov­ery of the dead from No Man’s Land, the “Burial Of­fi­cer Cana­dian Corps” con­firmed Syd­ney’s fate: “Now re­ported killed in ac­tion” on Sept. 25, 1918. Pri­vate Syd­ney Garfield Swain was laid to rest in On­tario Ceme­tery, Sains-les-mar­quion Nord, France.

In the weeks prior to Syd­ney’s re­turn, Cana­dian units had par­tic­i­pated in three ma­jor at­tacks on the German line, part of a mas­sive Al­lied counter-of­fen­sive launched in early Au­gust

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