Antigo­nish Ceno­taph Project

Pri­vate Rod­er­ick Alexan­der Chisholm

The Casket - - Page Two -

Date of Birth: Jan. 8, 1891 at Lower South River, Antigo­nish County, N.S.

Par­ents: Alexan­der D. and Janet (Chisholm) Chisholm

Sib­lings: Brothers James

(died young) and James Colin; sis­ters An­nie (died young), Christina (CND), Mary El­iz­a­beth, Mag­gie (died young),

Flora (died young) and El­iz­a­beth

Mar­i­tal Sta­tus: Sin­gle Oc­cu­pa­tion: Sta­tion­ary En­gi­neer

En­list­ment: Dec. 4, 1917 at Van­cou­ver, B.C.

Units: 1st De­pot Bat­tal­ion, British Columbia Reg­i­ment; 1st Re­serve Bat­tal­ion; 16th Bat­tal­ion (Cana­dian Scot­tish) Ser­vice #: 2021829

Rank: Pri­vate

Pre­vi­ous Mil­i­tary Ser­vice: None

Next of Kin: Alexan­der D. Chisholm, Meadow Green, N.S. (fa­ther)

Date of Death: Oct. 1, 1918 near Cuvillers, France

Fi­nal Rest­ing Place: Cana­dian Ceme­tery, Til­loy-lez-cam­brai, France

* Rod­er­ick Alexan­der’s birth­date ob­tained from the re­search of his nephew and name­sake, fam­ily ge­neal­o­gist Rod­er­ick Chisholm, Hamil­ton, ON. The 1901 Cana­dian cen­sus lists Rod­er­ick Alexan­der’s date of birth as Jan. 22, 1890, while his at­tes­ta­tion pa­pers record the date as Jan. 7, 1892.

Rod­er­ick Alexan­der Chisholm was born at Lower South River, Antigo­nish County, the son of Alexan­der D. and Janet (Chisholm) Chisholm. Alexan­der D. was a de­scen­dant of the Chisholm fam­ily known lo­cally as ‘The Sol­diers.’ His fa­ther was Rod­er­ick (Rory the Sol­dier), while his grand­fa­ther was Alexan­der (Alex the Sol­dier), who at one point served in the British Army. Ac­cord­ing to an ar­ti­cle in the Aug. 3, 1944, edi­tion of The Cas­ket, Alex (Sol­dier) Chisholm im­mi­grated to Nova Sco­tia aboard the ship Aurora in 1803. Also on the ves­sel were his fa­ther Don­ald, mother El­iz­a­beth Mac­don­ald, and brother Don­ald (Og). At some point, the fam­ily moved from Lower South River to Meadow Green.

Rod­er­ick’s mother, Janet, was the daugh­ter of James (Jim Colin Donn) and Margaret (Mac­in­tosh) Chisholm. James was the youngest son of Colin (Donn) Chisholm, pi­o­neer set­tler at Mary­dale, near St. An­drews. Colin (Donn) was the son of Alexan­der (Breac) and grand­son of Alexan­der Chisholm, Glen Af­fric, Scot­land. The lat­ter was one of seven clans­men who shel­tered “Bon­nie Prince Char­lie” in a cave at Glen­moris­ton un­til he could safely board a ship and re­turn to France af­ter the failed 1745 Scot­tish up­ris­ing. Two of the other clans­men were brothers to Alexan­der.

Rod­er­ick Alexan­der was work­ing as a sta­tion­ary en­gi­neer at Van­cou­ver, B.C., when he was drafted un­der the Mil­i­tary Ser­vice Act (1917). Upon re­port­ing for his med­i­cal ex­am­i­na­tion on Dec. 4, 1917, he was de­clared fit for mil­i­tary ser­vice. At the time of his en­list­ment, he was five feet 11 inches tall, with blue eyes and black hair.

Rod­er­ick re­ported for duty on Feb. 25, 1918 and de­parted from Halifax aboard SS Ajana on April 15. Upon land­ing at Liver­pool, Eng­land, 12 days later, he was trans­ferred to the

1st Re­serve Bat­tal­ion, Seaforth, Eng­land. Re­serve bat­tal­ions con­tained men from the same mil­i­tary district where re­cruits or draftees en­listed, the 1st be­ing a British Columbia re­serve unit.

Through­out the sum­mer of 1918, Rod­er­ick trained at Seaforth. On Sept. 13, he was as­signed to the 7th Bat­tal­ion and pro­ceeded across the English Chan­nel to the Cana­dian Base De­pot, Le Havre, France, on the fol­low­ing day. While he was “taken on strength” by the 7th upon land­ing on the con­ti­nent, Rod­er­ick was re-as­signed to the 16th Bat­tal­ion (Cana­dian Scot­tish) on Sept. 20 and im­me­di­ately joined his new unit in the field.

One of the Cana­dian Corps’ most ex­pe­ri­enced units, the 16th was es­tab­lished at Camp Val­cartier. QC, in Septem­ber 1914, its ini­tial per­son­nel drawn from four Cana­dian High­land mili­tia units. The bat­tal­ion crossed the English Chan­nel to France in early 1915 as part of the 1st Divi­sion’s 3rd Bri­gade, where it served along­side three other High­land units — the 13th (Royal High­landers of Canada, Mon­treal, QC), 14th (Royal Mon­treal Reg­i­ment), and 15th (48th High­landers of Canada).

Dur­ing the evening of Sept. 25, 1918, the 16th Bat­tal­ion en­tered the front trenches along the western side of Canal du Nord, the vil­lage of Sains-lès­mar­quion on the canal’s eastern side op­po­site its po­si­tion. While other sec­tions of the struc­ture were in­com­plete, the por­tion in front of the 16th was com­plete and filled with wa­ter. The British 11th Divi­sion to its left also faced a wet canal, sur­rounded by marsh­land on both sides.

To the 16th’s right, the 4th and 14th Bat­tal­ions — two other 1st Divi­sion units — stared at a dry, un­fin­ished sec­tion of the canal. In the early hours of

Sept. 27, the 14th ad­vanced crossed the canal, with the 13th fol­low­ing in close prox­im­ity. Once the two units had suc­cess­fully es­tab­lished a beach-head, the 15th Bat­tal­ion passed through the 16th, which was sta­tioned in re­serve, and upon cross­ing the canal swung to the left, in an ef­fort to con­nect with the 11th British Divi­sion. At 2 p.m., the 16th’s sol­diers made their way across the canal and ad­vanced in the di­rec­tion of Haynecourt.

The fol­low­ing day, the 16th’s per­son­nel oc­cu­pied po­si­tions along the canal’s eastern side. The bat­tal­ion sub­se­quently marched to Haynecourt as the Cana­dian Corps “leap-frogged” its units through one an­other, in an ef­fort to main­tain the ad­vance’s mo­men­tum. The 16th’s sol­diers, how­ever, were not di­rectly in­volved in the first sev­eral days’ fight­ing.

By Sept. 30, the unit was lo­cated in shell holes along the Douai-cam­brai road, pre­par­ing for an at­tack sched­uled for the fol­low­ing day. The 3rd Bri­gade’s ob­jec­tive was a clus­ter of vil­lages be­yond the road. The 13th Bat­tal­ion re­ceived or­ders to at­tack San­court and move on to Blé­court. Once se­cured, the 14th and 16th Bat­tal­ions were to ad­vance, the 14th veer­ing to the left to­ward Bant­ingy while the 16th ad­vanced on Cuvillers.

At “Zero Hour” — 5 a.m., Oct. 1 — the 13th ad­vanced to­ward its ob­jec­tive, with the 14th and 16th fol­low­ing in its wake. The two units passed through the 13th’s line at Blé­court and con­tin­ued the ad­vance through Cuvillers and Bantigny re­spec­tively. The sol­diers soon found them­selves be­yond the Cana­dian Corps’ line, their flanks ex­posed on both sides. To make mat­ters worse, the bat­tal­ions lost con­tact with one other.

A sub­se­quent Ger­man coun­ter­at­tack at Bantigny suc­ceeded in pen­e­trat­ing be­hind the 16th’s lo­ca­tion, forc­ing both units to with­draw to the vil­lages they had cap­tured ear­lier in the day. The 16th’s war diary re­ported five Of­fi­cers and 19 “other ranks” (OR) killed in the day’s fight­ing, while eight Of­fi­cers and 200 OR were wounded. An­other four OR were wounded and miss­ing, while 99 OR were un­ac­counted for.

Pri­vate Rod­er­ick Alexan­der Chisholm was last seen alive at the 5 a.m. “kick off ” and was listed as “miss­ing in ac­tion” at day’s end. He may have been in­cluded in the 99 “miss­ing” OR. Be­fore month’s end, his re­mains were lo­cated and Rod­er­ick was of­fi­cially listed as “killed in ac­tion.” Ac­cord­ing to his “cir­cum­stances of ca­su­alty” card: “No de­tails [were] avail­able rel­a­tive to the de­tails of the ac­tual cir­cum­stances of his death.” Rod­er­ick was laid to rest in Cana­dian Ceme­tery, Til­loylez-cam­brai, France, hav­ing served in the for­ward area for less than two weeks.

Pri­vate Am­brose Chisholm of Hal­low­ell Grant Road, son of Colin R. and Marie Chisholm and a mem­ber of the 16th Bat­tal­ion, was also killed in ac­tion dur­ing the Oct. 1, 1918 at­tack. Am­brose was buried in Cana­dian Ceme­tery, near his Antigo­nish County com­rade.

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