Hometown Heroes

Halifax Citadel National Historic Site

Canada’s participation in the First World War (1914-1918) and the Second World War (1939-1945) touched every community in this country. Parks Canada invites Canadians to join us in commemorating individuals from all walks of life who made unique contributions to the war effort. During these global conflicts, civilians and those in the armed forces played a crucial role in protecting and building their communities and thus Canada as a whole.

Get to know their remarkable stories, honour their memory and express your gratitude for their service by visiting Parks Canada’s National Historic Sites, National Parks, and National Marine Conservation Areas, and the Parks Canada Hometown Heroes web page. We will remember them… 

Hometown Heroes of Nova Scotia

Gertrude Ritchie

Gertrude Ritchie 1903-1998

Born in Annapolis Royal, Gertrude “Gert” Ritchie served in the Second World War and had a successful career with Parks Canada.

In 1942, Ritchie joined the Royal Canadian Air Force Women’s Division (RCAFWD), serving as a clerk and equipment assistant. Based on the British model, the RCAFWD recruited thousands of women into trade positions, who were essential to the success of this rapidly expanding air force. After the war, Ritchie worked in the private sector before joining Parks Canada in 1959. She held senior positions at both Fort Anne in Annapolis Royal and the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site in Baddeck.

In retirement, Ritchie was active in many community groups, including becoming one of the first women to hold an executive position with the Royal Canadian Legion. She passed away at Annapolis Royal.

Image: Annapolis Heritage Society

Gertrude Ritchie (PDF, 424 KB)

Margaret MacDonald

Margaret C. MacDonald 1873-1949

Born at Bailey’s Brook, Pictou County, Margaret C. MacDonald served as Matron-in-Chief of the Canadian Army Nursing Corps (CANC) during the First World War.

After graduation, MacDonald gained significant international and wartime experience as a nurse. At the outbreak of the Great War in 1914, she volunteered for overseas service and was appointed Matron-in- Chief. From her headquarters in London, she directed all Canadian nursing services in Europe, including clearing stations, hospitals, and medical units onboard
ships and trains. She is credited with enhancing the professionalization of the CANC, based upon her earlier training in the British nursing corps.

MacDonald was awarded the Royal Red Cross and the Florence Nightingale Medal. The Canadian government also designated her a person of national historic significance, with a plaque at Bailey’s Brook where she is buried.

Image: Canadian War Museum

Margaret C. MacDonald (PDF, 990 KB)

historic photo/photo historique: Clare Gass

Clare Gass 1887-1968

Born in Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia, Clare Gass served
as a Nursing Sister with the Canadian Army Medical Corps. Overcoming brutal conditions and countless patients, nurses were the unsung heroes of the First World War.

Working at No. 3 Canadian General Hospital (McGill University) in France, Gass became friends with John McCrae, a military doctor. McCrae showed her a draft of his iconic poem, “In Flanders Fields.” She copied it into her diary. Asked what she thought, Gass encouraged him to publish it in Punch magazine, which he did in 1915. Together with the poppy, it remains at the heart of Remembrance Day ceremonies in Canada.

Remarkably, four of Gass’s younger brothers also fought in Europe, with one dying in the Battle of Vimy Ridge in 1917. She returned to Canada after the war and became a pioneer in the field of medical social work.

Image: Mrs. Gertrude Henderson (Gass’s niece)

Clare Gass (PDF, 909 KB)

Laura Hubley

Laura Hubley 1875-1964

Born in St. Margarets Bay, near Halifax, Laura May Hubley served as Matron of the Dalhousie University No. 7 Stationary Hospital during the First World War.

After graduating from Victoria General Hospital in Halifax, Hubley went into private practice before joining the Canadian Army Nursing Corps. The Dalhousie unit, established in 1915, saw frontline service and treated approximately 60,000 patients in France and England. As Matron, Hubley not only supervised her 26 nursing sisters but also organized social functions for hospital staff and patients. On one occasion she even arranged a visit from Canadian flying ace Billy Bishop, who put on a display overhead.

Hubley was awarded the Royal Red Cross (1st Class) for exceptional service in military nursing. She is buried at Camp Hill Cemetery in Halifax.

Image: Dalhousie University Archives

Laura Hubley (PDF, 1,051 KB)

Halifax Citadel National Historic Site. 

Harry George DeWolf 1903-2000

Born in Bedford, Nova Scotia, Harry DeWolf developed a passion for the sea as a youth by sailing in Halifax Harbour and Bedford Basin, later pursuing a 42-year career in the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN).

During the Second World War, he earned a reputation as a skilled, courageous officer. As captain of HMCS St Laurent, in 1940 DeWolf ordered the RCN’s first shots fired during the early stages of the war. He led one of the largest rescues when his ship saved more than 850 survivors of the torpedoed liner Arandora Star. DeWolf became one of Canada’s most famous fighting sailors while commanding the destroyer HMCS Haida, leading her through many successful actions, destroying numerous enemy vessels, as well as executing the daring rescue of survivors from her torpedoed sister ship Athabaskan in April 1944.

Building on these achievements, DeWolf’s lasting influence came through his staff appointments ashore, where he helped secure a stable future for the postwar Navy. DeWolf retired in 1960 as Vice-Admiral and Chief of the Naval Staff. On August 30, 2001, his ashes were scattered in Bedford Basin.

Bedford’s DeWolf Park, and the RCN’s new Harry DeWolf-class Arctic and Offshore Patrol Vessels, underscore his legacy.

Image: DeWolf Family

Harry George DeWolf (PDF, 990 KB)

Halifax Citadel National Historic Site. 

Norman Crewe 1921-

The son of a British merchant mariner, Norman Crewe was born in Burgeo, Newfoundland, which was a separate British dominion at the time. In 1940, he moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia. At the insistence of his friends, he joined them in the Canadian Merchant Navy which transported vital Allied supplies, equipment and personnel during the Second World War.

Crewe served a year in the Pacific, then made more than a dozen transatlantic crossings in enemy-infested waters, transporting everything from eggs to munitions and explosives. Crewe experienced the war firsthand, sailing in convoys under enemy attack. The distressing sights and cries of fellow sailors – whom he could not assist – with their red emergency lights bobbing in icy waters, haunt him still.

Following the war, Crewe worked at the Halifax Dockyard and spent six and a half years back at sea aboard HMCS Sackville during this distinguished corvette’s time as a civilian oceanographic research vessel. A long-time advocate for the rights of Merchant Navy veterans, Crewe continues to dedicate his time and energy to honouring his fallen comrades.

Norman Crewe and his wife Amelia (Mellie), inseparable since 1946, continue to call Halifax home.

Image: courtesy of Mr. Norman Crewe  

Norman Crewe (PDF, 590 KB)

Halifax Citadel National Historic Site. 

Women Shipbuilders 1939-1945

Roughly one million women were employed in Canadian industry during the Second World War (1939-45). As war production increased, and more men enlisted for military service, women filled the labour shortage by entering traditionally male-dominated jobs—including in Canada’s shipyards on both coasts and along the St. Lawrence River. Some 4,000 female workers thus helped build naval and merchant vessels essential to the struggle for Allied victory.

In the Maritimes, hundreds of women shipbuilders laboured alongside their male counterparts. At the yard in Pictou, Nova Scotia alone, 24 Park-class cargo ships were built for Canada’s Merchant Navy. At peak production in 1943, more than a third of the Pictou yard’s 2,000 employees in various trades were women.

Female workers such as Bridget Ann Francis (pictured), a Mi’kmaw mother, were praised for their tenacity and work ethic in all weather conditions. But they also faced numerous challenges, including gender biases, lower wages than their male colleagues, and pressing need for childcare.

After the Second World War, most working women returned to their domestic roles. Yet, the industrious legacy of Bridget Ann Francis and her trailblazing coworkers in breaking gender barriers in the trades continues to this day.

Image: National Film Board of Canada photo library, Library and Archives Canada 

Women in Shipbuilding (PDF, 916 KB)

William Bremner

William F. D. Bremner 1859–1933

Born in Halifax, William Frederick DesBarres Bremner joined the North-West Mounted Police in 1884 and arrived out West in time to witness the suppression of the “North-West Rebellion” between the Métis and their First Nations allies against Canadian government forces.

When the 112th Battalion was activated at Windsor in 1915, with broad recruitment across western Nova Scotia, Bremner volunteered and quickly became a Major and second-in-command. After training on the grounds of Fort Edward in Windsor, this battalion arrived in England in 1916, but did not see combat. After many soldiers were sent to reinforce other units on the continent, the 112th was merged into the 26th Reserve Battalion.

Suffering from chronic bronchitis in 1917, Bremner was invalided back to Canada and released from the service. He retired to his fruit farm at Castle Frederick in Falmouth, Hants County.

Image: Bremner Family

William F. D. Bremner (PDF, 753 KB)

Malcolm Cann

Malcolm Cann 1895-1914

Malcolm Cann of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, was one of the first Canadian servicemen to die in combat during the Great War.

Cann was in the first class of cadets to graduate from the Royal Naval College of Canada in Halifax in 1913. A Midshipman, he temporarily joined the British fleet. Sadly, he and three other Nova Scotians serving onboard HMS Good Hope died at the Battle of Coronel on 1 November 1914, off the coast of Chile. The others were Arthur Silver and William Palmer of Halifax, and John Hatheway from Granville. Cann was just 19.

Cann is honoured on the Halifax Memorial in Point Pleasant Park, dedicated to those who died in the World Wars with unknown graves.

Image: Yarmouth County Museum and Archives

Malcolm Cann (PDF, 1,056 KB)

Vince Coleman

Vincent Coleman 1872-1917

Born in Halifax, Vincent Coleman was a civilian train dispatcher who saved hundreds of lives during the Halifax Explosion in 1917.

On 6 December 1917, the Belgian relief vessel Imo and French munitions ship Mont-Blanc collided in the harbour, igniting the world’s largest man-made explosion up to that time. Approximately 2000 people died, with thousands more injured and homeless. Coleman died in the blast, while his North End neighbourhood was completely devastated.

Working at Richmond railway station, Coleman learned of the danger and frantically sent telegraphs warning incoming trains to stop. Heroically, he sacrificed his own life to save others: “Guess this will be my last message. Good-bye boys.” Coleman’s wife and children survived, but their home was destroyed.

Image: Nova Scotia Archives

Vincent Coleman (PDF, 884 KB)

Cole Family

The Cope Family

Raised near Windsor, James Cope (top right) came from a proud family of Mi’kmaw soldiers. A young Private in
the 25th Battalion (Nova Scotia Rifles), he was killed in France in 1918.

James initially joined his father (Joseph) and brother (John) in enlisting with the 106th Battalion at Truro. His father was too ill to go overseas. His brother returned home, but was crippled by enemy fire and suffered from exposure to mustard gas. He passed away in 1952. Another brother, Leo, only an infant when his siblings left for Europe, served with the North Nova Scotia Highlanders during the Second World War. He fell in battle in 1944.

Relatives only recently discovered the full extent of the Cope family’s sacrifice for Canada during the World Wars. They are now honoured by veterans groups in Windsor and Millbrook First Nation.

Images: Martin Family, Nova Scotia Archives, and Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq. Starting top left and moving clockwise: Joseph Cope (father), James, John, and Leo.

The Cope Family (PDF, 1,169 KB)

George A. Downey

George A. Downey 1892–1969

George Alexander Downey was born in Preston, Nova Scotia. Along with cousin James Downey, he enlisted with the No. 2 Construction Battalion and served with distinction in the Great War.

For his service in the “Black Battalion,” Private Downey was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. Despite racial discrimination in the forces, he re-enlisted for the Second World War and served with the Veterans Guard of Canada, earning the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal and the War Medal.

After the war he became a businessman and community leader. Downey’s fighting spirit was an inspiration to his family, with a number of sons and grandsons having successful careers in boxing, the military, government and politics. He died in 1969 and is laid to rest at a family cemetery in Fall River.

Image: Downey Family and Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia

George A. Downey (PDF, 584 KB)

Stephen Joseph Francis

Stephen Joseph Francis 1873-1947

A Mi’kmaw soldier (sma’knis), Stephen Francis served bravely in the First World War. He was born in Milton, a village in southwestern Nova Scotia.

Francis enlisted at Camp Sussex, New Brunswick, before joining the 24th Battalion (Victoria Rifles) in France. Aged 42, he was quite old for a Private. At the Battle of the Somme in 1916, he suffered serious shrapnel injuries to his chest and lungs. Afterwards he was sent to hospitals in England and Halifax. Francis settled in Annapolis Royal, where he died of tuberculosis complicated by lung injuries from the war.

Also from Milton, Sam Gloade was a decorated Mi’kmaw veteran of the Great War. He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal and other honours.

Image: Parks Canada, Fort Anne National Historic Site 

Stephen Joseph Francis (PDF, 564 KB)

Fritz and Bruno

Fritz & Bruno

The First World War was the last major conflict in which large numbers of animals served alongside soldiers on the battlefield. Millions of horses died, while dogs, bear cubs and other animals became mascots.

Fritz and Bruno, a war horse and sheepdog, hold a special place in local military history. They belonged to Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Bent, commanding officer of the 15th Battalion (48th Highlanders). In 1918, during the “Hundred Days” advance in France, Canadian forces captured a German position, including Fritz, a Russian bay horse, and his German officer. Several years earlier Bruno had been adopted by Canadian soldiers billeted on a Belgian farm, and became the 15th Battalion’s mascot.

At the end of the war, Bent brought Fritz and Bruno home to his farm in Paradise, Nova Scotia, where the companions are buried side by side. A popular and decorated officer, Bent served his country again during the Second World War.

Image: Donald E. Bent Family

Fritz & Bruno (PDF, 1,074 KB)

historic photo/photo historique: Thomas Hammond

Thomas Hammond 1887-1916

Born in Scarsdale, Nova Scotia, Thomas Hammond was among more than 200 Mi’kmaq from Atlantic Canada to volunteer for the Great War. Despite limited civil rights at home and cultural barriers within the military, First Nations enlistments were significant across the country.

Hammond joined the 26th “New Brunswick” Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force as a Private in 1915, but tragically was killed during the Somme Offensive the following year. He participated in the intense fighting of the Battle of Flers-Courcelette in northern France, from which his body was never recovered. He was 29.

A number of Mi’kmaq received awards for bravery and distinguished service. One sma’knis (soldier), Stephen Toney of Pictou Landing, was among the most decorated snipers in the entire Allied Army.

Image: Nova Scotia Museum

Thomas Hammond (PDF, 636 KB)

Jeremiah Jones

Jeremiah Jones 1858-1950

Born in Truro, Jeremiah “Jerry” Jones was a courageous soldier from the First World War. Like many other Black Canadians, he had to overcome racial barriers just to volunteer.

While the No. 2 Construction Battalion was the only predominantly Black unit in the Canadian Expeditionary Force, African Canadians did serve in other units, including infantry battalions. At the advanced age of 58, Jones joined the 106th Battalion in Truro, and fought with the Royal Canadian Regiment at Vimy Ridge and Passchendaele in 1917. At Vimy Ridge, he single-handedly stormed and captured a German machine gun post. For his bravery Jones was recommended for a Distinguished Conduct Medal, second only to the Victoria Cross for recognizing gallantry in action. It was never awarded.

In 2010, after decades of campaigning, the Canadian government posthumously awarded Jones a Canadian Forces Medallion for Distinguished Service. He is a heroic figure in African Nova Scotian history.

Image: Jones Family

Jeremiah Jones (PDF, 922 KB)

Arthur Lismer

Arthur Lismer 1885-1969

Arthur Lismer was a member of Canada’s “Group of Seven” (1920-33), best known for their iconic paintings of the Canadian landscape.

Born in England, he arrived in Halifax in 1916 as principal of the Victoria School of Art and Design (now NSCAD University). Although he left the city in 1919, Lismer had a lasting impact on its artistic and cultural development. He officially chronicled Halifax in wartime for the Canadian government, particularly the harbour. Arguably his most famous painting depicts the Olympic, a luxury liner turned troop ship, arriving in Halifax after the war carrying some 5000 soldiers. It is a timeless and colourful piece.

In 1974, the Canadian government designated Lismer a person of national historic significance. He is also a member of the Order of Canada.

Image: Self Portrait (1924), McMichael Canadian Art Collection

Arthur Lismer (PDF, 1,266 KB)

Angus L. MacDonald

Angus L. Macdonald 1890-1954

Born in rural Cape Breton, Angus L. Macdonald was one of Nova Scotia’s longest-serving Premiers. Before entering politics, he served with his brothers Oswin (left) and John Colin (right) in the First World War.

After officer training, Macdonald joined the Cape Breton Highlanders (185th Battalion) before being sent to the front lines in 1918 as a Lieutenant with the Nova Scotia Rifles (25th Battalion), known as the “Trench Raiders.” Bravely leading a company into action, he was seriously wounded by a German sniper only four days before the armistice. Macdonald grieved for “poor Collie,” his younger brother who fell in battle.

Macdonald had a lasting impact on Nova Scotia. The Angus L. Macdonald Bridge was opened in 1955, a year after he died in office.

Image: Chestico Museum and Historical Society (Port Hood) and Mrs. Morag Graham

Angus L. Macdonald (PDF, 1,022 KB)

Thomas Moore

Thomas Moore 1894–1978

Born in Nottingham, England, Thomas “Tom” Moore was orphaned at a young age and sent to Dakeyne Farm in Mount Denson, near Windsor. This was a home for British youth with limited career options to be trained as farmers.

Like many Nova Scotians, and British Home Children across Canada, Moore eagerly volunteered to serve in the First World War. With prior militia experience, he joined the 112th “Overseas” Battalion at its headquarters in Windsor in 1916. This Hants County unit had been raised the year before. Moore survived the war and lived the rest of his life at Mount Denson.

In 1914, Moore sent for his future wife Lavinia to join him in Nova Scotia. She was also from Nottingham. Moore passed away in 1978. The couple is buried at the Baptist cemetery in Mount Denson.

Image: Steven Tompkins (Moore’s great grandson)

Thomas Moore (PDF, 723 KB)

Daniel Owen

Daniel Owen 1890–1939

Daniel Owen was one of many First World War veterans from Annapolis County, Nova Scotia. He was born in Annapolis Royal.

A barrister by trade, Owen had previous training in the 69th “Annapolis” Regiment of the Canadian Militia prior to the war. He enlisted with the Canadian Expeditionary Force in 1917 but soon transferred to the Royal Flying Corps, in which he became a Captain. On a mission in 1917, he was wounded by enemy fire but still managed to crash land his aircraft behind German lines. Owen lost an eye in that fight and spent nearly a year in prisoner of war
camps before being repatriated to England.

Shortly after the war, Owen led a major aerial expedition over Labrador to survey forestry and natural resources for industrial development.

Image: Parks Canada, Fort Anne National Historic Site

Daniel Owen (PDF, 372 KB)

Joseph A. Parris

Joseph A. Parris 1899–1972

Born in Guysborough County, Joseph “Joe” Parris (centre) served in the No. 2 Construction Battalion alongside several family members, including brother William and cousin Seldon (second from left).

Only 17 when he enlisted at New Glasgow, Parris served his country with great enthusiasm despite the prejudices of the day. Departing from England in 1917, the “Black Battalion” was attached to the Canadian Forestry Corps in France. Its forestry work, road and railway construction, and helping the wounded were essential to the Allied victory in the First World War.

After the war Parris returned to Mulgrave, Nova Scotia, where he joined the local branch of the Canadian Legion. He passed away in 1972 and is laid to rest in St. Lawrence Catholic Cemetery in Mulgrave.
Image: Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia

Joseph A. Parris (PDF, 1,286 KB)

Walter Pickup

Walter Pickup 1893–1917

Born at Granville Ferry, Nova Scotia, Walter Pickup came from a prominent family but like so many other sons and daughters from Annapolis County he enlisted in the Canadian Corps during the First World War.

A graduate of Mount Allison University, Pickup served with the 14th Battalion, known as the “Royal Montreal Regiment.” He became a Captain and fought bravely in France, often in harsh conditions in the frontline trenches. He was wounded at the Somme in 1916 and killed at the Battle of Vimy Ridge in 1917, one of Canada’s most significant and bloody victories. Two of Pickup’s older brothers also served in the war.

Pickup is commemorated at Nine Elms Military Cemetery in France and at Stony Beach Cemetery in Granville Beach.

Image: Annapolis Heritage Society

Walter Pickup (PDF, 377 KB)

Albert Porter

Albert J. Porter 1897–1942

Born in Falmouth, Hants County, Albert Judson Porter served with the 112th Battalion during the First World War.

With local militia experience, Porter volunteered for the 112th at its headquarters in Windsor in 1915, not long after that unit had been established. The following year they embarked for European battlefields aboard the Olympic, a famous luxury liner turned troopship. Porter fought valiantly, suffering serious wounds to his chest and shoulder at the Battle of Vimy Ridge in 1917. He was sent to hospitals in England and then discharged at Halifax.

Tragically, Porter was struck and killed by a car while walking to work in Windsor in 1942. Only 46, he left behind a wife and seven children. Falmouth mourned this “respected citizen” and war veteran.

Image: Porter Family

Albert J. Porter (PDF, 755 KB)

historic photo/photo historique: George Price

George Price 1892-1918

George Price is a tragic figure from the First World War. He is believed to be the last Canadian and Commonwealth soldier to die in combat, shot by a German sniper on 11 November 1918, just two minutes before the armistice took effect at 11:00 a.m.
Born at Falmouth, Nova Scotia, Price later moved to Saskatchewan where he was conscripted into the Canadian Expeditionary Force in 1917. He served as a Private in the 28th “Northwest” Battalion until his untimely death in the Belgian town of Ville-sur-Haine.

Price is remembered as a hero in Nova Scotia, where his family still resides. His sacrifice is also commemorated near Mons, Belgium, where he is buried and various monuments, buildings, and schools are named in his honour.

Image: City of Roeulx (Belgium) and Mr. George Barkhouse (Price’s nephew)

George Price (PDF, 892 KB)

Walter Ruggles

Walter Ruggles 1890-1919

Walter Ruggles was born in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley, the son of Lenfast and Laura Ruggles of Bridgetown.

He enlisted at Halifax in 1916 and joined the 85th Battalion (Nova Scotia Highlanders) in Europe the following year. Based upon his previous military training, he was promoted to Captain and given command of “B” Company. At the Battle of Hill 70, he suffered shrapnel wounds during a German raid on the Canadian trench. After several months in hospital, Ruggles was back in the field where he received another serious injury. He was evacuated to England and eventually declared unfit for service and sent home.

Ruggles died at Camp Hill Hospital in Halifax in 1919, from injuries sustained in the war. He is buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in Annapolis Royal.

Image: Parks Canada, Fort Anne National Historic Site

Walter Ruggles (PDF, 390 KB)

Dr. John Stewart

Dr. John Stewart 1849-1933

Born at Black River, Cape Breton, Dr. John Stewart commanded Dalhousie University’s No. 7 Canadian Stationary Hospital during the Great War.

When the Dalhousie unit was created in 1915, Stewart was seen as its natural leader. He was a Dalhousie graduate and prominent surgeon in Halifax. The unit consisted of 162 staff, including Dalhousie professors and students, nursing sisters, members of other universities, and the general public. Although 67 years old, Stewart set a brisk pace on marches and coolly slept through a German air raid on the hospital. He attained the rank of Colonel and in 1918 was transferred to a high-level position in England.

After the war Stewart became Dean of Medicine at Dalhousie. He received many honours for both his wartime service and medical career.

Image: Dalhousie University Archives

Dr. John Stewart (PDF, 1,072 KB)

Daniel H. Sutherland

Daniel H. Sutherland 1878–1977

Born in River John, Nova Scotia, Daniel H. Sutherland studied engineering at McGill University and worked as a railroad contractor before enlisting with the 193rd Battalion (Nova Scotia Highlanders).

In 1916, Lieutenant-Colonel Sutherland accepted the position of Commanding Officer of the No. 2 Construction Battalion, headquartered initially at Pictou before moving to Truro.

When the battalion was restructured prior to joining the Canadian Forestry Corps in France, he took a demotion in rank to remain with his men in this historic unit during the Great War. While the battalion’s officers were all white, with the exception of Chaplain William A. White, Sutherland built a strong rapport with the men and was proud to serve with them at home and in Europe. He passed away in 1977 and is buried in Bellevue Cemetery in River John.

Image: Sutherland Family

Daniel H. Sutherland (PDF, 564 KB)

William A. White

William A. White 1874–1936

Born in Virginia to former slaves, William A. White came to Nova Scotia in 1899 to study at Acadia University. After graduating, he became a minister at Zion Baptist Church in Truro.

Prior to joining the No. 2 Construction Battalion at Truro in 1917, White was an active voice against racial discrimination in the Canadian Expeditionary Force. He was a trail blazer. During the Great War, he was one of the few Black officers in the Canadian Army, and its only Black Chaplain.

White returned to Halifax after the war, where he became the pastor of Cornwallis Street Baptist Church. He died of cancer in 1936. White is remembered fondly within the African Nova Scotian community as an inspirational and dedicated figure in the fight for racial tolerance and equality.
Image: White Family

William A. White (PDF, 673 KB)

Joseph White

Joseph White 1897-1925

Joseph Leonard Maries White was born in Halifax and grew up in the Old Town Clock on Citadel Hill, in which his father was the caretaker. His father, William “Gunner” White, served in the Royal Artillery before joining the Halifax police.

A student at Dalhousie University, the 18-year-old White enlisted with the Canadian Machine Gun Corps. Injured in battle, he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps and had a decorated career in the world’s first air war. This ace fighter pilot was honoured for his “bravery and dash in action,” downing at least 22 enemy aircraft.

White retired as a Captain in No. 65 Squadron. Tragically, as a member of the newly-formed Royal Canadian Air Force he died in a mid-air collision in 1925.

Image: Norman Franks

Joseph White (PDF, 899 KB)

25th Battalion

The 25th Battalion

The 25th Battalion (Nova Scotia Rifles) was the first Nova Scotia unit to see heavy fighting during the First World War.

Formed in 1914, the 25th was headquartered at the Halifax Armouries and recruited throughout the province. Nicknamed the “Mackenzie Battalion,” it had a strong Highland Scots character. But after just one year of combat, it was almost annihilated. Of the original 1000 officers and men who arrived in Europe in 1915, less than 100 were still standing. The other 900 were killed, wounded, taken prisoner, or missing.

With reinforcements, these “Trench Raiders” fought in every major battle of the Canadian Corps, including Ypres, the Somme, Vimy Ridge, Passchendaele, and Canada’s Hundred Days. The 25th is perpetuated by the Nova Scotia Highlanders.

Image: Army Museum

The 25th Battalion (PDF, 681 KB)

85th Battalion

The 85th Battalion

The 85th Battalion (Nova Scotia Highlanders) was an iconic fighting unit from the Great War. Mobilized at Halifax in 1915, it recruited across Nova Scotia and formed part of the “Nova Scotia Highland Brigade.” The 85th is best known for capturing Hill 145 during the Canadian victory at Vimy Ridge in 1917, shortly after landing in France. The Highlanders stormed German machine-gun nests in a frontal attack. The Vimy Memorial, recognizing Canada’s national sacrifice, sits atop Hill 145. The “Never Fails” continued fighting until the end of the war, including a courageous but bloody triumph at Passchendaele. The 85th is perpetuated by the Cape Breton Highlanders. The Army Museum at Halifax Citadel has a replica of the Vimy Memorial, where the 85th fought so bravely.

Image: Library and Archives Canada

The 85th Battalion (PDF, 646 Mo)

Halifax Citadel National Historic Site. 

William MacHardy 1894 - 1918

Billy MacHardy grew up on a farm in Pictou County, Nova Scotia, Canada. He was a teenager when the first airplane flight in the British Empire occurred in his home province in 1909.

A school teacher at the outbreak of the Great War in 1914, MacHardy’s fascination with flight led him to enlist with the Royal Flying Corps Canada in 1917. He earned his wings on 18 April, 1918 and was promoted to Second Lieutenant a few days later. That same year, he served with various fighter squadrons of Britain’s Royal Air Force (RAF) in southeastern France.

MacHardy flew his final mission in the hours leading up to Armistice. On 10 November, 1918, MacHardy and seven other Bristol airplanes departed Iris Aerodrome (near present-day Clary, France) on a bombing run over Belgium. During intense fighting with enemy aircraft, MacHardy’s plane was shot down killing the 24 year old pilot and his observer/gunner Lieutenant William Alexander Rodger. MacHardy was likely the last Canadian RAF pilot casualty of the war.

On 12 May, 2018, a group of volunteers led by MacHardy’s great-nephew, Captain Thomas MacHardy, excavated the crash site in Martinsart, Froidchapelle, Belgium, and recovered the aircraft’s remains.

Image: Courtesy of MacHardy family.

William MacHardy (PDF, 1.95 MB)





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