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Sergeant Herbert Lorraine Cunningham
Herbert Lorraine Cunningham was born on April 24, 1891. His mother Leona May, and father John lived on the Hawk, Cape Sable Island. Herb had three older sisters, Geneva, Mary and Imogine. In a predominately small community such as the Hawk, fishing was the average man’s profession. His father was a ship’s engineer. When Herb was seven years old his father died. During those days when a parent died in a family occasionally the family was broken up and some of the children went to live with relatives. Herb and his sister Mary went to live with his Aunt Gustie, and uncle Marshall at the Hawk. Herb had picked up his fathers profession and worked at the Cape Sable lighthouse for three years as the assistant for his uncle Arthur Cunningham. He was an adventurous boy who loved to fish. His daughter, Betty, told a story her father had told her about a time when he was a teenager. “Herb, as a young boy was going home with some of his friends for the night. One of Herb’s friends, Arnold Lowe, was scared of the dark. Herb told his friend Arnold that he would walk him home that night only if Arnold piggybacked him the whole way.” On April 12, 1915, at the age of 24, Herb enlisted in Yarmouth, N.S. with the 40th Battalion. Since Herb was well educated and an engineer he was given the rank of Sergeant in the 40th Battalion. He went overseas to England with the 40th Battalion; however, with a desire to join the battle in France, on March 15, 1916 he took a reduction in rank to Private and joined the 60th Battalion. A few days after he had joined the 60th Battalion he was shipped to France. In May of 1915, the 60th Canadian Infantry Battalion was first organized under command of Lieutenant Colonel F. A. Gascoigne, and was mobilized in Montreal, Canada. On November 6, 1915 the Battalion left from Montreal and boarded the ship “Scandinavian”. The ship arrived in England and unloaded on November 16 of that same year. The Battalion was comprised of 40 officers and had 1024 men classified into other ranks. On February 20, 1916 the Battalion arrived in France where they met up with the 23rd Canadian Reserve Battalion. However, in April the 23rd Battalion was withdrawn, and the 60th Battalion was joined with the 116th Battalion. The 60th (the Victoria Rifles of Canada) was part of the Third Canadian Division. On July 15, 1916, Herb was promoted to Lance Corporal, and then on October 8 was promoted to Corporal. In April, 1917 he was at Vimy Ridge. Herb was wounded on April 13, 1917. He was hit by enemy shrapnel on the outside in the middle of his left thigh. The cut was approximately 3” by 4”. It wasn’t until April 3rd that he was admitted to the Canadian General Hospital in Boulogne. He was then transferred moved to the East Leeds War Hospital, Harehills, Yorkshire, England. His medical records stated that he had been hit by a shell shrapnel, and it had wounded him on the thigh of his left leg. When the wound healed it left a scar 3”by 4”, it was slightly tender, and was partly attached to the muscle below it, resulting in small loss of muscle tissue. His left leg was one inch smaller that his right leg. Hospital officials concluded that after walking one mile Herb left leg would grow tired and sore, and in wet and cold weather his symptoms would worsen. He walked with a slight limp and sometimes his toes of the left foot would drop and drag. He suffered hearing loss in his left ear which had been brought on from a concussion. Descendants of Herb remember his left leg being abnormally small compared to his right leg due to loss of muscle. During the month of November 1917, Herb experienced deafness and discharge of fluid from his left ear. In his right ear he could hear a whisper from a distance of 4 feet away, and he could hear a voice from a distance of 20 feet away. In his left ear he could not hear a thing. He was told to continually wipe his ears and to use a solution of alcohol and borasic drops three times a day until otherwise stated. Grace Elizabeth Ayres from Newbury, Berkshire, England was a volunteer at the hospital. Herb was there for six months and during his stay he became acquainted with Elizabeth. A romance followed and on October 24, 1918, Herb was granted permission to marry Grace. Now 27 years old and considered medically unfit, Herb arrived back in Halifax on December 31, 1918 and was discharged on February 18, 1919. Upon his discharge he was given a post discharge pay of $515.00. Herb returned to Yarmouth with his wife and in 1922 took a position as a Light Keeper, at the Cape Forchu Light station. Through the years Grace and Herb had six children. Betty could recall of some of the things her father could never eat, one being orange marmalade because it reminded him of one of his fellows being killed; another margarine, because it was fed to them so much during the war. He didn’t like the fact that it was artificially coloured and he couldn’t stand eating something he didn’t like to look at. He also did not like corned beef for it was rationed to him so much during the war. In 1908 the Canadian government in partnership with a company in Boston installed one of three experimental navigation systems at Cape Forchu. The system consisted of two submarine bells mounted on metal tripods at the bottom of the sea some distance off the end of Cape Forchu. Cables ran from the bells to a building attached to the fog alarm building at the Cape. Electrical signals caused these bells to ring in a preset pattern. Ships with microphones mounted to the inside of their hulls on both sides could listen to these bells from some distance and determine the bearing to the site. The system was out of service by 1914 due to difficulties keeping the system operational. The idea of underwater sound propagation however led to the development of sonar and the Boston Company became the modern day huge organization, Raytheon. In 1927 Herb noted in his journal that a cable ship had arrived to remove the “submarine” cables running off the Cape. In November 1939 light keepers along the east coast of the Maritimes became part of the coastal defence system. The Department of Transport provided a set of instructions and code words to each lighthouse. A radio message was sent out every four instructed each light keeper about how he should operate their lights and fog horns during the subsequent period. A for Apples meant that all was okay and normal operation of lights and fog alarms could continue. If a submarine was reported to be working in a particular area B for Butter meant extinguish your lights and fog alarm, there are unfriendly visitors are in your area. C for Charlie was the signal that B was cancelled and normal operation could be resumed. In May 1940, the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) established the Aircraft Detection Corps (ADC) to provide additional protection along Canada’s coast line until the time when enough operational radar sites had been constructed. Official observation posts were usually positioned in a location with a good communication connection like lighthouses. Like most light keepers Herb was the chief observer for the Cape Forchu observation post area. He preformed this role with the same dedication to duty as he showed during the First World War. Herb continued living at Cape Forchu until his death on February 26, 1982. Sources: Library and Archives Canada (Attestation Paper) School Project by Kerry Lynn Sweeney Mike Cunningham (Grandson of Herbert Cunningham)
Herbert Cunningham - WWI
Pre-World War I Herbert Cunningham - Beach at Cape Sable Island after Storm
Sergeant Herbert Cunningham - WWI
Herbert Cunningham - Leaving Yarmouth WWI (1915)
Sergeant Herbert Lorraine Cunningham Force: Army Regiment: Canadian Infantry Battalion: 40th Battalion Regimental Number: 415681 Date of Birth: April 24, 1891 Place of Birth: Clark’s Harbour, Nova Scotia Place of Enlistment: Yarmouth, Nova Scotia Date of Enlistment: April 12, 1915 Age at Enlistment: 24 Height: 5 Feet 10 Inches Trade: Engineer Marital Status: Single Religion: Wesleyan Next of Kin: (Mother) Mrs Isaac Mitchell, Yarmouth, Nova Scotia Saw service in: Europe Listed on the Nominal Roll of the 40th Battalion