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Remembering World War I Yarmouth Connections
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James Wilbur Dexter 283456 Private 219th Battalion/85th Battalion April 6, 1894 Quinan, Yarmouth Co., NS April 17, 1916 Yarmouth, NS 22 5 feet, 8 inches light light blue 29th Battery, Canadian Field Artillery, Yarmouth NS Single Farmer Baptist Harry E. Dexter (Father) East Breton, Yarmouth Co., NS June 15, 1917 Villers Station Cemetery (Pas de Calais, France) (X. C. 11.) Commemorated on Page 227 of the First World War Book of Remembrance. Displayed in the Memorial Chamber of the Peace Tower in Ottawa on May 21 James (Jim) Wilbur Dexter was 22 when he enlisted with the 219th Battalion at Yarmouth, NS. Following initial training in Canada he embarked Canada at Halifax on October 12, 1916 and disembarked at Liverpool England on October 18, 1916, sailing on the SS Olympic. At Witley Camp in England, he was transferred from the 219th Battalion to the 85th Battalion on December 28, 1916. On January 19, 1917 he was hospitalized at Aldershot Camp, suffering from mumps, and when discharged from isolation on February 8, 1917 he was assigned to the 17th Reserve Battalion. On March 16, 1917 he was taken on strength with the 85th Battalion and proceeded overseas from Bramshott Camp England to Havre in France arriving there on March 17. On March 19th He left the Canadian Base Depot to join the 85th in the field of battle. He joined the unit on April 5, 1917 with his first introduction to battle being that of Vimy Ridge. On June 12th the 85th was in the area of Angres. The enemy in a counter-attack, using gas shells, filled the area and many soldiers were sent to hospital. Private Dexter was one of those gassed and when the stretcher bearers took him out of the trenches, he was unconscious. Taken to No. 13 Canadian Field Ambulance, he died on June 15, 1917. At the end of World War I, his father received the following letter:
James Wilbur Dexter
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Hamond Vale, Kings Co., New Brunswick November 25, 1918 To the next of kin of Private J. W. Dexter, son of Harry Dexter, East Breton, Yarmouth Co., NS Mr Dear Friend Trusting you won’t think it rude or forward of me in writing these few lines. I will do as I have often been on the verge of doing for months. First in explanation I must say that I was Jim’s comrade and chum in France. We were both scouts and were always together. We fought together, we rested together, we ate together and we slept together. Needless to say under the trying circumstances we were the most intimate of friends and the truest of pals, Even yet I long for the companionship of one so true who lived so nobly and died so gloriously. I know in your sorrow you must feel proud of him. I could never find the courage to write to you before because I knew that it would only deepen your sorrow and it’s something I wish to avoid ... saying or doing anything that would cause pain to those who sorrow so I trust that these few lines will bear the message to you that I sorrow with you. I was gassed by the same shell that Jim was, only not near so badly and I was with him until almost the last. When the stretcher bearers took him out of the trenches for the trip to hospital he was unconscious. He was brave to the last and died with the spirit of fight until the wrongs done to Christianity and humanity were redressed. The most glorious death a man can die it is and I always feel that my very best pal has only gone a while before me and that when I also shall pass through the valley of the shadow which is the only way to Heaven I shall meet with him and understand why God has ordained that the one should be taken and the other left. ... I was wounded in the lung August 2, 1917 and invalided home May 16, 1918 and I have been asked so many times by sorrowing relatives for particulars of the last moments of their loved ones I thought perhaps I would do you a kindness in writing you. If I have failed I’m extremely sorry and hope you will pardon the intrusion. If I have not made myself clear and could do you a favor by answering your questions I’d be glad to do so. Trusting I have not intruded upon your grief I remain, Your sympathetically Hartley E. Scott.
Name: Service No: Rank: Battalion/Service: Date of Birth: Place of Birth: Date of Enlistment: Place of Enlistment: Address at Enlistment: Age at Enlistment: Height: Complexion: Hair Colour: Eye Colour: Previous Military: Martial Status: Trade: Religion: Next of Kin: Date of Death: Memorial:
Sources: Library and Archives Canada Canadian Virtual War Memorial “A Monument Speaks” A Thurston 1989 (pp 127-128) (Letter)
85th Battalion, France