Image: Army Museum, Halifax Citadel
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.
From coast to coast, thousands of Nova Scotians supported the war effort. We invite you to learn more about these local hometown heroes.
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. We will remember them…
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)
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)
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 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 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 & 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)
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)
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)
Laura Hubley 1875-1964
Born in St. Margarets Bay, near Halifax, Laura May Hubley served as Matron of the alhousie 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)
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 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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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 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 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 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)