A Family That Will Not Forget: Private Nicholas Scott of Young’s Point

Young’s Point, Ontario, is approximately 25-kilometers north-east of the City of Peterborough. Founded in 1825 and named after the first family to settle there, it is the south terminus of Curve Lake and a set of locks (No. 27) of the Trent-Severn Waterway connects it with the Ontonabee River which forms the Katchewanooka Lake. This flows toward Lakefield and eventually flows into Peterborough, on its way to Lake Ontario. The land is a mix of farms and trees and very quickly, as one travels north, the land become heavily wooded and wild.

From this small village a group of men, some barely so in age, came to Peterborough in the Spring of 1916 to join the Army and fight for King and Country.

Source: CVWM

One such soldier was Private Nicholas Scott, reg. no. 195861, a farmer by trade, born in 1894. Enlisting with the 93rd Battalion, he would eventually arrive for active service with the 18th Battalion on October 3, 1916.

The 93rd Battalion was a battalion raised from Peterborough, Ontario and surroundings and it was hoped by many that it would fight as it was formed but the exigencies of finding replacements for the crushing losses at the Somme of September 1916, precluded this from being realized. The 93rd was used to reinforce line battalions with replacements and Private Scott was one such man.

He probably was hoping to be posted with a battalion formed close to Peterborough, but as the needs of the battalions’ fighting at the Somme for replacements outweighed the ability for the Canadian military bureaucracy to place replacements in units with a similar geographic origin. Though this did not happen frequently some of the replacements for the 18th Battalion were drawn from Manitoba, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and other parts of Ontario outside of Western Ontario, an area roughly bounded from Guelph to Windsor to Owen Sound, Ontario.

Private Scott arrived at a time when the Battalion was essentially rebuilding. The Battalion received 210 replacements during the month of October and Private Scott could take some comfort as two officers of his old unit, Lieutenants Worth and Eastwood, also arrived to serve with the 18th. He was also not totally alone as Private Russell Taylor, reg. no. 195673 of Chemong Lake, arrived with him, as well as several others.

The Battalion moved out of the Somme Sector at the end of December, 1916 and Private Scott writes a letter to his mother in February 1917.

The following letter has been received by Mrs. Stephen Scott, Young’s Point, Ontario.:

Somewhere in France
February 17th, [1917][i]

My Dearest Mother,- Just a line in answer to your most welcome letter just received today. Was indeed glad to hear from you [we’re] all well as this leaves all the boys here at present, but we can never tell how long it is going to last. However, we have been very lucky so far, although I have felt the heat of a couple of bullets go whizzing past my head, but as long as they don’t hit me I don’t mind that. Well, my dear mother, I don’t know how to thank you for all those lovely parcels you have sent me, so I think I will just have till I get home again to do that. They were certainly dandy and everything was so nice we sure enjoyed them. We are still out of the trenches yet, mother, and I am not a bit sorry for it. It is pretty cold her just now. It was 16 below last night, so that is not very warm. There has been about an inch of snow here this last month, but there is never any sleighing here.

Well, dear mother, I saw Rollie Johnston to-day. He looks fine, too. I also saw a bunch of the Coe Hill boys. It seems like home to meet my old chums again Dan and Joe and Lewie and Bert, and I do have great times while out of the front line. Dan has great fun talking to the French girls. I think he will be taking one home with him when we go.

Well, mother, it was too bad about Russel Taylor. I was within two feet of him when he was hit, poor lad. Lewie helped to carry him out of the trenches. I guess he was hurt pretty bad. I had a letter from Willie Tanner the other day. He is getting better. Freddie is over here, too. I think he is with the 2nd Battalion.

Well, mother, I think I will close for this time hoping to hear from you very soon again. Good-bye from your loving son, Pte. Nicholas Scott. Love to all at home.

Peterborough Examiner. March 21, 1917. Page 7.

From this and other letters, Private Scott appears to be a steady letter writer. Up until this date it appears that the Peterborough Examiner has not published a letter from Private Scott before.

The letter is newsy and Private Scott appears to not couch his military experiences from his mother admitting to feel the “heat of a couple of bullets go whizzing past [his] head,” ending with that he does not “mind” as long as he is not hit. The weather appears to have been cold, as the 4th Canadian Infantry Battalion War Diary records cold weather on February 13, 14, and 15. He makes a wonderful comparison to the amount of snow in this part of France not accumulating enough for the use of a sleigh, a form of transportation a farm would use in the cold winters of Ontario.

Though he is in a Western Ontario battalion he has had a chance to see many of his “chums” and from this letter we can identify Privates Roland Johnston, reg. no. 195582; Lewis John Drain, reg. no. 195729[ii]; and Bertie Theodore Watley, reg. no. 195863 as three of his chums. Johnston appears to be Peterborough and Watley is from Chandos County, adjacent to Young’s Point. The other men, Dan, Joe, and Bert appear to be serving with him in the 18th Battalion and Dan is quite the ladies man with the French girls.

He relates the wounding of Private Taylor which occurred on New Years Day, 1917. The 18th Battalion War Diary relates that it is in Brigade Support at Maroc, and that Private Taylor was one of five men wounded that day. A bullet passed through his left ankle causing destruction of bone, ankylosis, and the incursion of a foreign body in the area of the wound.

A month and a half pass and the Peterborough Examiner offers another letter from Private Scott that was written 2-weeks after the first:

The following letter was received by Mrs. Stephen Scott, Young’s Point, Ont., from her son, Pte. Nicholas Scott, who is now with the 18th Battalion in France:

Somewhere in France,
April 4th, 1917.[iii]

My Dear Mother, – Where I am again as large as life and twice as [natural]. Well, mother, it is quite a while now since I wrote you before, but still such things will happen some time. I never had much news to tell you, but have a little now. I had a big day and night with Will Scott[iv] last night. He is fine. Just the same old Will. We certainly had a great chat about poor old Chandos. Roy Coons[v] was with us too. He is a sergeant now. I met a whole bunch of the old boys this time out. Charlie Dywire[vi], the post’s lad. Bert Watly[vii] and a great many more, but have not met Oswal[viii] yet. I have had a letter from Sam Dunk[ix]. He is all right again. I also had one from Jack Gifford[x]. He is still in England.

Well, mother, I received another one of your great parcels yesterday. Many many thanks for them all. It is not very long ago since I got two: one was in a round tin box, the other was a cardboard box. The cake was a little broken, but I tell you it went good just the same. The one I got yesterday was in a long tin box. It was certainly in great shape.

Well, mother, I have been getting the old Examiners all O.K. There is some nice letters in them from the boys at the front. I suppose you are all moved up on your new farm. Tell father to not work too hard. I may be home yet to help him dig the potatoes yet. Hope you are not worrying about me, for I am just the same little boy, and as happy as can be for I know I will come home safe some day, and, if not, I will have done my bit, and that what I always wanted to do, do or die.

Well, mother, I was over with a bunch to see old Fritz and I tell you he gave us a pretty hot reception, but not any hotter than we gave him. I was only 93rd [Battalion] boy out of our company that was over. There were three out of B Company, and only one of them was wounded. There was eight out of our company went over. Six of them were wounded. D. Mallick[xi] and myself being the two lucky ones, but I have been very lucky since I enlisted.

Well, mother, I think I will soon have to close for this time, thanking you again for your lovely parcels and the money also.

With kindest love to all, I remain your loving son,
Pte. Nicholas Scott.

Peterborough Examiner. May 7, 1917. Page 7.

This letter was written as the 18th Battalion, along with the other battalions of the Canadian Corps prepared for the attack on Vimy Ridge. The Battalion was billeted at Bois-des-Alleux in preparation for the offensive. It had marched to the training ground at Estree Cauchie and where an “exact taped replica of the enemy frontage” was laid out for the men to see and note the precise positions of the enemy and their objectives. The Battalion did a complete rehearsal of the attack in April 2, 1917, and one wonders how bursting with news Private Scott would have loved to share in this letter.

He diligently lets his mother know about the packages he received from her and the condition of its contents and he lets her know that he is getting the local paper regularly, keeping him appraised of all the news in the Peterborough area. The family was moving to a new farm and he expresses his wish to be on the farm helping and admonishes his father not to work “too hard.”

Scott steps into the morbid relating that though he “know[s] he will come home safe,” there is still a chance he will die. One wonders of the family, especially his mother, was comforted by his assurance that he would be alright with the ultimate sacrifice as he had done his “bit.”

He then segues into relating that he was involved in a trench raid and does not share with her the fact that men in the raid were killed in the action that followed. Not really much assurance that he was staying out of harm’s way.

The action to which Private Scott relates may have been a trench raid carried out on March 23, 1917. The War Diary relates:

“Positions as yesterday. During night of 23/24th we raided the enemy trenches situated at A.10.b4.1 to A.10.b4.6 the object being to destroy known dugouts and Trench mortar emplacements. This we accomplished and caused casualties among the enemy who held his position strongly manned. Our casualties were, LIEUT. G.R. PARKE and 3 o.r.s “wounded and missing[xii]”, 7 o.r. wounded.”

Thus, the letter ends, published a month after the attack on Vimy and written only five-days before this action.

Sadly, it is also published one-day prior to Private Scott perishing in action on May 8, 1917.

The next letter is printed after his death and is written four-days prior to his loss:

Following is a copy of the last letter received by Miss Mary Scott, of Young’s Point from her brother, Pte. Nicholas Scott of the 93rd Battalion, who was killed in action on May 8th:

Somewhere in France,
May 4th, 1917.[xiii]

My Dear Sister,- Just a few lines in answer to your most kind and welcome letter just received a few days ago. Was indeed glad to hear you were all well, as this leaves the little boy at present: thank God for it. Well, Mary, I wrote to mother and Rose last week, so I guess you will be beginning to think I am not going to write to you at all.

I think I will have more time to write now for a while as I have a new job. I am stretcher bearer now, so I won’t be so busy. All I have to do is just dress whoever gets wounded in our platoon, or perhaps a few more if I happen to be near them at the time, so you will see that there is quite a change since I came over here. You know, Mary, when I was at home I would almost faint at the sight of blood, but now I can tie up a man that is half blown to pieces and don’t mind it at all. The only thing that’s wrong is that I can’t kill any more Germans, as I don’t carry a rifle nor bombs any more, but still I think I have done my share of that. If every one kills as many as I have, we will surely soon win the day. Well, Mary, I don’t have to carry the wounded on the stretchers you know, so it is a little easier job. Our other stretcher bearer got sick a while ago, so I took his place. He is in England now in the hospital.

Well, Mary, I got all those nice pieces you sent me out of the paper. That was quite a piece about when the war is over. I also go the letter you put in of mine, also the picture Rose sent me and forgot to tell her in the letter I sent her the other day.

I also got Stephen’s and Maggie’s and Michael’s letter. Will answer them soon now. I may write them any day now, but will not be able to send them for a few days. I also got Stephen’s and Maggie’s and Michael’s letter. Will answer them very soon now. I may write them any day now, but will not be able to send them for a few days.

Well, Mary, I suppose you are all buy putting in the garden. Put in lots, for I think I will be home for Christmas, and you know how fond I am of vegetables. I suppose Dad and Stephen have all the crop in by this time. Tell them not to work too hard.

Well, Mary, Joe and Anthony are fine. I haven’t heard from Dan or Lewie lately, but I guess they are having good times. Oh, yes, Mary, I got my parcel from the ladies of the Red Cross Society. Many thanks for it. You thank them all for me until I get back and remember me to every one of them, and to all my old chums. Well, dear sister, I think I have told you all for this time. [With] love to dad and mother and all the rest of you. I remain.

Your loving brother,
PTE. M. [sic] SCOTT.

Peterborough Examiner. June 2, 1917. Page 1.

This last letter from Private Scott is marked by the circumstances in which it was published. His death had been recorded in the Peterborough Examiner in the latter part of May and either the family, or the paper, felt that a further letter would be newsworthy. Whatever the circumstances, the letter shows that he is now a stretcher-bearer and he assures his sister that this role is safer than being an infantryman. The experiences of a stretcher-bearer would not necessarily bear this out. It is not clear from the letter if he was re-assigned to this role or volunteered and the contents of the letter have an unexplained inconsistency. Stretcher-bearers worked in pairs, yet Private Scott states, “…, I don’t have to carry the wounded on the stretchers you know, so it is a little easier job. Our other stretcher bearer got sick a while ago, so I took his place. He is in England now in the hospital.” Perhaps he was more like a medic than a stretcher-bearer tasked to find men, assess, and get further help in transporting them to the rear for treatment.

Always a farmer, and now it is May, he is thinking to the land and we can be certain that he would be curious to know how the new farm his family has moved to is going to fair this first growing season of their ownership. There is also a sense of bravado, pervading each letter relating to his martial skills as, “The only thing that’s wrong is that I can’t kill any more Germans, as I don’t carry a rifle nor bombs any more, but still I think I have done my share of that.”

He closed the letter thanking the members of the local Red Cross Society for a parcel and with thoughts to his family members.

With Private Scott’s death the family would be devastated. They had lost their son but they received some consolation in a letter they received from the 4th Canadian Infantry Brigade Chaplain (Roman Catholic):

The following letter has been received by Mr. And Mrs. Stephen Scott of Young’s Point in connection with the death of their son,

4th Brigade Canadian Infantry,
Headquarters, B.E.F.

My Dear Mr. and Mrs. Scott:-

I am the R.C. Chaplain of the 4th Brigade and as such I find your son, No. 195861, Pte. Nicholas Scott, of the 18th Battalion recently killed in action. He lies in the military cemetery behind the lines and in blessed ground to-gether with five other of his comrades.

I feel you have no need to worry as to his preparedness to meet death as he was with his battalion at Mass just before going into the line as it is customary for all the boys to go to confession and Holy Communion at the same time and I am sure he went also as he never missed an opportunity in going. I shall not forget him in my prayers and Masses and shall [ask] the Good God to give you the grace and strength to bear the heavy cross He has placed upon you. Your dear son was a good boy and not afraid to die.

Yours sincerely,
WM. B. CARLTON [sic] (Capt.),[xiv]
R.C. Chaplain
May 26th, 1917.

Peterborough Examiner. June 18, 1917. Page 1.

This letter of condolence from Captain William would, perhaps, assuaged some of the grief of the family as they now knew that their son had a Christian burial, and he was not alone at his resting place.

Sadly, this was not to be.

These men were probably buried close to where they died. The Circumstances of Death card for Private Nicholas Scott starkly states “Killed in Action” alluding to nothing. It does not state a burial location and Private Scott is commemorated on the Vimy Memorial. It cannot be determined what happened to his body but one possible explanation exists.

The Orchard Dump Cemetery was formed, in part, from a concentration of burials at other grave sites. It may be possible that during the disinterment and removal of the bodies of these five men of the 18th Battalion, they were lost. Either by the documentation relating to the graves or on their person in the form of personal effects did not allow for the identification of these bodies.

Specifically, for the 18th Battalion of the five men that perished on May 8, 1917, only one has an identified grave. This is assuming that all five were buried at the same time and the same place. Carleton’s letter is specific about the bodies being buried together but his letter gives no location. The record shows that of the casualties suffered on May 8th and 9th, of the 15 men that perished on those two-days, two-thirds of them are commemorated at the Vimy Memorial. The War Diary indicates that the Battalion was involved in some heavy fighting with the Germans being active in shelling and counter-attacks.

Private Scott was not alone at the 18th Battalion. Several officers and other-ranks from the 93rd Battalion served with him and from his letters he was in the thick of it, participating in a trench raid, during the action at Vimy April 9, 1917, and the subsequent operations around Thelus and Willeraval. He further stood to his duty as a stretcher-bearer, not a task for shirkers, and lost his life under unknown circumstances. He was given a proper Christian burial but circumstances due to enemy action or bureaucratic breakdown led to his body being lost.

His letters give a glimpse of what this young man was like. He was tied to his family and his farm. He was active in maintain contact with his friends and comrades of his parent Battalion from his references to them in his letters, as many of them were from Young’s Point or Chandos Township.

His family lives on and have recognized his sacrifice.

On Sunday, May 7, 2017, a group of approximately 200 Scott family members congregated at the Peterborough Cenotaph. It is fitting to end with this commemoration:

“Nicholas Scott, was born in Chandos, Ontario to Julia Long and Stephen Scott on September 28, 1894, the eldest of eight children. Nicholas and the Scott family were loggers in Chandos.

At age 17 the family home burned down and they moved to a farm in Young’s Point. Nicholas lived in Young’s point for 5 years.

At age 21 he voluntarily joined the war efforts in Europe with his friend Joe Gooley[xv]. He joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force as Private 195861, 18th Canadian Battalion.

On April 9, 1917 Nicholas’ Battalion, along with the entire Canadian forces, fought a successful battle at Vimy Ridge.

One month later, On May 8, 1917 the Canadians had advanced as far east as Arleux and Fresnoy, France, under the command of Lt. W. P. Eastwood of Peterborough.[xvi]

Joe Gooley had just finished his watch and was relieved by Nicholas. Soon after, the area Nicholas was patrolling was bombed and Nicholas was killed.

His death certificate, signed by W. P. Eastwood, simply states “Killed in Action”.

He is believed to be buried in one of thirty war cemeteries within 20 km of Vimy Ridge in a grave marked “Known Only to God”.

We have very little information about Nicholas and his life. None of the letters he sent home have survived. His siblings did not like to share stories about Nicholas, as it upset them to talk about him.

Nicholas’ name is engraved on the Vimy Ridge memorial in France as ‘N. Scott’ on a 2 inch by 12 inch space along with 11,285 other soldiers whose names are also on the Vimy Ridge memorial. 66,000 Canadians were killed in France.

Locally his name is here on the Peterborough Cenotaph as well as in Lakefield, Warsaw, Young’s Point, and the Legion in Apsley. His name is also engraved on his parents’ headstone in the Douro Cemetery.

We stand here, 100 years after his death, four generations of Scotts, to honour a man brave enough to leave his family and home and go across the world to defend his country at any cost.

Let us now remember the young man we never met, but as his family, we will never forget.”

Peterborough Cenotaph. From the city web site.

[i] The Battalion was at Ecoivres, France in Divisional reserve in front of the Thelus Sector. During this day they received “specialized instruction.”

[ii] Private Drain also served with the 18th Battalion and was part of the October 3, 1916 replacement group.

[iii] The Battalion was at Bois-des. Alleux, France near Mont-St.-Eloy for training.

[iv] This soldier is unknown. There are three Scotts in the 93rd Battalion, none of them with the fore or middle name of Will.

[v] Sergeant Roy Leslie Coones, reg. no. 195767 served with the 52nd Battalion CEF.

[vi] Possibly Private Charles Daniel Dwyer, reg. no. 195845. This man served with the 1st Battalion CEF.

[vii] Private Bertie Theodore Watley, reg. no. 195633. He served with the 87th Battalion CEF.

[viii] Possibly Private Richard Oswald Wedlock, reg. no. 195249. This man served with the 52nd Battalion and was killed in action on October 28, 1917.

[ix] Private Samuel George Dunk, reg. no. 195487. He served with the 1st Battalion CEF.

[x] Private John Gifford, reg. no. 195644. He would eventually serve with the 2nd Battalion CEF and would be killed in action November 6, 1917.

[xi] This soldier is not yet found.

[xii] In fact, Lieutenant George Reginald Parke, Corporal Arthur Lawrence Buck, reg. no. 124359 and Privates James Albert Jones, reg. no. 1233364 and Martin King, reg. no. 745111 were eventually listed as having died.

[xiii] The Battalion was now located on the front-line at Paynesly Tunnel before it moved into positions at Mount. Foret Quarries near Willeraval.

[xiv] Captain William Burke Carleton.

[xv] Private Daniel John Gooley, reg. no. 195862. Note that his brother, Joseph Bernard Gooley, reg. no. 195860 would make Private Scott’s reg. no. (195861) three consecutive regimental numbers. They literally stood in line together and joined the 93rd Battalion, one after the other, and were assigned to fight with the 18th.

[xvi] Lieutenant Vincent McCarter Eastwood, Military Cross.

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