The 193rd Battalion C.E.F.
With the Great War entering it’s third year in 1916, rising casualties continued to levels never witnessed in the history of warfare. As casualties increased, so too was the demand for manpower to fill the ranks. All across the commonwealth, governments were forced to reconsider their recruiting strategies. With the conscription crisis of 1917 just a year away, the Canadian Government was pressed to consider any method of recruitment. One of the more unorthodox methods pursued was the offer made by John Stanfield (Member of Parliament) to raise a unit from his constituents. This unit would go on to become the 193rdBattalion, one of four battalions raised as part of The Nova Scotia Highland Brigade.
On June 3rd1916, Russell Zinck attested in his hometown of Chester, Nova Scotia. A teacher by trade, Russell had just over one year of prior service at Aldershot. Born in 1897 and standing at 5 feet 9 inches, Russell had just celebrated his 19thbirthday two months earlier. Passing his medical examination, now Lieutenant Colonel Stanfield of the 193rdNova Scotia Highlanders signed off on his certificate the next day. Given regimental number 902531 and assigned the rank of Private, Russell joined over 1450 men in summer training at Aldershot.
The Blue Feather
By summers end, Russell and the men of the 193rdwere well acquainted with the training of trench warfare which included trench raiding, bayonet fighting, and bomb throwing. Visited in late September by the wife of the Canadian Prime Minister (Lady Borden), the battalion was presented with its colors. The battalion had selected royal blue, taking the form of a blue feather placed behind their cap badge flanked by turkey feathers. October 12thwould see the unit embark from Halifax, arriving in England on the 19thbefore travelling by train to Witley Camp.
Appointed to Lance Corporal on the 23rd, Russell would revert back to Private on the 4thof December. By now the hopes of becoming part of the 5thCanadian Division gave way to demands of replacements and reinforcements. Many in the 193rdBattalion were cast into various units with Russell being sent to the Royal Highlanders of Canada (42ndBattalion). Along with notable Canadian Author Will Bird, Russell arrived to the battalion in France on the 2ndof January 1917.
The Black Watch
The 42ndBattalion as part of the 7thInfantry Brigade (3rdDivision) saw considerable action all throughout 1917. Russell would have seen action at Vimy Ridge, he was again appointed to Lance Corporal the following month in Arleux. Hill 70 and Passchendaele would round out the year for Russell and as others in the battalion fell in battle, Russell remained. Twice he would take leave in December, returning to the battalion without issue.
100 Days Offensive
The 1918 spring thaw would see the German Imperial Forces on the offensive, though planning had taken a great deal of care in avoiding contact with the now formidable Canadian Corps. With the German offensive running out of steam, the Allied Forces countered with what would later be known as the 100 Days Offensive. Russell and the 42ndbattalion would take part in the Battle of Amiens, Arras, Canal du Nord, Cambrai, and Mons. Through almost two full years of frontline service Russell had made it through without so much as a single visit to a field hospital and in March of 1919 Russell demobilized back home.
As part of the 42ndBattalion Russell was awarded the Military Medal in September of 1919, but further details remain elusive. What remains certain is that Russell returned to Canada to enroll at McGill University graduating from medicine in 1924. In 1926 Russell opened his own practice in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia where he worked for 54 years until his death in 1980.
Will R. Bird Connection?
Originally published in 1930, Will Bird’s “And We Go ON: A Memoir of the Great War”recounts the author’s experience as a part of the 42ndBattalion. Like Russell, Will enlisted as part of the 193rdBattalion and was transferred into the 42ndBattalion at the end of 1916. Though I can not say with certainty, on many pages Bird writes of a “Russell”, though locale“Newfoundland boy”does not necessarily align with Russell. Further research into the 42ndBattalion shows one Russell other than Zinck who survived up to the part in the book. But like Zinck, Russell Lavelle was born outside of Newfoundland in Durham, Ontario. Nominal rolls of the 42ndonly show one Russell, but he was from Toronto. It could very well be a name or identity to protect a fellow soldier Bird looked down upon, but research will continue.
*A huge thank you goes out to Terry McCully, this project could not have come together without his generous assistance and friendship. *