GUY Herbert 1888 – 1918

HERBERT GUY 1888 – 1918

27343 Private Herbert Guy, 15th Battalion, Canadian Infantry died 1 September 1918, aged 29.  He is buried at Dominion Cemetery, Hendecourt-les-Cagnicourt, France[1] and commemorated on the Witton Park war memorials. 

Family Details [2]

Herbert Guy was born 23 September 1888,[3] the son of John and Isabella Mary Guy.  There were 6 children, all born at Bishop Auckland:

  • John born 1881
  • Charles born 1883
  • Harry born 1885
  • Herbert born 1888
  • William born 1891 (Willie) 
  • Isabella born 1898, known as “Ella”.

In 1891, the family lived at Southgate Street, Bishop Auckland where 36 years old John was employed as a, “bookseller”.[4] In 1901, the family lived at George Street, Bishop Auckland, John senior still worked as a bookseller. Three sons were in employment, 19 years old John as an, “Asphalt maker”, 18 years old Charles and 16 years old Harry were both employed as, “Iron moulders apprentices”.[5]  By 1911, the family lived at Fore Bondgate, Bishop Auckland and John senior was then employed as a, “General labourer” for the Rural District Council, 29 years old John junior was an unemployed labourer and  20 years old William worked as a, “Labourer” at an engineering works.  Of the other children only 13 years old Isabella was at home.  Charles and Harry were working away, as “Iron founders” at a blast furnace in Scunthorpe.[6] 

The shop at Witton Park
Isabella Guy and her daughter “Ella”

The Guy brothers

In January 1912, Charles and Harry emigrated to New Brunswick, Canada.  William left for Quebec 7 months later.  In March 1913, Herbert, aged 24, left Glasgow aboard the Allen Line vessel SS Ionian for the 9-day passage to Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. [7]

SS Ionian

By 1913, the Guy family lived at 22 Queen Street, Witton Park and it is believed that John senior worked at the slag works.  By 1914, they lived at Main Street, Witton Park where mother, Isabella was a shop keeper, being a confectioner.[8]

Military Details

18 September 1914: Herbert Guy enlisted into the 15th Battalion, The Canadian Infantry and was allocated the service number 27343.  He was single and worked as a “Freight Handler”.[9]  He was 26 years old; stood 5’4¾”; complexion medium; eyes brown; hair black; religion Church of England and considered fit for the Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force.[10]  His medical examination took place at Camp Valcartier, Quebec, Canada.

The 15th Battalion was recruited in Toronto, Sudbury, Owen Sound and St. Catherine’s, Ontario and Waterloo and Coaticook, Quebec.  The 15th Battalion (48th Highlanders of Canada) Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) was authorized 1 September 1914 and embarked for Britain 26 September 1914.  Following training in the UK, it arrived in France 15 February 1915.  The battalion came under the orders of the 3rd Infantry Brigade, 1st Canadian Division  It was mobilised at Camp Valcartier, Quebec.[11]  The 3rd Canadian Infantry Brigade was made up of 4 battalions:

  • 13th Bn., Canadian Infantry (Royal Highlanders of Canada)
  • 14th Bn., Canadian Infantry (Royal Montreal Regiment)
  • 15th Bn., Canadian Infantry (48th Highlanders of Canada)
  • 16th Bn., Canadian Infantry (Canadian Scottish)

and later the 3rd Trench Mortar Battery formed the 3rd Brigade.

The 15th Battalion saw action during the Second Battle of Ypres 1915, at the following engagements:[12]

  • 22-23 April: Battle of Gravenstafel
  • 24 April – 4 May: Battle of St. Julien

Then later engagements

  • 12 – 25 May: Battle of Festubert
  • 15 – 16 June: Second Action at Givenchy

Private H. Guy was in England at this time.  He did not enter France until 31 July 1915.[13]

6 February 1915: He was transferred to Infantry Base Depot, Tidworth, which was a garrison town on Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire, England.  Between 20 and 23 February, Private H. Guy was in hospital suffering from influenza.

9 April 1915:  He was taken on strength, 15th Battalion.  Private H. Guy probably was held at the depot because he did not enter France until 31 July 1915, taken on strength, 15th Battalion, nominal roll.[14]

Between 1 August to 27 November 1915, 15th Battalion was in and out of the trenches in the Ploegsteert area and supplying work parties.  Between 15 and 30 August, the battalion was at Hill 63 and it was reported that the enemy was quiet, other than sniping.  There were 2 casualties on the 21st. 

During September, the battalion again was in and out of the trenches and supplying working parties for the engineers.  It was a quiet sector and no casualties were reported until 29 September when 1 man was killed and another wounded by shelling. 

October followed the same pattern.

During November, the billets were at Court Dreve and Kortepyp Huts.  The front was quiet.  18 November, 15 Battalion entered the trenches at section 142 to 130 inclusive at 7.25PM.  The next day, 19th at 11AM, the enemy shelled battalion HQ killing one and wounding 3 men.  There were no casualties for the next 3 days when the battalion was relieved 7.40PM, 22 November.  The battalion then was posted to Red Lodge in the brigade reserve providing working parties for the engineers. 

On the 26th, between 5 and 8.10PM, the 15th relieved 16th in trenches at sector 142 and 4th Battalion at sector C.1. and C.2.  There were 3 casualties.  The following days, 27 – 30 November, were quiet and again, no casualties were reported.  It is therefore assumed that Private H. Guy was one of the 3 men wounded on the 26th.[15]  Details of his wound and treatment are given below.

November 1915: Hill 63, Messines: Wounded – Gun Shot Wound (GSW) near ankle.  Sent to Casualty Clearing Station 212, Bailleul for 1 night, sent to No.2 Canadian Stationary Hospital, Boulogne until 13 December.

13 December 1915 –  6 January 1916:  Bevan Military Hospital and  18 December 1915: Private H. Guy was “struck off strength”.[16] 

6 January – 7 February 1916: Goadhurst 

7 – 9 February 1916: Canadian Convalescence Hospital, Monks Horton.  The following description is given: 

“The bullet entered the leg about 2½” above “Ext. Malleolus” anterior aspect and said to have penetrated about 2”.  It was removed by operation leaving incision on scar 3” long.  Wound healed. Flexion of foot impaired somewhat.  No deformity.  Transferred 9 February 1916 to Bearwood Park, Wokingham.” [17]

  • 9 February – 7 March 1916: Canadian Convalescent Hospital, Bear Wood Park, Wokingham, Berkshire
  • 7 March to 22 May 1916: Granville Canadian Special Hospital, Ramsgate, Kent.  Between 29 April and 7 May, he was absent without leave (AWL) and forfeited 9 days’ pay.
Canadian Convalescent Hospital, Bearwood

23 May 1916: It was reported that, “GSW Left Ankle, fractured fibula, now healed”.[18]

25 May 1916: Private H. Guy was transferred to 17th Battalion, taken on strength, and posted to Sandling Camp near Folkestone, Kent then 14 August 1916, transferred to 92nd Battalion, 4 January 1917, transferred to 5th Reserve Battalion.  During this period, he was absent from 26 June to 19 July.[19]  He was to succumb to another illness before re-joining his battalion.  

  • 25 January – 20 June 1917: Private H. Guy was admitted to Bramshott Military Hospital (later to become 12th Canadian General Hospital), Hampshire. 
  • 11 February: He was seriously ill with septicaemia and pneumonia.  A report appeared in the “Toronto Star”:

Pte Herbert Guy, after serving in France more than two years, is reported seriously ill.  He had no military experience when he enlisted in Toronto a few days after the outbreak of war with a Highland unit commanded by Col. Currie.  He trained at Long Branch before leaving the city.  His next of kin lives at Witton Park, Durham England.[20]

  • 9 May: He was removed from the seriously ill list.
  • 21 June:  He was transferred to Bear Wood Convalescent Hospital, Wokingham, Berks. and then 28 June to Woodcote Park Canadian Convalescence Hospital, Epsom.   [21]

3 August:  He was discharged.[22]

5 August, he joined 5th Reserve; 3 October 5th Reserve at the 1st Canadian Command Depot; 15 February 1918 12th Reserve; 9 March to 15 Bn. at Witley Camp, Surrey.

27343 Private Herbert Guy, 15th Battalion, Canadian Infantry

29 March 1918: Private H. Guy arrived in France[23] and 2 April, he joined 15th Battalion.[24]  This coincided with the German Spring Offensive.

The German Offensive, Spring 1918: an overview [25]

3 March, Soviet Russia made peace with Germany and her allies by virtue of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk.  As a result, Germany could now transfer troops from the Eastern Front to the Western Front.  More importantly, these Divisions included the original elite of the German Army – the Guards, Jaegers, Prussians, Swabians and the best of the Bavarians. In all, 192 Divisions could be deployed in the West.  The Allies could field 178 Divisions.  A single division numbered about 19,000 men.  Ludendorff could call upon about 3,650,000 men as opposed to the Allies 3,380,000.  Thus, the Germans now held superiority in numbers.  

The German High Command needed victory to be gained before the American Forces arrived in Europe in huge numbers.  America entered the war 6 April 1917 and in the July, Pershing General of the Armies of the United States asked for an army of 3 million men.  The first of her troops arrived in France 26 June 1917.  The training and build-up of troops obviously took time but eventually by June 1918, the Americans were receiving about 250,000 men a month in France.  This amounted to 25 divisions in or behind the battle zone and another 55 in the United States ready to join the action.

Elsewhere in the Alliance, the French were able to draw on a new annual class of conscripts after a year of inactivity but the British were worn down by continuous fighting during the summer of 1917 with major offensives at Arras, Messines, Passchendaele and Cambrai.  The strength of the British infantry had fallen from 754,000 in July 1917 to 543,000 in June 1918 producing a manpower crisis.

21 March 1918:  the German Offensive was launched.  There were 5 phases:

  • 21 March – 5 April: Operation Michael, against the British, the Battle of Picardy (otherwise known as the First Battle of the Somme 1918)
  • 9 – 11 April: Operation Georgette, against the British, the Battle of Lys sector near Armentieres
  • 27 April: Operation Blucher-Yorck, against the French sector along Chemin des Dames, the Third Battle of Aisne
  • 9 June: Operation Gneisenau, against the French sector between Noyan and Montdider, the Battle of the Matz
  • 15 – 17 July: Operation Marne-Rheims, the final phase known as the Second Battle of the Marne.

The Germans enjoyed spectacular territorial gains particularly during the initial phases of the offensive.  23 March, the Kaiser declared a “victory holiday” for German schoolchildren. 

The cost in manpower was enormous:

  • Between 21 March and 10 April the 3 main assaulting armies had lost 303,450 men – 1/5th of their original strength.
  • The April offensive against the British in Flanders was eventually computed to have cost 120,000 men out of a total of 800,000.

The German High Command calculated that it required 200,000 replacements each month but only 300,000 recruits stood available taking into account the next annual class of 18-year olds.  There were 70,000 convalescents available from hospitals each month but even counting them, the strength of the German Army had fallen from 5.1 million to 4.2 million men in the 6 months of the offensive.  It could not be increased on the estimated scale required. 

In June 1918, the first outbreak of “Spanish Flu” laid low nearly 500,000 German soldiers.  This epidemic was to reoccur in the autumn and wreak havoc throughout Europe and the wider world.  Added to this the poor diet of the German troops, battle fatigue, discontentment with the military leadership, social unrest at home and a general realisation that their great effort was beginning to wane, the Allies counter attack in mid-July began to seize the initiative. 

Sweeping victories over demoralised German forces, what became known as the “Hundred Days” or the “Advance to Victory”.  The term “Hundred Days” is a British one and refers to the period between the Battle of Amiens on 8 August and the Arnistice on 11 November 1918, a total of 95 days. Between 18 July and 11 November the Allies sustained upwards of 700,000 casualies while the Germans lost at least another 760,000 men. [26] It eventually led to the resignation of Ludendorff 27 October, the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm 9 November and the signing of the Armistice 11 November 1918. 

1918: 1st Canadian Division [27]

The Canadian Expeditionary Force played an important role.  The 1st Canadian Division saw plenty of action and was involved in the following engagements: [28]

8 – 11 August: Battle of Amiens

15 – 17 August: Actions around Damery

The Second Battle of Arras

  • 26 – 30 August: Battle of the Scarpe
  • 2 – 3 September: Battle of Drocourt-Queant

27 September – 1 October: Battle of the Canal du Nord

8 – 9 October: Battle of Cambrai   

This account will not deal with the period beyond the attack on the Drocourt-Queant Line since Private H. Guy was killed in action during preliminary operations 1 September 1918.

The Battle of Amiens:  8 August: The 3rd Canadian Infantry Brigade plus the 5th Canadian Infantry Battalion, attacked on a 3 brigade front with 2 battalions in close reserve – 16th Bn., (Canadian Scottish) on the right; 13th Bn., (Royal Highlanders of Canada) in the centre and 14th Bn., (Royal Montreal Regiment) on the left.  The centre of the attack was supported by 15th Bn., (48th Highlanders of Canada) and the right by the 5th Canadian Battalion.  The opposing German forces were 109th Division with its HQ at Harbonnieres.

0420 hours, the artillery barrage opened and 4 minutes later all ranks moved forward towards Hangard Woods and Morgemont Wood.  Casualties were reported as, 6 Officers wounded, Lieut. S. Albright later died of wounds; 13 ORs killed and 83 ORs wounded.

9 August: 0630 hours, 15th Battalion moved off towards Cayeux by way of Ignacourt towards Warvillers where the majority of casualties of the day were sustained.  Objectives were achieved.  Casualties were 6 officers wounded; 14 ORs killed in action and 60 ORs wounded.

Between the 10 and 21 August, the battalion occupied trenches south west of Warvillers before being relieved by French troops.  Casualties were few, 12 ORs wounded and 8 ORs gassed.  The battalion moved to Arras and were in the front line trenches east of Cherisy and sustained heavier casualties from the 29th, 12 ORs killed and 51 wounded due to enemy shelling.  The Major Commanding, in his “Resume for August 1918” reported: [29]  

“The mode of attack was entirely new in its actuality, to the troops but it was driven home by all ranks as if they had been used to nothing but open warfare.  There was the new sight of the mobile artillery following cloely on he heel of the advancing infantry, swinging into action and when out of range, limbering up once more to repeat the performance further ahead…This month saw the commencement and completion in so far as the Canadians were concerned, of one of the most brilliantly conducted and successful operations of the present war…It was apparent on the last few days of the month that further operations were in view and as all ranks were flushed with their late success, there were no doubts that they would be, given the chance, just such a success.”

The success of the Allies was famously lamented by General Erich Ludendorff;

“8 August was the black day of the German Army in the history of the war.”

By 29 August, the Australians had crossed the Somme, moved into Peronne and taken the strongly held enemy positions on Mont Saint-Quentin.  British forces in the north had also made good progress towards Cambrai, although they had run up against the northernmost section of the Hindenburg Line, the Drocourt-Queant switch, a tough series of defensive lines cloaked in barbed wire.  Haig assigned the its capture to the Canadian Corps under the command of Sir Arthur Currie.[30] 

The 1st Canadian Division was brought into action.

23 August: the 15th Battalion (48th Highlanders) were brought out of the line to billets at Boves, east of Amiens.  The next 24 hours were spent attending Sunday church parade and cleaning their equipment.  Their turn to move north to Arras was about to begin. 

25 August: At 1500 hours, they left Boves marching to the Saleux railway yard.  They arrived at Arras the next day and completed the move to trenches in the Divisional Reserve, south west of Neuville Vitasse by midnight of the 28th.  HQ was at Sun Quarry, near Cherisy.

29 August: front line east of Cherisy, casualties 3 OR s killed, 5 ORs wounded.

30 August, as evening fell, a German shell landed directly on the HQ dugout at Sun Quarry.  These positions were old German trenchs therefore the entrance faced the German lines and the shell came straight through it.  Within were the CO, Major Girvan, a group of officers, signallers, runners and a newspaper reporter.  The War Diary reports that 2 men were wounded slightly and Lieuts. Snow and Denton were wounded.  Casualties for the day amounted to 6 ORs killed and 23 ORs wounded. 

31 August: The following morning the 1st Canadian Brigade moved to the front line for an operation against Upton Wood, a major obstacle on their left.  Throughout the day the battle for the wood rolled back and forth until it was finally secured by the Canadians. 

In the afternoon, the Highlanders were ordered to take over the newly captured and consolidated trenches with their front line in Ulster Trench a few hundred yards further down the road towards Hendecourt les Cagnicourt.  At dawn, they were to attack a feature known as the Crow’s Nest and the Chateau Wood at Hendecourt. 

1 September: At 0450 hours, the Canadian guns opened up and the leading companies leapt to their task.  All went well and the casualties were light as the men, “slithered their way across the battle churned fields to their objectives”.  As soon as the barage moved off the crest of the Crow’s Nest, Capt. Samuel’s No.2 Company stormed up the slope and took the German machine gunners before they had been given the slightest chance of setting their guns.  By 0600 hours, messages were being flashed back:

“Crow’s Nest taken, 50 prisoners, 1 Officer, Casualties light.”

The Battalion report on operations include the following: [31]

“Everything went to plan and our casualties were fairly light although the enemy barrage came down within 3 minutes after zero…it was all high explosive and our troops were able to pick their way through in artillery formation.”

An estimate of casualties sustained on the 1st and 2nd was provided on the 3rd of the month, it being 13 officers and 201 Other Ranks.[32]  The circumstances of Private H. Guy’s death on 1 September 1918, were reported as follows:

“Whilst taking part in the attack against Crows Nest Chateau Wood near Hendecourt on 1st September 1918, Private Guy was instantly killed by a piece of enemy shell, just in front of the “jumping off” point, at about 5.5 am.[33]

It was witnessed by 192287 Corporal McCrone at the jumping off point in front of Hans Trench. [34]

After several days of prelminary oerations, including that at Crow’s Nest, the main assault began at 0500 hours, 2 September, with 3 Canadian divisions in line, covered by 4th British Division on its northern flank.  Fighting continued all day.  Currie’s troops, men from Toronto and Vancouver, Ontario and British Columbia, fought their way through this dense defensive system using rifle and bayonet, bomb and grenade, mortar and artillery, in what was sometimes fierce hand-to-hand fighting thus unhinging the northern flank of the Hindenburg system. Currie wrote in his diary on 3 September:

“As a result of our victory yesterday, the hinge of the German system has been broken.” 

The breaking of the Drocourt-Queant Line would be one of the finest achievements of the Canadian Corps during the war, Currie even rating it higher than the first day at Amiens.

Between 27 August and 2 September, the Canadian Corps, fired over 10,000 tons of ammunition, almost twice what it had used at Amiens.  By the evening of 2 September, through the smoke and fire, over 6,000 German prisoners had been taken as well as 65 guns and nearly 500 machine-guns. [35]  Haig rode forward and personally congratulated Major-General Archibald Macdonnell, commander of 1st Canadian Division, whose troops had fought their way into the Drocort-Queant position.[36]

Private H. Guy was not to see the victory.  As stated above, he was killed in action, 1 September during the preliminary action along with 3 Officers and 53 Other ranks, KIA or died of wounds as a result of the action 1 and 2 September. [37]

Medals and awards

Herbert Guy was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the Victory and British War medals.


27343 Private Herbert Guy, 15th Battalion, Canadian Infantry is buried at grave reference I.A.9 Dominion Cemetery, Hendecourt-les-Cagnicourt, France.[38]

Dominion Cemetery, Hendecourt-les-Cagnicourt,
Private Herbert Guy’s headstone


25th May 1915: Herbert Guy made out his will and left his effects to his mother Mrs. J. Guy, Main Street, Witton Park, Near Bishop Auckland, Durham, England.

A quote:

“When I visited there was no one else around.  It was cold, wet day in spring, with a bitter wind blowing across the flat fields and one could only be struck by the loneliness and sadness of the scene.  Tom is buried in lot C.30, alongside 200 other soldiers, most of whom were killed in the last year of the war.  As I stood there I was filled with a powerful urge to write a history of those final days; to do all that I could to bring him home.”[39]  

I had a similar experience when visiting the battlefields of the Ypres Salient.  I felt compelled to do something to pay tribute to the men of my village who fell during this terrible conflict.


The War Memorial, Queens Park, Toronto, Ontario, Canada [40]

48 Highlanders Memorial Cross


Herbert Guy emigrated to Canada in 1913 and enlisted soon after war was declared.  He joined the 48th Highlanders of Canada, the 15th Battalion, Canadian Infantry and entered France in July 1915.  In November that year, Private Guy suffered a gunshot wound to the ankle and was sent to England for treatment.  That healed, he contracted septicaemia and pneumonia, being on the dangerously ill list for some time before recovering.  He was sent back to France 31 March 1918 as the German Spring Offensive took full effect.  The 1st Canadian Division was involved with the Allies counter attack commencing with the Battle of Amiens in August and the move to the northernmost section of the Hindenburg Line, the Drocourt-Queant switch.  Private H. Guy was killed in action 1 September 1918, aged 29, during preliminary operations attacking a feature known as the Crow’s Nest.  He is buried at Dominion Cemetery, Hendecourt-les-Cagnicourt, France.


[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[2] “Witton Postcards” D. Daniel and others

[3] Attestation Paper dated 18 September 1914

[4] 1891 census

[5] 1901 census

[6] 1911 census

[7] Passenger Lists leaving UK 1890-1960 Transcription

[8] Attestation Paper dated 18 September 1914

[9] Attestation Paper

[10] Description on Enlistment



[13] Army Form B.103 Casualty Form – Active Service

[14] Army Form B.103 Casualty Form – Active Service

[15] 15th Battalion, CEF War Diary August to December 1915

[16] Record of services: card index

[17] Canadian Convalescent Hospital, Monks Horton, Kent, Form DMS 1401 A & D Card and Bear Wood C.C.H. A & D Card

[18] Examination by Standing Medical Board, Shorncliffe dated 23 May 1916

[19] Army Form B.103 Note:  I cannot decipher the terms of his sentence.

[20] Toronto Star March 14th 1917

[21] Various sources, mainly Table II: Admissions to Hospital or to the Sick & Army Form I. 1237Medical Case Sheet

[22] Canadian Convalescent Hospital, Bear Wood, Wokingham, Berks., Form DMS 1401 A & D Card

[23] Army Form B.103 Casualty Form – Active Service

[24] Form R.122

[25] Various sources including,, “The First World War” Keegan J. 1999, “First World War” Gilbert M. 1994

[26] “Hundred Days: the end of the Great War”2013 Nick Lloyd Preface xxx

[27] Various sources including


[29] Army Form C.2118 15th Bn., War Diary (p.15 of 662 Canada Archives)

[30] Lloyd p.95

[31] “Report on Operations of September 1st on Crow’s Nest and Chateau Wood” HQ 15th Canadian Battalion Lieut. & A/Adjutant

[32] P.350 of 662

[33] Form R.231 Circumstances of Death or Missing Report

[34] Record of services: card index – correspondence

[35] Lloyd p.98-100

[36] Lloyd p.101


[38] CWGC

[39] Lloyd preface xxxiii