835508 Pte. James Henry Dunn was born on May 19th, 1894, in Newburgh, which is a little town in Camden County, just outside of Napanee, Ontario. His father, William George Dunn, was a woodworker and carriage maker and his mother was Isabelle Mordin Hall. James was the eldest of four sons. James' brothers were John, who was 2 years younger, Francis, who was 8 years younger, and Milton.

It was with the first call for volunteers in the Napanee area that James signed up with the 146th Battalion of the C.E.F., on January 19th, 1916, in Kingston, Ontario. James was single, 21 year old farmer who had no prior military experience. He stood 5 foot 8¾ inches tall, had a dark complexion, brown hair and blue eyes. He was given regimental number 835508.

James' brother, John Clarence Dunn (321868) had been working as post office clerk in Toronto and when he heard that his older brother had signed up, he signed up five days later and was assigned to the 53rd Battery of the Canadian Field Artillery. James' mother, Belle, as she was known, was well aware of the hardships that her boys would encounter overseas as she had been the Convener of the Finance Committee of the Yarker-Colebrook Red Cross Society, from 1914-1915. Her role was to organize the efforts of the women of the district to collect money through public collections, concerts, teas and other entertainment events. The money collected was used to produce many needed items for the overseas troops. During the entire war, the society sent overseas 3,927 pairs of socks, 2,244 suits of pyjamas, 1,320 hospital shirts, 150 caps and thousands of other useful items, such as towels, wrist bands, scarves, bandages, wash cloths and hot water bottle covers. Every Christmas they also sent the boys of the area a generous box from this society.

Initial training for James was in the Napanee area through the winter of 1916, followed by spring and summer training in Barriefield and Valcartier. James arrived in England on October 7th, 1916, after an uneventful crossing of the Atlantic Ocean that still contained a very real threat from German submarines. On arrival to England, James, along with the rest of the men of the 146th, was transferred to the 95th Reserve Battalion. James had been promoted to Corporal with the 146th, however according to the Napanee Standard, he gave up his stripes to go with his friends when they were transferred to the 95th.

James waited out his 14 day quarantine with the 95th and was finally assigned to the 4th Canadian Mounted Rifles on October 27th, 1916. A week later James and 276 other men from the 146th arrived in France. Here they received another week of training before going to the front lines for the first time on November 11th, 1916. The winter of 1916-1917 was a relatively good time to arrive as it was a time of strengthening defences, training and recuperating. While it was a time free of major operations, trench raids were still carried out by both sides.

In February 1917, James and the rest of the 4th CMR was pulled out of the line and started 5 weeks of training and preparation for the attack on the German stronghold of Vimy Ridge. The ridge was thought to be impenetrable as the French had tried for 3 years, with 150,000 casualties, and still not been able to take it. On April 9th, 1917, the brave men of the 4th CMR, with snow blowing at their backs, attacked the ridge with rest of the 4 Canadian divisions. The 4th CMR had the objective of crossing 3 German trench lines and capturing a large wooded area called La Folie Wood, which was just beyond the crest of the ridge. Although the battle would last for 3 days, with the 4th Division struggling to take their objectives on a nearby hill, the 4th CMR had bravely taken all of their assigned objectives by mid-afternoon on the first day. 43 men of the 4th CMR were killed, 131 wounded and 19 were missing that day, but James made it through unscathed. For the Canadians, this was their first major victory of the war.

On May 26th, 1917, James was well behind the lines at Toronto Camp. It was 8:30pm and the 4th CMR was enjoying a game of baseball when another young man from the Napanee area, Pte. Clarence McCabe, picked up a blind (unexploded) shell. The shell went off killing Clarence instantly and severely wounding James. Although he survived for 5 days in hospital, James finally succumbed to his injuries and died on May 31st, 1917.

7 other 4th CMR men died as a result of the accident, including:

Pte. George Griffin,

Pte. Charles Hartin and

Sgt. George Knowles all died immediately;

Pte. Shurley Asselstine,

Pte. Arthur Carroll and

Pte. Bertie Traviss, like Pte. Carroll, also died the next day at no. 6. Casualty Clearing Station;

Pte. Edwin Payne died on June 18th.

10 more were wounded, including: Pte. Thomas Davy and Pte. Morley Gilbert.

James is buried in Barlin Communal Cemetery Extension, Pas De Calais, France, and a picture of his headstone can be seen courtesy of the Maple Leaf Legacy Project website.

James' brother, John, was also sent to France, where he remained with the 53rd Battery of the C.F.A. for over three years and saw service with them all the way into Germany. John survived the war and rose to the rank of General.

The image and biography are courtesy of Bryan Joyce.

Bryan has written a book about Clarence McCabe's life, and this can be reviewed and bought via this link: Clarence McCabe