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Shawnee County Casualties in WWI
Stories of Valor and Tragedy on the Battlefield

Private John Logan BEST
Service Number: 231813
10th Battalion, Canadian Infantry (Alberta Regiment)
Died From Wounds 25 August 1917
John Logan Best headstone
John Logan Best

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Died from wounds on 25 August 1917 at No. 18 Casualty Clearing Station at Lapugnoy, France following serious gunshot wounds to the head and back and a fatal case of poisoning by mustard gas. These fatal injuries were probably sustained in the assault, capture and holding of Hill 70, north of Lens in France from August 15-18, 1917 by Canadian forces. The sister-in-charge at the No. 18 Casualty Clearing Station wrote to Mrs. HARPER and stated

“He was brought here very badly gassed and though every possible thing was done for him, all our care and attention could not save his life. This last gas used by (the) Huns is just deadly & we have lost many by it”

Hill 70, a treeless expanse of chalk downland standing at the end of one of the many spurs which reached north-eastward from the Artois plateau, dominating Lens and giving a commanding view of the Douai plain beyond.

According to "THE STORY OF THE TENTH CANADIAN BATTALION 1914 -1917" By J. A. HOLLAND, printed and published for the CANADIAN WAR RECORDS OFFICE (See Full Account):

"Fighting at Hill 70 The taking of Hill 70 in this scheme was allotted to the 1st Canadian Division, and the 2nd Brigade was chosen for the assaulting position on the right. The 10th Battalion was to have a place of honour with the first attacking waves. At 6 a.m., August 15th, after adequate preliminary bombardments had cleared away the tangles of wire and wrecked the defences, the 10th Battalion left the "jumping-off" trench and advanced steadily in the face of heavy shelling and machine gun fire. The men moved forward in four waves hugging the barrage as closely as safety permitted, and swarmed over the German front line with irresistible dash. As usual the machine gun crews fought to the last gasp, but the bayonets of the Canadians were irresistible, and the trench was soon cleared. A few minutes later the reformed waves of men were trudging stolidly towards their second objective. Slightly more trouble was experienced by the 10th Battalion on this occasion. This trench had escaped, miraculously it would seem, from the effects of the barrage, and the defenders proved to be in greater numbers than the Canadians. However, this did not deter the men of the 10th Battalion, and the garrison was accounted for in very short time - the Germans surrendering with eager enthusiasm.

This should have ended the day's fighting for the 10th Battalion, but some of the other units of the Brigade, getting into difficulties, required help. The 10th was hurried forward and assisted them in carrying several trench elements.

The Slaughter of the "Chalk Pit The action was continued on the following, day the objective being a heavily fortified position known as the “Chalk Pit," which occupied a commanding rise and could enfilade trenches either to the right or left. The British barrage opened upon this position at 4.0 p.m., and as the screen of shells fell over and around it the 10th Battalion left the "jumping-off" place and commenced the two hundred yards trudge across the open. As usual the German machine guns and snipers sought to bar the way with violent gusts of rapid fire, which formed a veritable lace-work of bullets, which it would seem impossible for any living thing to brave. Men dropped rapidly, and when twenty-one minutes later the leading files swept over the lip of the "Chalk Pit" and fell upon the cornered Germans, they were outnumbered.

Nothing, however, could stop the determined Canadians, and after a series of the most desperate hand-to-hand fights, in which bombs and bayonets were used with frightful effect, the position was won. "Mopping up" parties at once commenced to clear the dug-outs, which yielded many prisoners and a surprise - two of them had been mined and were wrecked by explosions, fortunately before the men of the 10th Battalion had begun their search. The consolidation of the position was rendered extremely difficult owing to the particularly heavy machine gun and shell fire which the Hun, who had the Pit registered to a yard, rained upon it. Repairs were nevertheless effected, and a chain of strong outposts was advanced as a measure against surprise. During the day and evening several determined counter-attacks were pushed forward by the Germans. Their men advanced in dense masses only to be sent reeling back shattered by rapid rifle and Lewis gun fire.

The 10th Battalion was relieved on the morning of April [s/be Aug] 18th, and returned to their billets at Les Brebis weary and broken having lost one officer and 42 men killed, 10 officers and 249 men wounded, besides 56 missing and 36 suffering from gas poisoning."

John BEST was with the 10 Battalion, Canadian Infantry (Alberta Regiment). He is buried in the Lapugnoy Military Cemetery, France Grave Reference V.E. 16.

 

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