August 15, 1917: Private John Joseph Tramble

Tramble John Joseph 2nd left cropped
Private John Joseph Tramble (2nd from left)

Date of Birth: January 15, 1896 at Tracadie, Antigonish County, NS

Parents: Catherine Ann (Conlon) and Michael Albert Tramble

Siblings: Brother George Michael; sister Winifred Edna

Marital Status: Single

Occupation: Labourer

Enlistment: December 7, 1915 at Antigonish, NS

Units: 106th Battalion (Nova Scotia Rifles); 4th Canadian Pioneer Battalion; 5th Canadian Pioneer Battalion; 2nd Canadian Pioneer Battalion

Service #: 715158

Rank: Private

Previous Military Service: None

Next of Kin: George Tramble, Tracadie, Antigonish County, NS (brother)

Date of Death: August 15, 1917 at Hill 70, near Lens, France

Burial: Aix-Noulette Communal Cemetery Extension, Aix-Noulette, Pas-de-Calais, France

John Joseph Tramble was the second child in a family of two sons and one daughter born to Michael and Catherine (Conlon) Tramble, Tracadie, Antigonish County. John was a great-grandson of George Tramble, the progenitor of all Antigonish County Trambles. George emigrated from Ireland and settled in Monastery around 1819, establishing the homestead later occupied by another great-grandson, Judge Thomas Daniel (Donnie) Tramble. There are various spellings of the family surname—Tremble, Trembel, Trumble and Trimble—but the most common appellation in Antigonish County is Tramble.

Several decades before the outbreak of the First World War, Michael Tramble was working as a teamster in the Boston area, where he married Catherine Conlon at West Newton, Massachusetts in 1890. At that time, men from farming and lumbering backgrounds were in demand, as they could handle teams of draught animals, thus warranting the designation “teamster.”

Catherine was a first-generation emigrant from County Sligo, Ireland. Their oldest child, George Michael, was born at West Newton on October 9, 1892. Shortly thereafter, the family returned to the Monastery area, where John Joseph and his younger sister, Winifred Edna, were born. Sadly, Catherine passed away in 1906, leaving behind a grieving husband and three young children.

John Joseph Tramble’s attestation papers state that he was employed as a labourer when he joined the 106th Battalion (Nova Scotia Rifles) at Antigonish on December 7, 1915. The unit established its headquarters at Truro, with detachments located at Pictou and Springhill. While the 106th sailed for England on July 15, 1916, John Joseph was no longer amongst its ranks, as he was transferred to the 4th Canadian Pioneer Battalion prior to the battalion‘s departure.

The 4th Pioneer Battalion was organized in February 1916, following a recruitment campaign conducted in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. While Labour Units and Entrenching Battalions carried out various tasks in the “back areas,” “Pioneer” units worked continually in the forward area. Under the supervision of Canadian Engineers, their personnel constructed and maintained the various structures required at the front. The work was varied and included such tasks as consolidating positions captured by the infantry, tunnelling, mining, wiring, constructing small gauge railroad and deep dugouts, as well as laying out, building and maintaining trenches.

The 4th Canadian Pioneer Battalion commenced training at St. Andrews, NB and relocated to Halifax in May 1916. The unit departed Halifax on September 13, 1916 aboard SS Metagama and arrived in England nine days later. At the time, the battalion consisted of 32 Officers and 780 “other ranks” (OR), under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Paul Weatherbee.

Re-designated 5th Canadian Pioneer Battalion in November 1916, the Canadian Pioneer Training Depot, Crowborough absorbed its personnel the following month. In April 1917, military authorities dissolved the 5th Canadian Pioneer Battalion and assigned its personnel to other pioneer units. At that time, Private John Joseph Tramble was transferred to the 2nd Canadian Pioneer Battalion, an experienced unit that had arrived in the forward area in early March 1916.

In early August 1917, Canadian Corps units prepared to attack Hill 70, an area of high ground north of the French city of Lens. The goal of the operation was to “force the enemy to evacuate [the strategic city].” On August 14, 2nd Pioneer Battalion received instructions to “open… up communication trenches across No Man’s Land to the German front line,” once Canadian units had captured and secured the location. Work was to continue “beyond the German front line by the best routes to the new front line, making use of German trenches which have not been destroyed.”

Canadian infantry units commenced the attack on Hill 70 at 4:25 a.m. August 15. As fighting progressed, three of 2nd Pioneer Battalion’s companies entered the battlefield and commenced work on the required communication trenches, amidst considerable German artillery fire. By day’s end, the unit’s war diary reported four OR killed and 35 OR wounded while on work parties. Private John Joseph Tramble was one of the four OR killed at Hill 70 that day. He was later laid to rest at Aix-Noulette Communal Cemetery Extension, Aix-Noulette, Pas-de-Calais, France.

Sometime prior to John Joseph’s death, his brother, George Michael, returned to the Boston area, where he worked as a teamster, driving an ice team. George was drafted by the US military on June 5, 1917. While he commenced training, he did not proceed overseas and was discharged following the cessation of hostilities in Europe. In 1920, George travelled to Western Canada on a “harvest excursion” and decided to remain there. He died unmarried at Camrose, Alberta in 1934.

John Joseph’s sister, Winifred, departed for the US in 1914 and married Samuel Doucette at Waltham, Massachusetts in 1918. Tragically, she passed away there in 1923 at the young age of 26. The couple had no children. The children’s father, Michael, outlived his family and died at Antigonish in 1939.







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