Clarence Arthur McCann June 8, 1891 - June 2, 1947

Clarence Arthur McCann was born in Pembroke, Hants County, Nova Scotia to Arthur Frederick and Ella Jane (Carmichael) McCann. He grew up in Windsor, Nova Scotia, Canada.

He married Ada May Smith on July 27, 1912 in Falmouth, Nova Scotia and together they had 14 children.

In 1915, Clarence travelled to Fredericton, New Brunswick to enlist in the Canadian Expeditionary Force. He embarked for England not long after and remained overseas for almost four years. While there, he wrote many letters home. Over 100 of them survived and have been transcribed. The originals have been donated to the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa.

I offer these transcriptions to those who have ancestors who served in the Great War so they might have a glimpse of what that life was like for these men.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


I have said these letters were "from across the pond" meaning the big one known as the Atlantic Ocean.  However the first 19 letters were written in Fredericton and one was written while onboard ship outside of Saint John, N.B.  Clarence didn't have a chance to mail this one until he arrived in England.  He thought they might stop in Halifax where he'd be able to post it.  He had hoped for permission to go home before going overseas as his wife, Ada, had given birth to their third child and first daughter on May 9, 1915 but that didn't happen.  Clarence didn't see Nova Scotia again until May of 1919.

On November 16, 1998, one of my cousins, typed the introduction to the transcripts of these letters.  This is what s/he wrote:

"This brief resume of Clarence McCann and his 1915-1919 military experiences was put together by the remaining nine members of his first family of nine boys and five girls, most especially Bob, who volunteered to transcribe the nearly 100 original letters, and, as you can see, did an excellent job.  Its intent is to inform any and all of Clarence's thoughts and feelings during those four long years he was separated from his young wife of two and a half years and his two infant sons.

Clarence McCann was born June 8, 1891, in Windsor, N.S., one of four children of Arthur and Ella McCann.  He married Ada Smith in July, 1912, and in Feb. - March, 1915, he left for Fredericton, N.B., to join the Canadian Army.  Some three months later he was in England and three months after that he was in France to become part of that hell on earth known as World War I.

Until Clarence was released from the army in May, 1919, he never once was able to return home to Windsor and family after enlisting in 1915, and during those four years what thoughts he must have had of returning safely to enjoy a long and happy life with those he loved and away from the carnage he had known in Europe.  But such was not to be.  For in August, 1936, his wife Ada (our mother) suddenly, and at the early age of 42 years, died short hours after giving birth to her fourteenth child.

Although the whole family suffered a crushing blow, one can hardly imagine how Clarence must have felt: no wife and companion, no mother for his fourteen children, eleven of whom were age sixteen or younger, and in the middle of the Great Depression.  In addition, his employment was not full time or guaranteed.  The grief and stress he must have experienced was unimaginable.

But somehow he managed to keep his family more or less together for a number of years, after which he married again, this time to Gladys M. Hines, who bore him three more sons, two of whom died in infancy.  Then fate struck another cruel blow in June, 1947, when Clarence died suddenly, a few days short of his 56th birthday.

These early and sudden deaths of our mother and father have left a great void in the family history, but in the past few years following the death of Clarence's sister, Lela, in 1979, and the subsequent break-up of her home, many letters written by Clarence to his father, mother, sister and brother between the years 1915-1919 have given us a chance to know something of him in his younger years.  We can only imagine how many more letters he must have written to his young wife, Ada, our mother, and we live in hope that one day some of them will turn up and add more to our search for family history.

When contacted, the director of the War Museum in Ottawa, John Granstein, said he would, on behalf of the museum, be glad to receive Dad's war medals plus the letters and related documents which included a copy of Statement of Service in the Canadian Armed Forces and Dad's discharge certificate, and so, on December 1, 1998, Bill delivered same to the Museum along with a complete transcript of the letters.  Eventually, the plan is to display a selected portion of the letters for public viewing.  Also, as I understand it, the letters will perhaps provide further information to war researchers.

Well done, Bill!"

© Copyright 2010 Pamela Wile. All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.

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