Wilson Beaton was born in Leitches Creek, Cape Breton, NS, on March 10, 1888. He was one of five children born to William D. and Mary (Lynk) Beaton.
Wilson enlisted as a private in the 185th Battalion (Cape Breton Highlanders) CEF on March 18, 1916. He had just turned 28, and had been working as a coal miner. At the time, the battalion was recruiting and training at Broughton, NS. He went to Aldershot, NS, with them in May of 1916, where he was later transferred to the 246th Battalion (Nova Scotia Highlanders). This was a reserve and recruiting battalion for the Nova Scotia Highland Brigade. Wilson went overseas with a reinforcing draft of the 246th on board the SS Metagama, and disembarked in Liverpool, England, on April 7, 1917. He spent the next year training in England and being shuffled between units, first the 17th Reserve Battalion, then back to the 185th Battalion (Cape Breton Highlanders), then to the 17th Reserve Battalion again after the 185th was disbanded. He trained at Bramshott and Camp Whitley. Finally, in March of 1918 he transferred to the Canadian Engineers Training Depot at Seaford, England, and proceeded to France the following month as a sapper for the 3rd Canadian Tunnelling Company, Canadian Military Engineers.
The 3rd Canadian Tunnelling Company was one of four tunnelling companies under the Canadian Military Engineers. It had been in action on the Western Front since early 1916. The tunnelling companies excavated tunnels deep under the German lines where they were packed with explosives and detonated to cause major damage. The companies were also involved with defensive work including the construction of deep dugouts for troop accommodation and the construction of various types of trenches. They also built underground chambers for signals and medical services.
Wilson spent almost a year with the 3rd Canadian Tunnelling Company. He had probably been transferred to them because of his experience as a miner before the war. In February, 1919, after the end of the war, Wilson was transferred to the Canadian Engineers Reserve Pool and returned to Seaford, England the following month. In June he sailed for home, disembarking in Halifax on July 2, 1919. Wilson was discharged from the army on July 9, 1919.
While overseas, Wilson had twice spent time in hospitals due to non battle related injuries including a case of jaundice.
Wilson returned home to Cape Breton and resumed his profession as a coal miner. Tragically, he drowned in a mining accident in Dominion #25 on May 22, 1943. He was single and had no children.
For additional information on Wilson Beaton, refer to the following online source:
Wilson Beaton is a relative on my wife's side of the family. The studio portrait photo of Wilson Beaton in Section 1 of this collection is from our family photo album. I would like to thank my brother-in-law Bruce Beaton of Leitches Creek, NS, for allowing me to copy the letters and documents in Sections 2, 3 and 4 of this collection.