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Malcolm Cann First Yarmouth Casualty in World War I Rank: Midshipman Service No: MO/401 Regiment/Service: Royal Canadian Navy   HMS Good Hope Date of Birth: April 20, 1895 Place of Birth: Yarmouth, N.S. Date of Death: November 1, 1914 Age: 18 Killed 50 miles off the coast of Chile in an encounter between the HMS Good Hope and the German warship Scharnhorst.   Memorial: HALIFAX MEMORIAL Panel Reference Panel 1.     Malcolm Cann was the son of Hugh Bradford Cann and Augusta L. Cann, of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.  He was the seventh of ten children.  He attended  the Yarmouth County Academy.  In the fall of 1910 he was one of thirty-four candidates who wrote entrance examinations for the newly created Royal Navy College of Canada.  The course at the Naval College was to be two years in length with a first year cost of $400.00 and a second year cost of $250.00.  This included board, lodging, uniforms and all expenses.  The course was based on that of the English naval colleges.  On graduation the students as commissioned midshipmen cadets were to receive pay of two dollars per day. Malcolm was one of twenty cadets that joined the school on January 11, 1911. They were sworn in and grouped into two classes of ten each under their own Captain.  In the course of the second summer, 1912, the cadets were detailed for a summer cruise on HMCS Niobe, one of the two warships purchased by Canada from Great Britain.  The ship visited Yarmouth in late July and following that visit on the trip to Shelburne ran aground on Cape Sable. HMCS Niobe was re-floated; however, was out of service for many months and was not in commission at the outbreak of World War I. Malcolm Cann’s class graduated in January, 1913 and many of the class spent the spring and summer on HMS Berwick around the coasts of Ireland and Scotland.  In September the group steamed for Bermuda as part of the 4th Cruiser Squadron.  While in Barbados their warship was ordered to the east coast of Mexico, at that time in revolution, to help protect British interests as Vera Cruz.  On September 22, 1913, Malcolm’s father died and a message was sent to Malcolm aboard HMS Berwick off the coast of Mexico. In December, 1913 HMS Berwick returned to Halifax and the cadets were given one month’s leave and Malcolm spent his leave in Yarmouth, N.S. with his family. On January 10, 1914 the cadets reported to Halifax to undergo a six month course.  Some of this was in communications as the College had its own wireless system. Members of the 1913 graduating class were appointed as Midshipmen to HMCS Niobe at Halifax on August 2, 1914. This was Malcolm’s second tour of duty aboard HMCS Niobe, but it was short lived and on August 15, seven of the class were transferred to HMS Suffolk while that ship was at Halifax.  However, arrangements were made for four midshipmen to join the complement of HMS Good Hope Lots were drawn and Malcolm Cann (Yarmouth NS aged 19),  Arthur Wiltshire Silver (Halifax, NS aged 20), William Archibald Palmer (Ottawa, ON aged 20), and John Victor William Hatheway (Granville, NS aged 19) were transferred to HMS Good Hope off New York. The Naval Squadron, including the HMS Good Hope was to cruise the South Atlantic in search of the German Battle Fleet of Admiral von Spee. The two Squadrons came together some forty miles off the coast of Coronel, Chile on Sunday, November 1, 1914.  In battle formation there was initially an advantage to the British as the setting sun was behind them, blinding the German gunners but serving to light up the German ships into perfect targets.  But the range was not close enough for the outdated British guns.  To close the distance the British ships were turned four points toward the German ships who with superior speed and room to manoeuvre turned away and kept out of range. As the sun sank, the British squadron became outlined and now stood out as targets while the German vessels, nearer the shore were lost to sight in the distant land.  The encounter lasted one hour.  The Scharnhorst made repeated hits on HMS Good Hope. At 7:20 HMS Good Hope was seen to slow and stagger under shelling. The foredeck was ablaze and clouds of smoke and steam billowed upward.  Hundreds of bagged charges of cordite exploded and the ship sank shortly after.   HMS Monmouth was also sunk with all crew lost. A third ship, HMS Glasgow was badly damaged. Among the dead were Malcolm Cann and the three other Canadian Midshipmen transferred to HMS Good Hope. News of the battle spread slowly. On November 5, the Halifax Herald reported rumours of a battle off the coast of Chile, but the Admiralty did not confirm one had occurred. The November 6 issue acknowledge a battle had taken place, but that Good Hope had not been involved. Not until November 7 did the Herald print the headline, “WE WILL NEVER FORGET OUR FOUR BRAVE BOYS”, with pictures of Palmer, Silver, the Good Hope and Monmouth, and noting, “As HMS Good Hope was at Halifax early in the war her loss causes particular sorrow here. When this cruiser steamed up Halifax harbour on August 14 her crew lined the deck and with her ship’s band playing patriotic airs she was the object of interest to those on the waterfront. On November 7, the Yarmouth Light also published a War Extra, announcing, “GOOD HOPE LOST, AND MONMOUTH BADLY DAMAGED IN SUNDAY’S BATTLE ACCORDING TO LATEST ADMIRALTY REPORTS”. The paper printed the names and addresses of the four lost midshipmen and observed, “There will be profound sympathy for the parents of those boys, ...” The Town of Yarmouth was stunned by the news.  With the death of Malcolm Cann, Yarmouth became “galvanized into wartime activity.” In the weeks following November 7, 1914 many additional young men volunteered for service. A week later, the Herald commented, ... none of these four midshipmen was over twenty years of age, and their death, though it was in service of Empire, is particularly pathetic. They are among the First of Canada’s youth to be in numbered in the present war as ones who have died for their country. These four midshipmen are indeed the first of those in the Canadian Naval Service to give their lives for the Empire. In fact, Malcolm Cann (of Yarmouth, NS), along with John Victor William Hatheway (of Granville NS), William Archibald Palmer (of Ottawa ON) and Arthur Wiltshire Silver (of Halifax NS) were the first four Canadians lost in the First World War.  Midshipman Malcolm Cann  Commemorated on Page 1 of the First World War Book of Remembrance Displayed in the Memorial Chamber of the Peace Tower in Ottawa on  January 9, January 10, and January 11 Commemorated on the Yarmouth Memorial Commemorated on the Halifax Memorial The    Halifax    Memorial    is    one    of    those    erected    by    the Commonwealth   War   Graves   Commission   to   commemorate   men   and women   of   the   forces   of   the   Commonwealth   who   died   in   both   world wars    and    have    no    known    grave.    It    commemorates    particularly those    Canadian    sailors,    merchant    seamen,    soldiers    and    nursing sisters   who   lost   their   lives   at   sea,   and   also   bears   the   names   of   men of   the   Canadian   Army   stationed   in   Canada   who   have   no   known grave. The    Memorial    commemorates    274    casualties    of    the    first world   war   (on   panels   one   to   three)   and   2,847   from   the   Second World War (panels four to twenty-three). Commemorated on the Memorial Plaque Royal Naval College of Canada       Commemorated on the Family Monument (Mountain Cemetery, Yarmouth , N.S.) (Photo Credit: Ida Lee Brewer Cann) Sources: Commonwealth War Grave Commission Commonwealth War Grave Commission (Cemetery Information) Canadian Great War Project Veterans Affairs Canada Find a Grave Canada at War WWI Document Archive City of Art   “A Monument Speaks” A Thurston; 1989 (pp 75-85) “First To Die - The First Canadian Navy Casualties in the First World War” Bryan Elson ((pp. 77-79)
Midshipman Malcolm Cann
[Sympathy of King George and Queen Mary  was telegraphed to each family]  Government, London, November 13, 1914  Mrs. H. B. Cann, Yarmouth, N.S.  The King and Queen deeply regret the loss you and the navy have sustained by the death of your son in the service of his country.  Their Majesties truly sympathize with you in your sorrow.  Private Secretary
Battle of Coronel, November 1, 1914 click to enlarge