Kenora Great War Project

 

Personal Details
Date of BirthSeptember 1, 1882
Place of BirthFulham, London
CountryEngland
Marital StatusMarried
Next of KinMrs. Mary Ann Russell (wife), Keewatin, Ontario
Trade / CallingMiller
ReligionChurch of England
Service Details
Regimental Number529648
Service Record Link to Service Record
BattalionNo. 10 Field Ambulance
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Army Medical Corps
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentKenora, Ontario
Address at EnlistmentKeewatin, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentJuly 31, 1915
Age at Enlistment33
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathMarch 26, 1938
Age at Death55
Buried AtLakeland Cemetery, Lakeland, Manitoba
PlotLot 48, Block A

Russell, Francis

Private Francis Russell signed up with a field ambulance unit in July 1915 and served overseas for almost a year. He was invalided back to Canada in February 1917 due to illness.

Francis was the son of Alban and Elizabeth Russell of Fulham, London, England. He was one of nine children and he was born in Fulham on 1 September 1882. When the 1901 census was taken he was living at home and working as a greengrocer’s carman. Francis was married at St. Andrew’s Church in Fulham on 18 June 1907 to Mary Ann Dales. His occupation by then was joiner and Mary Ann was a domestic servant. Three days after getting married they were on their way to Canada, embarking from Liverpool on the SS Virginian and arriving in Montreal on 29 June. They settled in the town on Keewatin in northwestern Ontario, where Francis found work at a flour mill. Their first child, Irene, was born in Keewatin in September 1909.

In May 1910 Mary Ann returned to England with the baby and Francis joined them there in November. They stayed with his parents in London and their son Francis Jr. was born in Fulham in February 1911. Francis returned to Canada that same month and his wife and children followed in May. When the 1911 census was taken they were living in Huntingdon, Quebec, where Francis was working as a painter. By the fall of 1912 they were back in Keewatin and their daughter Millicent was born there that September. They lived on Government Road and Francis was employed at the flour mill again. They had two more daughters, Olive born around 1916 and Lillian born after the war.

In the summer of 1915 the war entered its second year. Francis enlisted in Kenora on 31 July and after passing his medical he headed to Camp Sewell in Manitoba, where he was attached to No. 7 Field Ambulance Depot. A few other Kenora and Keewatin lads were in the same unit and they trained in Manitoba for several months, becoming part of No. 10 Canadian Field Ambulance in the Canadian Army Medical Corps. In late February 1916 the recruits headed east on the first leg of their journey overseas. Their train passed through Kenora on the morning of 26 February and friends and relatives gathered at the station to see the men off. The unit embarked from Saint John, New Brunswick on 2 March on the SS Scandinavian, arriving in England ten days later.

On 14 March Francis was admitted to a hospital with a skin infection. He rejoined his unit at the end of the month and they embarked for France on 3 April.  Field ambulances operated advanced and main dressing stations, which were located just behind the front lines. They provided short term medical care, collecting casualties, treating them and evacuating them to the clearing stations and hospitals as needed. They also operated rest stations and provided stretcher bearers for moving the wounded. No. 10 Field Ambulance served with the 3rd Canadian Division, which joined the Canadian Corps early in 1916.

When Francis’ unit arrived the Canadians were holding a section of the front line in the Ypres Salient in Belgium. The Battle of Mount Sorrel started on the morning of 2 June with a massive artillery bombardment by the Germans. German infantry captured the high ground around Mount Sorrel and battalions from the 3rd Canadian Division were brought in for a counter-attack. Francis suffered a contusion to his side on 2 June, one of ten casualties in his unit that day. He was back on duty on 6 June for what must have been a very busy time for them. The Battle of Mount Sorrel lasted two weeks and cost the Canadian Corps 8,400 casualties, including more than 5,000 wounded. On 22 June Francis became ill with influenza and he was laid up for a few days. The Canadians stayed in the Ypres Salient for the rest of the summer and in late August they began to move south to take part in the Somme Offensive.

In mid-September No. 10 Field Ambulance spent some time at a rest station behind the lines. Francis wasn’t well and on 25 September he was sent to a Casualty Clearing Station then evacuated to No. 3 General Hospital in Boulogne. In October he was discharged to a rest camp but his health continued to be a problem and two weeks later he was back in England. He was in Moore Barracks Hospital from 10 November to 11 December, diagnosed with chronic bronchial asthma aggravated by a thyroid condition. After being released from the hospital he was attached to the Canadian Discharge Depot to await his return to Canada.

Francis arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick on 5 February 1917 on the SS Scotian and continued his convalescence in Winnipeg. He spent three months at the Manitoba Military Hospital and Deer Lodge Hospital, the last few weeks as an outpatient. He was discharged in Winnipeg on 31 May 1917, due to being medically unfit for further war service.

Francis returned to Keewatin but by the time of the 1921 census he and his family were living in Manitoba. He took up farming in the Hollywood region near the town of Langruth. He passed away in nearby Gladstone Hospital on 26 March 1938, at age 55, suffering from pneumonia. Francis is buried in Lakeland Cemetery, which is a few miles south of Langruth. His daughter Millicent died seven months later and she is buried beside him. Also interred at Lakeland Cemetery are his wife Mary (1882-1953) and their son Francis Jr. (1911-1984).

Francis is commemorated on the Lake of the Woods Milling Company plaque and the Municipality of Keewatin WW1 Honour Roll. He is also remembered in ‘A Tribute to Soldiers and Pioneers of the Langruth District,’ published by Langruth Community in 1950.

By Becky Johnson

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