|Date of Birth||December 4, 1886|
|Place of Birth||Keewatin, Ontario|
|Next of Kin||Mrs. Catherine Cole (mother), Powell River, British Columbia|
|Trade / Calling||Machinist|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Battalion||No. 3 Tunnelling Company|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Place of Enlistment||Vancouver, British Columbia|
|Age at Enlistment||27|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||23/11/1916|
|Age at Death||29|
|Buried At||Berks Cemetery Extension, Ploegsteert, Belgium|
Corporal Gordon Charles Cole enlisted in November 1914 and arrived in France ten months later. He was serving with a tunnelling company when he was killed in action in November 1916.
Gordon was the elder of two sons of Robert James Cole and Catherine (Kate) McLeod of Powell River, British Columbia. Robert was born in Quebec and Catherine in Glengarry, Ontario. They were married on 25 February 1886 in the town of Rat Portage in northwestern Ontario. Robert was a merchant and lumberman and lived in the neighbouring town of Keewatin Mills. Gordon was born in Keewatin on 4 December 1886 and his birth was registered in Rat Portage (later renamed Kenora). His brother Evan McLeod was born in Keewatin in 1890.
Not long after Evan was born the family moved to the North-West Territories and at the time of the 1891 census they were living in Lethbridge (now in Alberta). Robert was a carpenter and the household included his wife, their two boys and Kate’s widowed mother, Mary McLeod, who was born in Scotland. Sadly Evan died in 1902, at age 12, and he’s buried in Mountain View Cemetery in Lethbridge. By 1911 Gordon and his family had moved to Fernie, British Columbia and within a few years they settled in Powell River, a coastal community northwest of Vancouver. There was logging in the Powell River area and a pulp and paper mill had opened in 1908. Gordon was an enthusiastic hunter and fisherman and his family was among the town’s early residents.
The war started in August 1914 and Gordon enlisted in Vancouver three months later, on 9 November. His occupation was machinist and next of kin was his mother in Powell River. He joined the 29th Battalion (‘Tobin’s Tigers’), which was being recruited in the Vancouver area. After training over the winter the troops headed overseas in May 1915, embarking from Montreal on the SS Missanabie and arriving in England at the end of the month. The battalion was sent to France that September and became part of the 6th Brigade in the 2nd Canadian Division.
Gordon was ill with influenza for ten days in December and on 11 January 1916 he was transferred to No. 3 Tunnelling Company, Canadian Engineers. Tunnelling companies were used for mining as well as the construction and repair of subways and deep dugouts. The Canadians were at the Battle of Mount Sorrel in June and on 26 August Gordon was promoted to Corporal. That fall, after the Battle of the Somme, Gordon’s unit was based at Hill 60 near Ypres in Belgium. On 8 November they took over a section of the front from an Australian tunnelling company and they worked on repairing mines and light railways and constructing a shaft chamber.
Gordon was killed on 23 November when a trench mortar destroyed the officers’ dugout. He is buried in Berks Cemetery Extension near Ypres, Belgium. He was awarded the 1915 Star, the Victory Medal and the British War Medal. His mother Kate received a Memorial Cross and his father Robert a Memorial Plaque and Scroll. Kate passed away in 1926 and Robert in 1935, both in Vancouver.
Gordon is commemorated on the Powell River Cenotaph.
By Becky Johnson
Grave marker photo from Canadian Virtual War Memorial, courtesy of Wilf Schofield, England