|Date of Birth||May 13, 1896|
|Place of Birth||Dinorwic, Ontario|
|Next of Kin||Mrs. Elizabeth Finlayson (mother), Kenora, Ontario|
|Trade / Calling||Teamster|
|Religion||Church of England|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Battalion||No. 140 Company|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Branch||Canadian Forestry Corps|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Place of Enlistment||Kenora, Ontario|
|Address at Enlistment||Kenora, Ontario|
|Date of Enlistment||03/01/1916|
|Age at Enlistment||19|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||16/12/1953|
|Age at Death||57|
|Buried At||Lake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario|
|Plot||38E-34-1, Liberty View|
Private George Walter Stewart Finlayson enlisted in January 1916 and served overseas for three years. He was wounded in February 1917 but he survived the war and returned to Canada in May 1919.
George was the son of Nichol and Elizabeth Finlayson of Kenora, Ontario. His grandfather Hector Finlayson had been one of the early residents of Kenora, known then as Rat Portage, where he worked as a boat builder for the Hudson’s Bay Company. George’s parents were married in York Factory, in northern Manitoba, and their first few children were born in York Factory. Around 1889 they moved to Rat Portage, where Nichol’s parents were still living, and several more children were born there. They also spent a few years in Dinorwic, Ontario, where Nichol found work as a teamster. George was born on 13 May 1896. On his attestation he listed Dinorwic as his place of birth but he was most likely born in Rat Portage. He had six older siblings (John, Christina, Hilda, Isabella, Hector and Nichol) and at least four younger ones (Victoria, Thomas, Sarah and Nancy). His oldest brother John died of tuberculosis in 1902 in Dinorwic. The family was back in the Kenora area by 1905 and when the 1911 census was taken George was living with his parents in the township of Jaffray and Melick. His father was a farmer and woodcutter and George, age 15, was listed as his father’s helper.
George and his brother Nichol Finlayson both enlisted early in 1916. George joined the 94th Battalion on 3 January and Nichol enlisted in the same unit the following month. The battalion was based in Port Arthur and recruited in towns throughout northwestern Ontario. On 25 May the Kenora volunteers were sent to Port Arthur to join the rest of the unit. They left for Quebec on 9 June and spent a short time at the military camp in Valcartier, northwest of Quebec City, before embarking from Halifax on 28 June on the SS Olympic. They arrived in England on 6 July and a week later George and Nichol were transferred to the 17th Reserve Battalion at East Sandling in Kent.
With thousands of recruits crowded together in the military camps infectious diseases spread easily and in August George contracted German measles. He spent two weeks recovering in Moore Barracks Hospital at Shorncliffe. Following his discharge on 7 September he had another month of training and on 13 October he was drafted to the 42nd Battalion (Royal Highlanders) and sent to France. He joined his new unit in a small draft of reinforcements in early November. The 42nd Battalion had just left the Somme and they were in the Lens-Arras sector, across from Vimy.
Over the winter of 1916-17 the troops spent time training, repairing trenches and dugouts, providing work parties and carrying out raids on the German lines. The weather was cold and wet, with almost constant rain and occasional flurries of snow. From the war diary of the 42nd Battalion, 1917, ‘February 8th to 12th. In the trenches. Work was carried on enlarging and improving deep dugouts, repairing trenches, etc. Due to the extreme cold weather and frozen condition of the ground little work could be done rivetting. Special parties were engaged nightly in wiring the P Line and entrances to the Tunnel. On the afternoon of the 12th 1 O.R. was killed and 4 O.R. wounded by a direct hit on trench P.75. The same night 1 O.R. was killed and 2 O.R. wounded while wiring along P 78 by an enemy dart.‘
George was one of the men wounded on 12 February, suffering injuries to his right arm and both legs. Another lad from Kenora, Lawrence Young, was killed. The battalion’s chaplain wrote to Mrs. Finlayson saying that the two boys had been wiring a trench when a shell exploded nearby. George was sent to a hospital in Etaples on the coast of France and evacuated from there to England. He spent four months recovering, first at the War Hospital in Warrington then in a convalescent centre. He was discharged on 29 June 1917. He served with a depot unit for several weeks followed by a month in the 20th Reserve Battalion. Due to his injuries George wasn’t physically fit for further service in France. He was transferred to the Canadian Forestry Corps and he spent the rest of the war in England doing forestry work, most of that time with No. 140 Company. On 3 January 1918, after two years of service, he was awarded a good conduct stripe.
The Armistice ended hostilities on 11 November 1918 but it was months before most of the Canadian troops returned home. George embarked from England on 14 May 1919, almost three years after he had first arrived, landing in Halifax ten days later. He was discharged on demobilization on 28 May in Port Arthur. He lived in the Kenora area for the rest of his life and became a member of the local branch of the Canadian Legion. When the 1921 census was taken he was working as a labourer for a teamster and living in Jaffray Melick. He was later employed at the Provincial Jail in Kenora and as a forest ranger for the Department of Lands and Forests.
George passed away in Kenora on 16 December 1953, at age 57, and he’s buried in Lake of the Woods Cemetery. Also buried there are his parents, his brother Nichol, who survived the war but died in 1920, his brother Hector, who also served in the war, and other family members.
George, Nichol and Hector are commemorated on the Aboriginal Veterans Tribute Honour List, found here. George is also commemorated on the St. Alban’s Pro-Cathedral First World War Roll of Honour.
By Becky Johnson