Kenora Great War Project

 

Personal Details
Date of BirthDecember 25, 1867
Place of BirthCastleford, Renfrew County, Ontario
CountryCanada
Marital StatusMarried
Next of KinAnnie Johnston (wife), Winnipeg, Manitoba
Trade / CallingTimber scaler
ReligionPresbyterian
Service Details
Regimental Number460177 and 871907
Service RecordLink to Service Record
BattalionNo. 13 Company
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Forestry Corps
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentWinnipeg, Manitoba
Date of EnlistmentJanuary 15, 2019
Age at Enlistment47
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathDecember 7, 1933
Age at Death65
Buried AtMunicipal-St. Mary's Cemetery, Fort Frances, Ontario

Johnston, Thomas

Private Thomas Johnston enlisted twice, in June 1915 and May 1916. He served for three and a half years in Canada, Great Britain and France and returned home in December 1919.

Thomas was the son of Alexander Henry Johnston and Annabella McDougall of Castleford, Renfrew County, Ontario. From early census records and his death registration Thomas was most likely born on 25 December 1867 in Castleford. His father was a farmer, born in Hull, Quebec to Irish parents and his mother was Scottish and born in Ontario. Thomas had at least one sister and three brothers: Isabella, George, Archibald and Alexander. Another boy died as an infant. When the 1891 census was taken Thomas was living at home in Castleford with his widowed father, his grandmother and his four siblings. His mother had passed away in 1885, at age 43.

By the time he enlisted Thomas was living in Winnipeg, Manitoba and working as a timber scaler for the government. He was married and he and his wife Annie had two sons, Charles and Archie (born around 1897 and 1898). Thomas enlisted the first time on 9 June 1915, signing up with the 61st Battalion in Winnipeg. He passed himself off as 40 years old and said he had been in the 106th Regiment, a militia unit. Thomas was sent overseas in September with the 1st reinforcing draft and in England he was transferred to the 17th Reserve Battalion. After serving for a few months a medical exam found he had defective vision and he was overage. He was transferred to the Canadian Casualty Assembly Centre in March 1916 and he embarked for Canada a month later on the SS Metagama, arriving in St. John’s, Newfoundland on 17 April. He was officially discharged in Quebec on 7 May.

Even before his discharge came through Thomas was back in Winnipeg enlisting a second time. He signed up with the 183rd Battalion (Manitoba Beavers) on 3 May 1916, this time saying he was 42 years old. On 3 July he was transferred to the Canadian Engineers Training Depot and he was sent overseas with their 18th draft. He arrived in England on 22 September on the SS Scandinavian. On 14 December he was transferred from the Canadian Engineers to the Canadian Forestry Corps. In January and February 1917 he spent about a month in Connaught Hospital, getting treatment for vd. On 1 May he was assigned to Canadian Forestry Corps District No. 53 at Egham and he served with them for the next year. In forestry districts the men cut timber, operated saw mills, laid railway track as needed, hauled logs to the mills and transported lumber to the nearest railway. Company camps had sleeping huts, dining rooms, recreational huts, canteens, officers’ quarters, workshops and garages, bath houses, stables and medical units. Many of them also had farms where the men grew grain and vegetables for their own use.

In June 1918 Thomas was transferred to the Forestry Corps base depot and at the end of the month he arrived in France with a newly-organized unit, No. 13 Company, Canadian Forestry Corps. No. 13 Company was sent to Sandaucourt where the troops were engaged in aerodrome construction. At the end of July Thomas was admitted to No. 8 Canadian Stationary Hospital in Camiers. He was almost 50 years old by then and he was suffering from myalgia. He was evacuated to England on the hospital ship St. Patrick and he convalesced for about three weeks at No. 4 Canadian General Hospital in Basingstoke. He was back with the Forestry Corps depot in September and in November he had a mild case of influenza. By the time he recovered the Armistice was signed.

Thomas returned to Canada a month later, arriving in Halifax on the SS Corsican on 25 December. His final medical exam mentioned a shrapnel wound on his left wrist. He was discharged on demobilization on 31 January 1919 in Winnipeg, with Winnipeg listed as his intended residence. An article in the Kenora Miner and News in May 1919 said Thomas was in town and glad to be back at work as a timber scaler in Minaki. When the 1921 census was taken he was still working in Minaki, on his own but listed as married. His father died three years later, in April 1924, and he’s buried with his wife Annabella at Goshen Public Cemetery in Renfrew.

Thomas passed away in Fort Frances, Ontario on 7 December 1933, just before his 66th birthday. He is buried in a Legion plot at Municipal-St. Mary’s Cemetery in Fort Frances.

By Becky Johnson

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