Kenora Great War Project

 

Personal Details
Date of BirthFebruary 14, 1875 (or 1876)
Place of BirthWinchester, Dundas County, Ontario
CountryCanada
Marital StatusMarried
Next of KinMrs. Julia Dewar (wife), 227 Charlton Avenue West, Hamilton, Ontario
Trade / CallingElectrician
ReligionPresbyterian
Service Details
Regimental Number175063
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion19th Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentHamilton, Ontario
Address at Enlistment227 Charlton Avenue West, Hamilton, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentJuly 31, 1915
Age at Enlistment40
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathJune 12, 1959
Age at Death84
Buried AtVeterans Cemetery, Esquimalt, British Columbia
PlotSection D - Row 20 - Plot 0008

Dewar, Donald Alexander

Private Donald Alexander Dewar enlisted in the summer of 1915 and served in France with the 19th Infantry Battalion and the Canadian Engineers. He was seriously wounded at the Battle of Hill 70 and invalided back to Canada in November 1917.

Donald was the only child of James Dewar and Jessie McKeracher of Winchester, Dundas County, Ontario. James, a lumberman, was born in Glengarry County, Ontario to Scottish parents and Jessie was from Scotland. They were married in 1874 in Jessie’s hometown of Russell, just north of Winchester. Donald’s attestation has his birth date as 14 February 1875 but he was most likely born in Winchester on 14 February 1876. His mother died on 26 February 1876 with the cause of death listed as ‘child birth 12 days.’ Donald wasn’t living with his father for either the 1881 or 1891 censuses and he may have been raised by relatives or family friends. When the 1901 census was taken he was working in a saw mill in the Cariboo region in British Columbia.

By 1909 Donald had moved to Ogdensburg in northern New York where he worked as an attendant in a hospital for the insane. Late that fall he returned to Canada to get married. His wife, Julia Wheeler, was born in Herefordshire, England, the daughter of Thomas and Mary Ann Wheeler. She had immigrated to Canada around 1906 and trained as a nurse, specializing in the care of patients with mental diseases. She settled in Brockville, Ontario and worked at the Eastern Hospital for the Insane. Donald and Julia were married in Brockville on 3 September 1909. Julia moved to Ogdensburg with her husband and they both worked at St. Lawrence Asylum for the Insane.

By the time of the 1911 census Donald and his wife had returned to Canada and settled in Hamilton, Ontario, where he was working as an electrician for a power company. His father died in Russell, Ontario in 1912, at age 80, and he’s buried with his wife in Ormond Protestant Cemetery in Winchester. Donald turned 39 or 40 in 1915 and he enlisted that summer, just as the war entered its second year. He signed up in Hamilton on 31 July and joined the 76th Overseas Battalion, which was being organized at Camp Niagara. He said he had served for three years with the 41st Brockville Rifles, a militia unit. On 23 October he was inadvertently discharged from service and when the error was discovered he attested again on 28 October at Camp Niagara, this time joining the 86th (Machine Gun) Battalion.

The 86th was the first machine gun battalion to be organized in Britain and its colonies. The unit was raised in Hamilton and the recruits had started training at Camp Niagara in September, a month before Donald joined them. They returned to Hamilton for the winter and the battalion was stationed at the old armouries there. They headed overseas the following spring, embarking from Halifax on 19 May 1916 on the SS Adriatic and landing at Liverpool eleven days later. On 22 June the unit was re-designated as the Canadian Machine Gun Training Depot. On 1 October Donald was sent to France in order to be transferred to the 4th Canadian Infantry Brigade Machine Gun Company. At the end of October he was assigned instead to the Machine Gun Pool. At the end of November he became ill with a contagious skin infection and he was admitted to No. 26 General Hospital in Г‰taples, where he spent almost two months.

After recovering from his illness Donald was sent to the Canadian Base Depot. On 19 May 1917 he was posted to a new unit, the 19th Infantry Battalion, and he joined them in the field in mid-June. They were based near Lens at the time and the unit had regular rotations in the front line. On 27 July Donald was attached for duty to the 4th Field Company, Canadian Engineers. For the next two weeks they were busy with preparations for the Battle of Hill 70. They moved into their assembly position on 14 August and the offensive started the next morning. Donald was one of about 20 casualties in the 4th Field Company on 15 August. He suffered wounds to his left shoulder, arm, thigh and abdomen and he had a broken forearm. He was taken to a field ambulance then sent to No. 23 Casualty Clearing Station, where he had surgery to remove pieces of shrapnel.

Donald was admitted to No. 2 Stationary Hospital in Abbeville on 16 August and evacuated from there to England. He recovered at the 2nd Southern General Hospital in Bristol from 23 August until 19 September, then he spent almost two months at the Bearwood Canadian Convalescent Hospital near Wokingham. On 1 November he was transferred to No. 5 General Hospital in Liverpool to await his return to Canada. He was invalided home on the SS Araguaya, sailing on 19 November and arriving in Canada eleven days later.

After a period of leave Donald was treated as an outpatient at the Ontario Military Convalescent Hospital in Whitby before being admitted to the Military Hospital in Hamilton on 21 December. On 9 March 1918 he was transferred to the Victoria Military Hospital and on 8 May he was moved to the Brant Military Hospital in Burlington. A medical board found him to be medically unfit for further service and he was discharged on 30 May in Toronto. He was entitled to wear one gold (casualty) stripe and he suffered permanent damage to his left arm and thigh.

Donald returned to his home in Hamilton, where he had a long career as an electrician. He retired around 1940 and he and his wife decided to move to British Columbia. While they were on their way they had a car accident on 13 October 1941 near Kenora, Ontario. Julia suffered the most serious injuries and she was admitted to the Kenora General Hospital. Donald found accommodation in town and in December he joined the local branch of the Canadian Legion. Julia never recovered and she passed away in the hospital in Kenora on 20 July 1942, at age 74. Her funeral was held on two days later and she’s buried in Lake of the Woods Cemetery.

Not long after his wife died Donald moved to British Columbia and settled in Victoria. He passed away in the Veterans Hospital there on 12 June 1959 and he’s buried in the Veterans Cemetery in Esquimalt.

By Becky Johnson

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