|Date of Birth||March 1, 1897|
|Place of Birth||Falkirk, Stirling County|
|Next of Kin||Mrs. Jane Francis (mother), Kenora, Ontario|
|Trade / Calling||Clerk|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Place of Enlistment||Kenora, Ontario|
|Address at Enlistment||Kenora, Ontario|
|Date of Enlistment||31/01/1916|
|Age at Enlistment||18|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||08/10/1916|
|Age at Death||19|
|Buried At||Regina Trench Cemetery, France|
|Plot||IV. A. 7.|
Private David Francis arrived in France in August 1916 and joined the 43rd Battalion in the field in September. He was killed in action two weeks later in the attack on Regina Trench, one of 24,000 casualties suffered by the Canadian Corps during the Somme Offensive.
David was the oldest son of James Francis and Jane Erskine of Kenora, Ontario. James and Jane were born in Scotland and they were married in Falkirk, Stirlingshire in 1897. Their five oldest sons were born in Stirlingshire: David (1 March 1897), Thomas (1898), John (1901), William (1902) and Walter (1904). Sadly, John, William and Walter all died as infants. In 1905 James and his family immigrated to Canada, arriving in Montreal on 10 July on the SS Ionian. Their destination was Rat Portage (later called Kenora), in northwestern Ontario, where James’ older sister Mrs. Agnes Brock was living. Three of his brothers – Walter, William and John – also immigrated to Canada and they all settled in Kenora. By the time of the 1911 census James was working for the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) and he and his wife had three more sons, James, Charles and John. Three more children followed later, daughters Jeannie (1911) and Agnes (ca1914) and another son named David (1920).
The war started in August 1914 and by late 1915, with enlistments beginning to lag, there was a push on for more volunteers. New battalions were being raised and one of them was the 94th Battalion, which was mobilized in Port Arthur and recruited in towns throughout northwestern Ontario. David signed up with the 94th on 31 January 1916 in Kenora. He was 18 years old at the time and working as a clerk/checker for the Canadian Pacific Railway. Two months later his uncle John McKechnie Francis enlisted in the same unit. The Kenora recruits were sent to Port Arthur on 25 May to join the rest of the battalion and on 9 June the men left for Quebec. They spent a short time at Valcartier, a military camp northwest of Quebec City, before embarking from Halifax on 28 June 1916 on the SS Olympic. In England the men were absorbed into reserve battalions to be used as reinforcements for other units.
On 13 July David and his uncle John were both assigned to the 17th Reserve Battalion. Six weeks later they were transferred to the 43rd Battalion (Cameron Highlanders) and sent to France. They joined the battalion in the field at the end of September during the Battle of the Somme. The Somme Offensive had started in July and the Canadians were moved to the Somme area starting in late August. On 20 September the 43rd attacked the Zollern Graben Trench, suffering 150 casualties in the operation. They were relieved on 21 September for two weeks of rest and refitting and it was during that time that David and John joined them in a draft of 90 reinforcements.
Early in October the battalion had a two day rotation in the front trenches then on 8 October they were back in action, taking part in the assault on Regina Trench, northwest of the village of Courcelette. They ran into problems during the early morning advance when they encountered uncut barbed wire and strong German counter-attacks. The unit suffered 360 casualties and David and John were both reported missing in action.
From the Circumstances of Death record for David: Previously reported missing, now killed in action. Location of unit at time of casualty: Attack on Regina Trench, Courcelette.
David’s body was recovered and he is buried in Regina Trench Cemetery. The cemetery was started in 1916 but many of the graves there were brought in from the surrounding battlefields after the Armistice. His uncle John is also buried there.
David is commemorated on the Kenora Cenotaph, the Kenora Legion War Memorial and Canadian Pacific Railway Roll of Honour. Every year at 11 am on November 11th the CPR stops all of its trains in North America for two minutes of silence, to pay tribute to those who served their country.
David’s father (1874-1934) and mother (1876-1943) are both buried in Lake of the Woods Cemetery in Kenora. Also buried there are his brothers Thomas (1898-1973), James (1906-1989), Charles (1909-1982), John (1910-1992) and David (1920-1993) and his sister Jean (Mrs. Robert Gunne)(1911-1990).
By Penny Beal and Becky Johnson
Photo at the top is the Kenora Legion War Memorial.