Kenora Great War Project

 

Personal Details
Date of BirthMarch 21, 1891
Place of BirthFaraday Township, Hastings County, Ontario
CountryCanada
Marital StatusSingle (married in 1917)
Next of KinEdward Jeffrey (father), Faraday Township, Hastings County, Ontario
Trade / CallingTrainman
ReligionWesleyan
Service Details
Regimental Number439231
Service RecordLink to Service Record
Battalion52nd Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentKenora, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentApril 28, 1915
Age at Enlistment24
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathFebruary 9, 1987
Age at Death95
Buried AtGreenwood Cemetery, Burlington, Ontario
PlotBlock D, Plot 196

Jeffrey, Jesse Richard

Private Jesse Richard Jeffrey enlisted in Kenora, Ontario and served in France and Belgium with the 52nd Battalion. He returned to Canada in April 1919 with a war bride and a baby son.

Jesse was the son of Edwin John Jeffrey and Hannah Jane Alcock (Allcock) of Faraday Township, Hastings County, Ontario. He was born in Faraday in March 1891 and he had 13 brothers and sisters. His father Edwin, a farmer, was from Devonshire, England and his mother was born in Belleville, Ontario. They were married in Belleville in 1877 and their 14 children were born between 1878 and 1902. Hannah died in 1908, at age 50, when Jesse was 17 years old.

By the time Jesse enlisted he was living in northwestern Ontario and working for the railway. He signed up in Kenora on 28 April 1915, joining the 52nd (New Ontario) Battalion. He said he had previously served for five years with the 49th Regiment Hastings Rifles, a militia unit. The 52nd Battalion was based in Port Arthur and the Kenora volunteers were sent there in June to join the rest of the unit. The men trained in Port Arthur for several months before heading to the east coast in early November. They embarked from St. John on 23 November on the SS California, arriving in England ten days later. They trained for another three months at Witley Camp in Surrey and Bramshott Camp in Hampshire. The battalion was sent to France on 20 February and the men spent the first night in tents in a snowstorm before being moved to Belgium by train the next day.

In the first week of March the troops went into the trenches for training. Later that month the Canadian Corps took up positions in the south part of the Ypres Salient, between St. Eloi and Hooge, and the 52nd was moved into the area on 1 April. The men were subjected daily to rifle, machine gun and artillery fire and there were casualties from German snipers. On 28 April the battalion went into the front line near Hooge for a nine day rotation. On 1 May the communication and support trenches were heavily shelled and German infantry attacked the sector held by the 52nd. The assault was repulsed and during the night the enemy bombarded the trenches with rifle grenades. Jesse was listed as one of the wounded on 2 May, with a gunshot or shell wound to his wrist. He spent a month recovering in St. John’s Ambulance Brigade Hospital in Etaples. After two weeks on base details he rejoined his unit in Belgium near the end of June.

The Somme Offensive started later that summer and the first major battle for the Canadian Corps was at Flers-Courcelette (15-22 September). The 52nd Battalion boarded trains on 7 September and a week later they were in the Somme area. On 16 September they took part in the attack near the village of Courcelette. The battalion suffered 200 casualties in the assault and afterwards spent a couple of weeks resting, refitting and providing men for work parties. On 2 October they were based near Albert and the next day the unit moved into the front line. Jesse sprained his ankle on 3 October and he spent a few days at No. 2 Canadian Field Ambulance. Shortly after he rejoined his unit they were moved north to a quieter sector near the Vimy front, where they stayed for the winter.

In December Jesse had a ten day leave of absence and in February 1917 he became sick. He was admitted to No. 23 Casualty Clearing Station on 17 February, listed as seriously ill. On 28 February he was moved to No. 22 General Hospital in Camiers, suffering from pneumonia, and in March he was invalided to England. He spent a week at 1st Northern General Hospital in Newcastle followed by six weeks at Princess Patricia’s Canadian Red Cross Hospital in Ramsgate. It would take more than a year for Jesse to fully regain his health. He was kept in England for the rest of the war and he served with the Canadian Army Medical Corps, both with their Reserve Depot and their Casualty Company.

In November 1917 Jesse was given permission to marry and a short time later he married Elizabeth Margaret Smith in Wycombe, Buckinghamshire. Their first child, son Edwin, was born the following summer. Jesse suffered from stomach problems and he spent a week in No. 11 Canadian General Hospital in June 1918 then a further three months there, from 13 August to 12 November. When he was well enough for duty he served at the military hospital in Taplow, Buckinghamshire and the Canadian Special Hospital in Lenham, Kent.

In April 1919 Jesse, Elizabeth and Edwin embarked together for Canada, leaving from Liverpool on the SS Minnedosa and arriving in St. John, New Brunswick on 17 April. Jesse was discharged on demobilization in St. John five days later. He returned to Faraday, where some of his family still lived, and he took up farming. When the 1921 census was taken Jesse and Elizabeth were living in Faraday with their son Edwin, now age 3, and a second son Theodore, age 1.

Jesse passed away on 9 February 1987, at age 95. He’s buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Burlington, Ontario.

By Becky Johnson

  52nd-1915-06-16 52nd-1915-06-19 52nd-1915-12-08

A photo of Jesse’s grave marker can be found on billiongraves.com


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