|Date of Birth||August 19, 1899|
|Place of Birth||Keewatin, Ontario|
|Next of Kin||Rev Robert Nairn, father, Kenora, Ontario|
|Trade / Calling||Student|
|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||August 3, 1915|
|Age at Enlistment||16|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
Alfred Tennyson Nairn was born on 19 August 1899 in Keewatin, Ontario, a small community just west of Rat Portage (later renamed Kenora). In his early years he went by the name of Tennyson but after the war he switched to Alfred. His father Robert Nairn was from Netherhill, Dunlop, Ayrshire in Scotland and had immigrated to Canada as a theology student to attend the Presbyterian College (Pine Hill) in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Upon graduation Robert worked as a student missionary until posted to Rat Portage in 1886. Tennyson’s mother, born in Milton, Halton, Ontario, was Isabella Sommerville. Isabella’s parents were Scottish immigrants that had first lived in the United States before settling in Canada. Robert and Isabella married in Milton in 1891 with Robert’s place of residence given as Rat Portage and Isabella’s as Milton where she had been working as a dry goods clerk. Another son, Robert George Grant, had been born to the family in 1894. In 1906 the family moved to the United States for two years where Robert had accepted a new posting in Colorado but by the 1911 Canada census, Robert was back in Kenora working as a Reverend and boarding with the William Robb family. The whereabouts of Isabella, Grant, and Tennyson at the time are not known.
Giving a birth year of 1897, Alfred Tennyson Nairn signed his attestation papers in Kenora on 3 August 1915 with a notation in hand writing added: ‘Actual age claimed 20 years, date of birth certificate 19-8-1899’. With occupation listed as student, Tennyson gave his father Robert in Kenora as next of kin. With blue eyes and fair hair, Tennyson was only 16 years old. Headquartered in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, the 46th Battalion started basic training at Camp Sewell, Manitoba in late May of 1915 and among the fellows in training likely would have been Tennyson. A Kenora newspaper report of 20 October 1915 told of the 44th and 46th Battalions passing through Kenora on their way east on the first leg of the journey overseas; it mistakenly states that Tennyson was a member of the 44th. With the 46th Battalion, Private Alfred Tennyson Nairn embarked from Halifax on the 23rd of October aboard the Lapland.
Once in England, Tennyson was posted to the #4 Sanitary Section of the Canadian Army Medical Corps at Bramshott. In August of 1916 he arrived in France, taken on strength with the CAMC and attached to the 10th Brigade Machine Gun Company as water detail. In a letter written by his brother Grant to his father Robert back in Kenora in October of 1916, Grant spoke of Tennyson passing through the area in France that he was staying in but they didn’t meet as Grant was hospitalized at the time. By April of 1917 Tennyson was back in England and posted to the CAMC Depot at Shorncliffe. It had been discovered that he was a minor and he was to be sent back home to Canada. He embarked from Liverpool on 2 October 1917 aboard the Scandinavian. A Kenora newspaper report of late October 1917 spoke of Tennyson’s return to Kenora.
By the 1921 Canada census, Alfred was living in Winnipeg and working as a bookkeeper for a wholsale house. On 30 July 1921, in Winnipeg, he married Amy Elizabeth Monds. Born in Wentworth, Ontario, Amy was the daughter of Stephen and Amy (née Winter) Monds. The next year the couple immigrated to the United States and were next found on the US 1930 census as living in Cleveland, Ohio, with Alfred working as a clerk for an oil company and Amy as a secretary for a retail department store. For the 1940 US census Alfred and Amy were listed in Lakewood, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland. Alfred was working as a cashier for an interstate trucking company while Amy was employed as a check authorizer for a department store. The couple did not have any children listed in either census. No further trace could be found for Alfred or Amy.
Alfred’s father, working as an insurance salesman, died in Kenora in 1937. His obituary stated that his wife Isabella and sons were living ‘down east’ although it is likely that Grant and Alfred were both living in the United States, Grant found on the 1930 US census as living in Nevada. Grant also served during the war, firstly with the No 2 Army Troops, Canadian Engineers, then as a Lieutenant with 52nd Battalion, and finally as a Lieutenant with the Royal Air Force.
by Judy Stockham