|Date of Birth||March 5, 1885|
|Place of Birth||Peterborough|
|Next of Kin||Rachel Deer, mother, 623 Ashdale Avenue, Toronto|
|Trade / Calling||painter|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Battalion||1st Machine Gun Company|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Branch||Canadian Machine Gun Corps|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Place of Enlistment||Toronto, Ontario|
|Address at Enlistment||623 Ashdale Avenue, Toronto|
|Date of Enlistment||March 21, 1917|
|Age at Enlistment||32|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||October 10, 1918|
|Age at Death||33|
|Buried At||Bucquoy Road Cemetery, Ficheux, France|
|Plot||III. E. 17.|
James Deer was born during the second quarter of 1885 in Peterborough, Northamptonshire, England. His parents were Thomas and Rachel (née Witpen) Deer. Thomas was born in West Watting, Cambridgeshire and Rachel in Oxford, London. The couple married during the first quarter of 1874 in St Saviour, Southwark, London.
For the 1881 England census the family was living at 9 Garrett Row Queen Street in Peterborough and by then had had four children, Florence age 5, Ernest age 4, Thomas age 2 and Elizabeth age 1. Thomas was working as a carpenter and joiner. By the 1891 England census five more children had been added to the family: Walter, Herbert, James, Alice, and Olive. Sometime before the 1901 England census the family moved to Walton, Northamptonshire, Thomas working as a carpenter. Household members were Elizabeth, Herbert who was working as an apprentice carpenter, James who had found employment as a railway wagon shunter, Alice, Olive, Albert, and Rachel’s father, George Witpen.
James left Liverpool, England aboard the Victorian in June of 1907, arriving in Montreal, Quebec on the 15th. His occupation was given as painter on the ship’s passenger list and his destination as Toronto. Travelling with him were his brother Ernest with his wife Ethel and child Arthur, and brother Thomas with his wife Margaret, all headed for Toronto.
By the 1911 Canada census James’ parents had also immigrated to Canada and were residing at 351 Rhodes in York South, Ontario. Household members included Thomas (carpenter), Rachel, Florence, James (painter), Alice, Olive (operator), and Albert (polisher). At some point after the 1911 census, James, or Jimmy as he was known to his friends, moved north to Kenora. At that time there were a group of young fellows in Kenora, all from the same area of England, and given their roots, thus called themselves the ‘Peterborough Boys’. Most were employed by the CPR and lived at the YMCA.
James Deer enlisted on 21 March 1917 in Toronto, Ontario. Single, his occupation was given as painter although he had served as a private for the Queen’s Own Rifles for two years. He was living at 623 Ashdale Avenue at time. He gave his birth year as 1887 but records show he was actually born in 1885. Although he wore glasses to correct his poor vision, he was declared fit to serve.
With the 255th Battalion James arrived in Liverpool, England on 9 June 1917 aboard the Olympic. The next day he was transferred to the 12th Reserve Battalion and then on 16 November 1917 to the 3rd Battalion, joining the unit on the 23rd. On 13 April 1918 he was attached to the 1st Canadian Division of the Machine Gun Pool and then joined the 1st Battalion of the Canadian Machine Gun Corps in the field on 14 August 1918.
Private James Deer died on 10 October 1918 as the result of a gunshot wound to the thorax and right arm on 03 October 1918. The CEF burial register for James says; ‘Died of Wounds.’ (Gunshot Wound Thorax) at No. 30 Casualty Clearing Station. He is interred in the Bucquoy Road Cemetery in Ficheux, Pas de Calais, France.
A cable was sent to his mother on 12 October 1918 reporting that he was dangerously wounded followed by a second cable sent 18 October 1918 notifying the family of his death. Burial information was sent to the family still living at 623 Ashdale Avenue in Toronto 26 May 1922.
James is commemorated on page 396 of the First World War Book of Remembrance in Ottawa, on the Kenora Cenotaph, and on the Kenora Legion War Memorial.
James’ brother Albert also served, enlisting 8 March 1916 in Toronto; he survived.
by Judy Stockham
photo of the Peterborough Boys: Lake of the Woods Museum Archives
grave marker photo: Geert on findagrave.com