|Date of Birth||November 23, 1886|
|Place of Birth||Kenora, Ontario|
|Next of Kin||Crist Emel, General Delivery, Winnipeg, Manitoba|
|Trade / Calling||Pool-marker|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Battalion||1st Canadian Motor Machine Gun Brigade|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Branch||Canadian Machine Gun Corps|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Place of Enlistment||Sewell Camp, Manitoba|
|Date of Enlistment||August 5, 1915|
|Age at Enlistment||28|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||October 4, 1961|
|Age at Death||74|
|Buried At||Cremation (Vancouver Crematorium)|
Private Alexander Nelson served with the 1st Canadian Motor Machine Gun Brigade in France, Belgium and Germany. He suffered gas poisoning twice but he survived the war and in April 1919 he was awarded the Belgian Croix de Guerre.
According to his attestation paper Alexander was born on 23 November 1886 in Kenora, Ontario. He enlisted at Sewell Camp in Manitoba on 5 August 1915, just as the war entered its second year. He was 28 years old and ‘next-of-kin’ was a friend, Crist Emel, in Winnipeg. This was later changed to another friend, William Harry Barry, who also lived in Winnipeg. Alexander joined the 9th Regiment, Canadian Mounted Rifles and trained with his unit over the summer and fall. The troops embarked for England on 23 November, sailing from St. John, New Brunswick on the SS California and arriving about nine days later.
In England Alexander was transferred to the Canadian Corps Depot. In April and May 1916 he spent five weeks in the Military Hospital at Shorncliffe recovering from adenitis. On 12 June he was assigned to the Fort Garry Horse Reserve Regiment but two weeks later he was transferred to the 1st Canadian Motor Machine Gun Brigade and sent to France. When he joined his new unit in the field near the end of July the Canadians were training for what would be the Battle of Hill 70 (15-25 August 1917).
Along with other units, the 1st Canadian Motor Machine Gun Brigade harassed the German lines with machine gun fire before the Hill 70 operation and supported the troops during the assault. Alexander suffered mustard gas poisoning early in the battle and he was admitted to No. 22 General Hospital at Camiers on 18 or 19 August. A few days later he was evacuated to England on the hospital ship Princess Elizabeth. He recovered at the Northampton War Hospital in Duston from 23 August to 1 November. He spent a further two weeks at the convalescent centre in Epsom and was released to duty on 16 November.
Alexander served at the Canadian Machine Gun Depot in England for about five months. In April 1918 he returned to France and rejoined the 1st Canadian Motor Machine Gun Brigade. That summer the Canadians were given several weeks of intensive training in open warfare and they were heavily involved in the final period of the war, starting in August with the Battle of Amiens. Following that they moved to the Arras sector, crossed the Canal du Nord in late September and captured Cambrai in October. The Battle of Valenciennes started on 1 November and Alexander was one of his unit’s casualties that day, suffering cordite poisoning. He was taken to No. 6 Casualty Clearing Station then recovered for ten days at No. 56 General Hospital in Etaples.
While Alexander was in the hospital the Armistice ended hostilities on the Western Front. He rejoined his unit in the field in mid-November and in early December they took part in the March to the Rhine. They remained in Germany for almost two months as part of the occupying forces. The brigade returned to Belgium on 3 February 1919 and a month later they were back in England. Alexander was awarded the Croix de Guerre (Belgium), which was recorded in the London Gazette on 1 April. He embarked from Liverpool with his unit on 12 April on the SS Adriatic and they arrived in Halifax on 20 April, Easter Sunday. The men reached Montreal three days later and they were given a large reception. Their final parade was to Peel Street Barracks in Montreal and they were demobilized that same day, 23 April.
Alexander’s intended residence after the war was Winnipeg and he was married there on 7 June 1921. His wife, Maud Ellen Moors, was born in 1902 in Monmouthshire, Wales, the daughter of John Moors and Rachel Davies. She had an older brother, John William, and three other siblings who died young. Her widowed father and her brother were both living in Winnipeg by the time the war started. John William Moors enlisted in December 1914 and he was seriously injured in France in June 1917 by an explosion at a munitions dump. He returned to Canada in November 1917. Maud immigrated to Canada in 1919, arriving on 18 October on the SS Scandinavian and joining her father in Winnipeg.
Alexander and Maud made their home in Winnipeg and they had at least two children, Margaret and William. Alexander had a long career as a steward for the Canadian Legion. He retired around 1950 and he and his wife moved to Burnaby, British Columbia. He passed away in Shaughnessy Hospital in Vancouver on 4 October 1961, at age 74. Maud had predeceased him on 20 February 1961 and both were cremated. They were survived by their son William in Toronto and their daughter Margaret (Mrs. Richard James Hartrick) of Vancouver. Maud’s brother, John William Moors, had also moved to Vancouver and he died there in 1962.
By Becky Johnson
Photo at the top is the Belgian Croix de Guerre.