Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthSeptember 27, 1885
Place of BirthMaidstone, Kent
Marital StatusMarried
Next of KinAlice Freeman (wife), Kenora, Ontario
Trade / CallingPainter and wallpaperer
ReligionChurch of England
Service Details
Regimental Number7351
BattalionQueen's Own (Royal West Kent Regiment)
ForceBritish Army
BranchBritish Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Address at EnlistmentKenora, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentJanuary 2, 2019
Theatre of ServiceCanada
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of Death19791008
Age at Death94
Buried AtLake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario

Freeman, John Buckland

Private John Buckland Freeman was born into a large family in Maidstone, Kent, England on 27 September 1885. His father, Edmund Freeman, was born in Maidstone and he worked as a labourer in stone quarries. John’s mother, Emily Buckland, was born in Maidstone or the nearby village of Ditton and she worked in local paper factories. Edmund and Emily were married in Maidstone on 9 October 1870 and John was the tenth of their 14 children: Edmund (died as an infant), Emily, Jane, Joseph, Edmund (died at age 3), Maria, Thomas, William, Alfred, John, Beatrice, Albert (died at age one), Arthur and Lily (died at one month).

John was seriously ill several times as a child. At age ten he had diphtheria and pneumonia and two years later when there was a typhoid epidemic in Maidstone he was the only one in the family who got sick. By age 13 he had left school and he was working full time in a brush factory. His older brother Alfred joined the army as a drummer in 1899 and he served in Malta with the 3rd Battalion, Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent Regiment). John’s uncle Thomas Freeman also served in Malta at the same time with the same unit. Thomas returned to Maidstone in 1901 and he died at Edmund and Emily’s home in 1902 of phthisis.

In October 1901, at age 16, John joined the navy as a house boy (servant) and he went to India on the HMS Plassy. He left the navy in May 1903 and spent three months in the militia. He enlisted in the regular army on 13 August 1903, six weeks before his 18th birthday. He signed up for twelve years, three years of regular service and nine years in the reserves. He joined the Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent Regiment) and he spent two years in Malta, from April 1904 to March 1906. On 12 August 1906 he was transferred to the reserves but he continued to be employed by the army in their ordnance department.

John was married in a small roadside church in Ditton, Kent on 8 June 1908, Whit Monday. His wife, Alice Beatrice Kelvie, was the daughter of George Kelvie and Elizabeth Muggeridge of Ditton. Alice was born in East Malling, Kent in 1884 and she was the second of nine children. John and Alice’s first child, Grace Alice, was born in Maidstone in 1909. She was followed by another daughter, Constance May, born in Hounslow, Middlesex on 25 December 1911. John was still working in the Army Ordnance Department at the time.

In the spring of 1913 John was given permission to immigrate to Canada, on the condition that he would be called up from the reserves in the event of war. Four of his brothers had already left England, Alfred going to Vancouver in 1905, William to Kenora, Ontario in 1907, Joseph to Rochester, New York in 1911 and Arthur to New York in 1912. John embarked on 24 April 1913 on the SS Arabic and joined his brother William in Kenora. In September that same year his son John William George was born in Maidstone and the following summer Alice and the three children joined John in Canada. They sailed in July 1914 on the Lake Manitoba and arrived in Kenora just a few days before Britain declared war.

Along with several other Kenora residents, John was called up as a British reservist and ordered to return to England to serve. The men left Kenora by train on Monday, 17 August 1914 and a large crowd gathered at the station to see them off. John suffered from asthma and before leaving Canada he was found to be no longer physically fit for war service. He was discharged in Canada on 31 October 1914, having served for 11 years and 80 days in the British army. After the war Alice’s sister May Kelvie immigrated to Canada with her husband, veteran Arthur Dunmall.

John returned to Kenora and he and his wife had four more children: Arthur Edmund (1915), Beatrice Emily (1917), Dorothy May (1919) and Ernest George (1921). John had a long career as a painter, wallpaperer and plasterer and during the Depression he worked on the crews that built the Trans-Canada highway west of Kenora. John and Alice lived on Third Street South in a home they bought from Charles Stokes. All three of their sons served in Europe during the Second World War, John with the Royal Winnipeg Rifles, Arthur with the Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers and Ernest with Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry.

John and Alice moved into Pinecrest Nursing Home in July 1969. Alice passed away on 14 March 1971, at age 86 and John followed on 8 October 1979, just after his 94th birthday. They are buried together in Lake of the Woods Cemetery. Also buried there are five of their children as well as John’s brother William Freeman and many other family members.

By Becky Johnson (great-granddaughter of John and Alice)

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