|Date of Birth||September 7, 1887|
|Place of Birth||Newton, Maybole, Ayrshire|
|Next of Kin||Harry Gibson, (brother) Blyth, Northumberland, England|
|Trade / Calling||Miller|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Battalion||No 10 Field Ambulance|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Branch||Canadian Army Medical Corps|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Address at Enlistment||Keewatin, Ontario|
|Date of Enlistment||August 10, 1915|
|Age at Enlistment||28|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||February 11, 1975|
|Age at Death||87|
|Buried At||Lake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario|
|Plot||Peaceful Hollow Block, 13E-6-4|
Birth date and location: Alexander Gibson was born in his parents’ home on an autumn morning, September 7, 1885 in Newton, Maybole, Ayrshire, Scotland. He was the second child of Alexander Gibson, a Journeyman Currier and Agnes Crawford Miller. Agnes and Alexander were married November 10, 1882, in Agnes’s hometown of Dailly, Alexander. In the 1891 census, Agnes and her three children were recorded living on Prestwick Road, Civil Parish of Newton, South Ayrshire. The father is not recorded with the family when the census was taken. Agnes was recorded as a wife and not a widow. Alexander’s two siblings were Henry Miller (born 1883, Dailly) and Adam Graham (born 1888, Newton). The family is Presbyterian.
Early life: In 1907, Alexander left the port of Glasgow on the Sicilian of the Allan line and arrived in Quebec City on June 17, 1907. His destination was Keewatin, Ontario. The ship’s manifest indicates he was Scottish, born in Scotland, age 21 and a Farm Labourer. Coming to Canada, he was allowed a British Bonus. Although there were other Gibson families who came from Ayrshire living in Keewatin at the time, no connection has yet been found with Alexander.
It might be expected that Alexander would be in Keewatin or area in the 1911 Canadian Census, however, his name could not be located. A careful search in several provinces suggests that he may be the Alexander Gibson who is living with a family and 6 other farm labourers in Weyburn, Saskatchewan. All seven of these men are recorded as inmates and single; however, it appears the census taker used that term frequently to refer to labourers who were earning a wage and boarding or lodging with families. To support this idea, the particular head of household, in which Alexander lived, had boarders, not inmates, in the 1901, 1916 and 1921 census. Alexander was definitely living in Keewatin in 1916, as he had been working there as a miller, at the time of his enlistment.
War experience: Alexander enlisted at Sewell Depot in Manitoba with the 10th Canadian Field Ambulance Corps. He completed his medical and signed his Attestation Papers on August 10, 1915. Interestingly, the Commander of the Depot dated the papers July 31, 1915.
‘Alex’ was almost 28 years of age, single, 5 feet 5 inches tall with brown hair and blue eyes. He was declared fit for service and approved for duty. His next of kin was his brother, Harry, who was stationed at the Radio and Navigational School (RNS) in England.
On February 12, 1916, in Winnipeg, Alexander married Isabella McBride and made her his next of kin. On April 1, 1916, using a page out of his pay book, he prepared a will leaving everything to her, Mrs. Bella McBride Gibson, 115 Armstrong Point, Middle Gate, Winnipeg, Manitoba. Later in the war, her address was given as Box 224 in Keewatin. Alex’s pay, that would go directly to Isabella, was $20 per month.
Private Alex Gibson was the only person from Keewatin who enlisted with the Ambulance Corps at that time. With twelve men from Kenora, he went to Winnipeg for 6 months of intensive training. On February 26th, 1916, while enroute to Toronto, the train stopped in Kenora, and, for a brief 10 minutes, final farewells were made to family, friends and well-wishers. From Toronto, they went on to Saint John, New Brunswick and set sail on the SS Scandinavia, March 2, 1916, arriving in England on March 12, 1916. They immediately went to Bramshott Camp for several days of additional training and, on April 3rd, Alex, along with others from Kenora, embarked for France, landing in Havre. By April 8th, Alexander was serving in the thick of battle.
The Miner and News (M&N) followed the men of the 10th Field Ambulance Corps, keeping the people of the Kenora and Keewatin area informed. On February 26th it was reported that ‘the corps is busy and more ambulance men are needed badly. These men have reached the seat of action the quickest of any Kenora men that have yet been sent overseas excepting the reservists and Imperial transport men.’ On April 29th, after some of the men had been in France for over a month, the M&N wrote, ‘The work which the members of the Field Ambulance Corps undertake is dangerous and requires ability and nerve. After a battle, they gather up the wounded, give first aid, and carry them on stretchers to the rear.’
Over the next three years, Alexander continued to serve with the Field Ambulance Corps, being treated for severe gastritis on a few occasions. On September 28, 1918, he was reposted to Boulogne then was demobilized on March 12, 1919. Alexander returned to Canada on the RMS Baltic and was discharged March 24 in Winnipeg in overall good health. He received the War Service Badge, Class ‘A’, No. 74766 and a second issue War Service Badge Class A #206792. He also received both the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.
Life after the War: Alexander returned to Keewatin and, according to the 1921 Canadian census, had resumed his position as a miller. He and Isabella were living on Wharf Street, and, once settled, Alexander took on the nickname, Dan. He began to work with the Lake of the Woods Milling Company as both a fireman and a gardener and was employed in these positions until he retired, after 45 years, in 1952.
He was a member of St. Andrews United Church in Keewatin, Past Master of the Keewatin Masonic Lodge, a member of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch # 13 and belonged to the 10th Field Ambulance Association. Following his retirement, he and Isabella enjoyed gardening together and in both the 1957 and 1958 Canada Voters’ Lists, they describe themselves as gardeners.
Alexander and Isabella had one daughter, Jean, who married Ab Marchant. They also had a grandson, Dan, and a granddaughter Bonnie Jean, who died too young, in 1965. Alexander also had two great grandchildren at the time of his death.
Death and Burial: Alexander died in Kenora, February 11, 1975 and is buried in the Peaceful Hollow Block of the Lake of the Woods Cemetery. Isabella, who died in 1964, is buried next to him.
By Susan (Hillman) Brazeau in support of the Kenora Great War Project – honouring all who served, remembering those who died.
1891 Scottish Census
1911 Scottish Census
LAC Service File
Canada Passenger Lists (1907)
1911 Canada Census
1921 Canada census
1957 Canada Voters’ List
1958 Canada Voters’ List
Manitoba Vital Statistics (Marriage Index 1879-1931)
Northern Ontario Canada Gravemarker Gallery (grave marker showing death dates)
Kenora Miner and News Archives: December 1964; February 1975 Obituaries
Other Resources Accessed:
1901 Scottish Census
1911 Census of England
Britain World War 1 Soldiers