|Date of Birth||November 10, 1873|
|Place of Birth||Gwehelog, Usk, Pontypool, Monmouthshire|
|Next of Kin||Mary Marsh, mother, 985 Notre Dame Avenue, Winnipeg, Manitoba|
|Trade / Calling||Chauffeur|
|Religion||Church of England|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Battalion||2nd Divisional Ammunition SubPark|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Branch||Canadian Army Service Corps|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Place of Enlistment||Toronto, Ontario|
|Date of Enlistment||January 22, 1915|
|Age at Enlistment||41|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||November 9, 1965|
|Age at Death||92|
|Buried At||Brookside Cemetery, Winnipeg, Manitoba|
John Daniel Marsh was born on 10 November 1873 in the village of Gwehelog, subdistrict of Usk, district of Pontypool, in Monmouthshire, Wales. He was likely named after his older brother John Daniel who had died earlier that year. His father Joseph Marsh was from Harewood, Herefordshire in England while his mother Sarah Lewis was from Michaelston Le Pit, Glamorgan in Wales. The couple married on 14 June 1859 in Bedminster, Somerset in England. Over the years Joseph worked as a gardener, agricultural labourer, general labourer, groom, and latterly as a coachman domestic. The 1861 census found the family in Newent, Gloucestershire, the 1871 census in Harewood, Herefordshire, and by the time of the 1881 census they were living in the parish of Bassalleg in Duffryn, Newport, Monmouthshire in Wales, a village about thirty kilometres south of Gwehelog. Joseph and Sarah gave birth to nine children, George Albert (1860, Hampton Bishop, Herefordshire), Elizabeth Jane (1861, Huntley, Gloucestershire), Thomas Edward (1863, Harewood, Herefordshire), John Daniel (1866-1873, Harewood, Herefordshire), Joseph Frederick (1869, Harewood, Herefordshire), Sarah Ann (1871, Harewood, Herefordshire), John Daniel, Mary Ellen (Nellie) (1875, Bassalleg, Monmouthshire), and Susan Blanche (1878, Bassalleg, Monmouthshire).
It appears that by the time of the 1891 census John was living in Coedkernew, Monmouthshire and working as a farm servant for the Henry Workman family. According to later newspaper reports, he had entered his first running race in 1885 in Tredegar in Wales, winning the 16 and under sprint event and winning two shirts. In 1896 John moved to Manchester, Lancashire in England, joining the now famous Salford Harriers Club, a cross country running club that had been formed in 1884. In his first year with the club he won their 10 mile championship, a race that he went on to win a record six times. In 1898 he entered his first international race, chosen to represent England in France where he finished 5th. In 1900 John was elected Captain of the Salford Harriers, winning a number of championship races.
On 25 March 1899 in Salford (an inner city of Manchester), John married Mary Owen. According to the 1901 census Mary was born about 1873 in Bangor, Caernarvon in Wales. Semi-retiring from racing, at the time of the census John and Mary were living in the Bridge Inn in Macclesfield, Cheshire in England where John was listed as a licensed pub victualler (a person who is licensed to sell alcoholic liquor). Children born to the couple in England were John Henry (Harry) (1899, Manchester), Joseph Owen (1901, Macclesfield), and Albert (abt 1904).
By the time of the 1906 Canada census the family had immigrated to Canada, farming in St Norbert on the outskirts of Winnipeg. John resumed his running career, turning professional later that year. He went on to win many marathons in Canada and the US and was considered at the top of the runners in Canada, also earning money through endorsements. Children born to John and Mary in Canada were John David (Jack) (1907, St Norbert), Blanche Mary (1911, Winnipeg), and Thomas Frederick (Fred) (1913, Winnipeg).
John enlisted with the 2nd Divisional Ammunition SubPark, Canadian Army Service Corps on 22 January 1915 in Toronto. To appear younger, his date of birth was given as 10 November 1876. His occupation was given as chauffeur and his wife Mary on Notre Dame Avenue in Winnipeg as next of kin. The main duties of the Canadian Army Service Corps (CASC) in France centred on the transport and supply of food, forage, ammunition, equipment, clothing and engineering material and stores. Ammunition was stored at the Divisional Ammunition Parks to be transported to the front lines. John left Montreal on 15 May 1915 aboard the Megantic, and once in England was given a leave from 13 July to 13 August. By mid September he was in France, classification changed from 2nd Class Driver to 1st Class Driver. A later newspaper report spoke of John travelling between the Somme and St Eloi, conveying ammunition to the men in the trenches.
John’s son Harry, age 15, enlisted with the 43rd Battalion on 20 April 1915 in Winnipeg. His occupation was given as bellboy and his mother Mary as next of kin. A short time later, as a Private with the battalion he embarked from Montreal aboard the Grampian on 1 June. After training in England he arrived in France on 22 February 1916. Likely at his father’s request, Harry was transferred to John’s unit on 8 May 1916.
John’s last running race took place on Dominion Day in 1916 about 7 miles from Ypres. Called the Victoria Cross Race, the runners were required to carry a man for about 80 yards. At age 42, standing 5 feet 6 inches tall, and weighing about 140 pounds, John crossed the finish line first with his son Harry on his back.
However, all was not well with John as in February of 1916 he had developed an inguinal hernia, considered to be caused by the stress of his service. That October he was returned to England and was struck off strength on proceeding to Canada on 5 November. Once in Canada he had surgery to repair the hernia, hospitalized for three weeks followed by two months of convalescence. John was discharged from service as medically unfit on 2 March 1917 in Winnipeg. His military character was described as good, and character awarded in accordance with King’s Regulations as 1st Class Carpenter.
John’s son Harry continued to serve with the 2nd Divisional Ammunition SubPark and was granted a good conduct badge in the summer of 1917. In mid April of 1918 his unit was absorbed into the 2nd Canadian Divisional Mechanical Transport Company. He returned to Canada in May of 1919, having served for four years and age 19 at time of discharge.
Sadly, John’s wife Mary died on 7 November 1919 in Winnipeg. By the time of the 1921 census John and most of the children were farming in the Lake Francis area in the RM of Woodlands about 75 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg. In the late 1930’s he moved to Victoria, British Columbia where he worked as a carpenter. John served during WW2 from 1940 to 1941 in Canada, likely with the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals training carrier pigeons.
In the early 1950’s John married widow Bertha Fanny (née Wilkins) Norman. Born in 1884 in Priors Marston, Warwickshire in England, Bertha was the daughter of Owen Wilkins and Susan Robertson. In 1905 she had married John Scrase Norman, the couple later immigrating to Canada with their two children. Bertha’s first husband had died in 1950.
After Bertha’s death in 1959, John moved to Kenora, Ontario to live with his daughter Blanche Walsten, her husband Carl, and family. He passed away at home on 9 November 1965. At the time of his death he was survived by his six sons, Harry of Edmonton, Joseph in the United States, Albert of Cloverdale, BC, Frank of Victoria, BC, Jack of St James, and Fred of La Broquerie, Manitoba, daughter Blanche (Carl) Walsten, his sister Sarah Ann (Thomas) Jones in Wales, twenty-three grandchildren, and thirteen great grandchildren. Along with his first wife Mary, John is interred in Brookside Cemetery in Winnipeg. His grave marker was provided by Last Post Fund in 2018.
By Judy Stockham
Photographs courtesy of John’s family.