Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthJuly 15, 1889
Place of BirthBristol
Marital StatusMarried
Next of KinMrs. Elizabeth Pearce (wife), Souris, Manitoba
Trade / CallingBlacksmith
Service Details
Regimental Number106479
Service RecordLink to Service Record
BattalionCanadian Reserve Cavalry Regiment
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Cavalry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentSouris, Manitoba
Address at EnlistmentSouris, Manitoba
Date of EnlistmentDecember 17, 1914
Age at Enlistment25
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathNovember 28, 1966
Age at Death77
Buried AtLake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario
PlotPeaceful Hollow Block, 17E-5-4

Pearce, John James

Private John James Pearce enlisted in December 1914 and served overseas for four years, most of that time with the 1st Canadian Mounted Rifles and the Royal Canadian Dragoons. His wife and children moved to England while he was serving and they returned to Canada with him in May 1919.

John was born on 15 July 1889 in Bristol, Gloucestershire, England. He was the youngest son of William Pearce, a bootmaker, and his wife Margaret Shea. William and Margaret were married in 1879 and they had at least five children, all born in the parish of St. Paul’s, Bristol: George, Jane, Joseph, Mary Ann and John. John’s father died when he was an infant and Margaret supported the family by working as a tailoress. At the time of the 1901 census the oldest daughter Jane was staying with an aunt and uncle, James and Elizabeth Brain, and John and Mary Ann were both living in orphanages in Bristol called the Muller Homes. These homes took in children who were orphaned or who came from destitute single-parent families.

In 1903 John was sent to Canada by Dr. Barnardo’s Homes as a Home Child. He left Liverpool on the SS Dominion on 15 July, his 14th birthday, and arrived in Quebec nine days later. Most home children were put to work on farms and John’s intended employer was Archibald McLachlin in the village of Shedden, Elgin County, Ontario. In the 1901 census Archibald was listed as an unmarried farmer living with two of his sisters, and he was about ten years older than John.

By 1911 John had moved to Manitoba and he was married in Brandon that summer, on 23 August. His wife, Frances Elizabeth Clements, was from Cambridgeshire, England and she’d come to Canada in 1910 to work as a domestic in the village of Oberon, Manitoba. When the war started John and Frances were living in Souris and they had two children, Evelyn (b. 1912) and William George (b. 1913). John enlisted in Souris on 17 December 1914 when volunteers were being recruited for a third overseas contingent. In April 1915 he was assigned to the 1st Regiment, Canadian Mounted Rifles, which was organized and based in Brandon. John was a blacksmith, a trade he learned either at the orphanage or after he came to Canada. In the army his blacksmith skills were put to use and his rank was listed as farrier.

John trained with his new regiment for two months and the recruits left Camp Sewell on 8 June 1915, headed to Montreal. From there they embarked on the SS Megantic on 12 June and landed at Devonport, England nine days later. They unit trained for three months in England before being sent to France on 22 September. John’s wife and children moved to England that fall, arriving in London in October on the SS Sicilian, their destination listed as 2 Parkers Terrace, 88 East Road, Cambridge. They lived there until after the war ended.

John became ill in November and he was admitted to a hospital in Etaples then evacuated to England. He was suffering from pleurisy due to exposure and he was in the hospital until February 1916. After several more weeks with depot units he was transferred to the Royal Canadian Dragoons and sent back to France in April. He joined the Dragoons in the field at the end of the month and he served with them for the next two years, probably as a farrier. In September 1917 John was given ten days leave in England and the following summer he became ill again, suffering from debility. He was evacuated from a hospital in Rouen, France to Beaufort Hospital in Bristol, the city where he grew up. After his recovery he stayed in England and served with the Canadian Reserve Cavalry Regiment. The Armistice ended hostilities in November 1918 but it was months before most of the Canadian troops returned home. John and his wife and children embarked from Liverpool on 10 May 1919 on the SS Scandinavian and he was officially discharged in Quebec City on 22 May, his intended residence listed as Winnipeg.

Around 1921 John and his wife moved to Kenora, Ontario and he worked there as a blacksmith for 20 years. Their third and last child, son Ronald William, was born in Kenora in July 1932. John enlisted again in the Second World War, serving in Canada from 15 September 1942 until his demobilization on 20 August 1945. Afterwards he was employed by the Town of Kenora for ten years until his retirement in 1956. He was a life member of the Canadian Legion, Kenora branch. His son Ronald enlisted with the PPCLI and served as a paratrooper in the Korean War.

John passed away at Deer Lodge Hospital in Winnipeg on 28 November 1966, at age 77. He was survived by his wife, daughter Evelyn Johnson of Port Arthur, son Ronald of Calgary, son William of Vancouver and two sisters in Australia. John’s wife Frances died in 1988, at age 100, and they are both buried in Peaceful Hollow Block, Lake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora.

By Becky Johnson

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