Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthApril 6, 1887
Place of BirthShrewsbury, Shropshire
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinMrs. Mary Ann Breeze (mother), Ivy Villa, Percy Street, Greenfields, Shrewsbury, England
Trade / CallingLocomotive Fireman
Service Details
Regimental Number461454
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion4th Divisional Engineers
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Engineers
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentWinnipeg, Manitoba
Address at EnlistmentKing Edward Hotel, Kenora, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentFebruary 25, 1916
Age at Enlistment28
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathJuly 26, 1958
Age at Death71
Buried AtLongden Road Cemetery, Shrewsbury, England

Breeze, Jack

Sapper Jack Breeze enlisted in Winnipeg in February 1916 and served overseas with the Canadian Engineers. He was wounded at the Vimy Front in the spring of 1917 and invalided to Canada later the same year.

Jack was the oldest son of John Breeze and Mary Ann Edwards of Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England. John and Mary Ann were married in 1879 and they had three daughters and three sons: Florence (died at age 5), Edith, Daisy, Jack, Charles and Percy. Jack was born in Shrewsbury on 6 April 1887. His father John was a coal merchant and some of the children also worked in the coal industry. John died in 1906, at age 57. The following year Jack immigrated to Canada, arriving in Halifax in September 1907 on the SS Tunisian, age 20, his occupation listed as clerk and his destination MacGregor. By the time he enlisted, early in 1916, he was living in Kenora, Ontario and working as a locomotive fireman for the Canadian Pacific Railway.

Jack signed up with the 61st Battalion on 25 February 1916 in Winnipeg. He was one of several CPR employees from Kenora who joined the 61st that day. The unit had been organized the previous fall and it was being recruited in the Winnipeg area. A month after enlisting they were on their way to the east coast. During the brief stop in Kenora, on 27 March, friends and relatives gathered at the train station to see the lads off and say their goodbyes. The battalion embarked from Halifax on 1 April on the SS Olympic and arrived in England eleven days later. On 30 May Jack was transferred to the Canadian Engineer Training Depot at Shorncliffe Camp, on the southeast coast of England. After five months of training he was sent to France, disembarking there on 25 October.

Jack spent the next three months with the Canadian Engineer Reinforcement Pool at the base depot in France. Early in 1917 he was transferred to a new unit, the 11th Field Company, 4th Divisional Engineers. When he joined them in the field towards the end of January they were at Villers au Bois, near the Vimy Front. John Poole, a CPR railroader from Kenora who had enlisted with Jack, joined the 11th Field Company at the same time. By early March preparations were underway for an assault on Vimy Ridge, set to take place in April. The 11th Field Company moved east, closer to Vimy Ridge, where the men dug, drained and wired trenches, laid trench mats, erected wire entanglements and constructed new front lines. They worked within range of German guns and the unit suffered frequent casualties from both artillery and rifle fire.

From the 11th Field Company’s war diary, 27 March 1917: New Front Line Vincent to Tottenham deepening and widening. 4 O.R. killed, 3 O.R. wounded.

John Poole was one of the four men killed that day. Jack was wounded, suffering a severe shrapnel or gunshot wound to his forearm and left thigh. He was evacuated to a field ambulance and admitted to No. 18 General Hospital in Camiers on 29 March. Two weeks later he was back in the UK recovering at Springburn Woodside Hospital in Glasgow, Scotland. After two months there, followed by two weeks at a convalescent centre, Jack rejoined the Canadian Engineers Training Depot at the end of June. He continued to have problems with his health, however, and in August he was transferred to the Canadian Discharge Depot pending his return to Canada. He embarked from Liverpool on SS Transport 8261 on 13 September 1917 and landed at Halifax 12 days later. A medical board recommended further treatment in a convalescent home and he was admitted to the Manitoba Military Convalescent Hospital in Winnipeg on 3 November. He also spent some time in St. Boniface Hospital that winter. Jack was discharged as medically unfit for service on 4 February 1918 in Winnipeg, with his conduct described as very good. His brother Charles had enlisted with the Royal Garrison Artillery in England and he served as a gunner during the war.

After his discharge Jack returned to Kenora and to his job with the CPR. For quite a few years he lived at the Railway YMCA, which was near the CPR station, and he became a member of the Royal Canadian Legion, Kenora branch. By 1929 he was an engineer and in December that year he returned to England for a three-month vacation. He was married in Kenora on 20 September 1944, at age 57. His wife, Irene Rowbottom, was the daughter of Charles Frederick Rowbottom and Emma Jarvis of Kenora. During the war, while Charles was serving overseas, Emma had moved to England and Irene was born there in 1915. Charles was seriously wounded in the war and never fully recovered, passing away in 1919 when Irene was four years old. After being widowed Emma married Willard John Derry, another Kenora war veteran.

Irene worked as a stenographer at the paper mill in Kenora. She passed away in September 1957 at a hospital in Port Arthur, at age 41. She’s buried in Angel Crest Block in Lake of the Woods Cemetery in Kenora. Jack was retired by then and in July 1958 he went to the UK for a two-month holiday. He was going to Bowbrook, Shrewsbury, where he had family living. He arrived in England on 17 July and he passed away suddenly in Bowbrook on 26 July, at age 71. He’s buried in the Breeze family plot at Longden Road Cemetery in Shrewsbury, England.

By Becky Johnson

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