Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthFebruary 4, 1888
Place of BirthDouglas, Manitoba
Marital StatusMarried
Next of KinMrs. Rose Conn (wife), Lumby, British Columbia
Trade / CallingGas and steam engineer
Service Details
Regimental Number2005702
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion8th Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Engineers
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Address at EnlistmentBashaw, Alberta
Date of EnlistmentMarch 19, 1917
Age at Enlistment29
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of Death19651031
Age at Death77
Buried AtPleasant Valley Cemetery, Vernon, British Columbia

Conn, John Alvin

Sapper John Alvin Conn was one of five brothers who served in the First World War. He enlisted in March 1917 and served in France with the Canadian Engineers, returning to Canada in March 1919.

John was the son of Robert Conn and Mary Ellen Curle of Vernon, British Columbia. Robert and Mary were both born in Ontario. They were married in Egremont, Grey County, Ontario in April 1880 and by the following year they had moved to the RM of Rockwood, Manitoba. Two children were born there, Robert William (1881) and Elizabeth Evans (1884). Mary’s parents and other Curle relatives had settled in the village of Douglas in the RM of Elton, Manitoba. Robert and Mary moved there too and they had eight more children born in the Douglas area: John Alvin (4 February 1888), William Curle, Mary Ellen, Rhoda Irene Ethel, Fergus (Bertie), Reginald, Wallace Homer and Zella Rae.

The Conns also spent some time living in northwestern Ontario. They were in Rat Portage (now called Kenora) at the time of the 1891 census, with Robert’s occupation listed as house carpenter. When they returned to Douglas he operated a lumberyard and sash and door factory. Their oldest daughter Elizabeth became a school teacher. She taught at Douglas School and at another school in a neighbouring village. Sadly their son Bertie died in November 1901, at age four, and he’s buried in Madford (Douglas) Cemetery. The family was still in Douglas for the 1911 census but about a year later they moved out west to Vernon, British Columbia.

John was married on 15 October 1913 in Lumby, BC, where he was working as a mechanic. His wife, Rose Rhea Morand, was 22 years old, born in Vernon and living in Lumby. Her parents, Exias Louis Morand and Marie Salomée Quesnel, were both from Quebec. When the 1916 census was taken John and Rose were living in Battle River, Alberta and he was working in a lumber yard. They had a son, Arnold, who was a year old at the time. Two of John’s brothers, Robert and Reginald, were living in Edmonton.

John enlisted in Edmonton on 19 March 1917. His address was Bashaw, Alberta, his occupation was gas and steam engineer and next of kin was his wife Rose in Lumby, BC. Her father had passed away in Lumby the previous fall. John signed up with the Canadian Engineers Training Depot and about six weeks later he was on his way overseas. He embarked on the SS Justicia on 3 May and arrived in England on 14 May. He spent eight months with the Canadian Engineers Training Depot and on 5 January 1918 he was sent to France and transferred to the Canadian Engineers Pool.

Just a few days after arriving in France John became ill with influenza. He was admitted to No. 7 General Hospital in Г‰taples on 9 January and two weeks later he was moved to a convalescent depot. In late February he had a stomach inflammation and he was admitted to No. 2 Stationary Hospital in Abbeville, where he recovered for a month. He spent the next two months at the Canadian Infantry Base Depot and the Canadian Corps Reinforcement Camp. On 20 May he was attached to the 8th Field Company, Canadian Engineers. In a re-organization, his unit became the 8th Battalion, Canadian Engineers at the end of May.

In the summer of 1918 the Canadians were given several weeks of intensive training in open warfare and the final period of the war started in August 1918 with the Battle of Amiens. John injured his face and right hand in a motorcycle accident on 1 September. Over the next two months he recovered at No. 83 General Hospital in Boulogne, at a convalescent depot and at a rest camp. At the end of October he was transferred to the Canadian Engineers Pool and he rejoined the 8th Battalion, Canadian Engineers in the field on 24 December. He was a two week leave of absence in the UK in January 1919 and he returned to England with his unit on 16 February. He embarked for Canada on 17 March, arriving a week later, and was discharged on demobilization on 1 April in Revelstoke, BC.

John returned to either Vernon or Lumby but by 1921 he and his wife had moved to Leduc, Alberta, where he was working as a lumber salesman. Sadly, their son Arnold died in Edmonton in February 1922, at age 7. He’s buried in St. Anthony Cemetery in Edmonton. John and his wife returned to BC and he worked in several small towns including Atlin, Powell River, Lillooet and Clinton. He was a carpenter, cabinet maker and mill operator. He retired around 1961 and his last permanent home was in the rural Clinton area. He passed away in Lady Minto Hospital in nearby Ashcroft on 31 October 1965, at age 77. He’s buried in Pleasant Valley Cemetery in Vernon along with other family members. His wife Rose died in Vancouver on 21 March 1973, at age 82.

By Becky Johnson

Photo at the top: Pleasant Valley Cemetery

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