Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthOctober 26, 1879
Place of BirthParkdale, Parish of St. Andrews, Manitoba
Marital StatusMarried
Next of KinMrs. Matilda Cook (mother), West Selkirk, Manitoba
Trade / CallingLabourer
ReligionChurch of England
Service Details
Regimental Number722177
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion2nd Battalion Canadian Engineers
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Engineers
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Address at EnlistmentBalsam Bay, Manitoba
Date of EnlistmentMarch 17, 1916
Age at Enlistment36
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathDecember 21, 1943
Age at Death64

Cook, John George

Sapper John George Cook enlisted in March 1916 and served for more than two years in France, Belgium and Germany. He returned to Canada in May 1919.

John George, usually known as George, was the son of Joseph Cook and Matilda Margaret Louis. He was born in Parkdale, St. Andrews Parish, Manitoba on 26 October 1879 and he had at least seven brothers and sisters: James William, Alice, Alexander Alfred, Joseph Jr., Reginald, Lorne and Agnes. Joseph was a farmer and the family lived in the Selkirk and St. Andrews areas. By the summer of 1912, at age 32, George had moved to the town of Kenora in northwestern Ontario. He was married there on 5 July 1912 to Sophia Bella McPherson. Bella was born in 1887 on Lake of the Woods, the daughter of George McPherson Jr. and Sophia Morrisseau. Her father and grandfather had worked for the Hudson’s Bay Company and her family lived at Sabaskosing on Lake of the Woods.

George and Bella had one son, Daniel Lawrence, who was born on 13 July 1913. The war started a year later and by the time George enlisted, in the spring of 1916, he was separated from his wife and living in Balsam Bay, Manitoba. He signed up in Selkirk on 17 March 1916, joining the 108th (Selkirk) Battalion. He was 36 years old by then but he passed himself off as only 30. His younger brother Lorne Cook had enlisted in the same unit four days earlier. In May the battalion was sent to train at Camp Hughes, just east of Brandon. The recruits headed overseas in September but George was kept in Canada for another two months due to a problem with his eyes. On 4 October he was transferred to a new unit, the 196th Battalion, and later that month they left for the east coast. On 30 October the troops were reviewed on Parliament Hill in Ottawa by Premier Borden and General Sam Hughes. The battalion continued east, embarking from Halifax on 1 November on the SS Southland and arriving in Liverpool ten days later. ¬†On 15 December George rejoined the 108th Battalion. In January 1917 his unit was absorbed by the 14th Reserve Battalion but George spent only two weeks with them. He was transferred to the 107th ‘Timber Wolf’ Battalion on 23 January 1917 and a month later he was sent to France.

The 107th arrived in France as a pioneer battalion and the men moved to the area west of Arras, where their work began immediately. Pioneer units worked closely with the engineers and spent a large part of their time at or near the front lines. Their work included mining, wiring, burying cables, tunnelling, railway and road work, constructing water systems, and building and repairing trenches and dugouts. They also served as infantry when needed. In June and July the 107th Battalion held a section of the front line near Arras and in August they took part in the Battle of Hill 70 (15-25 August 1917). On the first two days of the battle they followed immediately behind the assault troops, digging new communication trenches. One company also helped to bring out the wounded and bury the dead. The battle ended on 25 August and on 15 September George was sent to the Canadian Corps Reinforcement Camp, where he served until the spring of 1918. He rejoined the 107th Battalion on 3 March and on 7 March he had two weeks leave in the UK.

In May 1918 the pioneer units were reorganized and George was transferred to the 2nd Canadian Engineer Battalion. The Canadian Corps was heavily involved in the final months of the war, starting at Amiens in August and moving to Arras, across the Canal du Nord then on to Cambrai. In November, when the Armistice ended hostilities, George’s unit was north of Valenciennes. They moved into Belgium later that month and entered Germany on 6 December. They stayed there as part of the occupying forces until 12 January when they returned to Belgium. George was in the hospital for most of February, due to illness, and in early April he was back in England. He embarked for Canada on the SS Bohemian on 14 May, arriving at Halifax ten days later. He was discharged on 30 May in Winnipeg. His brother Lorne had served in France with a forestry unit and he returned to Canada two months earlier.

After the war George lived in Manitoba for about eight years, working mainly at logging camps. He was divorced from his wife Bella and he never remarried. Around 1927 he moved to Alberta where he worked on road construction, at logging camps and on farms doing harvesting. In the fall of 1936, after a short stay in the hospital, he retired and settled in a cabin on the outskirts of Calgary. George went to Edmonton next then in June 1941 he moved back to Manitoba. He lived in Tyndall at first with his youngest sister Agnes (Mrs. Hugh Hurrell). In the fall of 1942 he spent some time in both Deer Lodge Veterans Hospital and the Winnipeg General Hospital. By the summer of 1943 George was living in Beaconia, a small village near Balsam Bay. He passed away in or near Beaconia on 21 December 1943, at age 64. His son Daniel Cook lived in Redditt for many years, where he worked for the CNR and for Ontario Central Airlines. He died in Redditt in 1977 and he’s buried in Lake of the Woods Cemetery in Kenora.

Bella McPherson married again and had three more children: George Fairfield and Charles and Nora Morris. She passed away in Winnipeg on 7 August 1954 and she’s buried at Assumption Roman Catholic Cemetery.

By Becky Johnson (2xgreat-niece of Bella McPherson)

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