|Date of Birth||April 28, 1896|
|Place of Birth||Fort Coulonge, Quebec|
|Next of Kin||Mrs Mary Denault, mother, Fort Coulonge, Quebec|
|Trade / Calling||Driver|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Battalion||2nd Divisional Signals Company|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Address at Enlistment||7 Fifth Avenue, Ottawa, Ontario|
|Date of Enlistment||February 6, 1917|
|Age at Enlistment||20|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||November 25, 1984|
|Age at Death||88|
|Buried At||Lake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario|
John Arthur (Jack) Denault was born on 28 April 1896 in Fort Coulonge, Quebec. His parents, both born in Quebec, were Joseph and Marie Anna (née Paré) Denault who had married in 1879 in LaPasse, Ontario. Children born to the couple were Joseph Edward (1880), Mary (1882), James Frank (1886), Jane (1889), Michael William (1894), Jack, Elizabeth Anna (1898), and Simon Frederick (1901). The family had moved to Fort Coulonge by 1886, birth place of Jack’s mother.
At an early age Jack left Fort Coulonge to work in the lumber camps at various jobs including cook and straw boss. By the time he signed his attestation papers on 6 February 1917 with the 4th Divisional Signal Training Depot, he was living in Ottawa and working as a driver.
Jack embarked from Canada aboard the Olympic on the 29 April 1917 and upon arriving in England he was taken on strength with the Canadian Engineers Training Depot at Crowboro. In January of 1918 he proceeded overseas as a Sapper to the Signallers Pool as reinforcement to the 2nd Canadian Divisional Signal Company.
‘During the First World War being a signaller usually meant you were close to the frontline troops, providing signals communications back to your Company and Battalion H.Q. Wired telephones were used where possible but this involved laying landlines which was a hazardous job due to enemy shelling. At the start of the First World War flags were also used for signalling but this practice was little used as the war years progressed. Where it was not possible to lay landlines then many forms of visual signalling were used which made use of light either from sunlight (use of the sun and mirrors) in day time and lamps at night (Lucas Lamps). Messages were sent in Morse Code, one man operating the signalling device and one man using a telescope (where distances were great) to read the message sent back. Signallers were also used in forward positions to assist the artillery and provide information on their enemy targets. In these positions, often isolated, the signaller became vulnerable to enemy shelling and attack, and many signallers lost their lives.’ (worcestershireregiment.com) ‘The sappers were constantly exposed to danger as they repaired telephone lines or were forced to show themselves as they relayed messages manually. This manual signalling was vital when the army moved too quickly to establish a telephone network. They were also dispatch messengers and had to ride or run with messages throughout the trenches.’ (anzacsite.gov.au)
In late December of 1918 Jack was granted a leave to Paris but by the 2nd of January 1919 he was hospitalized for pneumonia. Invalided to England with ‘debility of influenza’, he was first admitted to the No 4 Canadian General Hospital at Basingstokes on the 1st of February, followed by a transfer to the Princess Patricia Canadian Red Cross Hospital at Bexhill on the 12th. Jack was discharged from the hospital in early March and embarked for Canada aboard the Saturnia on the 11th of May.
Jack returned to Fort Coulonge for a couple of weeks upon his arrival back in Canada but then headed west to Edmonton where he worked in lumber camps and on railroad construction projects for a couple of years. In 1921 he moved to Kenora, Ontario, trapping on Lake of the Woods in the winter and working as a forest ranger in the summer. In the fall of 1923 he began working for the Ontario-Minnesota Pulp and Paper Company. The next spring when the newly installed paper machines were rolling, Jack was on the job as a back tender.
On 30 May 1925, in Kenora, Jack married Zaida Laura Gagne. The daughter of Israel and Anna (née Degagne) Gagne, Zaida was born in Kenora in 1904. Her parents had moved to Rat Portage (later renamed Kenora) shortly after their marriage when Israel found work in the local gold mines. Jack and Zaida gave birth to one child, daughter Marceline in 1928. In 1937 Jack and Zaida bought property on Spruce Lake, about 9 kilometres west of Kenora, where they built a tourist camp, aptly named Jack’s Camp, that consisted of 7 cabins and the main house. An avid fisherman and hunter, Jack enjoyed the outdoors. After retiring and selling the camp in 1962, Jack and Zaida moved to nearby Keewatin. He was a member of the Kenora Branch of the Canadian Legion, the St Louis Roman Catholic Church in Keewatin, and the Paper Makers Union.
Jack died on 25 November 1984 in the Lake of the Woods District Hospital in Kenora. Zaida died in 1999 at the Pinecrest Home for the Aged in Kenora. They are interred together in the Lake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora. Their daughter Marceline Roberts died in 1998 in Winnipeg. Jack and Zaida had three grandchildren.
by Judy Stockham