|Date of Birth||August 27, 1883|
|Place of Birth||Crook, Helmington Row, Bishop Aukland, Durham|
|Next of Kin||Adelaide Edwards, wife, 408 King Edward Street, St James, Winnipeg, Manitoba|
|Trade / Calling||Hoist and portable engineer rigger|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Battalion||2nd Battalion, CE|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Date of Enlistment||July 5, 1915|
|Age at Enlistment||31|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||October 25, 1957|
|Age at Death||74|
|Buried At||Brookside Cemetery, Winnipeg, Manitoba|
John Elias Edwards was born on 27 August 1883 in Crook, Helmington Row in the registration district of Bishop Auckland in Durham, England. His parents Joseph Edwards and Emily Williams were from the Ruabon-Rhosllanerchrugog, Denbighshire area of northern Wales but had married on 6 March 1876 in Oldham, Manchester in Lancashire. At the time new mines were opening in the area and Joseph found work as a collier. Daughter Sarah was born in 1878 in Oldham. It appears that the family returned briefly to Wales where son Thomas was born in 1880 but by the next year were living in Helmington with Joseph working in the coal mines. By the 1891 census the family had relocated to the mining area of Atherton in Lancashire but by the 1901 census had returned to Rhosllanerchrugog where Joseph found work as an insurance agent and John as a labourer in a brickyard. Joseph and Emily gave birth to eleven children, with only Sarah, Thomas, and John surviving beyond infancy/childhood.
According to a later passenger list, John had immigrated to Canada around 1905, with an age appropriate John E Edwards arriving in Canada aboard the Tunisian in May of 1905. At some point he returned to Wales, marrying Adelaide Agnes McGarry on the 5th of May of 1913 in the registration district of Wrexham, Denbighshire. Born in 1884 in Midlothian, Scotland, Adelaide was the daughter of William and Margaret McGarry. By the 1901 census William, his second wife Alice, and Adelaide and her siblings had moved to northern Wales. John returned to Canada aboard the Victorian shortly after the marriage, listed as a locomotive engineer on his way to Winnipeg, Manitoba on the passenger list of May 23rd. Adelaide left Liverpool aboard the Empress of Ireland in December, arriving in Canada on 2 January 1914, a waitress on her way to Winnipeg to join her husband.
John signed his first set of attestation papers with the Canadian Engineer Training Depot in Winnipeg on 5 July 1915. His date and place of birth was given as 20 August 1883 in Bishop Aukland, Durham, England and his occupation was given as hoist and portable engineer rigger. He gave his wife Adelaide in Winnipeg as next of kin and 3 years previous military service with the 1st Royal Welsh Fusiliers. However, on the 29th of July, in Ottawa, he was discharged from service as medically unfit, conduct and character given as very good.
Using the alias of John Thomas Edwards and date and place of birth as 20 August 1883 in Johnstown, Wales, John signed his second set of attestation papers with the Canadian Engineers Training Depot in Winnipeg on 19 February 1916. His occupation was given as locomotive engineer and his wife ‘Alice’ Edwards in Winnipeg as next of kin. No previous military experience was given. It is likely that John had been working for the Canadian Pacific Railway as a trainman out of Kenora in northwestern Ontario before moving to Winnipeg and enlisting.
John embarked from Canada aboard the Baltic on the 21st of May, taken on strength with the 4th Divisional Engineers upon arrival in England. Adelaide returned to Wales for the duration of the war, first living with John’s parents and then with her father and stepmother. John was admitted to the Military hospital at Bramshott in early August of 1916, suffering from ptomaine (food) poisoning. A few days later he was transferred to the Convalescent Hospital Hullington House in Uxbridge, with discharge on the 16th. He went through a series of transfers in England, hospitalized again at Bramshott in January of 1917. In March of 1918 John arrived in France, taken on strength in the field with the 2nd Battalion, Canadian Engineers on June 1st. Organized in France that May, the 2nd Battalion, CE drew personnel from the 2nd Field Company, a portion of the 107th Pioneer Battalion, and the remainder from the Canadian Engineers Reinforcement Depot.
On August 30th in the vicinity of Guemappe, the 1st Brigade Canadian Infantry made an attack on the Cheresy front, gaining their objectives. The 2nd Battalion, CE was called upon late in the day to furnish a party of 100 Sappers to consolidate their gains, end result two wounded and one gassed, John. First admitted to the No 8 Canadian Field Ambulance he was to spend the next 2+ months in various hospitals: No 24 General Hospital in Etaples, 4th General Hospital Dannes Camiers, the Ilford Emergency Hospital in Colchester, and the Military Convalescent Hospital Woodcote Park in Epsom. With the end of the war John remained in England, embarking for Canada in late February of 1919 aboard the Baltic. He was discharged from service due to demobilization in Winnipeg on April 1st.
After the war John and Adelaide were to make Winnipeg their home, with Voter’s lists suggesting that he continued to work for the railway. It appears that he and Adelaide did not have any children. Predeceased by Adelaide on 29 January 1937, John died on 25 October 1957 in Deer Lodge Hospital in Winnipeg. He is interred in the military section in Brookside Cemetery, Winnipeg. His veteran death card listed his nephew Thomas Edwards of Winnipeg, Manitoba as his next of kin.
John is commemorated for his service during the war on the Canadian Pacific Railway Company Roll of Honour, List 40.
by Judy Stockham
Grave marker photo courtesy of Bocephus on findagrave.com.