Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthJanuary 31, 1887
Place of BirthEdinburgh
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinMargaret Gunn, mother, Station Hotel, Sutherland, Scotland
Trade / CallingLocomotive Fireman
Service Details
Regimental Number438936
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion3rd Tunnelling Company
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Engineers
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Date of EnlistmentDecember 28, 1914
Age at Enlistment28
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathAugust 19, 1952
Age at Death65
Buried AtBrookside Cemetery, Winnipeg, Manitoba

Gunn, James

James Gunn was born on 31 January 1887 in the district of St Andrew in Edinburgh, Scotland. Both of his parents were from Caithness in northern Scotland, his father Alexander Gunn from Watten and his mother Margaret Sutherland from Spitall Quarry, Wick. Alexander was working as a commercial traveller when the couple married on 5 March 1875 in Edinburgh. James had an older brother, John. By the 1891 census the family had a farm, The Crook, in Tweedsmuir, Peeblesshire, employing a shepherd, ploughman, cook, housemaid, and dairymaid. By the 1901 census they had relocated to a farm in Easton in the district of Dunsyre in South Lanark, employing a domestic and two ploughman. At some point after the census Alexander died and as found on the 1911 census, Margaret and the two boys moved to the village of Invershin in Creich, Sutherland in northern Scotland where Margaret ran the Station Hotel. At the time James was working as a coachman for a cab service.

It appears that James immigrated to Canada later that year. On 28 December 1914, in Dryden, Ontario, James signed his attestation papers. His occupation was given as locomotive fireman and his mother Margaret back at the hotel in Invershin as next of kin. He gave previous military experience as with the Imperial Yeomanry (Lovats Scouts). Organized in March 1915 under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel A.W. Hay, mobilized at Port Arthur and recruited in Port Arthur, Kenora, Fort Frances, Fort William and Dryden, James trained with the 52nd Battalion in northwestern Ontario. As Private with the 2nd Reinforcing Draft of the 52nd Battalion, James embarked from Montreal for overseas aboard the Missanabie on 4 September 1915.

Once in England James was taken on strength with the 12th Reserve Battalion at Shorncliffe. He was briefly hospitalized at the Moore Barracks with influenza in late November 1915 and served 28 days in detention 18 January-19 February 1916. Upon release he embarked for France to serve with the 15th Battalion, joining the unit in the field on 11 March. By the end of May James was attached to the 3rd Canadian Tunnelling Company, Canadian Engineers where he was to serve for the duration of the war. Tunnelling companies were engaged chiefly in mining and counter-mining but they were also used in the construction of subways and deep dugouts. In November James was admitted to the No 76 Field Ambulance with scabies, returning to duty on the 16th. James was granted a ten day leave in early July of 1917. In late October James was admitted to the No 2 Australian General Hospital in Wimereux with lung issues, later diagnosed as pulmonary tuberculosis. In November he was transferred to the No 1 Convalescent Depot in Boulogne for a couple of days, on to the No 32 Stationary Hospital in Wimereux on the 12th, and then to the No 12 Convalescent Depot in Aubergne on the 20th. In January of 1918 he was discharged to base rest camp, rejoining the unit on May 29th. In mid August James was granted a two week leave. With the end of the war James had returned to England by the end of March 1919 and arrived in Halifax aboard the Aquitania on the 25th of May. He was discharged from service on May 30th in Winnipeg, his discharge paper giving service with the Canadian Engineers Survey Section in France.

Although James gave Winnipeg as his intended residence upon discharge, by the early 1920’s he was living in the Commercial Hotel in Kenora, Ontario, at some point joining the Kenora Branch of the Canadian Legion. He returned to Scotland in February of 1921, arriving back in Quebec on 15 June aboard the Empress of France, final destination given as Kenora.

James died on 19 August 1952 in Deer Lodge Hospital in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He was predeceased by his mother in 1922 in Edinburgh although she had been living with her son John in Kincraig, Inverness where John had a farm. James is interred in a military plot in Brookside Cemetery, Winnipeg.

by Judy Stockham

Gunn-James-2 Gunn-James-3

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