Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthMay 21, 1878
Place of BirthOttawa, Ontario
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinLyman Nickle (son), c/o J. Link, Kenora, Ontario
Trade / CallingSteamfitter
ReligionChurch of England
Service Details
Regimental Number439111
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion8th Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Engineers
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentKenora, Ontario
Address at EnlistmentKenora, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentMarch 19, 1915
Age at Enlistment36
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathMay 1, 1946
Age at Death67
Buried AtRiverside Cemetery, Port Arthur, Ontario
PlotSoldiers Plot, Grave 1792

Nickle, John James

Sapper John James Nickle was the only son of Daniel Nickle (Nichol) and Jane Johnston of Ottawa, Ontario. Daniel was from Quebec and his wife was born in Ottawa. They had at least five children, all born in Ottawa: John James (b. 21 May 1878), Mary Ann, Sarah, Agnes and Rebecca. When the 1891 census was taken John was 13 years old and working as a messenger boy. By the time of the 1901 census he was married and he and his wife had a son, Lyman John, who was six months old. John was working as a driver and baggage man for the Ottawa Transfer Company. His wife Kate Usher was born in England in 1880. She had come to Canada as a baby with her parents, John and Maria Usher, and four older brothers, and they settled in Ottawa.

When he enlisted in March 1915 John was 36 years old, living in Kenora, Ontario and working as a steamfitter. He said he was widowed and next of kin was his son Lyman, who was in the care of the Link family in Kenora. John signed up in Kenora on 19 March, joining the 52nd (New Ontario) Battalion. It was based in Port Arthur and the recruits were sent there in June to join the rest of the battalion. While they were training the 1st Canadian Division was fighting in France and Belgium. Men were needed to replace casualties in the front line units and battalions in Canada were asked to send reinforcements. John was chosen as one of the reinforcements and before leaving for the UK he got married in Port Arthur. His wife, 19-year-old Myrtle Christina Hansen was from Kenora, the daughter of Henry and Ida Hansen. They were married in St. John’s Church on 15 August. John changed his next of kin to his wife and while he was overseas she lived in Port Arthur.

About two weeks after his wedding John left with the 2nd Reinforcing Draft, one of 250 recruits from the 52nd Battalion. They embarked from Montreal on 4 September 1915 on the SS Missanabie and arrived in England nine days later. John was transferred to the 12th Reserve Battalion. In November he had influenza and he spent a week at Moore Barracks Hospital. On 13 January 1916 he was promoted to Lance Corporal and on 18 March to Acting Corporal. In early April he became ill again and he was back in Moore Barracks Hospital. He was diagnosed with appendicitis and ended up being out of action until September, having an appendectomy in July then further surgery to repair scar tissue. During that time he reverted to the rank of Private.

By early 1917 John was well enough for front line service and on 5 February he was transferred to the 124th Battalion. The 124th had been recruited in Toronto as an infantry battalion but in March 1917 the unit was sent to France as a pioneer battalion. John arrived in Boulogne with his unit on 11 March and in June he was sent on a three week course at the Army School of Mines. He rejoined the 124th in mid-July. Pioneer battalions worked closely with the engineers and spent a large part of their time at or near the front lines. Their work included mining, wiring, tunnelling, railway and road work, constructing water systems, and building and repairing trenches and dugouts.

On 26 July John was buried by the explosion of an artillery shell and he suffered a concussion as well as cuts to his hand from barbed wire. He was sent to a field ambulance and evacuated to England two weeks later. He was admitted to the Bethnal Green Military Hospital and in September he became ill with cystitis. After recovering he trained with two reserve battalions and on 18 March 1918 he was transferred to the Canadian Engineers Training Depot at Witley. He was sent back to France in April, to rejoin the 124th Pioneer Battalion, but he was posted instead to the Canadian Engineers Pool. At the end of May he was transferred to a new unit, the 8th Battalion, Canadian Engineers, and he served with them for the next three months.

The final period of the war started in August 1918. After their successful assault at Amiens the Canadians were moved north for the operations near Arras. In early September the engineer units began preparing for the crossing of the Canal du Nord, which would take place at the end of the month. John said his work party was heavily shelled as they moved into the line on September 11, and he was one of two casualties that day. He was sent to a field ambulance then moved to a casualty clearing station. From there he was sent to No. 12 Stationary Hospital and on 24 September he was admitted to No. 26 General Hospital in Etaples. He was diagnosed with shell shock and haematomyelia. A month later he was evacuated to England and admitted to Maudsley Hospital in London. After just a few days there he was transferred to the Granville Special Canadian Hospital, where he spent the next two months.

On 9 January 1919 John was moved to No. 5 General Hospital in Liverpool, to await his return to Canada. He embarked on the hospital ship Araguaya, arriving in Nova Scotia in mid-February via Portland, Maine. He received further treatment at the Manitoba Military Convalescent Hospital at Tuxedo Park in Winnipeg. He was discharged from the army on 24 June but he continued to get treatment as an outpatient at the MMCH until February 1920. His son Lyman John Link had enlisted underage in 1916, when he was 15 years old, and he served for a year and a half in Canada.

John and Myrtle made their home in Port Arthur and they had two sons, Alvin and Lyle, and a daughter Crystal. Sadly Alvin died at age 2 and he’s buried in Lake of the Woods Cemetery in Kenora. John worked for 16 years as a machine tender at the paper mill in Port Arthur; following that he was employed at local ship yards. He became a member of the Canadian Legion, Port Arthur Branch, and Myrtle joined the Legion Ladies’ Auxiliary. After a long illness John was admitted to Deer Lodge Hospital in Winnipeg in late April 1946 and he passed away there on 1 May, a few weeks before his 68th birthday. His funeral was held two days later in Port Arthur and he’s buried in the soldiers plot at Riverside Cemetery.

John is commemorated on the First World War Roll of Honour at St. Alban’s Pro-Cathedral in Kenora.

By Becky Johnson

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