Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthApril 22, 1888
Place of BirthParton/Distington, Cumberland County
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinJ.H. Poole (father), 43 Gray St., Workington, Cumberland County, England
Trade / CallingRailroader (CPR)
ReligionChurch of England
Service Details
Regimental Number461460
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion4th Divisional Engineers
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Engineers
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentWinnipeg, Manitoba
Address at EnlistmentKenora, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentFebruary 25, 1916
Age at Enlistment27
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarNo
Death Details
Date of DeathMarch 27, 1917
Age at Death29
Buried AtEcoivres Military Cemetery France
PlotIV. J. 6.

Poole, John

During the First World War more than 11,000 employees of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company enlisted for service and 1,116 of them gave their lives. Sapper John Poole was working as a locomotive fireman for the CPR in Kenora, Ontario when he signed up in February 1916. He arrived in France later that year and he was killed in action in March 1917.

John was the son of John Poole Sr. and Hannah Jane Hornsby of Cumberland County, England. John Sr. and Hannah were married in 1886 and John was born in April 1888 in either Distington or the nearby village of Parton. He had two brothers, Joseph and Thomas, and two sisters, Ada and Edith. Their father worked as a locomotive engine driver. The Poole family lived in a busy industrial region on the northwest coast of England, an area that included the neighbouring towns of Parton, Distington, Harrington and Workington. When the 1891 census was taken John, age 3, was staying in Harrington with his aunt Jane Lancaster (née Poole), her husband William and their two young daughters. At the time of the 1901 census he was living in Harrington with his parents, his four siblings and his elderly widowed grandmother. His mother passed away later that same year, when he was 13 years old.

By the spring of 1911 John had moved to the nearby town of Workington where he lived with his uncle Joseph Henry Poole. Joseph was a railway engine driver and John’s occupation was railway engine fireman. The 1911 census was taken in April and three months later John immigrated to Canada. He arrived in Quebec on 21 July 1911 on the SS Corsican, age 23, occupation fireman, his destination Winnipeg, Manitoba. He spent about three years living in Regina, where he worked for the railroad. In February 1914 he went to England for a two month trip, returning to Canada on 23 April on the SS Virginian, his destination listed as Kenora, Ontario. He settled in Kenora and worked as a locomotive fireman for the Canadian Pacific Railway.

The war started in August 1914 and John enlisted in Winnipeg on 25 February 1916. He joined the 61st Battalion, which had been organized the previous fall and was being recruited in the Winnipeg area. A month after signing up John was on his way to the east coast with his battalion. A few other local lads were on the train and during the brief stop in Kenora on 27 March friends and relatives gathered at the station to see them on their way. They embarked from Halifax on 1 April 1916 aboard the SS Olympic, arriving in England eleven days later. On 30 May John was transferred to the Canadian Engineer Training Depot at Shorncliffe Camp, near the southeast coast of England. He spent six months training there before being sent to France and transferred to the 4th Entrenching Battalion. He was probably one of ten sappers from the Engineering Pool who joined the 4th Entrenching Battalion in early December 1916, as recorded in their War Diary. The battalion was   based at Frévillers at the time, about 20 km west of Vimy.

On 20 December the unit moved south to Maroeuil and for several weeks the men worked on trenches, roads and railways. In January 1917 the battalion moved again, from Maroeuil to Villers au Bois. The 11th Field Company, 4th Canadian Divisional Engineers were also stationed at Villers au Bois and John was transferred to them on 23 January. By early March preparations were well underway for the assault on Vimy Ridge, set to take place in April. The 11th Field Company was moved east, closer to Vimy, where the men worked at deepening and widening trenches and constructing new front lines. The unit was within range of German artillery and they suffered frequent casualties from both shelling and rifle fire. Among the casualties on 27 March were John and three other men in the company, all killed in action that day.

From the War Diary of the 11th Field Company, 27 March 1917: ‘New Front Line Vincent to Tottenham, deepening and widening. 4 OR Killed 3 OR Wounded.’  The Circumstances of Casualty record for John says he was killed in action when his unit was working southeast of the Souchez River.

John is buried in Ecoivres Military Cemetery in the hamlet of Ecoivres near Mont St. Eloi, France. He is commemorated on the Cenotaph in Kenora, on the Kenora Legion War Memorial and on the Roll of Honour for the Canadian Pacific Railway. Every year at 11 am on November 11th the CPR stops all of its trains in North America for two minutes of silence, to pay tribute to those who served their country.

By Becky Johnson

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