Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthJune 4, 1873
Place of BirthOrangeville, Ontario
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinMrs Margaret Wiggins, mother, Strongfield, Saskatchewan
Trade / Callingsaw filer, engineer
Service Details
Regimental Number1038090
Service Record Link to Service Record
BattalionDistrict 53
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Forestry Corps
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Address at EnlistmentKenora, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentSeptember 4, 1916
Age at Enlistment43
Theatre of ServiceGreat Britain
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of Death1945
Buried AtSturgis Community Cemetery, Sturgis, Saskatchewan

Wiggins, John Alexander

John Alexander Wiggins was born on 4 June 1873 on a farm in the area of Markdale, Ontario, about 150 kilometres northwest of Toronto in the Glenelg district of Grey. His father Thomas Wiggins was an Irish immigrant and his mother Margaret Gillespie, born in the area, was the daughter of Irish immigrants. Thomas and Margaret gave birth to fifteen children: William, John, Sarah, James, Thomas, Letitia, David Arthur (Art), Louis, Laura, Henry, Charles, Mary, Maggie, Edgar, and Walter. Sadly Henry and Charles died in childhood and father Thomas was killed in an accident with a saw at a local sawmill in 1893. After his death John’s mother continued farming with the help of her sons but as they left home for other occupations, Margaret moved to Owen Sound in 1903 where she operated a boarding house for a few years. Some of the grown children moved to Saskatchewan to farm, mainly in the areas near Strongfield, Raddison, and Sturgis, and Margaret later joined them. When John left the farm he moved to northwestern Ontario and began working for the Canadian Pacific Railway, eventually becoming a locomotive engineer. He was found on the 1911 Canada census living in the unorganized territory of Ignace, Raleigh, English River, Martin, Bunheur, Falcon, and Indian Lake, working as an engineer and listed as a lodger at a local rooming house.

John had been living in Kenora, Ontario when he signed his attestation papers in Halifax on 4 September 1916. He gave his mother in Strongfield, Saskatchewan as next of kin, his place of birth as Orangeville, and his occupation as saw filer although elsewhere in his service record it was listed as engineer. The 238th Battalion was organized in May of 1916 and mobilized in Ottawa with recruitment depots in Toronto, Winnipeg, Sault Saint Marie, and Calgary. As a Private with the 238th Battalion, John embarked from Halifax aboard the Scandinavian on 13 September 1916. Once in England the battalion amalgamated with the 224th Battalion on 9 October 1916 to form the Canadian Forestry Corps at Sunningdale in Berkshire, joined by the 230th and 242nd Battalions.

By the end of October 1916 John was taken on strength with the Canadian Forestry Corps in London and by the end of December he was attached to the Royal Flying Corps for duty, rations, and discipline. In May of 1917 John was transferred to the Canadian Forestry Corps Base Depot at Sunningdale and in June he was transferred to District 53 (Egham), Company 103, drawing technical pay as an engineer. Company 103 was employed at Lymington and Lyndhurst in Hampshire and at Longeat in Warminster. By mid August of 1918 John was moved to District 54 at Southampton and awarded one Good Conduct Badge. At the end of December he was granted a short leave followed by a week leave at the end of April 1919. He embarked from Liverpool for Canada aboard the Celtic on 7 May 1919 and was discharged from service on the 17th in Toronto, intended place of residence given as Radisson, Saskatchewan. Two of John’s brothers also served, Walter enlisting at Camp Hughes in October 1915 and going overseas with the 34th Fort Garry Horse, returning to Canada in February 1919. Edgar signed recruitment papers in Regina in August 1918, with the end of the war serving only in Canada.

After the war John and his brothers Walter and Art bought a farm in the Sturgis, Saskatchewan area that they farmed together, their mother living with them for a while. Walter married in 1927 and eventually John, his mother, and Art moved into Sturgis where Art worked as a policeman. Predeceased by his mother Margaret in 1942, John died in 1945, both in Sturgis. John, Margaret, Art, Walter and his wife Margaret (Bell) are all interred in the Sturgis Community Cemetery.

by Judy Stockham

grave marker photograph by Judith Bell, Saskatchewan Cemeteries Project

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