Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthNovember 14, 1897
Place of BirthKenora, Ontario
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinEliza Jane Symmes (mother), 68 Culp Street, Niagara Falls, Ontario
Trade / CallingStudent
ReligionChurch of England
Service Details
Regimental NumberN/A
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion2nd Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Garrison Regiment
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentSt. Catharines, Ontario
Address at Enlistment68 Culp Street, Niagara Falls, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentApril 3, 1916
Age at Enlistment18
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathJanuary 3, 1941
Age at Death43
Buried AtFairview Cemetery, Niagara Falls, Ontario
PlotSection E, Plot 0018, Grave 03

Symmes, John Arnold


Lieutenant John Arnold Symmes served as an officer in the Canadian infantry for a year then he enlisted in the Royal Naval Air Service in 1917. He trained in France and returned to Canada in April 1918.

John was the only son of Ernest William Symmes and Eliza Jane Arnold of Niagara Falls, Ontario. His parents were both born in Ontario, Ernest in Welland County and Eliza in Barrie. They were married on 19 January 1897 in the town of Rat Portage in northwestern Ontario. John was born in Rat Portage (later renamed Kenora) on 14 November 1897. His father was working as a bank teller at the time. By 1901 the family was living in Niagara Falls with Ernest’s widowed mother and five of his brothers and sisters. Sadly, Ernest and Eliza had a stillborn daughter in 1903. When the 1911 census was taken Ernest was employed at a machine manufacturing firm and later he worked as an accountant for a gas company.

In August 1915 the war entered its second year and John enlisted the following spring, signing his Officers’ Declaration on 3 April 1916 in St. Catharines. He was a student at the time, living at home at 68 Culp Street in Niagara Falls. He was 18 years old but he passed himself off as 20. He was already a member of the 44th Regiment in the Militia and he said he had eight years of service in cadets. He was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the 176th Battalion (Niagara Rangers) and he served with them for a year. The battalion was sent overseas in April 1917 but John remained in Canada. He was struck off strength on 20 May 1917 due to being surplus to requirements.

John joined the Royal Naval Air Service on 15 November 1917, the day after his 20th birthday. He was appointed Temporary Pro Flight Officer on 9 December in Greenwich, England. By late February 1918 he was in Vendome, France where the British had an aircraft base and flight training school. In March John was involved in a crash, probably during training, and he suffered neurasthenia. On 1 April the Royal Naval Air Service and Royal Flying Corps were amalgamated to form the Royal Air Force and John was transferred to the RAF. His appointment ended on 15 April and he was back in Canada at the end of the month, arriving in Halifax on 29 April on the SS Aquitania. He served with the Welland Canal Field Force from 21 May to 30 June then briefly with the 2nd Battalion, Canadian Garrison Regiment. He was discharged on 10 July 1918.

John’s family was still living in Niagara Falls and he returned there after his time in service. He was married in Niagara Falls on 16 June 1920. His wife, Margaret Alice Bampfield, was born in Niagara Falls on 26 September 1895. Her parents were John Joseph Bampfield and Ida Murray. The Bampfields were a prominent family in Niagara Falls and involved in the early commercial development of the community. John and Margaret lived in Niagara Falls, Ontario and Niagara Falls, New York. They had three sons: John Bampfield (born March 1921, died April 1922), Frederick Bampfield (1923) and James Bampfield.

John passed away on 3 January 1941, at age 43. His wife Margaret worked for Morningstar and Bampfield Insurance Company for many years. She died in a hospital in Lewiston, New York on 4 July 1968, at age 72. She was survived by their sons Frederick and James, both living in Toronto at the time. John and Margaret are buried at Fairview Cemetery in Niagara Falls, Ontario along with their infant son John, their parents and other family members.

By Becky Johnson

« Back To Soldier Biographies