|Date of Birth||January 16, 1895|
|Place of Birth||Lochinver, Sutherland|
|Next of Kin||Mrs. Jessie Aird (mother), Transcona, Manitoba|
|Trade / Calling||Locomotive fireman|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Battalion||1st Canadian Mounted Rifles|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Place of Enlistment||Brandon, Manitoba|
|Date of Enlistment||December 1, 1914|
|Age at Enlistment||19|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Decorations and Medals||Distinguished Conduct Medal|
|Date of Death||October 26, 1917|
|Age at Death||22|
|Buried At||Dozinghem Military Cemetery, Belgium|
|Plot||IX. D. 18.|
Corporal John Donald Aird enlisted in Winnipeg in 1914, at age 19, and served in France and Belgium with the Canadian Mounted Rifles. He died of wounds in October 1917 during the Battle of Passchendaele.
John was the oldest son of Hector Robert Aird and Jessie Stewart Fraser of Transcona, Manitoba. Hector was born in Sutherland, Scotland and Jessie in Inverness. They were married in 1894 in Kinning Park, now part of Glasgow. John, also known as Jack, was born on 16 January 1895 in Lochinver, Sutherland and he was followed by at least six more children: Robert Stewart, Isabella McPherson, Simon Calder, Katherine Anne, Donald and Jessie Anne. When the 1901 census was taken the family was living near Lochinver and Hector was employed as a joiner. In 1907 Hector immigrated to Canada and settled in Kenora, Ontario. Jessie and the children joined him there in 1909, arriving in June on the SS Grampian.
Hector and his family were living in Kenora when the 1911 census was taken. John was working as a painter and his father was still a joiner. Not long after that they moved to the new community of Transcona (now part of the city of Winnipeg) in Manitoba. Transcona was founded in 1909 as the site of railway repair shops and Hector worked as a carpenter in the shops. John also found work on the railroad and by the time he enlisted he was a locomotive fireman. His brother Robert died in Transcona in 1913, at age 17. He’s buried in Elmwood Cemetery in Winnipeg.
John was one of the early volunteers in the war, signing up in Brandon on 1 December 1914. He had his medical later the same month and he was found fit for overseas service. He gave his birth year as 1892 but his birth registration and census records confirm it as 1895. He said he had served for six months with the 34th Fort Garry Horse and he joined the 1st Regiment, Canadian Mounted Rifles, which had just been organized. His unit sailed from Montreal on 12 June 1915 on the SS Megantic, arriving in England about nine days later.
Starting in July John was out of action for almost two months getting treatment for vd. His regiment was sent to France in September and he joined them two months later, arriving in France on 2 November. On 1 January 1916 the regiment was re-designated at the 1st Battalion, Canadian Mounted Rifles (1st CMRs) and it became an infantry unit in the 8th Infantry Brigade. In February John was ill with influenza and he spent about a week in a field ambulance. From 24 April until the end of July he was on command to the Divisional Wiring Party and on 19 August he was promoted to Corporal.
The Canadian Corps began moving south to the Somme in August, to take part in the major offensive that had started there on 1 July. John was wounded on 13 September and sent to Rouen, France then evacuated to England. He was injured in the lower lip and he recovered for a month at the 2nd Western General Hospital in Manchester and the Canadian convalescent hospital in Uxbridge. He returned to duty in mid-October, getting transferred to the 19th Reserve Battalion in March 1917. In April John was back in France with the 1st CMRs. At the end of July he developed stomach problems and he spent two weeks in a field ambulance.
In October the Canadians were sent to the Ypres Salient to take part in the assault on Passchendaele. The operation took place in several stages starting on 26 October. John was wounded by an artillery shell on 25 October, suffering injuries to his head, knee and leg, including a compound fracture of his leg. He died of wounds the following day at No. 61 Casualty Clearing Station. On 1 January 1918 he was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. The citation reads:
“For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. On many occasions he has made most difficult reconnaissances, at great personal risk, and has been twice wounded while examining hostile wires, but completed his work. His courage and cheerfulness have been most marked.”
John’s mother died in Winnipeg in 1930 and his father in 1952. They are buried in Elmwood Cemetery along with their son Robert and their daughter Jessie (Mrs. Stanley Wilding), who passed away in 1948. Isabel worked as a clerk for the CNR and moved to Vancouver after retiring. She died there in 1970. Simon passed away in Winnipeg in 1957. Isabel and Simon are both interred in Transcona Cemetery. Donald served with the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second World War. He died in Winnipeg in 1981 and he’s buried in Chapel Lawn Memorial Gardens. Katherine (Mrs. William Robert Hamilton) became a teacher and lived in Manitoba, Kenya and the U.S. She passed away in Winnipeg in 1997, at age 95.
John is buried at Dozinghem Military Cemetery in Belgium. He is commemorated on the Transcona War Memorial in Winnipeg, the Transcona Memorial United Church 1914-1918 Honour Roll and the Lochinver War Memorial in Scotland.
By Becky Johnson
Photo at the top is the Transcona War Memorial.