Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthMarch 31, 1891
Place of BirthKenora, Ontario
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinMrs. Robert Sinclair (sister), Rainy River, Ontario
Trade / CallingLumberman
Service Details
Regimental Number644431
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion116th Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentMidland, Ontario
Address at EnlistmentMidland, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentFebruary 1, 1916
Age at Enlistment24
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathNovember 10, 1930
Age at Death39
Buried AtMountain View Cemetery, Thunder Bay, Ontario
PlotMilitary section

Clarkson, John Gordon

Lance Sergeant John Gordon Clarkson enlisted in November 1915 and served overseas with the 116th Battalion. He was seriously wounded in the last months of the war and he returned to Canada in May 1919 to continue his convalescence.

Gordon was born on 31 March 1891 in Rat Portage, Ontario, the youngest son of James Clarkson and his wife Lucinda Martha Seymour. James and Lucinda were both born in Simcoe County, Ontario and they moved to the Rat Portage area in the mid-1880s. James found work in a local sawmill and by 1891 he was a foreman. He and his wife had four children: Margaret Anne and Ida May, born in St. Boniface, Manitoba, and Stanley Seymour and Gordon, born in Rat Portage (later renamed Kenora). Lucinda passed away in November 1901, when Gordon was ten years old. Sadly his brother Stanley died in 1908, at age 23, and his father died in a shooting accident in August 1910. Lucinda, Stanley and James are all buried in Lake of the Woods Cemetery in Kenora.

When the 1911 census was taken Gordon was living in Rainy River with his oldest sister Mrs. Margaret Anne (Robert) Sinclair and her family. By 1915 he had moved to Midland, Ontario, where his uncle Allen Clarkson lived. Gordon worked as a lumberman and his uncle was a lumber dealer. Gordon enlisted in Midland in November 1915, joining the 157th Overseas Battalion and signing his attestation on 1 February 1916. The 157th was raised in Simcoe County and called the Simcoe Foresters. The recruits spent the summer constructing Camp Borden, a new army training camp just west of Barrie, Ontario. The 157th was its founding battalion and by the end of the summer there were 35 other battalions training at the camp. Gordon’s unit left there on 13 October 1916, heading to Halifax where they embarked on the SS Cameronia. They landed at Liverpool on 28 October. Over the next few weeks the battalion was broken up and the troops were used to reinforce other units.

Gordon was one of 400 men from his unit who were transferred to the 116th Battalion on 8 December. He was sent to France in February 1917, landing at Boulogne and joining the 116th in the field later that month. In April during the Battle of Vimy Ridge he became ill with trench fever. He spent a week recovering at No. 32 Stationary Hospital followed by two weeks at convalescent depots and a month at a rest camp. He rejoined his battalion in June and at the end of July he was promoted to Lance Corporal. In August the Canadians took part in the Battle of Hill 70, suffering almost 6,000 casualties in ten days of heavy fighting. Gordon was promoted to Corporal on 28 September and he was away on a general course for all of October. He rejoined his unit in early November, just as the Battle of Passchendaele was ending, and in December he had two weeks leave in Bordeaux.

Over the winter the Canadian Corps held the front line in the Lens-Arras sector and on 25 April 1918 Gordon was promoted again, to Lance Sergeant. That summer the Canadians were given several weeks of intensive training in open warfare. Afterwards Gordon spent the month of July at the 3rd Army rest camp, rejoining his unit in time for the Battle of Amiens (8-11 August), the first operation in what would be the Hundred Days Offensive. From Amiens they were moved north to the Arras sector for the Battle of the Scarpe. The assault started on 26 August and the 116th Battalion moved into position that night, to take part in the advance on 27 August. It began at 4:55 am after an all-night rain. The objective was Boiry-Notre-Dame, near Monchy-le-Preux, and the battalion faced heavy machine gun fire from a newly-arrived German division. Gordon was one of the casualties that day, suffering shrapnel or gun shot wounds to his right chest, hip, back and leg. He was taken to a field ambulance and two days later moved to No. 2 Australian General Hospital, where he had an operation to remove a bullet or shrapnel fragment. His medical report noted that a piece of one rib was broken off and he had a partial fracture of two lumbar vertebrae. He was evacuated to England on 3 September and he spent four and a half months recovering at Manor Court Hospital in Folkestone. On 16 January 1919 he was transferred to Moore Barracks Military Hospital at Bramshott. While he was there he developed appendicitis and he had an appendectomy.

At the end of March Gordon was admitted to No. 15 General Hospital in Taplow, Buckinghamshire. He had another fragment removed from near his spine but a piece lodged in his abdomen had to be left in place. On 16 April he was transferred to No. 5 General Hospital in Kirkdale, Liverpool. A month later Gordon was invalided to Canada, embarking on the RMS Megantic on 23 May and arriving in Quebec on 2 June. He had two weeks landing leave that he planned to spend in Midland. On 18 June he was admitted to the Ontario Military Convalescent Hospital in Whitby but he was transferred to St. Andrew’s Hospital in Toronto five days later. He was released on 13 August and discharged from the army on 18 August, due to being medically unfit for further war service. His intended residence was listed as Midland.

Gordon may have stayed in Midland for a short while but by late 1919 he had moved to Fort William, where he became a member of the local Canadian Legion. He never fully recovered his health and he passed away in the General Hospital in Winnipeg on 10 November 1930, at age 39. From his military casualty card: Died at Winnipeg, Man. (Winnipeg General Hospital). Cause, Osteomyelitis of Spine. Death was due to Service.

He was survived by his sisters Mrs. Ida Barr in Port Arthur and Mrs. Annie Sinclair in Rainy River. Gordon’s funeral was held at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Fort William on 12 November and he’s buried in the military section at Mountain View Cemetery in Thunder Bay.

By Becky Johnson

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