|Date of Birth||May 2, 1884|
|Place of Birth||Alyth, Perthshire|
|Next of Kin||Margaret Duncan, wife. Keewatin, Ontario|
|Trade / Calling||Shipper|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Address at Enlistment||Keewatin, Ontario|
|Date of Enlistment||May 13, 1916|
|Age at Enlistment||32|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||November 12, 1952|
|Age at Death||68|
|Buried At||Lake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario|
John Stewart Duncan, known as ‘Jack’, was born on May 2, 1884 in Alyth, Perthshire, Scotland. His parents were Alexander and Jane (nee Stewart) Duncan. He had two older brothers, Alexander and James.
In the 1891 Scottish census, he was living with his parents, his brother James, and his Grandmother, Elspeth Stewart, at West Ravernie, Lintrathen, Angus, Scotland.
In the 1901 Scottish census, he was a boarder with the Menzies family in the Village of Meigle, Perthshire, Scotland. His occupation was apprentice grocer.
In the 1911 Ontario census, Jack was staying at the residence of his brother, Alexander Duncan, and family on Govt. Road in the town of Keewatin, Ontario, Canada. The census refers to 1911 as being the year he immigrated to Canada. He was employed at the flour mill.
Jack and his wife, Margaret (nee Ross), had a daughter, Margaret Stewart Duncan, who was born on October 18, 1914 in Keewatin, Ontario. Margaret Stewart Duncan would marry A. E. ‘Bert’ Howard in 1951.
In May, 1916, Jack and his family were living in Keewatin. His military attestation paper was sworn on May 13 and he was assigned to the 141st Overseas Battalion C.E.F. The 141st Battalion, CEF was a unit in the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the First World War. Based in Fort Frances, Ontario, the unit began recruiting in late 1915 in the Rainy River district of northern Ontario. The 141st Battalion, CEF had one Officer Commanding: Lieut-Col. D. C. McKenzie.
On August 1, 1916, Jack and other members of the 141st Battalion left Kenora by train, bound for the Battalion headquarters at Port Arthur.
The 141st Battalion sailed from Halifax aboard the S.S. Olympic on April 29, 1917. On May 7, the 141st arrived in England and was absorbed into the 18th Reserve Battalion.
Jack was drafted to the 44th Canadian Infantry Battalion on Sept. 8. He left for the Canadian Corps Reinforcement Centre (the centre in France where troops were held before being sent to reinforce existing units) on Sept. 26 and arrived on Sept 28. He then joined the 44th Battalion in the field on October 10.
Near the end of October, 1917, the 44th Battalion was stationed at an area east of Ypres, Belgium, and was fighting in the Battle of Passchendaele. According to Veterans Affairs Canada, ‘Ypres was a very difficult place to fight. It was a region largely made up of flat, low land that was kept dry only with a series of dykes and drainage ditches. Three years of heavy fighting had destroyed the drainage systems. The ground, churned up by millions of artillery shells, turned to sticky mud when wet. In 1917, the autumn rains came early and turned the battlefield into a sea of mud, the likes of which still make the name Passchendaele a synonym of horrific fighting conditions.’ The 44th Battalion, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel R. D. Davies, was instrumental in the capture of Decline Copse, a strategically important and strongly defended enemy position near the village of Passchendaele. In November, other Canadian units went on to capture Passchendaele and successfully take control of the high ground north of the village.
While Jack was overseas, his wife, Margaret, passed away on Dec. 16, 1917. She was buried at Lake of the Woods cemetery in Kenora, Ontario.
Jack was awarded a Good Conduct Badge on May 13, 1918.
The Canadian Corps fought bravely during the period known as the Hundred Days Offensive, which began with the Battle of Amiens in France on August 8, 1918 and ended on November 11with the signing of the armistice by Germany. The fighting throughout this time was intense and the Canadians suffered many casualties.
After fierce combat on August 10, the 44th Battalion drove the enemy out of Fouquescourt, a village situated about 40 km southeast of Amiens. From September 2-3, the 44th Battalion was part of the Canadian Corps fighting on the front trenches of the Drocourt-Queant Line, a critical area of the German Army’s defensive system. The Drocourt-Queant Line was captured during this assault.
Jack was appointed Lance Corporal on Sept. 7.
Near the end of September, the Canadian Corps engaged in heavy fighting at the Canal du Nord, resulting in the 44th and other Battalions successfully crossing the Canal and pushing through the enemy’s defence.
Jack was granted leave to go to the UK (possibly to see family) on October 2 and he rejoined the unit on October 23. An entry in his military records indicates he was reported missing on November 1 but the following entry shows that he was safe with his unit again.
On November 2, Jack was sent to the Canadian Corps Battle School where NCOs were trained before assuming a new position. He rejoined his unit on November 11.
A note in the 44th Battalion War Diaries for November 11, 1918, declares ‘Notification received at 9:00 that Germany had agreed to armistice terms, hostilities ceased at 11:00.’
On December 30, 1918, Jack was promoted to Corporal.
AFTER THE WAR
The 44th Battalion proceeded to England on April 27, 1919. Jack and other members of the Battalion then travelled to Canada on the ship ‘Empress of Britain’, embarking at Liverpool on May 28 and disembarking in Quebec on June 4, 1919. Jack’s official discharge certificate was dated June 8, 1919, with the reason for discharge given as demobilization. He returned to Keewatin.
On August 4, 1919, the town of Keewatin proudly hosted a large celebration to pay tribute to their men who had gone overseas. An article in the Miner and News lists J. S. Duncan as one of the soldiers on the Keewatin Honor Roll.
In 1926, Jack married Mary Robertson Hutt in Scotland. Mary, known as ‘Molly’, was born in Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland on September 7, 1885. The passenger list for the ship ‘Metagama’, which departed from Glasgow, Scotland and arrived in Quebec on September 3, 1926, shows Jack and his 11-year-old daughter Margaret returning to Canada, along with Jack’s new bride. Mary was listed as a Landed Immigrant and a note beside her name references her new home address as ‘Govt. Road, Keewatin, Ont.’
John Stewart Duncan retired in 1952, after being a shipper with the Lake of the Woods Milling Co. for over 40 years. He died on November 12, 1952 at the age of 68 and was buried at the Lake of the Woods cemetery in Kenora, Ontario. His wife, Mary, was laid to rest beside him after she passed away on October 7, 1965.
by Geoellen Anderson