|Date of Birth||March 27, 1891|
|Place of Birth||Toronto, Ontario|
|Next of Kin||Mrs. Harry Headley Eager (mother), 44 Francis Street, Winnipeg, Manitoba|
|Trade / Calling||Traveller (paint salesman)|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Address at Enlistment||44 Francis Street, Winnipeg, Manitoba|
|Date of Enlistment||August 23, 1915|
|Age at Enlistment||24|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||19270723|
|Age at Death||36|
|Buried At||Elmwood Cemetery, Winnipeg|
Corporal Harry Herbert Eager enlisted in August 1915 and served for almost three years in Canada, Great Britain, France and Belgium. He was invalided home in May 1918 due to illness.
Harry was the son of Harry Headley Eager and Priscilla Emmons of Winnipeg, Manitoba. Harry Sr. was born in Ontario and Priscilla was from Ireland. The Emmons family had immigrated to Canada when Priscilla was a child and they settled in Toronto. Harry Sr. and Priscilla were married in Toronto in 1887 and their first two children were born there, John Headley and Harry. Harry was born on 27 March 1891, with his name registered as Henry Joseph Eager, but he was known as Harry Herbert or Harry Jr. When he was still a baby his family moved to northwestern Ontario and settled in Rat Portage (now called Kenora). His younger brother William James was born there in 1892 but sadly he died just before his 5th birthday. ‘Willie’ is buried in Lake of the Woods Cemetery.
Harry Sr. was a tinsmith by trade and in Rat Portage he worked as a clerk. He and his family were still living there for the 1901 census but within two years they had moved to Winnipeg. Harry Jr. found work as an embosser and his father became a travelling salesman for a paint company. The war started in August 1914 and Harry Jr. enlisted a year later, signing up in Winnipeg on 23 August 1915 with the 79th Overseas Battalion. He was working as a salesman by then and he was a big lad, 6′ tall and 200 lb with a 40′ chest. In September he was promoted to Acting Sergeant and sent to Kenora to do some recruiting for his unit. He left Kenora on 22 September with the local volunteers and they trained at Camp Sewell for a few weeks. Harry was promoted to Sergeant in October and appointed Acting Company Sergeant Major in December.
The 79th Battalion spent the winter in Brandon and they were sent overseas in the spring. The troops arrived at the Kenora train station early in the morning on 20 April 1916, on their way to the east coast, and they had a big sendoff from the crowd gathered at the station. They embarked from Halifax on the SS Lapland on 24 April and arrived in the UK ten days later. Harry was assigned to the 17th Reserve Battalion in July and transferred to the 14th Reserve Battalion in February 1917. He reverted to the ranks in order to be sent to France. He arrived in France in mid-June and he was posted to a front line battalion, the 43rd (Cameron Highlanders). After some time with an entrenching battalion he joined his new unit in the field later that summer. In August they were at the Battle of Hill 70 and in September Harry was promoted to Corporal.
In October the Canadian Corps moved north to the Ypres Salient to take part in the Battle of Passchendaele. Harry was ill by then and he reported sick around the middle of October. He was sent to a field ambulance on 23 October then moved to No. 13 General Hospital in Boulogne six days later. He was suffering from inflammation of the kidneys (nephritis) as well as a recurring ear infection. In early November he was invalided to England and he spent almost three months at Norfolk War Hospital. For the first two weeks of February 1918 he was at the convalescent centre in Epsom, then he recovered for a further two months at King’s Canadian Red Cross Hospital. During that time he had a two-week leave.
In mid-April Harry was transferred to No. 5 General Hospital in Liverpool to await his return to Canada. He was invalided home on the HS Araguaya, sailing from Avonmouth on 25 May and arriving in Halifax on 4 June. A medical exam in Winnipeg found him unfit for further service, due to nephritis, and he was discharged on 15 July in Winnipeg. His character was described as very good.
After his service Harry worked as a salesman for the Sherwin-Williams paint company, where his father was a manager. He was married in Winnipeg on 2 July 1919. His wife Johanna Finnson was a bookkeeper who was born in Manitoba to Icelandic parents. Harry and Johanna had two sons, William Hedley (b.1920) and Harry Robert (b.1922). The Eager family had a summer cottage in the small community of St. Laurent on Lake Manitoba. On 22 July 1927 Harry was seriously injured in a diving accident at the beach there. He was taken to Winnipeg by ambulance and he died from his injuries the following day. His funeral was held on 26 July at First Lutheran Church and he is buried in Elmwood Cemetery.
Both of Harry’s sons served with the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second World War. William enlisted in August 1941 and received his commission as a Flying Officer in June 1943. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross that fall and he was killed on 16 December 1943, at age 23. He is buried in Oxford Cemetery in Berkshire, England. In 1947 a lake in northwestern Manitoba was named Eager Lake in his memory.
Harry’s wife Johanna never remarried and she passed away in Winnipeg in March 1950, at age 59. She is buried in Elmwood Cemetery with her husband, his parents and other family members.
By Becky Johnson
Grave marker photo courtesy of Dave & Janice, findagrave.com.