|Date of Birth||April 11, 1893|
|Place of Birth||Newcastle, New Brunswick|
|Next of Kin||John Fenelon, father, Newcastle, New Brunswick|
|Trade / Calling||Farmer|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Address at Enlistment||Beausejour, Manitoba|
|Date of Enlistment||March 8, 1915|
|Age at Enlistment||21|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||January 8, 1983|
|Age at Death||80|
|Buried At||Sacred Heart Cemetery, Sioux Lookout, Ontario|
John Bertram (Bert) Fenelon was born on 11 April 1893 in Newcastle, New Brunswick, date confirmed by his New Brunswick birth registration. His father John Fenelon was from Newfoundland while his mother Sara Casey was from New Brunswick, both born to Irish immigrants. After their marriage the family settled in Newcastle where John Sr farmed and worked as a labourer in the early years of the marriage, then as a stone mason, and finally as a labourer in one of the local lumber mills. Known children born to the couple were Annie Beatrice (1873), Martina (abt 1876), May Lillian (1881), William (1887), Francis Leon (1890) and Bert. It appears that John and Sara also gave birth to a couple of children that died in infancy.
It is likely that Annie was the first to leave the area, marrying Michael Hoban and settling in the Beausejour, Manitoba area around 1896 where they farmed and raised their family. At some point after the 1901 census May also moved to Beausejour and married Michael’s brother William. An entry on the 1906 census for Annie and Michael lists a sister-in-law Emma Fenelon as living with the family but no other trace of her was found. For the 1911 census Bert was living at home with his parents and was working as a labourer at one of the mills. He had attended school, attaining an education of grade 9, and had previously worked for a newspaper in Newcastle. He too was to find his way to Beausejour where he was farming and also working at breaking horses by the time of his attestation.
Bert signed his attestation papers in Winnipeg on 8 March 1915. He gave his father John back in Newcastle as next of kin, his occupation as farmer, and his date of birth as 11 April 1892. His military will named his sister May Hoban as beneficiary and a portion of his pay was assigned to her. Organized in February 1916 under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel J Y Reid with recruitment in the Winnipeg area, the 179th Battalion (Cameron Highlanders of Canada) embarked from Halifax on 4 October 1916 aboard the Saxonia, disembarking in Liverpool on the 13th, strength of 32 officers, 890 other ranks. On board was Private J Fenelon.
Once in England Bert was transferred to the 17th Reserve Battalion and then was struck off strength on proceeding overseas to the 43rd Battalion (Cameron Highlanders of Canada) that November, arriving at the unit on 1 December. The 43rd Battalion was authorized on 7 November 1914 and had embarked for Britain on 1 June 1915. It disembarked in France on 22 February 1916, where it fought as part of the 9th Infantry Brigade, 3rd Canadian Division in France and Flanders until the end of the war. Battle Honours include Mount Sorrel, Somme 1916, Flers-Courcelette, Ancre Heights, Arras, 1917, ’18, Vimy, 1917, Hill 70, Ypres 1917, Passchendaele, Amiens, Scarpe 1918, Drocourt-Quéant, Hindenburg Line, Canal du Nord, Pursuit to Mons, France and Flanders, 1916-18.
That December Bert was admitted to the No 9 Canadian Field Ambulance suffering from a general debility, rejoining the unit by the end of the month. In February of 1917 Bert was admitted to the No 16 General Hospital at LeTroport with an ulcer on his foot, transferred to the No 3 Convalescent Depot in mid March, discharged to base detail by the 23rd, and rejoining the 43rd Battalion in April.
Rotating into the trenches on 25 June to relieve the 5th and 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles near Avion just north of Vimy, the 43rd Battalion once again faced open fire. On the 26th Bert sustained a gunshot wound to the axilla (underarm) that also grazed his chest. He was first admitted to the No 33 Casualty Clearing Station and then on to the No 56 General Hospital in Etaples. In mid July Bert was invalided to the No 2 Military Hospital in Canterbury in England and transferred to the Military Convalescent Hospital Woodcote Park, Epsom a few days later. In late November Bert was moved to the No 5 Canadian General Hospital Kirkdale, Liverpool. Although treated, his wounds caused permanent damage to his arm and use of his hand and it was decided that Bert was to be invalided to Canada, arriving aboard the hospital ship Glenart Castle on 26 November. He was admitted to the Manitoba Military Hospital Tuxedo Park (Winnipeg) on 3 December, discharged on 22 January 1918. With military character described as very good, Bert was discharged from service as medically unfit on 5 March 1918.
Bert’s brother Francis signed recruitment papers in Saint John, New Brunswick on 30 April 1918, occupation given as engineer. He embarked for England aboard the Saturnia on 29 June and was to serve for the duration of the war in England with the 3rd Engineers Reserve Battalion. He returned to Canada aboard the Belgic in July of 1919.
After discharge Bert returned to Beausejour. On 20 April 1920, in St Boniface (now part of Winnipeg), Bert married Norah Louise LaBelle. Born on 22 April 1903 in the RM of Brokenhead (Beausejour), Louise was the daughter of Kate LaBelle but was raised by her grandparents Michael and Mary (Brennan) Labelle. The Labelles were originally from the Chichester area of Quebec and had moved to Beausejour by the time of the 1901 census after spending a few years in Rat Portage (later renamed Kenora). Three of the Labelle boys served during the war, Daniel, Ernie, and Parnell.
Bert and Louise gave birth to ten children, Garnet, Cyril, Gerald, Bernice, Gordon, Bertram, James, Robert, Lenore and Valerie. Bert worked as a farmer in Manitoba until he moved to Sioux Lookout around 1923/1924 where he went to work for Farlingers Mill as a pulp cutter. Through the years Bert held jobs at the Ontario Liquor Board (19 years), worked at the Indian Hospital as a stationary engineer, was a commissionaire at the Air Force base in Hudson, Ontario, and at one point had his own saw mill. When he eventually retired in his 70’s he had a trap line! His war wounds – he had one arm a whole hand length shorter than the other – did not seem to hamper what he did although his daughter does remember he could not do an over the head swimming stroke.
When it became clear to the family that maybe Bert should not be on his own he spent a number of weeks with daughter Valerie Paul and her family in Winnipeg but he was not happy with city life. He then spent about a year in Pickle Lake with daughter Lenore Hooker and her family before moving to the nursing home Birchwood Terrace in Kenora around 1978, his son Jim and family living in Kenora. Predeceased by his parents and siblings, his son Robert in 1943, son Bert in 1947, his wife Louise in 1960, and his son Cyril in 1978, Bert died in Kenora on 8 January 1983. Along with other family members, Bert and Louise are interred in the Sacred Heart Cemetery in Sioux Lookout.
Following in their father’s footsteps, four of Bert and Louise’s children were to serve during WW2. Sons Garnet, Cyril and Gerald all served overseas while daughter Bernice served with the Canadian Women’s Corps in Edmonton.
Bert was commemorated for his WW1 service in an article published in the Sioux Lookout Bulletin on 8 October of 2014. With the 100th anniversary of the start of the war, the Sioux Lookout Genealogy Club undertook a project to educate themselves and others about the significant history of the war and the Canadian part in it.
by Judy Stockham and Valerie (Fenelon) Paul
gravemarker photos: courtesy of Karen Costello, Sioux Lookout
photos of Bert: provided by Valerie (Fenelon) Paul