Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthDecember 22, 1876
Place of BirthBanff, Banffshire
Marital StatusMarried
Next of KinWife: Maria Forbes - Keewatin, Ontario
Trade / CallingTailor
Service Details
Regimental Number198984
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion94th Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Address at EnlistmentKeewatin, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentFebruary 17, 1916
Age at Enlistment39
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathJuly 11, 1959
Age at Death82
Buried AtBrookside Cemetery, Winnipeg, Manitoba

Forbes, James

James Forbes was born on 22 December 1876 in Banffshire, Scotland. His parents were Alexander Forbes and Jessie Mair. Siblings included Alexander (b. 1878), Helen Catherine (b. 1882), Jessie Ann (b. 1884) and Mary (b. 1887). The 1891 census for Scotland shows James working as a tailor’s apprentice and his father as a ‘Hede and Tallow Agent’. James also served with the British Army for 12 years (9 years in the Royal Artillery and 3 years in the Infantry). In 1908 he married Maria Grant McGowan in Birnie, Morayshire, Scotland. Two years later they immigrated to Canada and settled in Keewatin where James worked as a tailor.

On 17 February 1916 James enlisted for service in WW1 with the 94th Battalion in Kenora, Ontario. By 28 June, he was on his way to England on the SS. Olympic. He and his fellow passengers arrived in Liverpool on 05 July, and on the 10  July, he was transferred  to the 17  th Reserve Battalion  in East Sandling. He was subsequently transferred to the 25th  Battalion on 25 August, and with this battalion he sailed to France on 07 September. James joined his unit in the field on the 28  September 1916.

It was shortly afterwards in the Regina Trenches, during the battle of Courcelette, that he was reported missing, believed killed.   Medical reports state that he received gunshot wounds to his right leg and left shoulder, and after laying out two days (October 1st  and 2nd), was taken first to a field dressing station then to hospital in Rouen.   There he had an operation for compound fracture of tibia and fibula. This occurred on 07 October 1916.  On October 9th, he was transferred to First Scottish General Hospital in Aberdeen Scotland. His wounds required further treatment, ‘drainage of the wound which was discharging continually.’ It was reported that there was no improvement in the right leg and he was unable to walk. Following this he was sent to Uxbridge Hospital. A report here stated ‘patient unable to walk without support of crutches. Right leg deformed and right foot useless.   Ankle cannot be flexed of extended from non-union of bone, and the chronic sloughing’. James was subsequently invalided to Canada in September1917 aboard the hospital ship ‘Araguay’. The decision was made to amputate the leg on October 5, at Queen’s Military Hospital in Kingston, Ontario. The leg was amputated about 5 Ѕ inches below the knee, and the patient made a good recovery. He was transferred to an orthopedic hospital in Toronto where he was fitted with an artificial limb.

His recovery was slow and painful.   He endured several further operations, in 1918 and 1919.   Finally in April 1919 he had one final operation to ‘remove nerve endings, remove spur of bone’. It was finally in October, 1920 when he was discharged from the armed forces as ‘medically unfit.’ His final report states ‘has been fitted with good artificial limb which he thinks will be quite satisfactory’.   James Forbes was certainly a man who had fought the good fight, and paid a high price for his service.  He is commemorated on the Town of Keewatin Plaque which hangs in the Keewatin Legion.

James was employed with the Liquor Control Board of Ontario for thirty-seven years. His wife, Maria, was a lab technician at Lake of the Woods Milling Company for twenty-six years. They had no children. James served on the Keewatin council from 1936 to 1938. He was mayor for five years (1939, 1940, 1948, 1949 and 1950). He was a member of the Keewatin Curling Club and the Kenora Lawn Bowling Club. When he retired, James and Maria returned to Scotland for a year. They then took up residence in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Predeceased by his wife on 02 October 1958, James Forbes died on 11 July 1959. He is buried in a military plot in Brookside Cemetery, Winnipeg.

by Penny Beal

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