|Date of Birth||December 2, 1896|
|Place of Birth||Rat Portage (Kenora), Ontario|
|Next of Kin||Exilda Fortier, mother, Kenora, Ontario|
|Trade / Calling||Driver|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Address at Enlistment||Kenora, Ontario|
|Date of Enlistment||November 13, 1915|
|Age at Enlistment||19|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||October 8, 1916|
|Age at Death||19|
|Buried At||Regina Trench Cemetery, France|
|Plot||IV. A. 14.|
According to his attestation papers, Joseph Charles Ferdinand Fortier was born on 2 December 1896 in Rat Portage (later named Kenora), Ontario. His parents were Joseph and Exilda (née Leblanc) Fortier who had married in St Boniface, Manitoba on 4 July 1891. Joseph was originally from Quebec while Exilda had moved to Manitoba with her parents from Massachusetts while in her teens. Three children, Anna, Angelina, and Alfridas were born in Manitoba before the couple moved to Rat Portage.
By the 1901 Canada census the family had grown with newcomers Joseph Charles and Claudia. Another son, August, had been born in 1898 but had died of lung congestion 13 October 1900. At the time of the census Joseph was working as a lumberman. Three more sons followed, Isaac in 1902 or 1903 (he died in 1913), Ernest in 1904, and Joseph Louis Hector in 1906. On 14 May 1908, tragedy struck the family in the form of an early morning disastrous house fire. Having lit the stove, father Joseph went out to the stable to feed the horses and upon his return found his family running from the burning house. Going in to retrieve a trunk, Joseph was trapped and lost his life.
Joseph Charles Ferdinand Fortier enlisted in Kenora on 13 November 1915. With other local lads with the 94th Battalion, he left Kenora by train in May 1916, destination Port Arthur, Ontario. ‘On May 25, 1916, the men of ‘C’ an ‘D’ Companies from Kenora and Fort Frances were moved to the Lakehead and on June 9, 1916, the Battalion left for Valcartier, Quebec for ‘Summer Camp’ as it was called. The 94th trained at Valcartier for a period until June 13th when they sailed from Halifax for England on the RMS Olympic. Although the 94th remained a battalion on paper until July 27th, 1918, with an office at East Sandling, if actually ceased to exist on July 13th, 1916 when it was broken up and the men were transferred to the 17th and 32nd Reserve Battalions to be used as replacements for casualties in front line units.’ (from the now defunct 94th Battalion website)
Once overseas Joseph was transferred to the 17th Reserve Battalion and then to the 43rd. A short time later near Courcelette, Private Joseph Fortier was listed as missing, and then as killed in action in the attack on Regina Trench, near Courcelette in France. The operation was part of the Battle of the Somme, a five-month long offensive in the summer and fall of 1916 that cost the Canadians 24,000 casualties. The Canadian Corps’ assault on Regina Trench started on 1 October 1916 in pouring rain. The Canadians reached the objective but were pushed back by German counter-attacks. After a week’s delay due to the rain a second unsuccessful attempt was made on 8 October.
From the War Diary for the 43rd Battalion: In the attack on Regina Trench 8 October 1916 there were 2 officers killed, 2 wounded, 4 missing; other ranks 8 killed, 224 wounded, 120 missing. From the CEF burial register for Private Joseph Fortier: ‘Previously reported missing, now killed in action.’ Three other Kenora fellows with the 43rd Battalion, John McKechnie Francis, his nephew David Francis, and James Begg, were reported as missing/killed in action the same day. Joseph Charles Ferdinand Fortier is interred in the Regina Trench Cemetery, Somme, France: Plot 4 Row A Grave 14.
Exilda Fortier died on 21 February 1937 and is interred along side her husband in Lake of the Woods Cemetery. Anna married Alexander Rheault, Angelina married Archibald McLaren, and Claudia married James Graydon. Brother Joseph Alfridas went overseas with the 2nd Reinforcing Draft of the 52nd Battalion and served with the 3rd Divisional Signal Company, Canadian Engineers in France. He was returned to Canada on compassionate grounds and discharged as medically unfit for service in June of 1918 in Winnipeg.
Private Joseph Charles Ferdinand Fortier is commemorated on page 87 of the First World War Book of Remembrance in Ottawa, on the Kenora Cenotaph, on the Kenora Legion War Memorial, and on the Notre Dame du Portage Roman Catholic Church Memorial in Kenora, Ontario.
by Judy Stockham
photo of Joseph Charles Ferdinand: many public family trees on ancestry.ca