|Date of Birth||May 4, 1898|
|Place of Birth||Keewatin, Ontario|
|Next of Kin||Charley Fortin (father), Kenora, Ontario|
|Trade / Calling||Labourer|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Place of Enlistment||Kenora, Ontario|
|Address at Enlistment||Kenora, Ontario|
|Date of Enlistment||April 24, 1916|
|Age at Enlistment||17|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||November 6, 1917|
|Age at Death||19|
|Buried At||No known grave; commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres|
Private Edgar Fortin enlisted in April 1916, at age 17, and arrived in France four months later. He was killed in November 1917 at the Battle of Passchendaele.
Edgar was the youngest son of Charles François Fortin and Emilie Jolicouer of Kenora, Ontario. Charles was from the Gaspé region in eastern Quebec and Emilie was born and raised in Hull. They were married in November 1888 in Rat Portage (later called Kenora), in northwestern Ontario. They made their home in the nearby town of Keewatin where Charles worked as a sawmill labourer and carpenter. Edgar was born on 4 May 1898 with his name registered as Joseph Abraham Edgar. He was one of seven children: Raoul, Saturnin (died as an infant), Leona, Ernestine, Edgar, Salome and Madeleine. By 1916 the family had moved to Kenora.
Edgar enlisted with the 94th Battalion on 24 April 1916, ten days before his 18th birthday. The 94th was based in Port Arthur and recruited in towns throughout northwestern Ontario. On 25 May the Kenora volunteers left for Port Arthur to join the rest of the unit. They were sent to Quebec in early June and spent a short time at the military camp in Valcartier before embarking from Halifax at the end of the month. In England the recruits were absorbed into reserve battalions to be used as reinforcements for other units. Edgar was assigned to the 17th Reserve Battalion in July and in August he was transferred to the 28th (North West) Battalion and sent to France. After arriving at the Canadian Base Depot in Le Havre, however, he was classified as ‘Permanent Base (underage).’ Regulations at the time required recruits to be 19 years old before they served with a front line unit. Edgar was transferred to the Canadian Corps Composite Company and he remained with them until June 1917, just after his 19th birthday, when he joined the 28th Battalion in the field. From 22 September to 11 October he was temporarily attached to an engineering unit and he was back with the 28th Battalion in late October, just as the Battle of Passchendaele began.
The assault on Passchendaele Ridge took place in several stages starting on 26 October. The 28th Battalion was brought in on 6 November and their objective was the village of Passchendaele. The operation began at 6 am when the men of the 27th, 28th and 31st Battalions went over the top, advancing closely behind the artillery barrage. Edgar’s unit faced heavy machine gun fire and at times the men had to wade through deep mud and water.
From the War Diary of the 28th Battalion, 6 November 1917: Zero hour had been fixed at 6 a.m. on the morning of the 6th November, a time just after the break of dawn. For several mornings prior to this date a heavy haze had hung over the country and it was hoped by all that similar conditions would prevail on ‘Z’ day. This proved to be the case and the enemy seems not to have been aware that anything was impending until the barrage suddenly opened on him and he was confronted by our men. Sharp on the minute of Zero it seemed as if every gun on the Western Front had opened up. Our troops immediately climbed out of their trenches and shell holes, where they had been all night, and advanced behind the line of smoke rolling forward. From the jumping off point for a hundred and fifty yards forward the ground was wet and boggy and our men had to advance up a slope wading sometimes knee and even waist high in mud and water.
Despite the conditions the village was captured and in Canadian hands by 9 am but Edgar was killed during the assault. His final resting place is unknown. The war diary for the 28th Battalion recorded total casualties as 270 out of the 612 engaged (44%).
Edgar is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres, Belgium. Inscribed on the memorial walls are the names of more than 54,000 men who died in Belgium and have no known grave. He is also commemorated on the Cenotaph in Kenora and on the Kenora Legion War Memorial. His sisters Ernestine and Leona married Aime LeBleu and Samuel LeBleu, two brothers who served in Canada during the war.
Shortly after he enlisted Edgar’s parents moved to St. Boniface, Manitoba. His father died in 1930 and his mother in 1942. Emilie is buried in Lake of the Woods Cemetery in Kenora along with her daughters Leona (Mrs. Samuel LeBleu) (1894-1964) and Ernestine (Mrs. Samuel LeBleu and later Mrs. Amédée Prefontaine) (1896-1982). Raoul (1890-1969) is buried in Chapel Lawn Memorial Gardens, Salome (1899-1974) in Green Acres Memorial Gardens and Madeleine (Mrs. Gustave La Riviere) (1904-1974) in St. Boniface Cemetery, all in Winnipeg.
By Becky Johnson