Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthAugust 20, 1889
Place of BirthRome, Iowa
CountryUnited States of America
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinNina Freeman, sister, of Villisca, Iowa, U.S.A.
Trade / CallingFireman
Service Details
Regimental Number161259
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion54th Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Date of EnlistmentJanuary 8, 1916
Age at Enlistment26
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarNo
Death Details
Date of DeathNovember 18, 1916
Age at Death27
Buried AtRegina Trench Cemetery, France
PlotI. E. 27.

Freeman, John

According to his attestation papers, John Freeman* was born on 20 August 1889 in Rome, Iowa, USA. Found in the 1911 Canada census, it showed that John had immigrated to Canada in 1910, settling in Keewatin, Ontario. At that time his occupation was general labourer and he was a lodger at 82 Front Street.

John Freeman enlisted in Calgary on 8 January 1916, giving his sister Nina Freeman of Villisca, Iowa as next of kin. His occupation was  listed as fireman. With the 82nd Battalion, he embarked from Halifax aboard the Empress of Britain on 20 May 1916. In July he was transferred to the 9th Reserve Battalion at Shorncliffe, a battalion that had been created to provide reinforcements for the Canadian Corps in the field, and then on to the 54th Battalion on 21 August 1916.

Less than three months later, on 18 November 1916, Private John Freeman had lost his life. The CEF Burial Registers state that as part of the 54th Battalion, he had previously been reported as missing but was now reported as killed in action:

‘He was killed by shell fire whilst taking part in an attack on Desire Trench, Courcelette, France.’ From the War Diary for the 54th Battalion, 18 November 1916: ‘Very cold and commenced snowing in early morning, which later turned into rain. The Battalion strength of 12 Officers and 500 O.R. assembled for attack on DESIRE SUPPORT TRENCH. ‘The Battalion moved out from trenches and formed up close behind the barrage, opening out into 4 waves as the barrage advanced.   ‘The operation was conducted with great precision and exactly in accordance with orders received, the men showing the greatest intelligence, endurance and courage. During the six days the Battalion was in the line the weather conditions were very trying, four days of very cold weather being followed by snow and rain. Total casualties:- 2 offc killed 11 wounded. 42 O.R. killed 160 wounded 23 missing.’

Private John Freeman is interred in the Regina Trench Cemetery at Courcelette, 5.5 northeast of Albert France. He is commemorated on page 88 of the First World War Book of Remembrance in Ottawa, on the Keewatin Cenotaph in Beatty Park in Keewatin, Ontario, on the Lake of the Woods Milling Company Honour Roll plaque, on the Douglas Fraser Roll of Honour plaque for the Town of Keewatin, and on the Municipality of Keewatin For King and Country plaque.

By Judy Stockham

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Research notes:
*It appears that Gerald Freeman used his brother John’s name as an alias in Canada.
An Iowa birth record is available for John Russel Freeman, born 2 March 1894 in Rome, Iowa (current population 117), parents given as Frank C Freeman and Mary Pencil (Iowa Births and Christenings, 1830-1950 Index, FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, FHL Film Number 965933). On the 1900 US Federal Census for Iowa, a Freeman family is found in Tippecanoe, Iowa, another very small rural community just 9 miles from Rome, Iowa. On this census John’s brother Gerald has his birth date as August 1889 while once again John’s is given as March 1894.  Other members of the household are Frank (father) age 33, sister Nina, age 8, and Frank’s mother Viletta, age 58 (Year 1900; Census, Place: Tippecanoe, Henry, Iowa, Roll 437, page 14A; Enumeration District 38; FHL microfilm: 12404370). In the 1905 Iowa State Census for Rome, Gerald, Nina, and John are living with or as neighbours with another Freeman family, the father no longer with them ( Iowa State Census Collection, 1836-1925 [database on-line] Provo, Ut, USA). In 1915 in the Iowa State Census John R Freeman, born about 1893 in Rome, Iowa, was living in Pottawattamie, Iowa (same source as 1905 census) and sister Nina was in nearby Glenwood (same source citation). There is also a WW1 US Draft Registration card for John Russel Freeman for 5 June 1917 in Council Bluffs, Pottawattamie, born in Rome but birth date given as 2 March 1893 (Registration State: Iowa; registration County Pottawattamie, roll: 1642992). John is found again for a few years in a US city directory for Council Bluffs, Pottawattamie, by 1919 with a wife named Elsie (, US city Directories, 1821-1989, Beta, [database on-line] Provo, UT). There is a Social Security death registration for a John Freeman born 2 March 1894, who died July 1975 in Yountville, Napa, California and who had been living in Nebraska before 1951 (Number 505-01-5439, Issure State: Nebraska, Issue Date: before 1951, taken from the 1905 Iowa census there was no further trace of Gerald. Actual birth records for Gerald and Nina were not found.
Given that John Freeman, born 2 March 1894 stayed in the area as found on a number sources, and that Gerald, born August 1889, could not be found in the US after 1905 and that the birth date given on the Canadian attestation papers for John Freeman matches Gerald’s, in all likelihood it was actually Gerald that came to Canada, served during the war and lost his life in doing so, assuming the first name of John somewhere along the line. Further confirmation was found in his service record as his plaque and scroll was sent to his brother J R Freeman after the war.





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