|Date of Birth||February 6, 1890|
|Place of Birth||Keewatin, Ontario|
|Next of Kin||JP Harkins, Keewatin, Ontario|
|Trade / Calling||Log Cutter|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Date of Enlistment||October 22, 1914|
|Age at Enlistment||24|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||December 16, 1938|
|Age at Death||48|
|Buried At||Lake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario|
John Jeremiah (Jerry) Harkins was born on 6 February 1890 in Keewatin, Ontario. His father Joseph Patrick Harkins was from Quebec City and had come to the area to work in the lumbering/sawmill industry. His mother Sarah Stewart was from Walkerton. The couple married in Keewatin in 1888 and gave birth to their first child, a daughter Agnes Mae, later that year. After the birth of Jerry the family moved to the Cloquet area in northern Minnesota where Joseph worked as a mill labourer. While in the States four more children were born, Joseph in 1892, Archibald in 1893, Alexander in 1898, and Isaac Frederick in 1900. Later family obituaries mention another daughter but trace of her could not be found. The family moved back to Keewatin in 1907 where Joseph found employment with the Keewatin Lumber Company. Sadly, it appears that Archibald had died. By the 1911 Canada census, Jerry was also working as a ‘log man’ for the company.
Jerry signed his attestation papers in Kenora on 22 October 1914. His occupation was listed as log cutter and his father Joseph in Keewatin as next of kin. Fair haired with blue eyes, Jerry stood 5 feet, 7 inches. He had two months previous military service with the 98th Regiment, Company. With the 27th Battalion, Jerry left Kenora for training in Winnipeg on 1 November 1914 according to an article in the Kenora Miner and News.
The 27th (City of Winnipeg) Battalion was the first independent battalion to be raised in Manitoba in the First World War, raised as part of a response to the demand for reinforcements early in 1915 as Canada struggled overseas. Another article in the paper in mid May of 1915 told of the Battalion passing through Kenora from Winnipeg on the 12th, heading east on the first leg of the journey overseas. On 17 May 1915, the 27th Battalion left Quebec aboard the Carpathia, and after a few months in England, on 18 September 1915, disembarked in Boulogne, France.
The first major offensive of the 27th was the battle of St Eloi, 5 kilometres from Ypres. Begun on 27 March 1916 by the British, the Canadians joined in on 4 April with the 27th Battalion taking over the front line, fully exposed to artillery fire. Casualties were high. One of the most notable battles of Somme the 27th Battalion participated in was the Battle of Courcelette, begun on the morning of 15 September 1916. This battle marked the first time in history that tanks were used in warfare although all 6 tanks were knocked out that day. Lasting until 22nd of September, the Canadian Corps lost about 7200 soldiers.
Just days after the end of the Battle of Courcelette, Jerry was admitted to the No 4 Canadian Field Ambulance with a shrapnel wound to the foot followed by a transfer to the No 3 General Hospital at Le Treport. Invalided to England, Jerry spent time in the Bearwood Hospital in Wokingham and the 1st Southern General Hospital in Birmingham, diagnosis myalgia contracted at the Somme. After spending further time at a Canadian Convalescent Depot he rejoined the 27th Battalion in March of 1917. In late 1917 and into 1918 Jerry suffered through a couple of cases of scabies. He was granted a two week leave to the UK in mid March of 1918, and with the war’s end, in March of 1919 returned to England. He arrived back in Canada on the 23rd of May aboard the Northland, with discharge in Winnipeg on the 26th.
In late 1922, in Saint Jean Baptiste, Manitoba, Jerry married Marie Emma Zolena Labelle. Born in Saint Jean Baptiste, Emma was the daughter of Xelaphat and Josephine (Bellemare) Labelle. Jerry, now going by the name of John, and Emma gave birth to three children, George, Irene, and Jackie. An experienced worker in all branches of the lumbering industry, John was employed in the bush, lake, and milling operations of the Keewatin Lumber Company for many years and also worked in the lumbering industry in the state of Washington. In later years he worked for the Ontario Provincial Government forestry service, and on highway construction, also working for a time on the new Keewatin Channel Bridge.
John was a prominent baseball player in the local leagues and later coached the Keewatin baseball club. He was a member of the Native Sons of Canada and of the Army and Navy Veterans, Keewatin Branch.
Predeceased by his brother Joseph in a railway accident in 1926, his father Joseph in 1930, and his brother Alexander in an accident in May of 1938, John died on 16 December 1938 at the age of 48 following a lengthy illness due to cancer. At the time of his death he was survived by his wife Emma, children George, Irene, and Jackie, his mother Sarah, two sisters Mrs Charles (Agnes Mae) Ratchford of Kenora and Mrs A Beaubien of Winnipeg, and one brother Fred of Keewatin. His son Jackie died in 1940, his mother Sarah in 1942, and sister Agnes in 1946. All are interred in the Lake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora. Emma stayed in Keewatin and later married WW1 veteran William Armour. She died in 1970 in the Kenora General Hospital.
John’s brother Alexander, a teacher, enlisted with the 94th Battalion on 27 November 1915. However, he was discharged 10 days later as he was underage and unable to obtain parental consent.
In August of 1919 the town of Keewatin held a demonstration to honour all who had served during the war. The veterans were presented with medals and badges as were the families of those who did not return. Veteran John Jerry Harkins was one of those so honoured. He is commemorated on the Town of Keewatin for King and Country plaque.
by Judy Stockham