Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthSeptember 7, 1888
Place of BirthListowel, Perth County, Ontario
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinJohn Climie Hay (father), Listowel, Ontario
Trade / CallingCity Clerk and Treasurer
Service Details
Regimental NumberN/A
Service RecordLink to Service Record
Battalion18th Reserve Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Address at EnlistmentAvenue Hotel, Fort William, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentDecember 10, 1915
Age at Enlistment27
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of Death19720525
Age at Death83
Buried AtWoodlawn Cemetery, Forest Park, Illinois

Hay, Gordon Climie

Captain Gordon Climie Hay enlisted in 1915 and served in France and Belgium for more than two years. He was wounded in September 1916 during the Somme Offensive and returned to Canada in August 1919.

Gordon was the son of John Climie Hay and Araminta (Minnie) Adelaide Copeland of Listowel, Perth County, Ontario. John was born in Ontario to Scottish parents and was listed in different records as a wood and coal merchant, manufacturer, grain dealer, real estate agent and owner of a gas and electric utility. Araminta was of Irish ancestry and born in Oxford, Ontario. They were married on 20 October 1874 in Lucknow, Bruce County. Ontario. Their oldest child, Minette Jane, was born in 1876 in Nebraska. She was followed by at least nine more children, most of them born in Listowel: Frank, Earl Copeland, Ruby Laurene, Mervyn Robert, George, Gordon Climie (born in Listowel on 7 September 1888), Hazel Francis, Beth Adelaide Robinson and Blake Daniel. Frank died as an infant and he’s buried in Fairview Cemetery in Listowel.

Gordon was at home for the 1901 census, at age 12. Around 1910 he moved to the town of Kenora in northwestern Ontario, where he was employed as an accountant at the Imperial Bank. He was also very active in local sports. In November 1912 he was transferred out west but by the summer of 1915 he was back in Kenora and employed as the town clerk. He joined a militia unit, the 98th Regiment, which had companies in Kenora, Fort Frances, Rainy River and Emo. Gordon was listed as an officer in the Kenora company in August 1915. On 10 December he was transferred to the 94th Overseas Battalion, which was based in Port Arthur and recruited in towns throughout northwestern Ontario. He signed his Officers’ Declaration on 14 January 1916 in Fort William, getting a commission as a Lieutenant. His address was the Avenue Hotel in Fort William and his occupation was City Clerk and Treasurer.

At the end of March Gordon was sent to the School of Instruction in Winnipeg and he rejoined his unit in mid-April in Port Arthur. The troops entrained for the east coast on 9 June, on the first leg of their journey overseas. They spent a short time at Valcartier, a military camp northwest of Quebec City, before embarking from Halifax on 28 June on the SS Olympic. They arrived in England about nine days later. Gordon was transferred to the 32nd Battalion and he spent about seven weeks in the UK. At the end of August he was drafted to a front line unit, the 52nd Battalion, and sent to France. He joined them in the field in early September, during the Somme Offensive.

The 52nd Battalion arrived in the Somme area on 14 September and two days later they took part in an assault near the village of Courcelette. The unit suffered about 200 casualties in the operation and working parties were organized to bring out the wounded and bury the dead. On 17 September the unit relieved the 49th Battalion in the front line, with companies ‘B’ and ‘D’ posted to a location called the Sunken Road. From the war diary of the 52nd Battalion, 20 September: ‘Lieut. Hay G.C. and 4 runners sent up to   Coy. with dry socks for the men. On the way up between Half-Way trench and Sunken Road Mr Hay was shot by a sniper through the leg.’ Gordon took shelter in a dugout and a short time later, when a shell exploded nearby, he suffered a contusion to his back.

Gordon was evacuated to a hospital in Camiers and from there to England. On 25 September he was admitted to No. 3 London General Hospital in Wandsworth. After recovering for six weeks he was discharged to duty on 3 November 1916. At the end of December he was assigned to the 1st Canadian Labour Battalion and a week later he was sent to France. For the next two years he served in France and Belgium with the 1st Labour Battalion, the 1st Canadian Infantry Works Battalion and the Canadian Works Group Headquarters. In September 1917 he was appointed Acting Captain and in January 1918 he was promoted to Honourary Captain and Quartermaster. During 1918 he had two weeks leave in Great Britain, a week in Paris and two weeks in Nice and Rome. His sister Minette had enlisted as a nursing sister, possibly with the American Expeditionary Forces, and in 1918 she was a matron at American Red Cross Hospital No. 24 in London, England.

Gordon returned to the UK in January 1919 and the following month he was transferred to the 18th Reserve Battalion. On 7 April Miss Ethel Edna Gott, a school teacher, arrived in Liverpool from Canada on the SS Metagama. Ethel was born in Amherstburg, Essex County, Ontario in 1886, the daughter of William Gott, a farmer, and Lucinda Brush. She had taught school in Kenora at the same time that Gordon lived there. Gordon and Ethel were married on 8 April 1919 in Seaford, East Sussex, England. The Kenora newspaper carried an article about the wedding (reported in error as being on 8 March), noting that the officers of the 18th Reserve Battalion were in attendance as well as the Pipe Band.

Gordon was granted indefinite leave starting on 14 June. He and his wife sailed from Liverpool on 15 August on the SS Melita, arriving in Quebec a week later. He was discharged ‘on cessation of hostilities’ on 24 August. His sister Minette had returned to the U.S. in May 1919 and she was living in New York and working as a nurse. Gordon’s brother Blake Hay had also enlisted, signing up in Stratford, Ontario in November 1915. He served in Canada and England for two years. Ethel’s brother Francis Hector Gott was called up in January 1918. He served in France in the last months of the war and returned to Canada in June 1919.

After the war Gordon and Ethel moved to Erie, Pennsylvania and their only son, Gordon Copeland, was born there in 1922. By 1935 the family had settled in Riverside, Illinois, on the outskirts of Chicago. Gordon Jr. joined the U.S. Army Air Corps during the Second World War and flew on bombing missions over Germany and France. He married Colleen Frances Rooney in 1947 in Riverside and they had three daughters.

Gordon died at Fairfax Convalescent Home in Berwyn on 25 May 1972, at age 83. His wife passed away three years later and Gordon Jr. died in 1998. Gordon, Ethel, Gordon Jr. and Colleen (1925-2016) are all buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in Forest Park, Illinois. Gordon’s parents and at least five of his brothers and sisters are buried in Fairview Cemetery in Listowel.

By Becky Johnson

Family photo courtesy of sranson2, Hay public family tree on

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