Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthFebruary 15, 1896
Place of BirthWidnes, Lancashire
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinMrs Sarah Heaton, mother, Keewatin, Ontario
Trade / CallingMiller, Lake of the Woods Milling Company
ReligionChurch of England
Service Details
Regimental Number439279
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion52nd Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Address at EnlistmentKeewatin, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentMay 26, 1915
Age at Enlistment19
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarNo
Death Details
Date of DeathOctober 26, 1917
Age at Death21
Buried AtMenin Gate Memorial/Waterloo Canadian Cemetery
PlotPanel 24 - 26 - 28 - 30

Heaton, John

Although he gave his birth date on his attestation papers as 15 February 1896, it appears that John Heaton was born during the first quarter of 1894, birth record needed to confirm. His parents, Levi and Sarah (née Lewis) Heaton of Widnes, Lancashire had married during the third quarter of 1893 in the registration district of Prescot, Lancashire.  Levi was a shoe/bootmaker by trade and by 1907 the couple had six children, John, Margaret, Lilian, James, Sarah, and Gertrude.

At only 12 years of age, John  was the first family member to leave England, immigrating  to Canada with Dan Kennedy, a boarder that had been living with the family in 1901. Sailing from Liverpool  aboard the Victorian and arriving in Montreal on 6 July 1906, the destination given on the passenger list was Keewatin, Ontario for both young men. Levi, along with children Margaret, Lilian, and James, arrived in July of 1907, followed in November by Sarah and children Sarah and infant Gertrude who had been born during the second quarter of the year. By the 1911 census, the family was living on River Street in Keewatin with Levi’s occupation given as cooper and John listed as working at the  flour mill  in Keewatin. John also had a sister Ruth who was born in Keewatin in August of 1909 but sadly she died in November of 1910 of pneumonia as a result of measles.

John enlisted with the 52nd Battalion on 26 May 1915 in Kenora. Blue eyed with fair hair, his occupation was given as miller.  ‘The 52nd (New Ontario) Battalion, CEF was raised in Northern Ontario  during the Spring of  1915 with its mobilization headquarters at Port Arthur (Thunder Bay), Ontario. On 04 November 1915 the Battalion moved by train to St John, New Brunswick arriving on 08 November.  On 22 November 1915 the battalion sailed from St John for Plymouth, England onboard the SS California. The battalion arrived at Plymouth, England  on 03 December 1915.  From Plymouth the battalion moved directly to Witley Camp  for 6 weeks of training under British instructors. The 52nd Battalion joined the 9th Brigade, 3rd Canadian Division on February 23, 1916 and thus began the trial by fire for the men of the north in the trenches of France and Belgium.’  (from the now defunct 52nd Battalion website)

By the beginning of October of 1916 John was admitted to the No 3 Canadian Stationary Hospital in Boulogne with inflammation of connective tissue of his right knee. Later that month he was transferred to the Reading War Hospital and then to the Bearwood Hospital in Wokingham in November. Discharged in late December of 1916, he was taken on strength with the 18th Reserve Battalion in March of 1917 in East Sandling and then transferred to the 52nd Battalion, arriving at the unit for duty on 12 October 1917.

Only days later, Private John Heaton was reported as killed in action in an attack  near Passchendaele on 26 October 1917. Along with the names of 55 000 men who were lost without a trace during the defence of Ypres Salient, John’s name is inscribed on the Menin Gate (Ypres) Memorial in Belgium. However, on the reverse side of his CEF Burial Register card, there is a reported location of a grave: Waterloo Canadian Cemetery, Sheet 28.D.9.d.9.9, Grave 4.

John’s parents stayed in the Keewatin/Kenora area, Levi passing away in 1947 and Sarah in 1950. Both are interred in the Lake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora. His brother James married Mabel Smith and  was living in Burnaby, British Columbia at the time of his death in 1968. His sisters Margaret and Sarah married in Keewatin, Margaret to Felton Hatcher in 1917 and Sarah to Arthur Orr in 1924. Sarah died in 1971 and Margaret in 1972 with interments  in the Lake of the Woods Cemetery. It is likely that Lilian married John Overend Atkinson in Winnipeg in 1921.

Private John Heaton is commemorated on Page 254 of the First World War Book of Remembrance in Ottawa, on the Keewatin Cenotaph located in Beatty Park in Keewatin, on an IOOF Minnetonka (Keewatin Chapter) Memorial marker at the Lake of the Woods Cemetery in Kenora, on the Lake of the Woods Milling Company Roll of Honour Plaque, the Municipality of Keewatin For King and Country plaque, and on two St James Anglican Church plaques. In August of 1919, as next of kin, John’s parents would have been awarded a medal and badge for John’s service as part of Keewatin’s Honour Roll.

by Judy Stockham

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photo of Menin Gate Memorial panel by Marvin and Samme Templin on

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