Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthJune 21, 1895
Place of BirthSeydisfjordur
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinMr J Hermanson, 94 Ingersoll Street, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Trade / CallingPrinter
Service Details
Regimental Number54
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion8th Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Date of EnlistmentSeptember 23, 1914
Age at Enlistment19
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarNo
Death Details
Date of DeathMay 3, 1915
Age at Death19
Buried AtWimereux Communal Cemetery, France
PlotI. F. 23A.

Hermanson, Magdal

Magdal (Mack) was the son of Gudjon (Joseph) and Magdalen (née Sigurdottur) Hermanson, born 21 June 1895 in Seydisfjordur, Iceland. The family emigrated from Iceland to Canada in 1904 and were found living in Keewatin, Ontario on Goat Road in the 1911 census, although Mack was not listed with the family. Gudjon was working in the elevator of the Lake of the Woods Milling Company. Other family members included brother Sveinn, sister Sigridur (Sarah) and sister Hermania Groa who was born in Keewatin on 3 June 1905. In the 1911 census Mack was living in Winnipeg, lodging at 351 Beverley Street with other fellow Icelanders, the Sigvaldssons and Mary Bjarnason, and a Norwegian family, the Nelsons. His occupation was given as printer.

Mack probably left Kenora on 23 August 1914 as the train pulled through on its way east to Valcartier, Quebec where he enlisted on 23 September 1914. His occupation at the time was given as printer. He had been an assistant to James Wydeman, publisher of the Keewatin Enterprise weekly paper and had also worked as a printer in Winnipeg. Blue-eyed with fair hair, he was only 19. He was with the 8th Battalion, a new unit made up of recruits from Winnipeg and Northwestern Ontario.

On 4 October 1914 the battalion embarked for England, leaving from Quebec City on the Franconia. They were part of a convoy of thirty-two transport ships protected by a Royal Navy escort because of the danger from German submarines.

The 8th Battalion was sent to Salisbury Plain in southern England where they trained for several months. The men were billeted in tents and huts and due to the cold, wet winter weather many of them became sick with severe colds and pneumonia. They were given a period of leave for the holiday season and in February 1915 they were sent to France. By April the men were in the trenches in Belgium. According to his record, his rate of pay was $1/day plus a 10 cents/day field allowance.

Just a short time later, Private Magdal (Mack) Hermanson  was reported as dangerously ill; he had sustained a gunshot wound to the head on 23 April 1915. He died of his wounds on 3 May at the No 14 General Hospital in Wimereux, France. Three cables were sent home: 25 April 1915 that he was dangerously ill with GSW head and had been admitted to No. 14 General Hospital, another one sent 4 May 1915 stating that he had died, and then another one sent the same day confirming the death.

Although the story circulated that Mack was one of the first to die of the terrible gassing first used by the Germans on 22 April 1915, his record states otherwise. He is interred in the Wimereux Communal Cemetery, Pal de Calais, France. He was 7 weeks shy of his 20th birthday.

Private Mack Hermanson is commemorated on page 19 of the First World War Book of Remembrance in Ottawa, on the Keewatin Cenotaph located in Beatty Park in Keewatin, on the Lake of the Woods Milling Company Honour Roll, and on the 8th Battalion’s WW1 Roll of Honour.

His older brother Sveinn also served during the Great War, enlisting in Winnipeg on 30 April 1918 after spending 7 months with the Strathcona Horse. He survived and later died in 1956 in Los Angeles.

Mack’s mother died on 16 November 1916 in Winnipeg and is interred in the Brookside Cemetery, Winnipeg, Manitoba. His father died on 22 August 1939 in Kenora and is interred in the Lake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora. His sister Sarah had married a Bjarnason and had one son, Sigurd with him, and then later married Jules Christianson. They had three daughters. Sarah and Jules stayed in Keewatin and are also interred  in the Lake of the Woods Cemetery. Mack’s sister Groa married Alfred Conlon. She died in Fort William in 1948 and is interred in the Lake of the Woods Cemetery.

Mack had been eligible for the 14/15 Star. His medals and decorations were sent to his brother at 469 Notre Dame Avenue, Winnipeg after the war  while his plaque and scroll were sent to his father in Keewatin.

by Judy Stockham