Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of Birth1886
Place of BirthHornsey, London
Marital StatusMarried
Next of KinWife: Clara Hill
Trade / CallingClerk
Service Details
Regimental Number199163
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion16th Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Address at EnlistmentKenora, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentMarch 18, 1916
Age at Enlistment28
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarNo
Death Details
Date of DeathSeptember 2, 1918
Age at Death31
Buried AtBeaurains Road Cemetery, Pas De Calais, France
PlotB. 34.

Hill, John Harrison

John Harrison Hill was one many British Isle immigrants who came to Canada in the early 1900s to take advantage of land grants for would be farmers in Saskatchewan. For a $10 payment settlers were given provisional title to 160 acres of farmland, and if they could farm the land for five years and erect buildings worth $300, the land became theirs. In England he had been part of a large family — one of eleven children of John Charles and Emily (née Champ) Hill of the Hornsey district of London. Besides John, birth registered during the last quarter of 1886, the children included older brothers Charles Richard George, Albert Edward and Sydney John, and younger siblings Nellie Louisa, Stanley Frederick, Emily Elizabeth, Ethel Flora Winnifred Edith, Leslie William, and Leonard Arthur. Sadly, Leslie died as a toddler.

John Harrison Hill immigrated to Canada in 1906 and farmed in the Humbolt, Saskatchewan area alongside several Mennonite families. It was there he likely met his wife, Clara Shelhorn, whose parents Abraham and Elizabeth lived in Kenora, but were friends with the nearby Biehn family. Clara had been born in Waterloo, Ontario in 1895.

By the time John enlisted in March of 1916, he and Clara were living in Kenora where he worked as a clerk. The couple had given birth to son Sidney Charles in Plunkett, Saskatchewan on 22 January 1913. John signed on with the 94th Battalion which was recruiting men for the northwestern Ontario based unit that spring. Although born in 1886, on his attestation papers he gave his date of birth as 24 October 1887. After training in Canada, they sailed for England in the summer of 1916, but were dispersed as replacements to other units on arrival in England. John Harrison Hill was assigned to the 16th Battalion. Several other local men also served with the battalion.

John Harrison Hill was wounded on 17 October 1916 during the later part of the battle of Somme. He recovered and rejoined the battalion but was wounded a second time in the spring of 1918. During the attack at Riencourt, Private John Harrison Hill died from his wounds in the field on 2 September 1918. He is buried in the Beaurains Road Cemetery, just outside Arras, France.

John’s brother Charles Richard George served with the 13th (County of London) Battalion (Princess Louises Kensington Battalion), attached to the 56th Company Machine Gun Corps, and died of his wounds (gas) on 20 March 1918. He is interred in the Г‰taples Military Cemetery, Г‰taples.

The 1921 census found Clara and son Sidney living with her parents and some of her siblings in Humbolt, Saskatchewan. By the next year Clara was living in Waterloo where she received John’s medals and decorations, plaque and scroll. At some point she and Sidney returned to Kenora.

On 27 October 1924 in Kenora, Clara married Ervin Biehn who’d come from Guernsey, Saskatchewan for the wedding. Farming in Saskatchewan, together Clara and Ervin had six children, sons Harry, Morley and Lowell and daughters Ethel, Lorna, and Beverley. Clara and Ervin moved to Kenora around 1953. Both died in 1959 and are buried in Lake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora. Clara and John’s son Sidney married Pauline Schmunk and lived in the Guernsey area of Saskatchewan until moving to Kenora in 1943. They had two sons, Vernon and Larry, and five daughters, Audrey, Elaine, Phyllis, Hazel, and Yvonne. Following in his father’s footsteps, according to his obituary Sidney served overseas during WW2, 1942-1945. Sidney died in 1985 and is interred with Pauline in the Lake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora.

Private John Harrison Hill is commemorated on page 429 of the First World War Book of Remembrance in Ottawa, on the Keewatin Cenotaph located in Beatty Park in Keewatin, on the Municipality of Keewatin For King and Country Memorial, and on the Lake of the Woods Milling Company Roll of Honour plaque. In August of 1919 a demonstration was held in Keewatin to honour Keewatin people that served overseas. John’s next of kin would have received a medal and badge in his honour.

by Bob Stewart

gravemarker photograph: The Channel Island and the Great War website

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