Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthOctober 1, 1896
Place of BirthCharlestown, Fife
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinAgnes Brown Johnston, Mother, Box 54, Keewatin, Ontario
Trade / CallingClerk
Service Details
Regimental Number2383888
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion1st Depot Battalion, Manitoba Regiment
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedConscripted
Address at EnlistmentBox 54, Keewatin, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentNovember 23, 1917
Age at Enlistment21
Theatre of ServiceEngland
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathOctober 30, 1950
Age at Death54
Buried AtToronto Necropolis Cemetery and Crematorium, Toronto, Ontario

Johnston, Andrew Brown

Birth, Parents and Siblings: Andrew Brown Johnston was born October 1, 1896, Charlestown, Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland. His parents were David Johnston (b. 1863 in Death, Fife) and Agnes Keir Brown (b. 1863 in Dunfermline). They were married in 1883. Their seven sons, all born in Scotland, were Ebenezer Wilkie (b. 1884); Alexander Brown (b. 1887); John Brown (b. 1891); Thomas Low (b. 1893); Andrew (b. 1896); James Low (b. 1899); and, George Edward (b. 1901). David and Agnes followed a well-known Scottish tradition naming their children after relatives. In fact, Andrew’s nickname ‘Chick’ was also passed on. In honour of their uncle, two Johnston nephews, Hector and Andrew, were given lifelong nicknames, ‘Chick’ and ‘Chicky’.

Early Life: In 1901, Andrew and his family were living in Stable Row, Dunfermline. Andrew was just beginning his education in Scotland when he came with his family to Keewatin, Ontario in 1906 at the age of 10. Shortly after the family’s arrival, David died leaving Agnes to fend on her own raising their seven children. Andrew and his younger brothers likely continued with his schooling as it was highly valued by the parents. Another tragedy struck the family in 1908 when John died suddenly.

In the 1911 Canadian census, Agnes and her surviving six sons were residing in Keewatin north of the CPR Railway line. Andrew was likely attending school as he was not yet employed. Four years later, in 1915, tragedy struck the family once again when Thomas died unexpectedly at the age of 22 years. Three years later, prior to enlistment, Andrew had been working as a Clerk and continued living at home with his mother.

War Experience:   In what turned out to be the final year and a half of the war, Canada enacted the Military Service Act, July 1917. This Act required single men age 20-34 to register by November, thereby giving a person enough time to file for a possible exemption. Most of the men had their medical examinations in November, or when they registered, and if they were found fit for service, waited to be called up. This was not a matter of choice. It was the law and an individual could be apprehended if he did not comply.

It was under this act, that Andrew entered service. His medical was carried out on November 23, 1917, in Kenora and   he was called up on May 3, 1918 in Port Arthur. His Military Service Letter and Number was 693613 T.C.   Andrew was posted with ‘H’ Company, 1st Depot Battalion, Manitoba Regiment,   81st Draft Unit. His Regimental Number was 2383888.

Andrew was described as single, 21 years 2 months of age, 5 feet 5 inches and with a chest expansion from 33 to 36 inches. He had blue eyes, a fair complexion and fair hair. His faith was Presbyterian. Andrew listed his mother as next of kin and he also assigned his pay to her. They shared the same address at Post Office Box 54, in Keewatin.    

Private Andrew Johnston set sail for England on August 4, 1918, on the H.M.T. Nellore, arriving August 15th. The next day, he was transferred to the 18th Reserve Battalion and Taken on Strength at Seaford. He remained with this Battalion throughout his service. From December 27, 1918   to December 31, 1918, Andrew was on Command at the Canadian Special Hospital in Lenham, England. No further details of his activities are given on his personnel file, until he is Struck off Strength to Canada at Seaford. On   June 14, 1919,   Andrew boarded the Aquitania at the port of Southampton and arrived in Halifax on June 20th.   He was discharged in Winnipeg on demobilization on June 24th, having served only in England.

Alexander (also known as Sandy), Andrew’s older brother, also served in the Great War. Upon their return to Keewatin, they, along with all other men who enlisted from the Municipality, were honoured at a ceremony on August 4th, 1919. Each received commemorative medals and badges from the Mayor of the town. Andrew was also commemorated on The Lake of the Woods Milling Company Honour Roll; the Municipality of Keewatin ‘For King and Country’ Military Roll; and, The Town of Keewatin Roll of Honour.

Life After the War: Andrew returned to Keewatin and, according to the 1921 census, he was single and living with his mother and brother, James, on May Avenue. Both young men were employed as bookkeepers at the Lake of the Woods Milling Company. In 1922, Agnes died and was buried in the Lake of the Woods Cemetery with her husband and two sons, Thomas and John.

On July 13, 1927, Alexander married Dell Elizabeth Wilson in Winnipeg, Manitoba. They are known to have had a daughter, Agnes, who married Frank Ruhl. Andrew and Dell next show up in Canada Voters’ Lists. In 1935, they were living at 20 Nelles Avenue, High Park, Toronto and Alexander was working in insurance. In the 1940 Voter’s List, they had moved to 310 Willard Avenue, High Park, Toronto, and Andrew was now the manager of an insurance company. Andrew and Dell continued to live in this residence according to the 1945 and 1949 Voter’s Lists and he also continued to be manager of the insurance company. It is noted that Andrew was also mentioned in the 1943 obituary of his brother, Alexander.

Death Information: Andrew died suddenly in Toronto, October 30, 1950. He was 54 years of age. Andrew was survived by Dell and Agnes, who was living with her husband, Frank Ruhl in Haliburton, Ontario. At the time of his death, Andrew was the Manager of Excelsior Life Insurance. Dell, who was born in 1900, died in 1979 and is buried with Andrew, in the Toronto Necropolis Cemetery and Crematorium, Toronto, Ontario.

Andrew had three surviving brothers: George; James, who died in Victoria, B.C. in 1968; and, Ebenezer, a former Mayor of Keewatin, who died on his way to Andrew’s funeral. His obituary is in the Toronto Daily Star only 4 days after Andrew’s. Ebenezer is buried in Park Lawn Cemetery in Toronto.

Presented by Susan [Hillman] Brazeau, for the Kenora Great War Project, honouring all who served.

Sources: 1911 Census of Canada; 1921 Census of Canada; Voter’s Lists; Births, Marriages and Deaths, Passenger Lists.
Family History: oral stories from Johnston and McKellar relatives and researchers
Find A Grave: grave marker photograph by Islington
Kenora Miner and News 1943: Obituary of brother, Alexander
Lake of the Woods Cemetery Records (parents and brothers)
Library and Archives of Canada: First World War Personnel Data Base
Manitoba Marriages:
The Military Services Act, 1917: TheMilitaryServiceActFinal#page/n0/mode/2up Birth records; 1891 Scottish Census; 1901 Scottish Census
Toronto Daily Star, October 31, 1950, Obituary
Winnipeg Free Press, November 3, 1950, Obituary of Ebenezer and mention of Andrew’s death

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