Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthApril 19, 1892
Place of BirthLeith, Edinburghshire
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinJohn Nairn, 26 Lauriston Gardens, Edinborough (Edinburgh), Scotland
Trade / CallingMiller
Service Details
Regimental Number439037
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion52nd Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Address at EnlistmentKenora, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentDecember 21, 1914
Age at Enlistment22
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathJune 8, 1947
Age at Death55

Nairn, John White

Although he gave his place of birth as Edinburgh in Scotland, John White Nairn was born on 19 April 1892 in nearby Leith. His father John Nairn was from Johnstone, Renfrewshire while his mother Isabella Stuart was from  Deskford, Banffshire. John and Isabella had married in 1887 in Edinburgh. After the marriage the couple lived in Leith where John SR worked as a grocer. Their first born child was Cuthbert (d 1894), followed by sons  William and John. Sometime after John’s birth the family moved to Edinburgh  where John SR later found work as an enquiry agent in the trade protection industry. Two more children were born to the family in Edinburgh, Matthew and Margaret.

With occupation given as mercantile clerk, on 22  December 1911 John married Kathleen McPherson, daughter of  John and Agnes (née Rooney) McPherson,  in Edinburgh. The  following year the couple gave birth to a son they named John. John and his brother William were next found on the passenger list of the Saturnia that arrived in Canada in early April of 1913. Their destination was given as Calgary, Alberta  although John ended up working as a miller for the Lake of the Woods Milling Company in Keewatin, Ontario. Keewatin is a small town in northwestern Ontario located a few kilometres west of Kenora. At the time it was a drawing card for immigrants due to the mill.

Giving his father back in Scotland as next of kin John signed his attestation papers on 21 December 1914 in Kenora. He listed 4 years of previous service with the 5th Battalion Royal Scots Q.E.R.T and his marital status as single. The 52nd Battalion was raised in northwestern Ontario in the spring of 1915 with its headquarters in Port Arthur. Along with a number of other local fellows John left Kenora for training in Port Arthur in mid June of 1915. With the 2nd Reinforcing Draft of the 52nd Battalion Corporal John White Nairn embarked from Montreal aboard the Missanabie on 4 September 1915.

Upon arrival in England John was temporarily transferred to the 12th Reserve Battalion and then to the Canadian Army Service Corps Training Depot in mid October of 1915. In mid May of 1917 he was struck off strength from the CASC Bramshott on reposting to the CASC Reserve Depot. Reverting to rank of Private to go overseas John left for France in March of 1918, posted to #10 Depot Unit of Supply with the CASC in April. Depots Units of Supply were small units of about 30 men and officers who worked on the coast of France where the Base Supply Depots were located. They supervised the unloading of supplies from ships and organized the loading of the daily pack trains that were sent out by railway. One pack train was sent to each Canadian Division and it included all the rations needed for one day – meat, bread, other food and sundries, forage and fuel. In November of 1918 he was transferred to the #5 Depot Unit of Supply and promoted to Corporal in January of 1919. By April John was back in England but wasn’t discharged until late October of 1919.

After the war John did not return to Canada but instead  headed back  to Edinburgh. Although John’s wife Kathleen spent   part of the war in Newtownards, Ireland as shown later in his service record as also listed as next of kin, it appears that  John and Kathleen  had given birth to a daughter they named Kathleen  in June of 1917 in Edinburgh. There may have been more children born after the war. John’s wife Kathleen died in Edinburgh in 1935 and he later married Agnes Mack Robertson in 1941 in Peebles, Peeblesshire. John’s occupation after the war was ‘despatch clerk’.

John White Nairn died on 8 June 1947 in Edinburgh. For his service during the war, he is commemorated on the Lake of the Woods Milling Company Roll of Honour, the Town of Keewatin Honour Roll, and the For King and Country Municipality of Keewatin plaque. Although not present, he was honoured at a demonstration put on by the town of Keewatin in August of 1919. Men and women from Keewatin that had enlisted were presented with medals and badges by the mayor. With occupation given as chauffeur, John’s brother William enlisted in Winnipeg in July of 1915, attestation paper marked as Canadian Army Service Corps Training Depot. He survived the war but details of his service are unknown.

by Judy Stockham


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