Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthMarch 12, 1898
Place of BirthGreat Marlow, Buckinghamshire
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinThomas Nuson (father), First Street, Rideout, Kenora, Ontario
Trade / CallingLabourer
ReligionChurch of England
Service Details
Regimental Number439114
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion52nd Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentKenora, Ontario
Address at EnlistmentRideout, Kenora, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentMarch 29, 1915
Age at Enlistment17
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarNo
Death Details
Date of DeathJune 8, 1916
Age at Death18
Buried AtNo known grave; commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres

Nuson, Robert Thomas

For most of the war regulations required soldiers to be at least 19 years old before they served in front line units but thousands of young Canadians enlisted underage, and many of them were killed in action or died of wounds. Private Robert Thomas Nuson enlisted just after he turned 17 and he was killed a year later, at age 18, at the Battle of Mount Sorrel.

Robert was the oldest son of Thomas Nuson and Annie Cecilia Huson of Kenora, Ontario. Thomas and Annie were originally from Great Marlow, Buckinghamshire, England. They were married in May 1896 and Robert was born in Great Marlow in March 1898. He had two sisters, Ethel (1901) and Winifred (1903), and two brothers, Norman (1906) and Walter (1909), all born in Marlow. Their father worked as a gardener.

In 1912 Robert and his father immigrated to Canada, arriving in Quebec in May on the SS Corinthian, their destination listed as Kenora, Ontario. Annie followed in October with the four younger children and the family settled in the Rideout area in Kenora. The war started in August 1914 and Robert enlisted the following spring, signing up on 29 March 1915 with the 52nd Battalion. It was two weeks after his 17th birthday but he passed himself off as 19. His medical exam tells us he was 5’7″ and 132 lb. and he was found fit for overseas service. The 52nd (New Ontario) Battalion was based in Port Arthur and recruited in towns throughout northwestern Ontario. In June 1915 the Kenora volunteers were sent to Port Arthur to train with the rest of the battalion. They left there on 4 November 1915, headed to the east coast where they embarked from St, John, New Brunswick on 23 November on the SS California. After training in England for a few more months the battalion was sent to France, arriving there on 21 February 1916. The men spent the first night in tents in a snowstorm before being moved to Belgium by train the next day.

Early in March the 52nd Battalion went into the trenches for orientation and training. Later that month the Canadian Corps took up positions in the south part of the Ypres Salient, between St. Eloi and Hooge, and the 52nd was moved into the area on 1 April. There were no major battles at the time but there were casualties from rifle, machine gun and artillery fire and in April and May the battalion did several rotations in the front trenches. Robert was admitted to a Field Ambulance on 22 May, suffering from influenza, and he was back with his unit just in time for the Battle of Mount Sorrel.

When he rejoined the 52nd they were finishing a long, exhausting rotation in the front line. They were relieved on 1 June and went into reserve trenches then on to the town of Poperinghe the next day, but their rest would be very short. The Battle of Mount Sorrel started on the morning of 2 June with an intense bombardment of the Canadian lines followed by the explosion of underground mines. After the barrage German infantry advanced and captured Mount Sorrel and nearby areas. A counter-attack was planned for 3 June and additional units were brought in, including all four companies of the 52nd Battalion. The men left Ypres around midnight and even before they arrived at their positions in Sanctuary Wood, just after dawn on 3 June, they faced severe rifle and machine gun fire and a heavy artillery barrage.

The first counter-attack failed and after a couple of days of rest the 52nd returned to the front trenches on 7 June. Robert was killed in action the next day, 8 June, when he was hit by shrapnel as he was standing beside his commanding officer, Sergeant Robert Dennett. Dennett was also from Kenora and he wrote a letter of condolence to Robert’s parents, saying he died instantly at 6 pm on 8 June and ‘he was buried properly and a cross placed over his grave.’

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission records two burial locations for Robert: Border Lane, on the western edge of Sanctuary Wood, and Dormy House, which is a bit further west, closer to the village of Zillebeke. After the war his grave could not be identified. He is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres, Belgium, which bears the names of more than 54,000 men who died in the Ypres Salient and have no known grave. He is also commemorated on the Kenora Cenotaph, the Kenora Legion War Memorial and the St. Alban’s Pro-Cathedral Memorial plaque.

Robert’s father passed away in July 1939 and his mother in October 1945. They are buried in Lake of the Woods Cemetery in Kenora. His brothers Norman and Walter and their families are also buried there. At the time of his mother’s death his sister Ethel (Mrs. Clark) was living in Detroit and Winifred (Mrs. George) was living in Regina.

By Becky Johnson

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