Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthJanuary 17, 1895
Place of BirthKenora, Ontario
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinFlorence Parsons (mother), Kenora, Ontario
Trade / CallingAccountant
ReligionChurch of England
Service Details
Regimental Number151159
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion85th Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentKenora, Ontario
Address at EnlistmentKenora, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentSeptember 21, 1915
Age at Enlistment20
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathJune 16, 1978
Age at Death83

Parsons, Frederick William

Sergeant Frederick William Parsons enlisted in the fall of 1915 and served for three years in England, France and Belgium. He returned to Canada with his battalion, the Nova Scotia Highlanders, in June 1919.

Fred was the youngest son of Alfred Joseph Parsons and Florence Nightingale Johnstone of Kenora, Ontario. Alfred and Florence were both born in Quebec, Alfred in Huntingdon and his wife in Sorel, and they were married in Montreal in October 1883. Their first child, Beatrice, was born in 1884 in Quebec and a short time later they moved to the town of Rat Portage in northwestern Ontario. Four sons were born in Rat Portage: Alfred Cecil (1885), Henry Edmond (1887), Edgar Joseph (1891) and Frederick William (17 January 1895). Around 1886 Alfred became the postmaster in Rat Portage, which was later renamed Kenora, and he held the position until his retirement in 1921.

Fred’s sister and three brothers all moved to Portland, Oregon before the start of the First World War. Fred stayed in Kenora where he worked as an accountant. He trained with the local militia and on 21 September 1915 he enlisted with the 79th Battalion. The 79th was based in Manitoba and the recruits trained at Sewell Camp, just east of Brandon. The day after he enlisted Fred left for Sewell Camp along with several other Kenora lads and a few weeks later the battalion moved into Brandon for the winter. In April 1916, just before going overseas, Fred had a period of leave that he spent in Kenora with his family. The troop trains carrying the 79th Battalion arrived in town early in the morning on 20 April and the local recruits had a big sendoff from the crowd of friends and relatives gathered at the Kenora station. They embarked from Halifax on the SS Lapland on 24 April and arrived in the UK about ten days later.

In England the 79th Battalion was broken up and used as reinforcements for other units. Fred spent the next two years serving with several different units at Bramshott, Hastings and East Sandling. His first transfer was to the 17th Reserve Battalion, in July 1916, and later that same month he was moved to the 1st Canadian Command Depot. Command depots provided physical training and military exercises for soldiers who had recently recovered from illness or wounds. Each depot could accommodate up to 5,000 men and the goal was to prepare them for a return to service. In May 1917 Fred was transferred from the 1st to the 2nd Command Depot and in June he was back with the 17th Reserve Battalion. With his background in accounting it’s possible he was doing clerical work for the different units and in August 1917 he spent some time as a PT instructor.

Fred had several promotions in England but in the spring of 1918 he reverted to the rank of private in order to go to France. He arrived there in mid-March and after a short time at the Canadian Corps Reinforcement Camp he joined his new unit, the 85th Battalion (Nova Scotia Highlanders), in early April. The Canadians were holding a long stretch of the front line near Lens that spring and early in the summer they went into reserve before beginning two months of intensive training in open warfare. The final period of the war began with the Battle of Amiens on 8 August 1918 and ended three months later with the Armistice. The Canadians, including the 85th Battalion, were heavily involved in operations during that time and they had some of their greatest victories in the last months of the war. Fred was away at a Non-Commissioned Officers course for most of September and when he rejoined his unit in early October they were north of Arras. Hostilities ended on 11 November and a week later his battalion crossed into Belgium where they spent the next six months.

In March 1919 Fred was promoted to Sergeant and given two weeks leave in the UK. His unit returned to England in May and at the end of the month they embarked for Canada on the SS Adriatic. In Halifax they were greeted by tens of thousands of people and honoured with a homecoming parade and celebration. Fred was discharged in Halifax on 15 June and he arrived back in Kenora the next day. His mother had been ill before he went overseas and she passed away in December 1918 while he was in Belgium. His brother Henry (Harry) Edmund served with the U.S. Army during the war.

Fred spent three months in Kenora and in September 1919 he moved to the U.S. and joined his family in Portland. When the 1920 U.S. census was taken he was lodging with a family on Mill Street and working as an auto parts salesman. An article in the Kenora Miner and News in October 1921 announced his marriage, which had taken place in Portland on 1 October. His wife, Regina Mitchell, was 23 years old, born in Pennsylvania and working as a dental nurse. They had two children, a daughter Regina in 1926 and a son Fred William about five years later. By 1930 they were living in Medford City, Oregon and Fred was still employed as an auto parts salesman.

After retiring Fred’s father moved from Kenora to Portland to live with his daughter Beatrice (Mrs. Harry Elliott). He died there in August 1937 and he’s buried in River View Cemetery. Also buried there are Beatrice and her husband and Harry Edmund and his wife. Fred died in Clackamas County, Oregon on 16 June 1978, at age 83. His wife had predeceased him in 1973 and they are both interred at Hillcrest Memorial Park Cemetery in Grants Pass, Oregon. Edgar passed away in 1970 and he’s buried in Siskiyou Memorial Park in Medford, Oregon. Cecil died in Florida in 1987.

Fred is commemorated in Kenora on the St. Alban’s Pro-Cathedral First World War Roll of Honour.

By Becky Johnson

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