Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthSeptember 9, 1897
Place of BirthNorman, Ontario
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinAlex Patterson (father), Rainy River, Ontario
Trade / CallingCar checker
Service Details
Regimental Number439686
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion52nd Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentRainy River, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentAugust 27, 1915
Age at Enlistment17
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathOctober 12, 1954
Age at Death57

Patterson, David Malcolm

Sergeant David Malcolm Patterson enlisted in August 1915 and served in France and Belgium with the 52nd (New Ontario) Battalion. He suffered gas poisoning in August 1918 and returned to Canada in April 1919.

David was the son of Alexander Patterson and Mary Ann Hendry of Rainy River, Ontario. Alexander and Mary were both born in Scotland. They were married in Dundee in 1888 and they had a daughter, Agnes Hendry, born in Dundee in 1889. Mary and Agnes immigrated to Canada in the summer of 1890, joining Alexander who had gone about a year earlier. When the 1891 census was taken the family was living in the town of Keewatin in northwestern Ontario. Mary’s parents, David and Agnes Hendry, immigrated to Canada in the fall of 1891 and they also settled in northwestern Ontario.

Alexander and Mary had at least seven more children: Elizabeth, Helen Alexandra, William Henry, David Malcolm, Mary Hendry, Alexander and Donald McCrimmon. David was born on 9 September 1897 in either Rat Portage (later renamed Kenora) or the neighbouring village of Norman. During their time in the Rat Portage area Alexander’s occupations included baker, mariner, labourer and mill worker. By 1911 the family had moved to Rainy River and Alexander was a labourer on a boat. He later became a steamboat captain.

David’s grandmother, Agnes Hendry, was living with the family and widowed when the 1911 census was taken. She passed away in Rainy River in March 1914, at age 83. The war started that summer and David enlisted a year later, on 27 August 1915. He was just 17 years old but he passed himself off as 19. He signed up in Rainy River and joined the 52nd (New Ontario) Battalion. The battalion was based in Port Arthur and recruited in towns throughout northwestern Ontario, including Kenora, Keewatin and Rainy River. By the time David enlisted the local recruits had been sent to Port Arthur. He trained there for three months before heading overseas with his unit, embarking from St John, New Brunswick on 23 November on the SS California. They spent about three more months training in England. On 20 February 1916 the battalion was sent to France where it became part of the 9th Infantry Brigade in the 3rd Canadian Division.

In June 1916 the Canadians took part in the Battle of Mount Sorrel and that fall they were moved south for the Somme Offensive. The 52nd Battalion suffered heavy casualties in both operations. The winter of 1916-17 was spent in the Arras area, across from Vimy. The Canadian Corps captured Vimy Ridge in April then stayed in the area holding the new front line. In May David was sent to the 3rd Divisional Training School for a four-month ‘Special Platoon’ course. In mid-October the Canadians moved to the Ypres Salient for the assault on Passchendaele but David was admitted to a hospital earlier that month. He was treated for illness (vdg) for about four months and rejoined his unit in February 1918.

In the summer of 1918 the Canadians were given several weeks of intensive training in open warfare and they were heavily involved in the final months of the war. The Battle of Amiens started on 8 August and David was promoted to Corporal the following day. A few days later he suffered gas poisoning. On 14 August he was moved from a casualty clearing station to No. 1 Australian General Hospital in Rouen. He recovered for the next four weeks at two hospitals and a convalescent depot and he was discharged to base duty on 12 September. He rejoined his unit a short time later, getting promoted to Sergeant on 5 October.

When the Armistice ended hostilities on 11 November the 52nd Battalion was near Mons, Belgium. At the end of the month David became ill with influenza and he spent almost two weeks at a casualty clearing station. He was admitted to a hospital in Trouville on 12 December then recovered at a convalescent depot for two weeks starting on 6 January 1919. The 52nd Battalion arrived back in England on 11 February and the following day David was transferred to the 18th Reserve Battalion. He embarked for Canada on 16 April on the SS Belgic, arriving in Halifax a week later and getting discharged on demobilization on 26 April in Port Arthur. His intended residence was Rainy River.

Little is known about David’s life after the war. He appears to have moved to the U.S. around 1921, working there as a railroad switchman and eventually living in California. He passed away in San Francisco on 12 October 1954, at age 57. His mother had died in Rainy River in 1929 and his father in 1930. His sisters Agnes (Mrs. Nelson Marquis) (1889-1943), Helen (Mrs. Robert Edward Allan) (1894-1947), Elizabeth (Mrs. John Kollesar) (1891-1963) and Mary (Mrs. James Bowen Delafield) (1900-1987) are all buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Rainy River along with other family members. His youngest brother Donald (1906-1979) is interred in Little Falls Cemetery in Atitokan, Ontario.

By Becky Johnson


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