Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthFebruary 21, 1891
Place of BirthBentinck Townshp, Grey County, Ontario
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinEliza Keeler (mother), 366 Dufferin Street, Port Arthur, Ontario
Trade / CallingHardware manager
ReligionChurch of England
Service Details
Regimental Number2383445
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion78th Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedConscripted
Place of EnlistmentPort Arthur, Ontario
Address at Enlistment366 Dufferin Street, Port Arthur, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentJanuary 10, 1918
Age at Enlistment26
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathJune 2, 1978
Age at Death87

Rands, Britton Howard

Private Britton Howard Rands was called up in January 1918 and he served in France with the 78th Battalion. He suffered gas poisoning in September 1918 and returned to Canada five months later.

Britton was the only son of Robert Clifford Rands and Elizabeth Fensom. Robert was born in Hullett Township, Huron County, Ontario and Elizabeth in Bentinck Township, Grey County. They were married in 1889 in the town of Chesley, Huron County and they settled in Bentinck and took up farming. They had three children: Lillie May (1889), Britton (21 February 1891) and Nelly Lavinia (1893). All three births were registered in Bentinck Township.

Sometime after Nelly was born Robert and Elizabeth moved to Nairn Centre in the District of Nipissing where they continued to farm. Elizabeth’s parents, the Fensoms, were originally from Chesley but they had homesteaded in the Nairn Centre area and two of her brothers were merchants there. Sadly Robert died on 4 February 1901, at age 34, the cause of death listed as ‘fire.’ When the census was taken about two months later Elizabeth and the three children were living in Nairn Centre with her brothers George, Arthur and Albert Fensom and her sister Nellie.

When Elizabeth remarried in 1908 her residence was listed as Port Arthur. Her second husband, Harold Edward Keeler, was a cook who was born in Dover, England. At the time of the 1911 census Harold, Elizabeth and her three children were living on Foley Street in Port Arthur. No occupation was listed for Britton but not long after that he started working in a hardware store and he went on to have a long career in the hardware business.

Conscription was introduced in Canada in the summer of 1917 and single men aged 20 to 34 were required to register by the fall. Britton reported as required and had his medical on 26 October in Kenora, Ontario. His address at the time was the neighbouring town of Keewatin, where he was working at the Piper hardware store. Britton was found fit for military service and he was called up on 10 January 1918 in Port Arthur. His occupation was hardware manager and next of kin was his mother Mrs. Eliza Keeler in Port Arthur. Britton was assigned to ‘H’ Company of the 1st Depot Battalion, Manitoba Regiment. After just a few weeks of training he was on his way overseas, arriving in England on 4 March on the SS Cretic.

Britton was transferred to the 11th Reserve Battalion and he spent about five months in the UK. In June he was ill with influenza and he recovered for two weeks at No. 14 General Hospital in Eastbourne. The final period of the war started with the Battle of Amiens on 8 August and the Canadians were heavily involved in operations in those last three months. In late August Britton was drafted to a front line unit, the 27th (City of Winnipeg) Battalion and sent to France. He joined his unit in the field in mid-September but a few days later he was transferred to the 78th Battalion (Winnipeg Grenadiers).

Plans were underway for the crossing of the Canal du Nord and the assault began on 27 September. Britton was one of the casualties that day when he suffered poisoning from a gas shell. He was taken to No. 4 General Hospital in Camiers and evacuated from there to England. From 2 October to 4 December he recovered at Chester War Hospital. Following that he spent a couple of weeks at Princess Patricia’s Canadian Red Cross Hospital and he was discharged to duty on 20 December. He served with the 18th Reserve Battalion for a month and a half before embarking for Canada on 1 February 1919 on the SS Carmania. He arrived back in Port Arthur via New York on 13 February and he was discharged on demobilization on 15 March. He may not have returned to Keewatin but he was honoured at a ceremony there on 4 August 1919, when badges and medals were presented to returned veterans and the families of fallen soldiers. Britton was included on the list of medal recipients.

Britton was married in Fort William on 1 June 1920. His wife, Cora May Armstrong, was born in Fort William on 22 May 1892, the daughter of Wellington Armstrong and Margaret McPherson. Her father worked for the railway and she had at least one brother and seven sisters. Britton and Cora moved to Sioux Lookout, Ontario where they made their home for about 45 years. Britton owned and operated a hardware store, B.H. Rands Hardware, and they had one son, Howard Armstrong Rands, who was born in 1927. They also had a stillborn daughter, Pauline Levina, in April 1923. Their son Howard was in the Royal Canadian Navy from 1946 to 1971 and he saw active service in the Korean War.

Britton and Cora moved to Victoria, British Columbia in 1965. Cora passed away there on 21 September 1967, at age 75. Britton continued living in Victoria but he often visited Sioux Lookout. He died in Sioux Lookout on 2 June 1978, at age 87, and his funeral was held a week later in Victoria. His stepfather had passed away in Sioux Lookout in 1929 and his mother in 1956 in Calgary. His sister Nellie married a veteran, William Christian Nolls. She died in Vancouver in 1961 and she’s buried with her husband at Mountain View Cemetery in Thunder Bay. Britton and Cora’s son, Howard, passed away in Victoria in 2006 and he’s interred at Royal Oak Burial Park.

By Becky Johnson

Rands-Britton-Howard-90 Rands-Britton-Howard-91 Rands-Britton-Howard-92 Keewatin-1919-01 Keewatin-1919-02 Rands-Britton-Howard-93 Rands-Britton-Howard-94 Rands-Britton-Howard-95 Rands-Britton-Howard-96

Photos courtesy of the Rands family tree on Thunder Bay newspaper articles courtesy of Thunder Bay Public Library

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