Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthJuly 26, 1896
Place of BirthDennistoun, Glasgow
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinMiss Cecilia Rodger, sister, 103 Wishart Street, Glasgow, Scotland
Trade / CallingMiller
Service Details
Regimental Number439275
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion52nd Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Date of EnlistmentMay 25, 1915
Age at Enlistment18
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathDecember 7, 1973
Age at Death77
Buried AtKildonan Presbyterian Cemetery, Winnipeg, Manitoba

Rodger, John Cousland

John Cousland Rodger was born on 26 July 1896 in the Dennistoun area of Glasgow, Scotland. His father John Rodger was from Holytown, Lanarkshire while his mother Cecilia Jenkins Cousland was from Glasgow. Although both were living in Glasgow at the time, the couple married on 4 October 1892 in Perth. John Sr, listed as a widower on the marriage record, was an engine keeper. Their first child Cecilia was born in 1893 in Dennistoun but by the time of the birth of their third child Isabella in 1898 the family was living in the Blackfriars area of Glasgow. For the 1901 census John Sr’s occupation was listed as brewery engineman. After the death of John’s mother Cecilia in 1905 it appears that the family unit disintegrated. According to his obituary, John immigrated to Canada in his early youth, perhaps sent as a British Home child under the child migration scheme of the day.

By 1915 John was living in the town of Keewatin in northwestern Ontario. He was working as a miller at the Lake of the Woods Milling Company, a large flour mill complex that attracted many recent immigrants. He enlisted in nearby Kenora on 25 May 1915, giving his sister Cecilia back in Glasgow as next of kin. His attestation papers indicated that he belonged to the 98th Regiment. The 52nd (New Ontario) Battalion, CEF was raised in Northern Ontario  during the spring of  1915 with its mobilization headquarters at Port Arthur (Thunder Bay), Ontario. Recruiting took place during the spring and summer, drawing from Kenora, Fort Frances, Dryden, Port Arthur and Fort William. With a number of local men leaving Kenora in June for training throughout the summer in Port Arthur, the battalion left the city on 4 November 1915 for New Brunswick. On 23 November 1915,  with the 52nd Battalion, Private John Rodger embarked from Saint John aboard the California.

Once in England, the battalion spent 6 weeks of training under British instructors at Witley Camp, and then moved on to Bramshott for 2 more weeks. On 26 February 1916, the 52nd sailed from Southampton to La Havre in France, and then on to Belgium by train.

That June the Battle of Mount Sorrel lasted for almost two weeks and cost the Canadians over 8 000 casualties. John sustained a gunshot/sharpnel wound to the upper thigh, penetrating the femoral artery, on the third day of the battle, 4 June. He was first admitted to the No 1 Canadian Field Ambulance and then on to the No 23 General Hospital in Etaples. The wound caused a traumatic aneurism with the artery having to be tied off. Gangrene set in and over the course of the next three years John would have a number of surgeries to deal with the gangrene, another aneurism, and infection. He spent time in the Cheveley Park Hospital in Newmarket in Cambridge (14 September 1916 – 4 January 1917), 1st Eastern General Hospital in Cambridge (4 January 1917 – 1 May 1917), Edmonton Military Hospital in Edmonton (1 May 1917 – 15 November 1917), Canadian   Convalescent Hospital Hillington House in Uxbridge (15 November 1917 – 11 December 1917), No 16 Canadian General Hospital Orpington (11 December 1917 – 5 January 1918), and the No 5 Canadian General Hospital in Liverpool (5 January 1918 – 4 February 1918). It was decided that John should be returned to Canada for further treatment at the Manitoba Military Hospital Tuxedo Park in Winnipeg, embarking from Liverpool aboard the Araguaya on 4 February.

John was admitted to the Manitoba Military Hospital on 16 March 1918 where he underwent a number of surgeries and procedures. Recovery was slow and difficult. In late July of 1919 he was granted a two week leave to Keewatin, his condition improving immensely. In late August he was granted a month leave, once again returning in an improved condition. It was also noted that John had an enlarged heart, likely existing prior to service. He was discharged from the hospital on 25 October 1919, and discharged from service as medically unfit on the 31st in Winnipeg.

After discharge it appears that John remained in Winnipeg, living in Norwood on the outskirts of the city in 1921. His service record indicated that he could no longer work as a miller, and preferably would like to take a business course. At some point he secured a job with the Maple Leaf Milling Company (formerly Western Canada Flour Mill) out of Winnipeg. On 22 August 1936 in the Old Kildonan Presbyterian Church, John married Florence May McDonald. Born on 14 May 1898 in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, May was the daughter of Angus McDonald, a tailor originally from Stornoway, Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, and Mary Sly who was from Quebec. Her parents had married in 1892 in Winnipeg where they were to live for most of their married life. John retired from the milling company in 1962, with the couple moving to an apartment on Wellington Crescent a short time later. He was a member of the Fort Osborne Masonic Lodge.

John died on 7 December 1973 in Deer Lodge Hospital in Winnipeg. He was predeceased by his wife Florence May a month earlier in at the Conquist Nursing Home. At the time of his death John was survived by his sisters Celia Scott and Isa Gemmell, both in Scotland. John and May are interred in the Kildonan Presbyterian Cemetery.

In August of 1919 the town of Keewatin held a demonstration to honour the returning veterans as well as the fallen, medals and badges presented. John’s name was included on the list as published in the Kenora Miner and News. He is commemorated for his service on the Lake of the Woods Milling Company Roll of Honour plaque, on the Municipality of Keewatin For King and Country plaque, and on the Town of Keewatin Roll of Honour plaque.

By Judy Stockham

Grave marker photo provided by  George Fraser,  Historic Kildonan Church (Presbyterian) & Cemetery

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