Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthJanuary 3, 1889
Place of BirthMiddridge, New Shildon, Durham
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinMary Ann Gradon Rymer (mother), Middridge, New Shildon, Durham, England
Trade / CallingStenographer
ReligionChurch of England
Service Details
Regimental Number234220
Service RecordLink to Service Record
Battalion6th Infantry Brigade Headquarters
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force (Siberia)
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentWinnipeg, Manitoba
Address at Enlistment807 Alverstone Street, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Date of EnlistmentMarch 9, 1916
Age at Enlistment27
Theatre of ServiceGreat Britain and Siberia
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathMay 22, 1958
Age at Death69
Buried AtLake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario
PlotLiberty View Block, 32E-29-2

Rymer, John Thomas

Private (Acting Sergeant) John Thomas Rymer was a stenographer living in Winnipeg, Manitoba when he enlisted in March 1916. He served for three years in Canada, England and Siberia.

John was the oldest son of John Rymer and Mary Ann Gradon of Middridge, County Durham, England. John (Sr.) was originally from north Yorkshire and he worked as a coachman, groom and gardener. He and Mary Ann were married in 1888 and John was born in the village of Middridge the following year. Another son Willie was born in 1890 and a daughter Flora in 1894. When the 1911 census was taken John was 22 years old, living at home in Middridge and working as a weighman for a colliery company. A few months later he immigrated to Canada, arriving in November 1911 on the SS Laurentic with his destination listed as Beausejour, Manitoba. By 1915 he had settled in Winnipeg and found work as a stenographer for J & J Taylor, a well-known safe and vault company based in Toronto.

In early 1916 the war was in its second year and John enlisted that spring, signing up in Winnipeg on 9 March with the 203rd Overseas Battalion. The 203rd was a temperance unit that called themselves the ‘Hard and Dry Battalion.’ It had been organized in Winnipeg and was being recruited in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. By May the unit was affiliated with the 90th Winnipeg Rifles and was being called the 203rd Overseas Battalion Canadian Rifles. Over the summer and fall the men trained with other units at Camp Hughes, which was near Brandon, Manitoba.

In late October John left for England with his battalion, embarking from Halifax on the SS Grampian and landing at Liverpool on 5 November. A letter from the commanding officer dated 14 November said the men had settled into their quarters at Bramshott Camp and training was well underway. In January 1917 the unit was absorbed into the 18th Reserve Battalion and a short time later John was transferred to the headquarters of the Canadian Training Depot at Bramshott, as a member of the subordinate staff. He most likely did clerical work at the depot headquarters and he was given the rank of Acting Sergeant. Later that year he spent some time in the hospital for a few minor ailments, including a contagious skin condition.

By 1918 plans were underway to assemble an international force in Siberia. The goals included support and training for anti-Bolshevik forces and protecting stockpiles of Russian weapons and supplies to keep them from falling into the hands of the Bolsheviks. In August the Canadians were formally asked to provide troops and that same month John was transferred to the headquarters of the Siberian Forces in London. Four weeks later he headed back to Canada, arriving on 27 September via New York, and he was given some time off before leaving for Siberia. He returned to Winnipeg and while he was there he became ill with influenza. He spent two weeks recovering at the I.O.D.E. hospital. By early December he was in Victoria, BC where the Canadian Expeditionary Force (Siberia) was being assembled. It was made up of two infantry battalions, a machine gun company, artillery, cavalry and support units as well as the 16th Brigade headquarters, a total of just over 4,000 men. John was assigned to the brigade headquarters as a private and he left Canada with his unit the day after Christmas, arriving in Vladivostok, Siberia on 15 January 1919. In March it was decided to disband the CEFS and send the troops home over the next few months. John embarked from Vladivostok on 19 May on the Empress of Russia and arrived in Vancouver about ten days later. He returned to Winnipeg where he was discharged at No. 10 District Depot on 9 June. His brother Willie had also enlisted during the war and he served for three years with the Royal Engineers in England and France.

After the war John found work as a clerk with the Canadian Pacific Railway and around 1920 he moved to Kenora, Ontario where he was given a position in the CPR superintendent’s office. He was married in Kenora on 12 March 1921, at age 32. His wife, Elizabeth Hilda Dennett, was born in Windsor, Berkshire, England and came to Canada as a child with her widowed mother and two siblings. Her brother Robert William Dennett was also a Great War veteran. John and Hilda had one child, their daughter Dulcie, and sadly Hilda died in January 1925, at age 25. John continued to live in Kenora and he never remarried. He became a member of St. Alban’s Pro-Cathedral and the local branch of the Canadian Legion. He retired from the CPR in 1950 and passed away after a long illness on 22 May 1958, at age 69. He was survived by his daughter Dulcie (Mrs. John Auer) of Winnipeg as well as family in England. John is buried in Lake of the Woods Cemetery in Kenora.

By Becky Johnson

Rymer-John-Thomas-1 Rymer-John-Thomas-3 Rymer-John-Thomas-2

Obituary is from the Kenora Miner and News.

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