Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthJune 28, 1899
Place of BirthLas Palmas, Canary Islands
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinJohn Sauerbrei, father, Box 397, Dalmore Hotel, Kenora, Ontario
Trade / CallingClerk
ReligionChurch of England
Service Details
Regimental Number198975
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion16th Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Address at EnlistmentBox 397, Dalmore Hotel, Kenora, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentFebruary 14, 1916
Age at Enlistment16
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathAugust 21, 1945
Age at Death46
Buried AtLake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario

Sauerbrei, John Willoughby

Although he gave his birth year as 1897 on his attestation papers, John Willoughby Sauerbrei was born on 28 June 1899 in Las Palmas, Canary Islands, Spain. His father John Sauerbrei was born in Bavaria, Germany (according to the 1901 England census record) and from an early age was involved in the hotel management business, starting his career in Belgium. Over the course of his life he managed hotels in Holland, France, Canary Islands, England, Quebec, and Toronto, Ontario  before moving to Kenora in northwestern Ontario in 1914 when he purchased the Dalmore Hotel. John’s mother Ellen Matilda Veasey, daughter of Willoughby and Sarah (née Johnson) Veasey,  was born in Attleborough, Warwickshire, England. Educated in Manchester, she worked as a nurse for seven years at the Manchester Royal Infirmary. Other children born to the family in Las Palmas were Mark (1896) and Claude (1897). The family was found on the 1901 England census at the Crown Hotel in Newcastle upon Tyne, Northumberland. In 1910 the three boys were listed as passengers of the Dakar, traveling from Las Palmas to Liverpool.

John Sr immigrated to Quebec, Canada first with Ellen and the children found on the 24 April 1912 passenger list of the Royal George, destination given as Quebec, purpose to join hotel manager husband. Claude and John were listed at Toronto’s Upper Canada College as students for 1912-1913; it stated that their father was managing the CNR Hotel Krausmann in Toronto. Previous schooling included Elmhurst School for Boys, South Croydon and it is likely that Mark also attended Elmhurst.

The three Sauerbrei boys signed their attestation papers in Kenora within days of each other, Claude on February 12, John on February 14, and Mark on February 15 in 1916. John, age 16, gave his occupation as clerk. He had brown hair and eyes.  Recruiting for the 94th Battalion, based in Port Arthur, Ontario, had begun in late 1915, drawing from throughout northwestern Ontario. In May of 1915 companies from Kenora and Fort Frances moved to Port Arthur and in early June left for  ‘summer camp’ as they called it  in Valcartier, Quebec. On 28 June 1916, with the 94th Battalion, aboard the Olympic, Mark, Claude, and John embarked from Halifax on their way overseas.

Once in England the 94th Battalion ceased to exist and Privates Claude and John Sauerbrei were transferred to the 17th Reserve Battalion while Mark was transferred to the 32nd Reserve Battalion and appointed Acting Lance Corporal. In August John, diagnosed with measles,  was admitted to the Moore Barracks Hospital at Shorncliffe for close to two weeks. By the third week in September he was transferred to the 16th Battalion and on his way to France, joining the unit in the field in early October.

Once in France John was transferred to the 3rd Canadian Machine Gun Corps in late February of 1917. By April he was hospitalized in Etaples, afflicted with furunculosis, boils to the face and it would be late August before he was discharged to duty. In early December of 1917 John was granted a fourteen day leave  and at some point after his return the 3rd Canadian machine Gun Corps was absorbed into the 1st Battalion Canadian  Machine Gun Corps. In June  of 1918 John was granted a leave of absence to the UK and while on leave he was admitted to the Endell Street Military Hospital in London suffering from influenza. His leave was extended and he rejoined his unit in France in early January of 1919. By late March he was back in England and on his way home in late April.

Along with their parents, Mark, Claude and John were all listed as living at the Dalmore Hotel in the 1921 census, John’s occupation given as ‘borer’, Rockwood. John eventually moved to Winnipeg and in 1938 married Kathleen Lillian Murray, daughter of Scottish immigrants Kenneth and Mary (née MacKay) Murray. Kathleen had been raised and educated in Griswold, Manitoba by an aunt and uncle, returning to the family home in Moosehorn in 1926. Upon his father’s death in 1944, John and the family moved to Kenora to manage the Dalmore. The couple had four children, Ellen, Kenneth, Jack, and Kitty.

Predeceased by his mother Ellen in 1938 and his father John in 1944, both in Kenora, John died suddenly on 21 August 1945 in Kenora. Along with his parents, he is interred in the family plot in the Lake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora. John’s wife Kathleen returned to Moosehorn, Manitoba where she later married Gus Breitkreitz. Together they raised seven children.  Kathleen died in 1999 and is interred in the Faulkner Cemetery in Faulkner, Manitoba.

John’s brother Mark was wounded twice by gunshots during the war and was awarded the Military Medal. Upon his return to Canada he later married Agnes Neufeld and the couple gave birth to three children. Mark worked for the Department of Lands and Forests in Port Arthur, eventually retiring to southern Ontario. Mark died in 1983 in Toronto with his obituary giving him the title of Reverend. Claude became ill in October of 1918 and did not return to Canada until July of 1919. Having obtained a BA, MA, and PhD at the University of Toronto, Claude graduated from Bishop’s University in Lennoxville, Quebec in 1924. At the time of his death he was a professor in the Faculty of Divinity at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee.

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

by Judy Stockham

Sauerbrei-John-1 Sauerbrei-John-2 Sauerbrei-John-3 Sauerbrei-John-4 Sauerbrei-John-5 Sauerbrei-John-6 Sauerbrei-John-7 Sauerbrei-John-8 Sauerbrei-John-9

photographs of Ellen and the Dalmore from the Lake of the Woods Museum Archives

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