Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthAugust 29, 1893
Place of BirthBerwick
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinMrs N Collins, No 6 Parton Hall, Burnmouth, Scotland
Trade / CallingLabourer
Service Details
Regimental Number439026
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion29th Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Date of EnlistmentDecember 19, 1914
Age at Enlistment21
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarNo
Death Details
Date of DeathAugust 21, 1917
Age at Death24
Buried AtNo known grave/Vimy Memorial

Smith, James

According to his attestation papers, James Smith was born on 29 August 1893 in Berwick upon Tweed. Berwick upon Tweed is located at the northern border of England and over the years had been battled for by both Scotland and England. Although James gave his country of birth as Scotland, in fact the village was in England.

James’ father Charles was originally from Littlecomb, Hereford, England while his mother Sarah was from Okenshaw, Durham. The couple was found residing in Lanchester, Durham in the 1881 England census where Charles was working as a coal miner. They had two children, Margaret Ann, age 7, and Emma, age 5. By the 1901 England census the family had moved to Berwick upon Tweed where Charles was working as a mason’s labourer. Household members were parents Charles and Sarah, children Charles, age 17, James, age 8, Joseph, age 6 and grandchildren Charles and William Francis. By 1911 both Charles and James were working as general labourers in Berwick upon Tweed, and other household members were Joseph and a grandson named Alfred Smith.

At some time between 1911 and his enlistment in Kenora on 19 December 1914, James had immigrated to Canada. He had found employment with the Lake of the Woods Milling Company in the nearby town of Keewatin. Only 21 years of age, James gave his next of kin as Mrs  N Collins who lived just across the border from Berwick upon Tweed  in the village of Burnmouth, Scotland.

Recruiting for the 52nd  Battalion had continued  throughout the spring and summer of 1915 across northwestern Ontario, with recruits being billeted privately in Port Arthur and Fort William until moved to Gresley Park in Port Arthur to undergo basic training on 7 June 1915. Although the battalion didn’t leave Port Arthur until November 1915, Private James Smith went overseas with the 2nd Reinforcing Draft of the 52nd Battalion, leaving Montreal aboard the  Missanabie on 4 September 1915.

Arriving in England on 13 September,  James was employed as a regimental transport driver at Shorncliffe until 3 February 1916  when he was transferred to the 6th Brigade Machine Gun Company at the Canadian Base Depot in France. A short time later he was transferred to the 29th Battalion. By September he was hospitalized in Etaples for shrapnel wounds to the shoulders and back.  James rejoined his unit on 5 November 1916 and was promoted to Corporal in December. On 3 July 1917 he was granted 10 days leave and during that time he travelled to Scotland and married Margaret Fullarton, daughter of Alexander and Janet Fullarton of Crosshill by Maybole on the 10th.

A short 6 weeks later during the Battle of Hill 70, Corporal James Smith was reported as killed in action on 21 August 1917. From the War Diary of the 29th Battalion, casualties on 21 August 1917 were 65 killed, 190 wounded and 50 missing.

Inscribed on the ramparts of the Vimy Memorial are the names of over 11,000 Canadian soldiers who were posted as ‘missing, presumed dead’ in France; Corporal James Smith’s name is among them.

Corporal James Smith is commemorated on page 328 of the First World War Books of Remembrance in Ottawa, Ontario, on the Keewatin Cenotaph located in Beatty Park in Keewatin, on the Lake of the Woods Milling Company Roll of Honour plaque, on the Town of Keewatin Roll of Honour, and on the online Lake of the Woods Milling Company Roll of Honour

by Judy Stockham

Smith-James-1 Smith-James-2 Smith-James-3 Smith-James-4 Smith-James-5 Smith-James-6

Research notes: On his attestation papers, James Smith gave his birth place as Berwick on Tweed and indeed there was a Smith family living there with a son James with the same approximate birth date. The tribute above is based on this family. However, on his marriage record he gave his parents’ names as William and Agnes (Johnston) Smith, both deceased. A family with these parents, with or without  a son James, could not be found in Berwick. Either James was not from Berwick although he gave his  next of kin  in nearby Burnmouth, or he gave false names on his marriage record.

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