Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of Birth1880-1888
Place of BirthQuebec
Marital StatusMarried
Next of KinJean Smith (wife), Shoal Lake, Ontario
Trade / CallingTrainman
ReligionRoman Catholic
Service Details
Regimental Number892135
Service RecordLink to Service Record
Battalion52nd Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentWinnipeg, Manitoba
Address at EnlistmentShoal Lake, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentMarch 28, 1916
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathMarch 15, 1956
Age at Death74
Buried AtMountain View Cemetery, Thunder Bay, Ontario
Plot Blk 117, R-2, P-28

Smith, John Andrew

Private John Andrew Smith enlisted in March 1916 and served in France and Belgium with the 52nd (New Ontario) Battalion. During the Second World War he joined the Veterans’ Guard.

John was born in Quebec, sometime between about 1880 and 1888, and moved to northwestern Ontario as a young man. He was married in the Kenora district on 13 November 1912. His marriage registration records that he was 24 years old, born in Three Rivers, Quebec and his parents were John Andrew and Mary Ann Smith. John’s wedding took place at Cecilia Jeffrey School on Shoal Lake, southwest of Kenora. His wife, Jean McNabb, was 20 years old and born at Shoal Lake and both John and Jean gave Shoal Lake as their residence. They had a son Francis John (Frank) in 1913 and a daughter Irene followed a year later.

John enlisted in the spring of 1916. The war was in its second year by then and recruits were needed to replace casualties at the front. He signed up with the 190th Battalion (Winnipeg Rifles), which was headquartered in Winnipeg and recruited in the surrounding districts. He enlisted in Winnipeg on 28 March 1916, giving his occupation as trainman and his birth date as 25 December 1888. His residence was Shoal Lake and next of kin was his wife Jean. John trained with his unit in Manitoba for just over a year. In August another daughter, Alice May, was born. John sailed from Halifax with his unit on the SS Justicia on 3 May 1917, arriving in Liverpool about eleven days later.

In England John was transferred to the 18th Reserve Battalion and he trained with them for another four months. On 27 September he was drafted to the 52nd Battalion and sent to France. The 52nd was a front line unit that had been raised in towns throughout northwestern Ontario, including Kenora. John spent some time at the Canadian Corps Base Depot then joined his new unit in the field in early November, during the Battle of Passchendaele. The battalion had suffered heavy losses in late October and John arrived in a draft of reinforcements. Just a week after he arrived, following the capture of Passchendaele Ridge, his unit had a rotation in the front trenches and they suffered further casualties when the Germans shelled their position. It was apparently at this time that John was buried by the explosion of a shell.

John was admitted to a field ambulance in mid-November and to a Casualty Clearing Station a month later. From there he was moved to the 2nd Australian General Hospital in Wimereux, France. After just a week there he was evacuated to England and admitted to Graylingwell War Hospital in Chichester, West Sussex. He was suffering from myalgia and chronic bronchitis. In the medical records his stated age indicates a birth year around 1880 or 1881. He was transferred from the 52nd Battalion to the Manitoba Regiment Depot and the remainder of his service was in the U.K. He recovered for a month at Graylingwell then for five weeks at a convalescent depot and five weeks at the Canadian Red Cross Special Hospital.

Hostilities on the Western Front ended on 11 November 1918. On 20 November John was admitted to the Granville Special Canadian Hospital due to bronchitis. He was a patient there until early January 1919. He sailed for Canada on the SS Royal George on 20 February, arriving in Halifax about a week later. He had 14 days landing leave and he was discharged from service on 11 April 1919 in Winnipeg.

After the war John and his wife had at least five more children: Jean, Florence, Mary, James and Paul. When the 1921 census was taken they were living in Kenora, where they made their home for the next twenty years. John worked as a millhand and watchman and joined the Canadian Legion, Kenora branch. In the early 1940s he and his family moved to Fort William, now part of Thunder Bay, where he was employed at the Canadian Car and Foundry Co. During the Second World War he enlisted with the Veterans’ Guard. His oldest son Frank signed up with the Canadian infantry and served overseas with the Lake Superior Regiment. He was killed in action in October 1944 and he’s buried in Bergen-Op-Zoom Canadian War Cemetery in the Netherlands.

John was a member of the Canadian Legion, Fort William branch. He retired around 1950 and passed away on 15 March 1956, apparently age 74. He’s interred at Mountain View Cemetery in Thunder Bay.

By Becky Johnson

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