Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthFebruary 17, 1896
Place of BirthDeseronto, Hastings County, Ontario
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinHenry Wilson (father), Dermid P.O., Ontario
Trade / CallingFarmer
ReligionSalvation Army
Service Details
Regimental Number820398
Service RecordLink to Service Record
Battalion8th Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentEmo, Ontario
Address at EnlistmentDermid P.O., Ontario
Date of EnlistmentMarch 16, 1916
Age at Enlistment20
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details

Wilson, Harry

Private Harry Wilson served overseas for two years, most of that time in France and Belgium with the 8th Battalion. He was wounded twice, at the Battle of Passchendaele and at Amiens, but he survived the war and returned to Canada in May 1919.

Harry was the oldest son of Henry Wilson and Edith Alma Benn. Henry was born in Somersetshire, England and came to Canada in 1870, at age 17. He attended the School of Gunnery at Kingston and apparently served with the Artillery in either the permanent force or the militia. In June 1878 he joined the North West Mounted Police, signing up for a three-year term. He was stationed at Fort Walsh and he earned a promotion from constable to corporal. After his discharge in August 1881 he was granted 160 acres of land and he homesteaded at Shoal Lake in Manitoba.

By the early 1890s Henry had moved to Deseronto, Hastings County, Ontario where he worked as a farm labourer. He was married in Deseronto on 15 November 1893 to 28-year-old Edith Alma Benn. Edith was born in Ontario, the daughter of Milo Benn, a farmer, and his wife Caroline Elizabeth. Henry and Edith’s first three children were born in Deseronto: Elizabeth, Harry (b. 17 February 1896) and Percy. In 1898 the family moved to the RM of Cameron in southwestern Manitoba. Percy died there at age 10 months and a daughter Ethel was born in 1899 and died at age 9 months. Within a couple of years the family had relocated to the Rainy River area in northwestern Ontario, where the three youngest children were born: Mary (1902), William (1905) and Ruth (1908). They lived in Carpenter Township near the town of Emo and Henry took up farming again.

In the fall of 1915 the war entered its second year and Harry enlisted the following spring, signing up in Emo on 16 March 1916. He was 20 years old and he joined the 141st (Bull Moose) Battalion, which was based in Port Arthur. In May he had a month off to do farm work and shortly after that the recruits were sent to Port Arthur where they trained for almost a year. During that time Harry was sick twice, with the measles and with septicemia, and in February 1917 he was sent to bombing school in Winnipeg. The battalion left Port Arthur on 20 April, heading to the east coast on the first leg of their journey overseas. They embarked from Halifax on 28 April on the SS Olympic and landed at Liverpool on 7 May.

Harry was transferred to the 18th Reserve Battalion and he trained with them for the next four months. On 23 September he was drafted to the 8th Battalion and sent to France. He joined his new unit in the field in early October, about three weeks before the Battle of Passchendaele started. The 8th Battalion didn’t take part in the first phases of the operation but they were moved into the area on 6 November, arriving by train then marching through the ruined city of Ypres. On 8 November they took over a section of the front line and they were heavily shelled that night and the next day. The last stage of the battle, the capture of some high ground to the north of the village of Passchendaele, was planned for 10 November. It was raining heavily as the 8th Battalion advanced from their jumping off positions at 6 am that morning, facing intense artillery and machine gun fire. Harry was one of the casualties that day when he was buried by a shell explosion, suffering contusions and shell shock.

Harry was taken to a field ambulance then admitted to No. 7 General Hospital in Etaples on 12 November. The following day he was moved to a convalescent depot, where he stayed until 1 January 1918. When he rejoined the 8th Battalion later that month they were in the Lens-Arras sector where the Canadians were holding a long stretch of the front line. Harry was ill several times that spring, with ulcers and angina, but he was back with his unit in April. That summer the Canadians had several weeks of intensive training in open warfare and they were heavily involved in the last months of the war, a period known now as the Hundred Days Offensive. The Battle of Amiens started on 8 August and the 8th Battalion took part in the assault on the second day. They faced heavy machine gun fire as they advanced and Harry was wounded in the left shoulder.

Harry spent two weeks recovering at No. 3 Australian General Hospital in Abbeville followed by two months at a convalescent depot. He was discharged to the base depot on 2 November and the Armistice ended hostilities nine days later. Harry was given two weeks leave later that month. He was ill again in January and February 1919 and when he rejoined the 8th Battalion in early March they were in Belgium. They returned to England at the end of the month and the troops arrived back in Canada on 4 May 1919 on the Empress of Britain. There was a huge reception when they arrived in Winnipeg and Harry was discharged there on 7 May.

When the 1921 census was taken Harry was living with his parents in Carpenter Township. He later moved to Kenora where he was married on 21 January 1928. His wife, 36-year-old Ann Sevenhouse, was born in Harvey, Illinois, the daughter of Henry and Anna Sevenhouse. Harry worked as a carpenter and later as a millhand and watchman. He joined the Kenora branch of the Canadian Legion and during the Second World War he served locally in the Veterans Guard of Canada. He and his wife had one son, Edward. Ann passed away in Kenora on 31 January 1945, at age 53, and she’s buried in Lake of the Woods Cemetery. By the early 1950s Harry was remarried. His father died in Fort Frances in 1954, at age 101, and he was survived by Harry and his four siblings: William, Elizabeth, (Mrs. David Woodgate), Mary (Mrs. Thomas Woodgate) and Ruth (Mrs. John Sevenhouse). Harry lived in Kenora until at least 1957 but his death date or burial location have not been found. He predeceased his brother William, who died in 2001 at age 96. William, Mary and their parents are all buried in Lake of the Woods Cemetery but Harry is not interred there.

By Becky Johnson

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