Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthOctober 22, 1898
Place of BirthBoissevain, Manitoba
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinFred Witts (father), Kenora, Ontario
Trade / CallingWholesale Clerk
ReligionChurch of England
Service Details
Regimental Number1250278
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion10th Battalion, Canadian Garrison Regiment
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentWinnipeg, Manitoba
Address at EnlistmentKenora, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentMarch 19, 1917
Age at Enlistment18
Theatre of ServiceCanada
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathJune 6, 1956
Age at Death57
Buried AtLake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario

Witts, Gordon Frederick Arthur

Private Gordon Frederick Arthur Witts signed up with the Canadian Field Artillery in March 1917 and served in Canada for 17 months, getting discharged for medical reasons in August 1918.

Gordon was born in Boissevain, Manitoba but grew up in Kenora, Ontario. His father, George Frederick Vincent Witts, usually known as Fred, emigrated from England in 1892. He married Sarah Harrison (née Dodsworth) in January 1898 in the RM of Morton in Manitoba. Sarah, also called Sadie, had a daughter Minnie Harrison who was eight years old at the time. Fred and Sarah had at least three children: Gordon (b. 22 October 1898), Della (b. 1901) and Joseph, who probably died as a child.

Fred moved to Kenora with his family in the early 1900s. He found employment with a wholesale grocer, Cameron and Heap, eventually becoming the manager. He was also very active in the community. He served as an alderman on the town council for several years and he was a member of the Board of Trade, the Rotary Club and Lake of the Woods Masonic Lodge.

Gordon was only 15 years old when the war started and he enlisted on 19 March 1917, at age 18. He was working as a wholesale clerk at the time and he signed up in Winnipeg, joining the 76th Depot Battery, Canadian Field Artillery. In May he attended signals school for two weeks and afterwards his unit was sent to Petawawa Camp in Ontario to continue their training. During the stopover at the Kenora train station on 26 May a large crowd turned out to see the troops off and wish them well.

The 76th Depot Battery sent drafts of men overseas as needed but Gordon was kept in Canada. He had a history of abdominal pain, diagnosed as possible appendicitis, and by the spring of 1918 he was back in Winnipeg. He spent about two weeks in the Winnipeg General Hospital in May and after getting released he was assigned to the 10th Battalion, Canadian Garrison Regiment. He served for another three months and he was discharged from the army on 24 August, due to being medically unfit. His intended residence was listed as Kenora. When the next census was taken in the spring of 1921 he was living at home with his parents and working as a driver.

Gordon was married in Kenora on 24 April 1922 to 20-year-old Nellie May Dowd. Nellie was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the daughter of Howard Dowd and Anna LaDuke. Her family had moved to Canada in 1906, settling in Kenora, and her father worked as a brakeman for the Canadian Pacific Railway. Gordon was a driver at the time of his marriage but he later spent some time working at the paper mill in Kenora before being taken on by the CPR. He had a 20-year career with the CPR as a brakeman and baggageman. In the early 1940s he was living in Dinorwic, east of Dryden, but by 1945 he was back in Kenora. He was a member of St. Alban’s Pro-Cathedral and the Brotherhood of Railway Trainmen. His mother died in Kenora in 1927 and his father in Stratford, Ontario in 1942. His sister Della became a nurse and moved to Michigan, where she married Richard H. Coleman. She later returned to Canada and served as Matron at the hospital in Virden, Manitoba for four years.

Gordon passed away in the Kenora General Hospital on 6 June 1956, at age 57. His sister Della died earlier the same year. He was survived by his second wife Mary Elizabeth Finlayson, a daughter Leona and a stepbrother Max Morgan Witts in England. Gordon’s funeral was held on 9 June and he’s buried in Lake of the Woods Cemetery. He was in an unmarked grave but a veteran grave marker was provided by the Last Post Fund in October 2018. Mary passed away in Dryden on 1 January 1958 and she’s buried beside Gordon.

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

By Becky Johnson

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