Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthMay 5, 1893
Place of BirthHepworth, Amabel Township, Bruce County, Ontario
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinMr Charles E Primmer, father, Hepworth, Ontario
Trade / CallingFarmer
Service Details
Regimental Number651169
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion1st Battalion, CMGC
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Machine Gun Corps
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Address at EnlistmentHepworth, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentJanuary 3, 1916
Age at Enlistment22
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathNovember 21, 1948
Age at Death55
Buried AtLake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario

Primmer, Harry Emmerson

Harry Emmerson Primmer was born in the area of Hepworth, Amabel Township in the county of Bruce, Ontario. A birth record could not be found but it is likely that he was born on 5 May 1893. Census documents give his birth as 5 May 1893, his obituary as 1894, and his attestation papers/service record as 1895. His parents were Charles Edward Primmer and Mary Ann Beaton who had married in November of 1882 in Tara, Bruce, Ontario. In various censuses the family was listed as farming in the Amabel Township. Known children born to the family were Sarah Maud (abt 1883), Thomas William (1885), Mabelle Philina (abt 1886), Mary Alba (1890), Albert Edward (abt 1891), Harry, Charles Holcombe (abt 1895), Irene May (abt 1899), William Vincent (1901), and Lois Aleine (1906).

With occupation given as farmer and his father Charles as next of kin Harry signed his attestation papers in Hepworth on 3 January 1916. His brother Charles signed his attestation papers that March and both boys were to go overseas with the 160th Battalion. Organized in December of 1915, mobilized at Walkerton with recruitment in Bruce County, the battalion embarked from Halifax on 18 October 1916 aboard the Metagama. Harry was listed as a Lance Corporal and Charles as a Private on the nominal rolls.

A letter from Harry Primmer dated April 22, 1917 was received by Mrs. Samuel Bannister of Hepworth, thanking her for a pair of hand knitted socks he had received while overseas:
You will see that the 160th are still in Old England. The Hepworth boys are all well, with the exception of a few who have colds, but such is a common thing in this country, owing to so much rainy weather; but as the weather is improving, naturally the boys’ colds will leave and everyone will be fine. The entire Battalion have about completed their training and we are all ready to proceed to France at any time. We have been inspected generals, also Sir R.L. Borden, and said to be a great battalion, which I am sure we are all very proud of. The 160th have beaten all other units over here at drilling of all kinds, especially bayonet fighting, which is used in all final assaults.(Source: Green Meodows and Golden Sands: The History of Amabel Township 1851-1982. Ed. Annice Blake, Helen Gowanlock & Sheila Gatis. Published 1984. Page 500.)

In August of 1917, at Witley, Harry was promoted to Acting Lance Sergeant. The following February of 1918 he reverted to the rank of Private when the 160th Battalion was absorbed into the 4th Reserve Battalion. In March he was struck off strength to the Canadian Machine Gun Depot and proceeded overseas to the Canadian Machine Gun Pool in August. By early September he had joined the 1st Battalion Canadian Machine Gun Corps in the field in France. In late December he was on command to the Assistant Provost Marshal in Cologne for two weeks, rejoining the unit on 9 January 1919. He returned to England in late March, arriving on the 25th. Although there are no medical records in Harry’s service file, it appears that he had been wounded sometime after arriving in France in the fall of 1918. According to a notation in his service record he had been invalided to Canada, embarking from England on the 26th of April 1919 aboard the Empress of England. Harry was discharged from service on the 5th of May in Toronto.

Harry returned to Hepworth and was found on the 1921 Canada census living with his parents. The next year he moved to Cardale, Manitoba and from there to Kenora in northwestern Ontario in 1923. In Kenora he was the agent for the Imperial Oil Company and owned and operated Primmer’s Moonlight Camp on nearby Longbow Lake. In 1933 Harry married Grace Gardner. Born in Winnipeg in 1908 Grace was the daughter of English immigrants William and Edith (née Lucas) Gardner. Her family had also lived in Saskatoon as found in the 1911 Canada census before moving to Kenora, residing in nearby Jaffray and Melick Township. Harry and Grace gave birth to two sons, Charles and Harold. Harry was a member of the Kenora Branch of the Canadian Legion, the Kenora Board of Trade, and was a Sergeant with the Legion of Frontiersmen. He was a member of the Veterans Guard during WW2.

Suffering a heart attack after a successful rescue of a deer caught on treacherous ice Harry died on 21 November 1948. At the time he was survived by his wife Grace and sons Charles and Harold of Kenora, sisters Mabelle Sanders, Lois Slavin, and Irene Sleiger, all in the state of New York, as well as brothers Charles of Hepworth and Edward of Chelsey, Ontario. He was predeceased by his mother in 1940 and father in 1942, both in Hepworth. Harry’s wife Grace died in 1979 and is interred with Harry in the Lake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora.

With the breakup of the 160th Battalion, Harry’s brother Charles served with the 4th Battalion Canadian Machine Gun Corps and was wounded in action at Cambrai in September of 1918. Charles died in 1956 in Hepworth.

by Judy Stockham

Primmer-Harry-Emmerson-1 Primmer-Harry-Emmerson-2 Primmer-Harry-Emmerson-3 Primmer-Harry-Emmerson-4

Transcription of Harry’s letter courtesy of Eric Edwards.
Harry’s obituary from the Kenora Miner and News 23 November 1948

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