|Date of Birth||June 29, 1888|
|Place of Birth||St. Helens, Lancashire|
|Next of Kin||Margarett Edmondson (wife), Kenora, Ontario|
|Trade / Calling||Fireman|
|Regimental Number||199167 and 439053|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Branch||Canadian Railway Troops|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Address at Enlistment||Kenora, Ontario|
|Date of Enlistment||December 26, 1914|
|Age at Enlistment||26|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||April 20, 1981|
|Age at Death||92|
|Buried At||Lake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario|
Sapper Isaac Johnson Edmondson enlisted twice, was wounded twice and became ill with influenza but he survived the war and returned to Canada in April 1919.
Isaac was born on 29 June 1888 in St. Helens, Lancashire, England, a small town near the port city of Liverpool. He was raised in St. Helens by his adoptive parents Thomas and Martha Edmondson. Isaac immigrated to Canada in 1911, at age 23, and by January 1912 he had settled in the town of Kenora in northwestern Ontario. He found work as a painter at first then as a fireman with the Canadian Pacific Railway. Mrs. Margaret Pickett (née Taylor), a young widow from St. Helens, arrived in Kenora in the spring of 1912 and she married Isaac on 28 May. Their twin boys Leonard and Thomas were born in 1913 but sadly Thomas died as an infant.
Isaac enlisted the first time on 26 December 1914, when volunteers were being recruited for a third overseas contingent. The Kenora lads were briefly attached to the 44th Battalion but when the 52nd (New Ontario) Battalion was organized in mid-March they were transferred to the new unit. It was based in Port Arthur and the recruits were sent there in June to train with the rest of the battalion. In November they left for the UK but Isaac was discharged for medical reasons and sent home. His wife and son had gone to England in October, thinking he would be shipped overseas. They spent six months there and returned to Canada in April 1916.
That spring Isaac enlisted a second time, signing up with the 94th Battalion in Kenora on 20 March 1915. The 94th was based in Port Arthur and recruited in towns throughout northwestern Ontario. In May the Kenora lads were sent to Port Arthur to join the rest of the unit. They left for Quebec two weeks later and spent a short time at Valcartier, a military camp northwest of Quebec City, before embarking from Halifax on 28 June on the SS Olympic. In England the men were absorbed into reserve battalions to be used as reinforcements for other units. After just a month with the 17th Reserve Battalion Isaac was transferred to the 43rd Battalion (Cameron Highlanders) and sent to France. He joined his unit in the field in late September during the Battle of the Somme.
On 20 September the 43rd suffered 150 casualties in the assault on the Zollern Graben Trench. They were relieved the next day for two weeks of rest and refitting and it was during that time that Isaac joined them in a large draft of reinforcements. Early in October the battalion had a two day rotation in the front line then on 8 October they were back in action, taking part in the attack on Regina Trench, northwest of the village of Courcelette. They ran into problems during the early morning advance because of uncut barbed wire and strong German counter-attacks. The unit suffered 360 casualties in the operation. Isaac was one of the casualties, with a gunshot wound to his right shoulder. He was sent to No. 2 Australian General Hospital in Wimereux and evacuated from there to England. He spent two months recovering at the 1st Western General Hospital in Liverpool followed by a week at the convalescent centre in Epsom. In mid-December he was attached to the Canadian Casualty Assembly Centre and in February 1917 he was transferred to the Canadian Railway Troops Depot.
Isaac returned to France on 24 February and he served with the 5th Battalion, Canadian Railway Troops. Railroads were essential for moving men, equipment and supplies and the railway troops were responsible for their construction and maintenance. Work listed in the war diaries included grading, laying ballast and track, unloading and shipping materials, doing repairs and maintenance and carrying out night patrols. In December 1917 Isaac was wounded in the leg by an artillery shell but he was able to remain at duty. In January 1918 he had two weeks leave in England and in May he became ill with influenza. He spent several weeks in the hospital and he rejoined his unit that summer for the last months of the war.
In December, not long after the Armistice, Isaac was given another two week leave in the UK. After a short time back with his unit he returned to England in early 1919. He was transferred to the Canadian Railway Troops Depot and at the end of March he embarked for Canada from Glasgow on the SS Saturnia. He arrived in St. John, New Brunswick on 10 April and he was discharged in Toronto the next day.
After the war Isaac went home to his family in Kenora and resumed his job with the CPR. Around 1924 they moved to England for a few years, living in St. Helens. After returning to Kenora Isaac was hired by the Department of Public Works. He enjoyed a variety of sports including curling, lawn bowling, cricket, hockey and football. He retired from Public Works in May 1952 and his wife passed away in 1962. In his later years, as a widower, Isaac lived with his son and daughter-in-law Leonard and Sybil (née Sinclair). Leonard was a postal employee and he served with the Canadian Postal Corps in the Second World War.
Isaac died in Pinecrest Home for the Aged on 20 April 1981, at age 92. He’s buried beside his wife Margaret in Lake of the Woods Cemetery. He was one of over 11,000 CPR employees who enlisted during the Great War and he’s commemorated on the CPR Roll of Honour. Every year at 11 am on November 11th the CPR stops all of its trains in North America for two minutes of silence to pay tribute to those who served their country in war.
By Becky Johnson