Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthMay 29, 1895
Place of BirthRat Portage (Kenora), Ontario
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinJoseph Johnson, Box 542, Kenora, Ontario
Trade / CallingMedical student
ReligionChurch of England
Service Details
Regimental NumberNA
Service Recordsee images below
Battalion207 Squadron, No 65 Wing
ForceAir Force
BranchRoyal Air Force
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Date of EnlistmentApril 19, 1917
Age at Enlistment21
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of Death19861103
Age at Death91
Buried AtLake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario

Johnson, Joseph Harvey (Ladd)

Joseph Harvey (Ladd) Johnson was born on 29 May 1895 in Rat Portage (later renamed Kenora) in northwestern Ontario. His father Joseph Johnson, son of Irish immigrant James Johnson and his 1st generation Irish Canadian wife Ann Sanderson, grew up on a farm in the Omemee area just south of the Kawartha Lakes in southern Ontario. Joseph served his apprenticeship as a druggist in Minden, Ontario and after graduating from the Ontario College of Pharmacy worked in Kinmount and then Belleville where he was found on the 1891 census. On 16 March 1893, in Toronto, Joseph married Florence Wilhelmina Harvey. The daughter of farmer/moulder William Harvey and Maria (ne Black) Harvey, Florence was from Rice Lake, the same area as Joseph. According to the marriage record, Joseph was living and working as a druggist in Omemee while Florence was ¬†residing in Toronto. The couple was to settle in northwestern Ontario where Joseph first worked in Keewatin for Walter Coates. With FW Canniff he then founded a pharmacy business known as Canniff and Johnson, later changed to Johnson’s Pharmacy when Joseph’s brother Lowry came to Kenora to assist in the business. Once in Rat Portage, Joseph and Florence gave birth to daughter Norah Ann on 2 April 1894, followed by Ladd the next year. Joseph Sr was very involved in many sports in the community, serving as president to the Kenora Thistles for a number of years, including the year they won the Stanley Cup.

Ladd was attending medical school at the University of Toronto when he left his studies in April of 1917 for service with the Royal Navy Air Service. First training at the Flight School at Manston in Kent, in late August Ladd was transferred to Cranwell in Lincolnshire and by the beginning of October was ranked as Flight Sub-Lieutenant. By the end of the month Ladd was back at Manston and on 14 January 1918 was in Dunkirk, France with the No 7 Squadron, Royal Navy Air Service. Due to unfavourable weather and bad airfield conditions, the squadron had very few sorties until the next month. With the foundation of the Royal Air Service on 1 April 1918, all ex-RNAS squadrons were given the prefix of 200 to avoid confusion with the RFC squadrons. Thus No 7 RNAS Squadron became No 207 Royal Air Force. Ladd’s signature is clearly visible on a souvenir of the last dinner of No 7 Squadron, No 5 Wing RNAS, now known as No 207 Squadron, No 65 Wing, Royal Air Force.

From January to April 1918 the No 207 operated from the Dunkirk base, involved in night bombing on Bruges, Ostend, etc. In April the squadron was withdrawn first to Cappelle and then to Netheravon in England, later moving to Andover on May 13th in order to reequip with new Handley Page 0/400’s and to train replacement air and ground crews. The first attack of the new squadron was on 22 June 1918 against Bapaume. Between this date and the end of the month the squadron dropped no fewer than 40 tons of bombs. Throughout the victories that were won during the last months of the war, No 207 Squadron carried out an unremitting series of attacks against major enemy camps such as Peronne, Cambrai, and Valenciennes. In August alone they dropped over 100 tons of bombs despite bad ground mists. There were casualties and crew taken as prisoners of war, leaving the squadron short of pilots.

In September of 1918, Ladd was admitted to the General Hospital in Wimereux and on the 21st he returned to England. Due to a shortage of doctors, on 23 October 1918 Lieutenant Johnson (Aeroplane and Seaplane), resigned his commission to return to university and resume his medical studies, graduating from the University of Toronto in 1922.

On 2 June 1923, in Ottawa, Ladd married Jean Victoria Kennedy. Born on 6 May 1896 in Ottawa, Jean was the daughter and youngest child of physician/surgeon Robert Alexander Kennedy and Victoria Jean Dent. During the war Jean had served as a Voluntary Aid Detachment at the Westcliffe Eye and Ear Hospital in Folkstone, England and the Beechwood Park Hospital in West Sandling (Shorncliffe). For the 1921 census Jean was listed as a interne/pupil at the Toronto Hospital for Sick Children. At the time of their marriage Ladd was living on Queen’s Street in Toronto and working as a physician while Jean was living in Ottawa, intended place of residence after the marriage given as Ottawa.

Ladd and Jean gave birth to one child, daughter Jeanne Kennedy Johnson, born on 5 February 1925 in Ottawa according to a Border Crossing record and a US record of Aliens Pre-Examined in Canada. As recounted by a family member, suffering from tuberculosis and needing recuperation, Ladd and his family relocated to Kenora where he eventually opened his own ear, nose, and throat specialty practice.

Although details of her service are not known, following in her father’s footsteps, Corporal Jeanne Kennedy Johnson, RCAF, Women’s Division, married Flying Officer, RCAF Donald Wesley Messecar on 12 April 1945 in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Donald served as a reconnaissance pilot for the RCAF for three years during and immediately after WW2. He then became a American citizen and joined the US Air Force, serving in occupied Japan, Greenland, and London. Trained as a meteorologist, he became a senior forecaster for the Air Force Strategic Air Command. After retirement, he later worked as a civilian meteorologist in Nebraska. Jeanne and Donald had two sons and lived in many different places over the course of their marriage.

Ladd died on 3 November 1986 at the Pinecrest Home for the Aged in Kenora. He was predeceased by his father Joseph on 24 March 1941, his mother Florence on 3 September 1947, his sister Norah Carmichael on 22 June 1966, and his wife Jean on 20 August 1971, all in Kenora. They are interred in the Lake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora. At the time of his death he was survived by his daughter Jeanne and husband of Sudden Valley, Washington, grandson Derek of London, England, grandson Bruce of Vancouver, British Columbia, and one great granddaughter. Jeanne died in 2004 in Washington, and grandson Bruce in 2013 in Vancouver.

Ladd was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal for his service in WW1. He is commemorated on the St Albans’s Pro-Cathedral WW1 Roll of Honour in Kenora.

by Judy Stockham

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photographs: courtesy of the Lake of the Woods Museum Archives
service record: National Archives, England
last dinner souvenir, squadron photo and information about the 207 Squadron:   207 Squadron
graduation photograph: University of Toronto Archives

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