Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthApril 27, 1894
Place of BirthKenora, Ontario
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinRobert Nairn, father, Kenora, Ontario
Trade / CallingStudent Civil Engineer
Service Details
Regimental Number500443
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion44th Squadron
ForceAir Force
BranchRoyal Flying Corps
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Address at EnlistmentKenora, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentAugust 24, 1915
Age at Enlistment21
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details

Nairn, Robert George Grant

Robert George Grant Nairn was born on 27 April 1894 in Rat Portage (later renamed Kenora), Ontario. His father Robert Nairn was from Netherhill, Dunlop, Ayrshire in Scotland and had immigrated to Canada as a theology student to attend the Presbyterian College (Pine Hill) in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Upon graduation he worked as a student missionary until posted to Rat Portage in 1886.  Grant’s mother, born in Milton, Halton, Ontario,  was Isabella Sommerville.  Isabella’s parents were Scottish immigrants that had first lived in the United States before settling in Canada.  Robert and Isabella  married in Milton in 1891 with Robert’s place of residence given as Rat Portage and Isabella’s as Milton where she had been working as a dry goods clerk. Another son, Alfred Tennyson,  was born to the family in 1899. In 1906 the family moved to the United States for two years where Robert had accepted a new posting in Colorado but by the 1911 Canada census Robert was back in Kenora working as a Reverend and boarding with the William Robb family. The whereabouts of Isabella, Grant, and Tennyson at the time are not known.

Giving his father Robert Nairn in Kenora as next of kin Grant signed his attestation papers at Camp Sewell in Manitoba on 24 August 1915, occupation given as civil engineer student. His service record indicates that he had been working as a civil engineer with the Canadian Pacific Railway out of Regina with a prior placement with the Algoma Central Railway, Hudson Bay Exploration. With service number with the Canadian Engineers Training Depot, Sapper Grant Nairn arrived in England in early November of 1915 aboard the Scandinavian, taken on strength at Shorncliffe on the 17th. In December he was appointed Lance Corporal and by mid January he was serving in France with the No 2 Army Troops Company, Canadian Engineers.

In June of 1916 Grant was granted a leave of absence and by September was back in France, transferred to the 52nd Battalion and promoted to Lieutenant. Near the end of October of 1916 he suffered a contusion to the head and injury to his foot as the result of a horse falling on him and in early November was invalided to England with FUO (fever of unknown origin).

Upon release from the hospital Grant was attached to the Canadian Administrative Headquarters, Adjutant General Branch. He was granted a three week leave in early April of 1917 and then posted to the Manitoba Regimental Depot in late May. In late September of 1917 he transferred to the Royal Naval Air Service. He spent a month at the naval school in Greenwich followed by flight school in Vendome and Cranwell. He was then assigned to the Royal Air Force Manston and then to the 6th Brigade for almost two months. He served with the 44th Squadron which was stationed in the United Kingdom as a Home Defence Corps, promoted to 2nd Lieutenant in April of 1918 and then Lieutenant in February of 1919.

During  a leave Grant had returned to Canada and on 21 September 1918 he married Winona Marie Smith in Meaford, Ontario. Born in Meaford, Winonah was the daughter of Dougal and Margaret (née Sterling) Smith. Grant returned to England in early November of 1918 aboard the Lapland and upon his discharge from service Grant arrived back in Canada aboard the Megantic in July of 1919.

Grant was found on a border crossing record of August 1919 that indicated he was moving to Detroit, Michigan to work with the intention of becoming a US citizen. According to a letter in Grant’s service record from a family member requesting his file, Winonah died on 7 December 1921. In June of 1924 Grant married Janey V Eagan in Cuyahoga County, Ohio.  The daughter of Edward and Jane (née Smith) Eagan, Janey had been born in Muskegon, Michigan. With the marriage ending in divorce Grant later married Dora Hodgson. Born in Agnes, Quebec, Dora was the daughter of Henry and Martha (née Swan) Slasor. She was living in Winnipeg for the 1921 Canada census, working as a stenographer. The 1930 US census found Grant and Dora living in Hawthorne, Mineral, Nevada where Grant was working as a civil engineer with the Naval Ammunition Depot.

Although a record of Dora’s death of 11 October 1980 in Los Angeles, California exists further trace of Grant could not be found. His father, working as an insurance salesman, died in Kenora in 1937. His obituary stated that his wife Isabella and sons were living ‘down east’ although it is likely that Grant and Alfred Tennyson were both living in the United States, Alfred Tennyson found on  the 1930 and  1940 US Ohio censuses. Alfred Tennyson also served during the war, and although underage, enlisted in Kenora in 1915 and  went overseas with the 46th Battalion.

by Judy Stockham

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