|Date of Birth||December 3, 1889|
|Place of Birth||Edinburgh|
|Next of Kin||Mrs. Margaret Henderson (mother), 18 Leven Street, Edinburgh, Scotland|
|Trade / Calling||Locomotive fireman|
|Religion||Church of England|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Place of Enlistment||Valcartier, Quebec|
|Address at Enlistment||Kenora, Ontario|
|Date of Enlistment||September 23, 1914|
|Age at Enlistment||24|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
John Henderson was born in Scotland and working as a locomotive fireman with the Canadian Pacific Railway in Kenora when he enlisted with Kenora’s first group of 45 volunteers, joining the 98th Regiment and going to Valcartier as part of Canada’s initial war commitment.
On his attestation papers he noted four years service with the 4th Royal Scots. The battalion (formerly the Queen’s Edinburgh Rifles) was one of seven territorial battalions based in Scotland attached to the regiment which maintained two active service battalions as part of the regular British Army and a reserve battalion (the 3rd Royal Scots).
Along with many other of the Kenora volunteers Henderson shipped to England as a member of the 8th Battalion (Winnipeg Rifles) and went with them to France in February 1915.
In March of 1916 Henderson was transferred to the Machine Gun Corps, joining the 2nd Brigade unit, later designated the 2nd Canadian Machine Gun Company.
Prior to January 1916 each Canadian infantry battalion had maintained its own machine guns but over the winter of 1915/1916 they were re-organized into separate units at the brigade level, with one company of 16 guns assigned to support each brigade of four infantry battalions.
Henderson was wounded in the neck on 27 September 1916 near Thiepval during the Battle of the Somme, and was hospitalized in France. It was the second time he’d been hospitalized during the Battle of the Somme having spent 10 days in August recovering from an infected hand. This time, however, he was sent to England for a month’s convalescence leave after being released from hospital.
In a letter to a friend in Kenora about his wound he noted: “Fritz managed to slip one over me at last, [bot] nothing to speak of — just a little shrapnel in the neck. I got hit just before the battalion went over the top …”
The 8th Battalion’s war diary for Thiepval records they suffered 549 casualties over two days of fighting to take their objective, successfully including capturing 160 enemy troops. The casualties included 48 dead, 240 wounded and 171 missing. The 2nd Machine Company, operating in support of the 8th Battalion and other companies in 2nd Brigade, also took heavy casualties including three officers killed, two wounded and 17 other ranks wounded or missing over the Sept. 26-28 period. The machine gun company’s war diary noted there was heavy sniper fire on the 27th.
After recovering from his wound, Henderson was deemed Class C by a medical board, meaning he was no longer fit for front line service. He was transferred to the army’s reserve battalion system and posted to the army’s machine gun training school at Crowborough. In April 1917 he was assigned to the Canadian Railway Troops and in May 1917 returned to France with the 5th Battalion Canadian Railway Troops with whom he remained for the rest of the war.
Henderson returned to Canada on the S.S. Royal George in early June 1919. He was discharged at Port Arthur, Ontario on 19 June.
He’s commemorated on the Canadian Pacific Railway Roll of Honour.
By Bob Stewart