Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthMay 10, 1889
Place of BirthLiverpool, Lancashire
Marital StatusSingle
Trade / CallingFireman
Service Details
Regimental Number108641
Service Recordsee images below
ForceRoyal Navy
BranchRoyal Navy
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Date of EnlistmentMay 8, 1909
Age at Enlistment20
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathAugust 29, 1968
Age at Death79
Buried AtBrookside Cemetery, Winnipeg, Manitoba

McLachlan, John William

John William McLachlan was born in Liverpool, Lancashire, England, baptized on 12 June 1889 and birth registered during the 3rd quarter of the year. His parents John McLachlan and Maria Clarke were both from Liverpool and had married the previous year. By the 1891 census John, Maria, and young John were living with Maria’s brother John and family, with both men working as stokers with the Royal Navy Reserve. The young family was to settle in the Kirkdale area of Liverpool where children added to the family were Edward (1893), Maria (1896), James (1899), and Margaret (1901). In June of 1912 John Sr married Mary Catherine Roberts and the couple gave birth to two children, George and Mary (1913). In later life John’s father worked as a crane driver.

John joined the Royal Navy on 8 May 1908 at Chatham, occupation given as fireman. He was described as having dark brown hair, blue eyes, fresh complexion and stood 5 feet 4 3/4 inches tall. He gave his birth date as 10 May 1890. Throughout his career with the Navy his character was consistently rated as Very Good. Starting as a Stoker II, by July 1910 he was working as a Stoker I. Much of the job of a stoker was hard physical labour, shovelling fuel, typically coal, into the engine’s firebox. However they were also usually very knowledgeable about the running of the engine room.

With the start of the war, John was transferred to the Royal Fleet Reserves, first serving on the Pembroke and Actaeon. From 9 February 1915 until 19 September 1916 he worked as a stoker on the Phaeton.

The ship was launched on 21 October 1914 at Vickers Limited‘s shipyard. On being commissioned, she was assigned to the 4th Light Cruiser Squadron of the Grand Fleet, and between February and March 1915 was operating in the Dardanelles in support of the Allied landings at Gallipoli. On Phaeton’s return to home waters, she was assigned to the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron of the Grand Fleet and by mid-April 1915 she was operating out of Scapa Flow. On 4 May 1916 she took part in shooting down the Zeppelin  L 7. On 31 May to 1 June 1916 Phaeton took part in the Battle of Jutland.

After a few days back on the Pembroke, John was transferred to the General Wolfe on 27 October 1916 where he was to serve until the end of the war.

HMS General Wolfe, also known as Wolfe, was a Lord Clive-class monitor  which was built in 1915 for shore-bombardment duties in the First World War. Her class of eight ships was armed by four obsolete Majestic-class pre-dreadnoughts  which had their 12-inch guns and mounts removed, modified and installed in the newly built monitors. Wolfe spent her entire war service with the Dover Patrol, bombarding the German-occupiedBelgium  coastline, which had been heavily fortified. In the spring of 1918 she was fitted with an 18 inch (457 mm)  gun, with which she made the longest-range firing in the history of the Royal Navy – 36,000-yard (20  mi) – on a target at Snaeskerke, Belgium. After the war, she was laid up before being stripped and put up for sale in 1920. She was finally scrapped in 1923.

After the war John served on the Pembroke II until 4 June 1921 when he became superfluous due to demobilization. That June he was paid a War Gratuity and Unemployment Insurance forms were sent to the Ministry of Labour. In 1929 John immigrated to Canada, arriving in Quebec on May 20th aboard the Antonia. His occupation was given as crane driver, his next of kin as his mother Mrs M McLachlan of Ashton under Lyne (suburb of Manchester), and his destination as the Canadian National Railway Colonies in Winnipeg. At some point John moved to Kenora in northwestern Ontario where he joined the local branch of the Canadian Legion on 15 September 1931. Moving back to Winnipeg, John served with the Veteran’s Guard during WW2 and at the end of the war he was employed with the Civil Service at Camp Shilo, Manitoba, retiring in 1964 when he returned to Winnipeg.

John died on 29 August 1968 in Deer Lodge Hospital in Winnipeg. A notation on John’s Naval service record indicates that the Royal Navy Liaison Officer in Canada had sent notification in June of 1969 to be sent to next of kin and family, presumably of John’s death. The Canada Permanent trust Company of Winnipeg posted a legal note dated 9 April 1969 that ‘in the matter of the Estate of John McLachlan late of the City of St James, Manitoba, Veteran, deceased’ for claims against the estate. St James is a suburb in Winnipeg. John is interred in a military plot in Brookside Cemetery in Winnipeg.

Both of John’s brothers were to serve during the war. Edward joined the Royal Navy on 1 June 1915, serving as a stoker until 3 March 1919, his last ship the Minotaur. James enlisted on 23 January 1918 in Seaforth with the 4th South Lancashire Regiment. After training in England he arrived in France on the 18th of August to serve with the 1st Battalion, Cheshire Regiment. Just over two weeks later, on September 2nd, James was reported as killed in action. His final resting place unknown, he is commemorated on the Vis-en-Artois Memorial, Panel 16, in the Vis-en-Artois Cemetery, Haucourt, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France.

by Judy Stockham

McLachlan-John-William-2 McLachlan-John-William-3 McLachlan-John-William-4 McLachlan-John-William-5

service record: National Archives, London, England
photographs of ships: Public Domain
newspaper clippings: Winnipeg Free Press

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