Memorial Day is to honor the ultimate sacrifice of those who gave their lives during war. Earlier this week I vaguely remembered finding an ancestor a few years ago who died in France during World War I, and I wanted to remember his story. Here it is, so you can remember it, too.
John Wilson was my great-grandfather’s younger brother. (I think he’s third from the left in the above picture taken in 1896.) He was born to John P. Wilson and Margaret Kerr Wilson on January 26, 1890 in Ireland. Around age 17-20, he moved to Canada, where he married Elizabeth Marilda Root in 1913.
A couple of years later, he joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force, which, according to Wikipedia, “was the designation of the field force [of over 600,000] created by Canada for service overseas in the First World War. The force fielded several combat formations on the Western Front in France and Belgium [to engage in ground warfare], the largest of which was the Canadian Corps, consisting of four divisions.” I don’t know when John went overseas to fight, but I do know he was a private in the 3rd battalion, and that he participated in the Battle of the Somme, because that’s where he died.
I learned some interesting things about the Battle of the Somme at this website, and this one also. Apparently this particular offensive started on July 1st in 1916 and lasted until November 18th of that year. The Canadian troops joined the battle in late August. John must have been one of the first Canadian casualties, dying on September 3rd.
He was buried in the Sunken Road Cemetery in France.
I think the following, from my mom’s notes, is why I remembered this story:
NEWSPAPER: (The Telegram, probably Toronto, Canada)
DIED AT FRONT; Father Did Not Hear of Birth of Little Son; “I wish I could hear from you. Only …. letters have reached me during many long weeks. Be sure to look carefully at the address the next time you write. I am bitterly lonely to hear from you.”; When the above letter reached Mrs. John Wilson, of 28 Goodwood St., Earlscourt, her husband had been dead for two weeks, killed in action on the firing line in France. He entered the trenches on August 13th, and his little son was born four days later. “There was just the barest possibility of the letter reaching him one day before he was killed,” Mrs Wilson told The Telegram.; Pte. John Wilson enlisted with the Q.O.R., 1st Battalion, on the night war was declared [4 August 1914] and went to Valcartier, but serious illness in the family brought him back. He went to France with the 83rd Battalion.; Pte. Wilson was in England with the Q.O.R. at the Coronation of King George [22 June 1911]. He won many prizes for shooting and attended the rifle ranges, where he acted as inspector. He had been employed for five years with the Bell Telephone. He came to this country from Castlefin, Donegal, Ireland, nine years ago.; Mrs. Wilson did not learn of her husband’s death until four weeks after it occurred.
I find it just really sad that his son, Kenneth, never knew him, and that his wife became such a young widow. I guess, however, that’s one of the consequences of war. I appreciate their sacrifice.
Memorial Day may not be a holiday in Canada, but I’m still grateful for the efforts of our allies that allow me to enjoy peace, liberty and freedom today. Thank you, Uncle John.