Lives Behind the Commemorative Banners – John Rowan Geddes: November 3, 1917

Saugeen Times file photo

John Rowand Geddes was born in Port Elgin to Alexander and Elizabeth Geddes. The family farmed on Lot 11 at the corner of Bruce Road 3 and Concession 4 in Arran Township.

He was educated locally and went to Teachers College and was working as a teacher when he enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force in London Ontario on October the 5th, 1915. Basic training was with the 71st Battalion. With his level of high education, he was enlisted as a Lieutenant and took officer training. It was on June 29, 1916, that the 71st Battalion sailed from Halifax aboard the S S Olympic which was a luxury ocean liner, and the sister ship of the Titanic which had sunk a few years earlier. They arrived in Liverpool on July 5th.

The 71st had been recruited as a reserve battalion to reinforce other groups that had been at the front and had seen considerable casualties. John was assigned to the 36th Battalion, which had been recruited out of Hamilton. Following further training, he arrived in France on December 26th, 1916, and was sent to Bailleul which was two miles from the border with Belgium. There were three airfields located there and he was assigned to the British Royal Flying Corps. On Feb. 20, 1917, he was appointed Flying Officer. All of the aircraft were single-engine fighters.

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On May 4, 1917, John received a gunshot wound to the head. He was described as having received a “Fractured skull, left femur, and left humerus”. Needless to say, he was seriously wounded. But only 13 days later he was discharged from the hospital with a report that it should take five weeks to recover to go back to duty.,

This was not the case. He died as a result of these wounds, five months later on November 3rd,1917 at Bailleul. He was buried in the Dozinghem Military Cemetery in Belgium just over the border from Bailleul France. He is in Section XIV, Row D, Grave 24.

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Researched and written by G. William Streeter October 31, 2023