John Hilton Towsley was born in South Augusta, Leeds, Ontario on 16th May 1896.
The 1901 census for Canada on Ancestry.co.uk shows that the Towsley family were living in Augusta Township, Ontario. Head of the household John Towsley, age 35, born 25th December 1865 was a Farmer by trade. He and his wife, Annie age 32 born in May 1868 had three children, Edith May age 10 born 1890, Edna C. age 7 born 1894 and John Hilton age 4 born 16th May 1896.
Ten years on the family were still in Augusta and Head, John age 45 was still farming, he and his wife Annie age 43 had two children remaining at home, Edna age 17 and John Hilton age 15.
Attestation Papers for Private 639181, John H. Towsley form the Library of Canada.
John Hilton Towsley enlisted into the 156th Battalion of the Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionery Force at Brockville on 5th January 1916. He gave his mother Annie Towsley as next of kin and current address, South Augusta, Leeds, Ontario. His status was single, trade, Tinsmith and on his medical form he was described as being 5ft 6ins tall with a dark complexion, blue eyes and dark hair.
After basic training in Canada, John embarked for England on 18th October 1916 aboard the S.S.Northland, arriving in Liverpool on 28th October 1916 when he was posted to Whitley Army Camp to complete training.
John was transferred to 119th Battalion on 1st November 1916 and posted to Bramshott Army Camp on 9th January 1917 where he was attached to 3rd Labour Battalion which was renamed 11th Battalion Canadian Railway Troops, and proceeded overseas on 9th February 1917 landing in Le Havre on 11th February 1917.
If you wish to read about the Canadian Railway Troops, please follow the link.
He sprained his foot playing football the day after landing and was treated at 39th General Hospital, joining his unit in the field on 3rd March 1917. He gained a Good Conduct Badge on 5th January 1918 and was awarded 14 days leave on 1st March 1918.
John remained in France until 29th March 1918 when he was transferred to Whitley Army Camp. He was transferred to Kinmel Army Camp on 15th January 1919 to await repatriation to Canada.
Kinmel Park Camp was a segregation camp used to house Canadian Soldiers awaiting repatriation to Canada after the end of WW1. Unfortunately the conditions at that time were extremely harsh with a lack of every kind of commodity, the camp was overcrowded and the services were poor, there were shortages of clothing, food and blankets. As a result of this situation, a vast number of servicemen and women became ill and many succumbed to the Influenza Epidemic or complications associated with this infection.
Sadly John contracted Bronchial Pneumonia, as a complication of Influenza, and was admitted to the Canadian General Hospital where he died at 11.55pm on 5th January 1919.
John was awarded the British War Medal and The Victory Medal. All his effects, medals, plaque and scroll were left to his mother Annie Towsley.
He is buried in St. Margaret’s Cemetery, Bodelwyddan.
John is commemorated on the Canadian Virtual War Memorial.
John is also named on the family grave in Canada.