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 was living in Augusta Township, Ontario. Head of the household was John Towsley, aged 35. He was born on the 25th December 1865 and was a Farmer. He and his wife, (Annie aged 32 who was born in May 1868) had three children. Edith May aged 10 was born in 1890. Edna C. 7 was born in 1894 and John Hilton aged 4 who was born on the 16th May 1896.
Ten years on in 1911, the family was still in Augusta and Head, John age 45 was still farming. He and his wife Annie age 43 had two children listed at home for the census. Edna was 17 and John Hilton 15.
John Hilton Towsley’s army records tell us that he enlisted into the 156th Battalion of the Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionery Force at Brockville on 5th January 1916. He named his mother Annie Towsley as his next of kin. His address was South Augusta, Leeds, Ontario. He was single and worked as a Tinsmith. His medical form described him as being 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.
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. 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.
(From Library of Canada Archives)
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.
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.
If you wish to read about the Canadian Railway Troops, please follow the link.