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John James Gawn (1888-1919)

Sunderland man served six months with the Canadian Army before being diagnosed with tuberculosis

Father John James Wilson Gawn died in 1898 when his son, also called John James Gawn, was only 10 years old. Young John had been born in Sunderland in 1888. He had two sisters, one older, one younger and a younger brother. By 1901 the children and their mother, Elizabeth Jane Gawn nee Blakeburn, were sharing a house in Winchester Terrace, Hendon with two other families. Elizabeth was working as a charwoman and John James was a doctor’s page boy. Ten years later they had a house to themselves in Chester Road, Sunderland. Elizabeth was still cleaning houses and John was working as a brass finisher, a job that is now known to cause pulmonary disease.

At the beginning of 1912, John’s two sisters, Dorothy and Ethel, left England for Canada. They were followed on 26 May 1912 by Elizabeth and the two boys, sailing on the SS Canada to join them in Ottawa, Ontario. By the time of his marriage to Ellen Casey on 11 July 1914, John was working as a machinist. Between his marriage and his enlistment in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) in 1916, John had an operation to repair a hernia.

John enlisted on 31 January 1916 in Ottawa and became Sapper 502496 of the Canadian Engineers, attached to their Training Depot. Just over six months later he was in the Royal Ottawa Sanatorium diagnosed with pulmonary tuberculosis. Apart from being transferred to other sanatoria, he did not leave hospital again. 1917 saw him in the Sir Oliver Mowat Memorial Hospital in Kingston, Ontario. A medical board report from March 1918 reports that he was confined to bed at all times, the disease was far advanced and slowly progressive and his outlook was poor. It was agreed that the disease arose after his enlistment.

John was discharged from the CEF as medically unfit on 31 July 1918 and was passed into the care of the Invalided Soldiers’ Commission.

John James Gawn died in Kingston Hospital on 13 March 1919 from pulmonary tuberculosis and is buried in Beechwood Cemetery, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

Civil Parish: Sunderland

Birth date: 10-May-1888

Death date: 13-Mar-1919

Armed force/civilian: Army

Residence: 4 Winchester Terrace, Sunderland (1901 census)
7 Chester Road, Sunderland (1911 census)
729 Cooper Street, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada (1916 enlistment papers)

Religion: Church of England

Employment: Doctor’s page boy (1901 census)
Brass finisher (1911 census)
Machinist (1916 enlistment papers)

Family: Parents: John James Wilson Gawn, Elizabeth Jane Gawn nee Blakeburn
Siblings: Dorothy Gawn, Ethel Gawn, Alfred Gawn
Spouse: Ellen Gawn nee Casey

Military service:

Canadian Engineers Training Depot

Gender: Male

Contributed by Jean Longstaff, Durham

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