Private John Dewey PLACE (234188)
8th Bn. Canadian Infantry Regiment
Born: 26 November 1883, Glenridding, Westmorland
Died: 6 September 1917, Etaples, France (Age 33)
Born on the 26th November 1883, probably at number 3 Row Head in Glenridding, John Dewey Place was the youngest son of John Place Snr., a Lead Mine Agent, and the only child of his mother Mary Ann (nee Dewey) who had married the widower John Place Snr. on the 17th of January 1882. John had a much older half-brother Matthew (who was a Wesleyan Preacher in the village) and three half-sisters, Esther, Isabella and Jane. It is very likely that his early education was at Patterdale School, however, his father died in September 1891 and his mother took him to live in London, where he finished his education at Tottenham Road School. In 1901 he was living in Islington with his mother and working as a Solicitor’s Clerk. He and his mother returned to the Penrith area where John became a Wesleyan Preacher with his half-brother Matthew, who was now Company Secretary of the Greenside Mine. His mother died in February 1906 and so John decided to seek a new life in Canada, probably with the support of the Wesleyans. He sailed from Liverpool in March 1907 aboard the ‘SS Canada’ for Halifax, Nova Scotia, stating his final destination as Toronto. In 1916 John was working as a farmer in Lavinia, Manitoba but on the 7th March he travelled the 200 miles to Winnipeg to sign up for the war effort. He joined the 8th Battalion of the Canadian Infantry Regiment which was also known as the 90th Winnipeg Rifles and had the nickname of ‘The Little Black Devils’ because historically they wore dark green coats rather than the red coats traditionally worn by infantry in the 1800’s. The 8th Bn. was already on the Western Front as part of the Canadian 2nd Brigade, so John would have been part of a reinforcement group, probably arriving in mid 1916. So quite likely that he took part and survived the legendary battle for Vimy Ridge. In early August 1917, John’s Battalion was safely billeted in Haillecourt, some 12 miles from the front line, when orders came through that a major Canadian led offensive was to begin on the 15th August to take Hill 70 north of Lens.
Canadian soldiers positioning themselves in a captured trench on Hill 70 in August 1917.
The Battle of Hill 70 was a localized battle between the Canadian Corps under the command of General Sir Arthur William Currie, and five divisions of the German Sixth Army. The primary objective of the assault was to inflict casualties and draw German troops away from the 3rd Battle of Ypres, rather than to capture territory. It lasted around ten days and there was extensive use of poison gas by both sides, including mustard gas. Casualties were high, the Canadian forces lost over 10,000 men the Germans lost over 25,000. The 8th battalion itself had 400 men killed or wounded out of the 720 that took part and must have been glad to be relieved by the 5th battalion late on the 17th August. John was one of the wounded, with a bullet wound in his left leg, so was evacuated to the Canadian Military Hospital at Etaples on the French coast. He was initially reported as seriously ill but never recovered and died in hospital, perhaps from Septicaemia, on the 6th September 1917 aged 33 years.
John’s obituary, published in the Cumberland and Westmorland Herald on the 15th September 1917, included the following text:
“He was a true patriot and had many noble and unselfish traits. It is characteristic of him that though promoted to be a corporal he took off his stripes so that he might take his place among the privates in the firing line, he as an unmarried man feeling that he was taking the place of someone who was more needed at home. In this and many other ways, Private Place welcomed the post of danger for the relief of others who, he thought, could be less easily spared. He died as he lived, a gallant Christian and a brave soldier.”
John’s Service Record has not yet been released by the Canadian Archives, so it has not been possible to verify the promotion mentioned above. No official record has been found of his medals but he would have been entitled1 to at least the Victory Medal and the British War Medal. He served in France for almost one and a half years.
John is remembered and commemorated on:
The Patterdale War Memorial
Glenridding Public Hall – Roll of Honour
Etaples Military Cemetery2 (Plot 25, Row P, Grave 16)
Commonwealth War Graves Commission Memorial Certificate
What became of his family?
We are still looking!
1. Medals that John Dewey Brown would have been entitled to:
The Victory Medal
To qualify for the Victory medal one had to be mobilised in any service and have entered a theatre of war between 5 August 1914 and 11 November 1918).
The British War Medal
To qualify for the British War Medal a member of the fighting forces had to leave his native shore in any part of the British Empire while on service. It did not matter whether he/she entered a theatre of war or not.
2. Étaples Military Cemetery
Designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, it is the largest CWGC cemetery in France and contains the remains of soldiers from the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India and Germany. More Details
Page Editor: Norman Jackson
Page Last Reviewed: 24 Feb 2021