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Commemorating the Waterloo Regions War Dead

The purpose of this website is to examine how the Waterloo Region experienced the First World War. A significant part of this experience was the loss of regional men therefore, discussing the lives of the region’s war dead is an essential section of this website. In 2014, The Record created the “Remembering The Great War” database containing basic information on the 469 local men and one woman who died in the First World War. In order to avoid simply restating this information we have attempted to breathe life into the lives of these soldiers by constructing short biographies of each with a focus on the their lives prior to enlistment. This project is ongoing; therefore, at this time the section contains stories on the region’s soldiers killed in 1915.

This project can only be crafted thanks to the hard work of various organizations dedicated to commemorating Canadian war dead. Through archives around the world undertaking the long process of digitizing and releasing their holdings online, projects such as these can exist. Below are the major resources used to bring these soldier’s stories to life. If you are interested in conducting research on your own ancestors, click on the pictures below, and they will direct you to in your search.

We hope that these stories will help to humanize and localize the First World War experience. Thank you.

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Corporal John Thomas McMaster

John Thomas McMaster was born on September 8th, 1880 in Hespeler, Ontario to Anne Flynn and Thomas McMaster. John’s father worked as a spinner when John was born, later joining the police force and eventually was promoted to Police Inspector. John’s mother stayed home and looked after John and his siblings, as he was the 7th of nine children. John was a weaver by trade, but also spent 15 years with the 29th Waterloo Regiment (later the Highland Light Infantry of Canada).

Upon declaration of war in August 1914, John as an active military member joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force at the age of 34. During training at Valcartier in Quebec John was promoted up to the rank of Corporal. After arriving in France, John was killed in a traffic accident. His Circumstances of Death Registers card read,

“His battalion had entered at Nantes, at 6.46 PM, on February 11th, 1915, and just as the train was leaving the station Corporal McMaster attempted to get on but missed his footing and fell under the train sustaining a crushed thigh and arms. He was taken to hospital at Nantes where he died.”

Corporal John Thomas McMaster is buried at the Nantes (La Bouteillerie) Cemetery.

Service number: 7057

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“Canadian Virtual War Memorial: John Thomas McMaster,” Veterans Affairs Canada, accessed March 21, 2015,


Bugler Edward Callan

Edward Callan was born on August 14th 1888 in St. James, London, England to John and Julia Callan. Edward was a part of the Royal Marines in the United Kingdom prior to immigrating to Canada where he worked as a carpenter for the Waterworks Department in Preston, Ontario. Following the death of his parents, Edward joined his older brothers Thomas and Frederick in Canada on July 2nd, 1913 at the age of 24. He arrived on the SS Laurentic, a White Star Line ocean liner.

Just over a year later, following the outbreak of war, Edward signed his Attestation Papers volunteering to join the Canadian Expeditionary Force. All three brothers fought for the CEF. Edward worked as a bugler for the 1st Battalion in France. He was shot and killed on February 20th, 1915 in the vicinity of Armentieres, France. Frederick, an engineer operator, enlisted in February 1916 and survived the duration of the war. He returned to the Waterloo region and married a woman named Lillian Rose. Thomas returned home from the war to his wife Nellie and three children: Elizabeth, Thomas and Julia. Bugler Edward Callan is commemorated on the Vimy Memorial alongside 11,000 other Canadian servicemen who died in France during the First World War.

Service number: 7129


“Canadian Virtual War Memorial: Edward Callan,” Veterans Affairs Canada, accessed March 22, 2015,


Private Peter Nelson

Peter Nelson was born on June 14th, 1889 in Scotland. After moving to Canada, Peter worked as a stove mounter, and for two years he worked at the Waterloo County Golf and Country Club. When war was declared in the summer of 1914, Peter volunteered to join the Canadian Expeditionary Force. Peter fought with the 1st Battalion in France and was killed in action at 25 years old, in the trenches at Bois Grenier southeast of Fleurbaix on March 2nd, 1915. Peter was one of the first men from the Waterloo region to be killed during the First World War. Private Peter Nelson is buried in the Y Farm Military Cemetery, Brois-Grenier, France.

Service number: 7060


“Canadian Virtual War Memorial: Peter Nelson,” Veterans Affairs Canada, accessed March 21, 2015,


Private John Robert Jeffs

John Robert Jeffs was born in either 1883 or 1884 to Charles and Jane Jeffs in Leicester, England. John later immigrated to Canada at some point before 1914, settling in the Waterloo region. John volunteered to join the 34th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. Before departing for the Western Front, John became sick. He was admitted to Galt General Hospital on March 14th, 1915 with a cold that then developed into pneumonia. Despite being given adequate care and medical attention, John succumbed to pneumonia on March 17th, 1915. Private John Robert Jeffs is buried in the Cambridge (Trinity Church) Cemetery.

Service number: A/2117


“John Jeffs,” Find A Grave, accessed March 20, 2015,


Private John Hatchman

John Hatchman was born Dec 21st, 1884 in England and later immigrated to Canada with his mother. John worked as a policeman in Waterloo, and spent four years with the Royal Canadian Artillery. John fell in love and married a woman named Lillian.

When war broke out in August 1914 John enlisted for the Canadian Expeditionary Force in Ottawa, Ontario. Despite his military and police experience John was enlisted as a Private. John fought for the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (Eastern Ontario Regiment) in Belgium during the Second Battle of Ypres. On the evening of May 8th, 1915 John did not answer to roll call following action with his battalion at Bellewaarde Lake near Ypres. He was reported missing by his superiors and was later officially presumed dead. As no body was ever recovered Private John Hatchman is commemorated at the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial in Belgium.

Service number: 273


“Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial,” Commonwealth War Graves Commission, accessed March 24, 2015,
“PTE Hatchman is Wounded and Missing,” Berlin Daily Telegraph, May 29, 1915.


Bugler Ralph Messett

Ralph Messett was born on February 20th 1891 in Pennsylvania. Ralph was one of ten children born to Mary Ann Shuh and Henry Messett. In 1911 Ralph worked in Picton, Ontario as a laborer before later getting a job as a marble and granite cutter in the Waterloo region. Ralph also worked for the 29th Waterloo Regiment for four years prior to the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. Ralph joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force as a Bugler for the 2nd Battalion of the Canadian Infantry. In May 1915 Ralph was shot in the pelvis in Wimereux, France. Ralph was treated at the Rawalpindi British General Hospital but on May 15th, 1915 Ralph succumbed to his injuries. Bugler Ralph Messett is buried at Wimereux Communal Cemetery in France.

Service number: 7773


“Canadian Virtual War Memorial: Ralph Messett,” Veterans Affairs Canada, accessed March 21, 2015,
“Wimereux Communal Cemetery.” Commonwealth War Graves Commission, accessed March 21, 2015,
“PTE. Smith is Well,” Waterloo Chronicle, May 20, 1915.


Private George Edward Simmers

George Edward Simmers was born on May 6th, 1883 in Sherbrooke, Quebec. George later moved to Preston where he got married and worked as a moulder. He also spent six months working with the 29th Waterloo Regiment. When war was declared in 1914 George joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force. He fought as an infantry soldier for the 1st Battalion in France. On June 15th, 1915 at the age of 32, George was killed in action during the Second Action at Givenchy. Private George Edward Simmers is buried at Pont-Du-Hem Military Cemetery in La Gorgue, France.

Service number: 7084

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“Canadian Virtual War Memorial: George Edward Simmers,” Veterans Affairs Canada, accessed March 21, 2015,
“Pont-Du-Hem Military Cemetery,” Commonwealth War Graves Commission, accessed March 21, 2015,,%20LA%20GORGUE


Private Reginald Sears

Reginald Sears was born on November 5th, 1889 to Thomas and Jennie Sears in Welland, Ontario. Reginald worked as a manufacturer in the Waterloo region. He was also a skilled horseman and was qualifying for a commission with the 2nd Dragoons, Brantford in 1915. Reginald did not volunteer to fight in 1914, but following the sinking of the Lusitania on May 7th 1915 he “threw up his commission” and enlisted. Reginald joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force on May 11th, 1915 as a Private in the 4th Regiment of the Canadian Mounted Rifles. Reginald fought in Belgium, but on December 4th, 1915 he was killed in action in the trenches at Ploegsteert. Private Reginald Sears was buried at Berks Cemetery Extension.

Service number: 109591

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“Canadian Virtual War Memorial: Reginald Sears,” Veterans Affairs Canada, accessed March 21, 2015,