In Remembrance: John Norman Orford

John Norman Orford of the Canadian Forces 119th Batallion with his wife Charlotte.

MILLS TOWNSHIP—John Norman Orford was not one to share much information with family or friends about being in the services (with the Canadian Forces 119th Battalion) or being wounded during World War I, says one of his four remaining living children (eight in total he and his wife Charlotte had).

“My dad was originally from Mills Township,” said his son, Ernie Orford, from his home in Calgary this past Monday. “He farmed all his life except for when he was in the military.”

“He didn’t talk about or tell us much about his time in the military,” stated Mr. Orford of his father.

“He was wounded in the war (in France), and didn’t talk much at all about the war. But he was certainly a good father.”

“My  mother  (the former Charlotte Baker) was originally from Evansville,” Ernie Orford told the Recorder. “I don’t know how my parents met, but they both helped with the harvesting in Saskatchewan. They were married in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan in 1920.”

John Norman Orford was born on November 12, 1893 and died at the age of 89 in 1982.

John Norman Orford, originally from Mills Township, served in the Canadian Armed Forces 119th Batallion.

John Norman Orford, “was my father-in-law, who served in the First World War,” Marilyn Orford, a resident of Barrie Island told the Recorder last week. “I donated a lot of the memorabilia my (late) husband Stan had of his father to the Remembrance Day display the Old Mill Heritage Museum is having in Kagawong this Saturday (which will be open from noon to 4 pm on November 11). There are photos of him in uniform, documents, including notes and letters, military forms filled out, postcards, medals and other items like his pay book. There is a letter he received from King George thanking him for his service.”

“I still have the deeds of when he and my mother bought their farm on Barrie Island in 1935,” said Marilyn Orford. 

One of the notes provided by one of Mr. Orford’s children explains, “Norm (Dad) took his schooling in Mills Township, completing Senior IV in the 1907-1908 season. He joined the Canadian Armed Forces (Army) during World War I and took basic training at Niagara-On-the-Lake. He was wounded in action while serving in France, taking a piece of shrapnel through the lower part of his leg, shattering the bone. Several later operations were necessary to remove pieces of shattered bone.”

Mr. Orford had enlisted on April 1, 1916 and left Halifax on September 8, 1916 on the Ship Metagama. He arrived in Liverpool later and arrived at Bramshott Camp on August 19, 1916, and left England for France on February 28, 1916.

He was wounded at Ameins on August 8, 2018, and was operated on the next day.  Several later operations took place over the next year or so and was later released  embarking for Canada in June 1919.

His wound was officially reported to his mother, handwritten, Mrs. Esther Orford. Poplar. “Sincerely regret to inform you 754706 Private John Norman Orford, Infantry official reported admitted Ten General Hospital Rouen August 10th, gunshot wound right leg. Director of Records.”

While in the army, he wrote a number of letters to his mother.   On December 3, 1918 from the Red Cross Hospital in Alton, he wrote, “just a few lines to let you know that I am still living and  doing alright. My leg is still healing slowly. I had it x-rayed again and it is doing as good as can be expected. Well mother I got the parcel with the jar of honey in it, and was sure pleased to get it. I got one also from the  Poplar W.I. and will have to write them a letter some time next week. Well there’s not much that I can say, so  I guess I will close wishing you a very Merry Christmas from your son.”

“After Dad’s leg was healed enough he was discharged from the army and sent home,” the letter from one of his children said. “Later that year he went to Saskatchewan on a harvest excursion, and stayed on over that winter. Mother joined him there and they were married in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan on 5 May 1920.”

“When he and mother returned to Ontario, they settled on the farm in Mills Township, Manitoulin Island, where his mother had lived for awhile, and where John. L. Baker farmed for a while. He bought the farm from here, and Uncle Al held the mortgage. Because of respiratory problems he believed resulted from exposure to poison gas while serving in France during the war, his health was not good. The problems prevented him from being a very successful farmer. He moved the family to Barrie Island, Manitoulin Island, in the spring of 1935. His health became progressively worse, and he spent several sessions in Sunnybrook Veterans Hospital, Toronto. By 1938 he was no longer able to do any of the heavy farm work, so Mother and the children were obliged to take over. Nevertheless, he still managed to do most of the housework and look after mother when she had massive strokes in the late 1940s.”

Mr. Orford was six and a half feet tall.

In 1918 King George V wrote in a letter to Mr. Orford, “the Queen and I wish you God-speed, a safe return to the happiness and joy of home life with an early restoration to health. A grateful mother country thanks you for faithful services.”

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