John William Distin

Information about birth

Date of birth:
Place of birth:
Saint Mary's Church, Paignton, Devon, England, United Kingdom

General information

Last known residence:
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
Church of England

Army information

Canadian Expeditionary Force
Service number:
Enlistment date:
Enlistment place:
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
 —  Canadian Infantry, 15th Bn. (48th Highlanders)  (Last known unit)

Information about death

Date of death:
Place of death:
Nile, Langemark, Belgium
Cause of death:
Killed in action (K.I.A.)


Points of interest 4

#1 Place of birth
#2 Last known residence
#3 Enlistment place
#4 Place of death (approximate)

My story

John William Distin was born in 1898 at St Mary's church, in Paignton, Devon, England. Sometime between 1901 and 1911, the Distin family moved to Maidenhead, Berkshire. His father, John, was a domestic gardener and his mother Elizabeth (Annie) worked in a shop. In March 1914, John William sailed for St John's New Brunswick Canada. He lied about his age and said he was 19 to get on board. Just under two years later, John enlisted in Saskatoon. He again lied about his age and said he was born in 1896. After his training, John was taken on by the 15th Battalion (48th Highlanders).

In November 1917, the 15th was deployed at Passchendaele. On the 6th when Canadian troops advanced towards the ruins of the infamous village, John's battalion was deployed as stretcher-bearers for the 1st Canadian Brigade. The next day, the 15th Battalion moved to the vicinity of the hamlet of 's Gravenstafel, just west of Passchendaele. John was killed on 8 November 1917, resting in his billet while his battalion was in support at the Passchendaele ridge. A shell hit the dugout and killed him instantly. He was buried at Nile House along with three of his comrades who all died between 6 and 9 November 1917.

No grave is known of all four and they are commemorated at the Menin Gate. John is also commemorated at the war memorial in Cookham Dean, near Pinkneys Green, where his parents lived.

Sources 8

Census Returns of England and Wales, 1901 (The National Archives, Kew (TNA), RG13).
Sources used
Census Returns of England and Wales, 1911 (The National Archives, Kew (TNA), RG14).
Sources used
Desiree Collings, Maidenhead Heritage Centre, personal communication, 8 February 2023.
Sources used
Outwards Passenger Lists (The National Archives, Kew (TNA) BT27-121219).
Sources used
Personnel Records of the First World War (Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa (LAC) RG 150; Volume: Box 2532 - 51).
Sources used
War diaries: 15th Canadian Infantry Battalion (Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa (LAC), RG9-III-D-3, Volume number: 4924, Microfilm reel number: T-10718, File number: 391).
Sources used
War Graves Registers: Circumstances of Death (Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa (LAC), RG 150, 1992-93/314; Volume Number: 172).
Sources used
War Graves Registry: Commonwealth War Graves (Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa (LAC): RG150, 1992-1993/314, Box 39-244; Box: 63).
Sources used