Bmdr. John Duncan Doherty


    John Duncan Doherty was born on September 28, 1889, in Onondaga, Brant, Ontario - the son of a Presbyterian minister and his wife.1 His parents, Rev. Albert Edward Doherty and Charlotte Malcolm Duncan, had been married just over a year earlier: John would be their first and only child.2 Tragedy struck the little family early on - by 1890, John's father was dead. Charlotte, now a single mother, would then move to the Owen Sound area, where John would attend Keady Public School, Owen Sound Public School, and later the Owen Sound Collegiate Institute. After graduation, he continued his schooling at the University of Toronto, studying philosophy, and later at Knox College for education. His studies at the later, however, would be cut short by the war.

John enlisted with the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force on January 26, 1916, in Guelph, Ontario. He arrived in England in March of 1916, and trained at Bramshott Camp in Hampshire for five months before being shipped out to France in July, attached to the 43rd Battery, 8th Brigade, of the Canadian Field Artillery. John would see action in various areas of France and Belgium, including the Battle of Vimy Ridge. In October of 1917, he was wounded during the Battle of Passchendaele, but survived. He was promoted to Lance Bombardier - a station of some authority - in February of 1918.

John’s death came suddenly, as the result of an accident on the part of Allied forces. On July 26, 1918, while engaged in registration, a shell that was to be loaded exploded “about 25 yards” in front of the artillery gun, killing Lance Bombardier John Duncan Doherty, age 29, and wounding two of his fellow soldiers. John was buried in the Wanquetin Communal Cemetery, near Arras, in Wanquetin, France. His mother, Charlotte - as his only next-of-kin - received his medals and wages. John’s name is today featured on the Memorial Tablet at the Bloor Street Presbyterian Church in Toronto, and although he did not finish teachers’ college, he was also recognized with a Roll of Service from the Toronto Teachers’ Association.


  1. "Ontario, Canada Births, 1858-1913," database and images, Ancestry, ( accessed 23 October 2018), birth of John Duncan Doherty, 28 September 1889, Onondaga, Brant, Ontario, "Registrations of Births and Stillbirths – 1869-1913. MS 929, reels 1-245," Series: MS929; Reel: 92; Archives of Toronto; Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
  2. "Ontario, Canada, Marriages, 1826-1936," database and images, Ancestry, ( accessed 23 October 2018), marriage of Albert Edward Doherty to Charlotte Malcolm Duncan, 5 September 1888, Derby, Grey, Ontario, "Ontario, Canada, Select Marriages," Reel: 60; Archives of Ontario; Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

   Researched by Wilder Noble

Above: Portrait of John Doherty in uniform from
The Varsity Magazine Supplement, Fourth Edition (1918), published
by The Students Administrative Council, University of Toronto.
(Image courtesy of the Canadian Virtual War Memorial)