This blog was produced in collaboration with the students and Christine Ritsma of Stratford Northwestern Secondary School, and the Laurier Centre for Military Strategic and Disarmament Studies.
By Nolan Traynor and Matthew Tachsel
Barratt Jesson was born on 21 September 1882 in Leicester, England. He lived at 574 Erie Street in Stratford, Ontario with his wife and children. He was 5’10” and weighed 170 lbs with dark brown hair and blue eyes. Jesson was thirty two years of age when he enlisted in September 1915 in Stratford and worked at the Whyte Packing Company as a butcher before and after he returned from the war. During his absence, his family moved at least three times and one can only conclude it was the result of needing help to raise their family. Jesson fought in the Canadian Expeditionary Force as part of the 15th Battalion initially but was moved to the 34th Battalion in July 1917.
Jesson received gunshot wounds to his left leg and was admitted to hospital in September 1916. Eight months later, Jesson complained of swollen legs due to varicose veins. His complaint was noted but nothing came of it. At the end of the war, Jesson began treatment for syphilis at the Canadian Special Hospital, Witley in November 1918. He had been treated earlier in the spring, but further treatment was recommended should his condition remain unchanged when he returned to Canada. In addition, the Canadian Army Dental Corps found his dental condition unfit and attributed it to active service. This was dated November 1918. Jesson was discharged on 15 January 1919 and returned to Stratford. Upon returning home, Jesson returned to his job as a butcher with the Whyte Packing Company but suffered from pneumonia which he contacted several times after the war. He died from this disease in 1928.
His widow applied for an allowance as late as 1946 when she was fifty six years of age. As part of the application, she presented a letter from Whyte Packing suggesting that Jesson’s health was impacted by the war. At the time of the application, she was living with her son and paid $17.50 per month for rent and board. She was eventually successful, receiving a 20% dependant pension totalling over $30 per month. She died on 4 February 1953 at the young age of sixty two in Stratford.
According to the War Veteran’s Allowance Board notes of Oct 31 1946, Mrs. Jesson owned no property and had no bank account. He did not live with any family members but in a boarding house in Stratford. In this case, the pension would have made her life much easier as she did not have an income and nor did her children provide for her. It is from this report that you get a sense that this woman had experienced an incredibly hard life.
To view Barratt Jesson’s military service file at Library and Archives Canada, Click Here