John was born on 12 April 1897 in Scarborough, Yorkshire, England. His parents were John Cahill Sr. and Sarah Ann (Annie) Clarkson. He had an older brother Arthur Clarkson and a younger sister Frances. John Sr. spent nine years as a gunner with the Royal Artillery but when he married Annie he was working as a groom. He died on 4 November 1902, at age 28, and a month after he passed away his daughter Frances was born.
In the summer of 1903 John Jr. and his family immigrated to Canada, arriving in Montreal on 13 June on the SS Ionian. With him were his grandfather John Pull, his uncle John Pull Jr., his widowed mother and her two other children, Arthur and Frances. Their destination was listed as Rat Portage (later called Kenora), in northwestern Ontario. Annie married again in February 1904 in Dauphin, Manitoba. At the time of the 1906 census she was living in the community of East Bay with her husband Maurice Barker, a farmer, and her children John and Frances. Arthur wasn't in the household and he may have been staying with his uncle John Pull in Kenora. Annie had a third son, Maurice Barker Jr., who was born in 1910. When the 1911 census was taken Annie and her family were living near Dauphin, Manitoba and by the time the war started they had settled in Ste. Rose du Lac.
Arthur Clarkson enlisted in September 1914 and he was killed in April 1915 at the Second Battle of Ypres. John enlisted that fall, on 1 September 1915, signing up in Dauphin with the 45th Battalion. The unit trained at the exhibition grounds in Winnipeg over the winter and in June they moved to Camp Sewell, a military camp just east of Brandon. After spending the summer and fall at Camp Sewell (later renamed Camp Hughes) they returned to Winnipeg for the winter. The battalion left the city by train on 8 March 1916, on the first leg of their journey overseas. They embarked from Halifax on the SS Lapland on 17 March and arrived in the UK eight days later.
John spent four months training in England. In July he was posted to the 11th Reserve Battalion. A week later he was transferred to the 27th (City of Winnipeg) Battalion and sent to France. After a month at the Canadian Base Depot he joined his new unit in the field towards the end of August. Shortly after he arrived the battalion was moved south to take part in the Battle of the Somme. The offensive had started on 1 July but the first major operation for the Canadians would be on 15 September.
On the afternoon of 14 September the 27th Battlaion left the brickfields near the town of Albert and took over a section of the front line. The assault began the next day near the village of Courcelette. John was wounded during the operation and he died at 4:20 pm on 15 September, at No. 6 Canadian Field Ambulance. He was one of almost 400 casualties suffered by the 27th Battalion in three days of fighting near Courcelette.
From Dauphin Herald 5 October 1916:
"Gives Two Sons for Empire
The casualty list this week contains the name of Private John Cahill, of East Bay, as among the killed. Pte. Cahill is a son of Mrs. Maurice Barker and is the second of the family to die for his country."
John is buried in the Albert Communal Cemetery Extension in the Somme, France. He is commemorated on page 62 of Canada's First World War Book of Remembrance, on display in the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.
By B. Johnson (btluna at yahoo dot ca).