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451413 Sapper Kenneth Gerald Freeman
Canadian Engineers

ŠLieutenant Colonel Edward De Santis, 2000.

This research dealing with Sapper Freeman’s military service has been compiled primarily from his military service papers obtained from the National Archives of Canada in Ottawa.

Early Life and Enlistment

Kenneth Gerald Freeman was born on the 5th of March 1885 in Abbots Langley, Watford, Hertfordshire [1]. He was the son of Richard Taylor Freeman, a blacksmith and labourer, and Maria Dinah (nee Dunkin) Freeman of Nash Mills, Watford [2]. The Freemans appear to have been members of the Church of England [3].

The 1881 British Census shows a Richard T. Freeman and Mary M. Freeman living on Nash Mills Road in Abbots Langley, Hertford, England [4]. The Freemans had four children in 1881: Thomas R. (age 12 years), Ernest (age 7 years), Alfred D. (age 5 years) and Laurence C. (age 10 months). Kenneth Gerald was born four years after this census [5].

Freeman emigrated to Canada some time prior to the start of the Great War of 1914-1918. During the time that Freeman was living in Canada, his family in England was living at 58 Belgrave Avenue in Watford.

In civilian life, Freeman was a driver (teamster) by trade. Prior to enlisting in the Canadian Army for service in the Great War, he served in the Governor General’s Body Guard, an active militia unit [6].

Freeman was recruited for service in the Army on the 17th of July 1915. On that date he was certified as fit for military service by the Officer Commanding the 75th Battalion, [7] Canadian Expeditionary Force (C.E.F.). Having been found medically fit to serve, Freeman was enlisted as a Private (Regimental Number 451413) in the 58th Battalion, C.E.F [8] at Toronto on the 24th of July 1915. His period of enlistment was for the duration of the war.

Physical Description

Freeman was given a preliminary medical examination at Toronto on the 19th of July 1915 and was found fit for overseas service in the Canadian Expeditionary Force. On the 24th of July 1915 he was given a more complete examination. At that time he was described as being 30 years and 4 months old, was 5 feet - 7 inches tall and weighed 125 pounds. He had blue eyes, brown hair and a dark complexion. His chest measurements were 32 inches minimum (or normal expansion) and 35 inches maximum (fully expanded). His physical development was described as "good."

Freeman showed no marks associated with previous infection of small pox. He had two vaccination marks on his right arm, both from childhood. He had scald marks on both shoulders, back and buttocks, the result of an accident he had as a child in 1888 at the age of 3 years. Other distinguishing marks included a tattoo of a shamrock, heart, and anchor on his left forearm and a tattoo of a heart on the back of his right hand. He also had a vertical scar on the underside of his left forearm, a scar on his right cheek, and a scar on his head. And all of this was before he went away to war!!

Medical Information

Freeman was declared fit for military service on the 6th of August 1915. On the 23rd of August 1915 he was given an anti-typhoid inoculation and on the 26th of August he was re-vaccinated against small pox.

During most of Sapper Freeman’s service he was free from illness or injury. However, that was all to change in May of 1918, not as a result of a war wound, but rather as a result of a sports injury. On the 24th of May 1918, while his unit was in a rest area in France, Freeman was hit in the hand with a baseball and severely injured his a finger. The following day he was sent to 11th Field Ambulance and then on to 6th Casualty Clearing Station. On the 1st of June 1918 he was sent to 4th Stationary Hospital at Argries (or Argers) and on the 4th of June he was transferred to 2nd Australian General Hospital at Wimereux.

Freeman was evacuated to England on the 9th of June 1918 and then posted to the Canadian Engineers Regimental Depot (C.E.R.D.) at Seaford, by way of A.T. St. Dennis, near Dover. From there he was sent to 16th Canadian General Hospital at Orpington, Kent, where he was admitted to Ward 9. Further medical examination revealed that he had a crushed ring finger on his right hand. The doctor noted that "the fourth finger of his right hand was bruised and in a splint when he was admitted to hospital."

Freeman’s hand was X-rayed on the 10th of June 1918. The X-rays indicated that he had a fracture of the 2nd phalanx of the 4th finger at the proximal end. Callus had formed and he had limited flexure of the fingers of his right hand. His gripping power was noted to be weak.

On the 31st of July 1918 Freeman’s had was re-examined at 16th General Hospital and the injury to his right hand was re-confirmed. On the 3rd of August he was given another anti-typhoid inoculation.

A medical board convened at the Canadian Engineers Depot at Seaford on the 11th of August 1918 to take up the case of Sapper Freeman’s injury. At the board hearing, Freeman complained of having very limited use of his right hand and trouble with his stomach, to include vomiting and lack of appetite. He also complained that he had a scar on his neck from carrying a pack. The board reviewed the results of recent medical examinations given to Freeman and noted the following:

1. He looked rather anemic.

2. The old scar contractions over his trapezius [9] would not allow him to carry a pack.

3. He was suffering from a loss of muscular power in his right hand. He was unable to grip more than five pounds and had very a very limited degree (40%) of flexure in his fingers.

4. His other systems were found to be normal.

The medical board concluded that Freeman had a disability resulting from the old contracted scar on his left trapezius and that he also had a disability resulting in loss of muscular power in his right hand. The board’s recommendation was that Sapper Freeman was fit for limited duty. On the 30th of August 1918, Sapper Freeman was placed in Category B1 based on the recommendations of the medical board.

On the 8th of November 1918 Sapper Freeman was examined again in Seaford, presumably to see if there had been any improvement in his condition. He was still found to have a loss of muscular power in his right hand. On the day following this examination, the proceedings of the medical board were approved.

A further examination of Freeman’s hand was made on the 17th of November with the same findings as above. An entry was made in his medical records to indicate that the extent of his capacity was lessened by 5 percent with regard to his ability to earn "a full livelihood in the general market for untrained labour." That portion of his disability due to military service was reckoned at 30 percent.

On the 19th of November 1918 Freeman was given a dental examination at Seaford. His dental condition was noted as "treatment required (unfit)."

After his arrival back in Canada, Sapper Freeman was admitted to Base Hospital in Toronto on the 17th of December 1918. He was diagnosed with scabies contracted aboard ship while enroute home. He was released from hospital on the 30th of December.

During early January 1919 Sapper Freeman appears to have complained of having bronchitis. He received a chest examination at Spadina Military Hospital in Toronto on the 8th of January. The examination found no physical signs of bronchitis; however, he was diagnosed as having bronchitis based on the symptoms only. On the 13th of January he was given yet another medical examination, this time at Park School Barracks in Toronto. He was found to have the following ailments:

1. A contuse finger (fourth or ring finger) of the right hand.

2. A scald scar on the left shoulder.

3. Bronchitis.

4. Other ailments to include: hemorrhoids, varicose veins, and a congenital absence of the left pectoralis [10] (lower portion).

Based on the results of this examination, a medical board recommended that Freeman be place in Category C2, a category whereby the soldier could only serve at home. The medical board recommendations were approved on the 14th of January 1919. Freeman was determined to be unfit for further military service.

Marriage Information

Freeman was married at the time he enlisted in the Canadian Army. His wife, Mrs. Annie J. Freeman, resided at 520 Salem Avenue in Toronto while Sapper Freeman was overseas. His service records also indicate that his wife resided at 399 Oakwood Avenue in Toronto while Sapper Freeman was overseas. In January of 1919, as Freeman was preparing to be discharged from the Army, his wife was residing at 85 Somerset Avenue in Toronto. His wife’s address on the date of his discharge was listed as 516 Delaware Avenue in Toronto.

The Freemans are known to have had at least one child; a son named Cecil Frederick Freeman. Cecil Frederick Freeman served in the Canadian Army during the Second World War. His medals are also in the author’s collection.

Promotions, Conduct and Education


Freeman received no promotions during his period of service in the Army. His rank was changed from Private to Sapper on the 11th of February 1918 when he was transferred from the Infantry to the Canadian Engineers.


Sapper Freeman’s service was not without disciplinary problems. His infractions are summarized in the table below:



27 July 1916

Absent without leave for one day.

3 August 1916

Deprived on one day’s pay for being absent without leave.

23 September 1917

Charged with drunkenness.

25 September 1917

Sentenced to 7 days Field Punishment No. 1 by the Officer Commanding, 58th Battalion, C.E.F.


Other than basic training, Freeman received no additional training during his time in service, nor did he earn any certificates of education.

Campaign and Service Details

Following his basic training, Freeman sailed with the 58th Battalion, C.E.F. from Halifax, Nova Scotia on the 22nd of November 1915 aboard the S.S. Saxonia [11]. During the voyage to England, Freeman received three days extra pay for performing mess orderly duties.

The battalion arrived in England on the 2nd of December 1915 and after just a little over two months there the unit embarked for France on the 20th of February 1916. Freeman disembarked with his battalion during the night of 21/22 February.

On the 23rd of February 1916 the 9th Brigade of the 3rd Canadian Division (under Major General Mercer) was formed from the following units:

9th Brigade (Brigadier General F.W. Hill, DSO)

43rd Battalion, C.E.F.

52nd Battalion, C.E.F.

58th Battalion, C.E.F. [12]

60th Battalion, C.E.F.

The Canadian Corps in France soon found itself lacking a proper organization for railway work in the theatre of operations. On the 15th of April 1916 Major R.P. Rogers was appointed the Light Railway Officer for the Corps [13]. This appointment and the subsequent organization of railway units would govern the rest of Freeman’s service in France.

On the 18th of May 1916 a Composite Pioneer Company was formed under the direct control of the Chief Engineer of the Canadian Corps. The unit was formed from a draft of 80 men taken from each of three pioneer battalions then in the field in France. The purpose of the unit was the construction of Corps light railways [14]. On the 19th of May, Private Freeman was attached to the Composite Pioneer Company from the 58th Battalion. By the 27th of May he was performing tramway construction duties.

Two major battles were fought in the area where Freeman was performing these railway construction duties. These two battles were Mount Sorrel, which began on the 2nd of June and lasted until the 13th of June, and Flers-Courcelette from the 15th to the 22nd of September 1916. The following extract from The History of the Corps of Royal Canadian Engineers [15] provides some idea of the type of work performed by Freeman and the men of the Composite Pioneer Company:

"Immediately on completion of the first phase of the battle (Somme) the sapper programme became very congested. Trench blocks had to be established, and new strong points and observation posts built. By-passes had to be arranged at busy trench intersections; new support trenches had to be dug; communication trenches had to be sited and run across No-Man’s Land. Obliterated tracks had to be re-established, wells in the captured area cleaned and opened, dugout entrances reversed, gun positions prepared in captured ruins, and trench tramways run forward. The tramway work involved the tearing up of disused lines to the rear, particularly in the Becourt Wood area a mile east of Albert, transporting the track forward, locating a new line across the captured ground, bridging craters and trenches where the use of fill was not expedient, grading and, finally laying the line."

Following close upon the heels of this heavy work in the summer of 1916 was the Battle of Ancre Heights that lasted from the 1st of October to the 11th of November. After Ancre Heights, Freeman received a much-needed rest. He was granted 10 days leave on the 15th of January 1917. Although his leave ended on the 25th of January, he did not return to his unit until the 17th of February. There is no indication in his service record of where he was during this three-week period. As he was not charged with being absent without leave, it may be assumed that he was either sick or on some training course.

The war along the Canadian Corps front was fairly quiet during the winter and early spring of 1916/1817. The Battle of Vimy from the 9th to the 14th of April 1917 ended this period of relative quiet. During the battle for Vimy Ridge about 5,000 yards of new tramline were laid.

As extensive tramway work was also required on the Canadian front during the battle for Hill 70 between the 15th and 25th of August, Private Freeman and his mates were kept quite busy during the summer of 1917.

Recognizing the success of the makeshift tramway construction units up to this point, in September of 1917 the Canadian General Staff finally began to consider the formation of a permanent tramway organization to replace the ad hoc organizations that were doing the work to this point.

While the brass was pondering this reorganization, Freeman’s unit retired to the 1st Army Rest Camp on the 22nd of September 1917 for a well-earned rest. Freeman apparently carried the idea of rest and recreation a little too far, as it was on the 23rd of September that he was charged with drunkenness, his second disciplinary problem since joining up.

On the 6th of October 1917 Freeman returned to the front line from the 1st Army Rest Camp and by the 26th of October was right in the middle of the battle of Passchendaele. Again tramway construction during the battle was extremely important and much required. Freeman and his unit were again right in the middle of it until the end of the battle on the 12th of November.

The re-organization of the Canadian tramway units was finally authorized on the 14th of November 1917 [16]. On the 23rd of November the Canadian Light Railway Operating Company was formed at Lens Junction under the command of Captain S.F. Workman. The establishment of this company was set at 3 officers and 269 other ranks [17]. On the 26th of November, Private Freeman was transferred to the Canadian Light Railway Operating Company and ceased to be attached to the Composite Pioneer Company. He joined his new unit on the 29th of November.

Freeman was granted leave to England on the 1st of January 1918. He returned from leave on the 3rd of February, and on the 11th of February the designation of his unit was changed to the 1st Tramways Company, Canadian Engineers, under the Commander Royal Engineers (C.R.E.) Corps Troops. On this date Freeman’s rank changed from Private to Sapper.

Following the great German spring offensive that began on the 21st of March 1918, Freeman’s unit was sent to a rest area in the rear. During a baseball game in the rear area, Freeman injured his finger and was evacuated to England. He was assigned to the 2nd Canadian Engineer Reserve Battalion (C.E.R.B.) at the Canadian Engineer Reserve Depot (C.E.R.D.) in Seaford, and after numerous medical examinations he was sent home.

Freeman sailed from England in November of 1918 aboard the S.S. Aquitania. While enroute to Canada he was taken on the strength of No. 2 District Depot in Toronto on the 22nd of November. He arrived at Quebec on the 28th of November and was posted to the Casualty Company. He was authorized two weeks leave on the 2nd of December and returned from leave on the 16th of December. Following a number of additional medical examination in Toronto, a medical board found him unfit for further service and recommended his discharge.


Sapper Freeman received his last Pay Certificate from the Army on the 15th of January 1919. On the 17th of January he was discharged at No. 2 District Depot in Toronto. On the date of his discharge his total service was reckoned at 3 years and 162 days. Sapper Freeman was awarded the British War Medal and Victory Medal for his service in the Great War.


[1] Certified Copy of an Entry of Birth, BXBY673226, General Register Office, London, 15 July 1999.
[2] In 1885 Watford was a market and manufacturing town located on the River Colne, approximately 14.5 miles northwest of Westminster, London. Today (1999) the town of Watford is a part of the Greater London area.
[3] Freeman claimed no religious affiliation on his attestation papers at the time he joined the Canadian Engineers in 1915. However, during his active service in France he did claim to be a member of the Church of England.
[4] 1881 British Census. Intellect Reserve, Inc., FHL Film 1341349, PRO Ref. RG11, Piece 1441, Folio 69, page 14.
[5] Although the mother’s given names do not match the names on Freeman’s service papers, it is believed that this was his family. The three matching points of the father’s name Richard T. vs. Richard Taylor, and the dwelling location, Nash Mills Road in Abbots Langley, Hertford are considered sufficient by this author to state that this was Kenneth Gerald Freeman’s family.
[6] This regiment was raised on the 27th of December 1855 as the 1st Troop of Volunteer Militia Cavalry of the County of York. It was redesignated the 1st York Troop of the Governor General’s Body Guard for Upper Canada on the 27th of April 1866 and The Governor General’s Body Guard for Ontario on the 1st of July 1867. It was reorganized as a regiment on the 17th of May 1889, amalgamating the Oak Ridges Troop of Cavalry and the Markham Troop of Cavalry and was redesignated The Governor-General’s Body Guard on the 13th of July 1895. The Mississauga Horse amalgamated with the regiment on the 15th of December 1936 to form The Governor General’s Horse Guards.
[7] Perpetuated by The Toronto Scottish Regiment.
[8] Raised by The Royal Regiment of Canada.
[9] The large, flat, quadrilateral-shaped muscle extending up to the thoracic spine to the neck, and across the back of the shoulders, that draws the head and shoulders back.
[10] Chest muscle.
[11] Embarkation Roll of the 58th Battalion, C.E.F.
[12] Officer Commanding the 58th Battalion, C.E.F. - Lieutenant Colonel H.A. Genet.
[13] KERRY & McDILL, p. 105.
[14] Ibid., p. 107.
[15] Ibid., p. 118.
[16] Ibid.
[17] Ibid.



1. BEAVERBROOK, Lord. Canada in Flanders. Volume II. Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1926.
2. DAVIES, W.J.K. Light Railways of the First World War: A History of Tactical Rail Communications on the British Fronts, 1914-1918. Augustus M. Kelley, New York, 1968.
3. KERRY, A.J. & McDILL, W.A. The History of the Corps of Royal Canadian Engineers, 1749-1939. Volume I. The Military Engineers Association of Canada, Ottawa, 1962.
4. STEWART, C.H. The Concise Lineages of the Canadian Army, 1855 to Date. National Museum of Canada, Ottawa, 197_.
5. TAYLORSON, K. Narrow Gauge at War. Plateway Press, Croydon, 1987.


1. AUTOMOBILE ASSOCIATION. Motorists Atlas of Great Britain. The Automobile Association, Basingstoke, 1984.
2. BARTHOLOMEW, J. Reference Atlas of Greater London. John Bartholomew & Son Ltd., Edinburgh, 1957.
3. LETTS, C. Roadbook of Britain. Charles Letts and Company Limited, London, 1977.
4. MAPART. Toronto & Area. MapArt Corporation, East Oshawa, Ontario, 1995.


1. Certified Copy of an Entry of Birth, BXBY673226, General Register Office, London, 15 July 1999.
2. Soldiers Service Papers. National Archives of Canada, Ottawa, 1994.
3. 1881 Census of England. CD-ROM, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1999.
4. Embarkation Roll of the 58th Battalion, C.E.F.

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