Robert Nelson Harper

Jul 13, 1889

Born in Gananoque, Ontario to Henry and Mary (nee Donnelly) Harper

The 1891 Census shows the family living on Garden Island in the St. Lawrence River.  His father, Henry, died on Garden Island in 1895


Nov 12, 1914

Attested into the 21st Battalion CEF in Kingston, Ontario

Ø  Number 59425 (temporary number 310)

Ø  Next of kin given as Mrs. H. Harper, widowed mother, 1st St., Gananoque, Ontario

Ø  Previous occupation given as Sailor

Ø  Previous military experience given as Drummer, 14th Regiment Princess of Wales’ Own Rifles

Ø  Religion given as Church of England

Ø  Assigned to “C” Company

o   This was later reorganized into “B” Company

Robert Nelson became a Drummer in the Bugle Band and employed at the front as a Stretcher Bearer.  Later, when the band membership of both the Pipe and Bugle Bands dwindled due to the casualty rate, the Bugle Band was absorbed into the Pipe Band

The battalion trained in the Kingston area through the winter with headquarters in the Kingston Armouries


Mar 29, 1915

Fined $2.00 for Drunkeness


May 6, 1915

Embarked the RMS Metagama in Montreal, Quebec



May 15, 1915

Disembarked in Devonport, England and the battalion proceeded to the West Sandling Camp, near Hythe, Kent to continue training


May 29, 1915

Reported to be AWL (Absent Without Leave)


May 31, 1915

Reported for duty from being AWL and sentenced to 10 days detention plus a fine of $10.00


Jul 2, 1915

Sentenced to 14 days detention for Drunkeness


Jul 24, 1915

Pay is restricted for 2 months for Drunkeness


Sep 14, 1915

Embarked the St. Seiriol in Folkestone



Sep 15, 1915

Disembarked in Boulogne, France and the battalion proceeded to St. Omer


Dec 8, 1915

While in the front line N & O trenches near Voormezeele, Belgium, the battalion came under an artillery barrage and Private Harper received shrapnel wounds to his legs.  He was first evacuated to the No. 5 CFA (Canadian Field Ambulance) for first aid then transferred to the No. 8 CCS (Casualty Clearing Station) for further treatment


Dec 9, 1915

Transferred to the No. 13 Stationary Hospital in Boulogne, France


Dec 13, 1915

Invalided to England aboard the Hospital Ship Brighton


On arrival in England he was admitted to the Bevan Military Hospital in Sandgate

Posted to the 39th Reserve Battalion for pay purposes while in hospital


Dec 19, 1915

Transferred to the Mansford House Convalescent Hospital


Jan 30, 1916

Discharged from hospital to light duties


Mar 8, 1916

Posted to the CCAC (Canadian Casualty Assembly Centre) but remained attached to the 39th Reserve Battalion at West Sandling


Jul 13, 1916

Declared fit for full duty and posted to the 39th Reserve Battalion from the CCAC


Jan 4, 1917

Transferred to the newly formed 6th Reserve Battalion in West Sandling.  Shortly after the formation of the battalion it was moved to Seaford to train reinforcements for the front


Mar 27, 1917

Admitted to the Raven’s Croft Military Hospital in Eastbourne with a diagnosis that reads Tonsillitis


Apr 7, 1917

Discharged to duty from hospital


Apr 21, 1917

Transferred to the 21st Battalion


Apr 22, 1917

Arrived at the CBD (Canadian Base Depot) in the Rouelles Camp, Havre, France and TOS (Taken On Strength) the 21st Battalion


May 21, 1917

After leaving the base depot, Private Harper rejoined the 21st Battalion in the support trenches near Vimy Ridge


Jul 2, 1917

Awarded the Good Conduct Badge


Dec 27, 1917

Granted 14 days leave


Jan 12, 1918

Rejoined the battalion from leave


Jun 25, 1918

His mother Mary, died in Gananoque, Ontario and his next of kin was changed to read Frederick Harper, brother, 89 Bay St., Kingston, Ontario


Dec 13, 1918

Private Harper crossed the Bonn Bridge as a member of the Pipe Band, entering Germany as part of the occupying force at war’s end


Dec 20, 1918

Granted 14 days leave


Jan 8, 1919

Rejoined the battalion from leave


Feb 28, 1919

Admitted to the No. 6 CFA with a diagnosis that reads PUO (Pyrexia of Unknown Origin), this was later changed to read Influenza


Mar 7, 1919

Discharged from hospital and rejoined the battalion


Apr 3, 1919

Embarked the Western Australia in Havre


On arrival in England he was posted to the ”P” Wing at Witley pending return to Canada


May 14, 1919

Embarked the SS Caronia in Liverpool



May 22, 1919

Disembarked in Halifax, Nova Scotia and proceeded by train to Kingston, Ontario


May 24, 1919

Discharged from the CEF in Kingston, Ontario

Ø  Rank on discharge Private

Ø  War Service Badge Class “A” issued number 279865

Ø  Proposed residence on discharge Gananoque, Ontario

Following his discharge the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medals were sent to him at 11 Pembroke St., Kingston, Ontario


May 4, 1920

Married to Julia Barlow in Kingston, Ontario

 His occupation is shown as Medical Orderly


Jun 1, 1921

The 1921 Census shows him living at 10 Pembroke St., Kingston and his occupation as Hospital Worker


From the August 1960 issue of the Communiqué,
the 21st Battalion Association post war newsletter



Nelson Harper continued playing a drum with the PWOR band
for many years.  He is shown below, front row on the left in 1934

In 2019 his drum was donated to the PWOR Musuem by his family

May 21, 1961

Robert Nelson Harper died in Kingston and was buried in the Cataraqui Cemetery there


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