John "Jack" Dobson

When John “Jack” Dobson left Toronto to serve in the war, his wife Annie was pregnant with little Helen and they had three other youngsters at home.

The conflict in Europe, took an enormous toll on families back in Canada—especially those with many children.

When John “Jack” Dobson left Toronto to serve in the Great War, his wife Annie was pregnant with little Helen and they had three other youngsters at home, all under the age of seven.

The sole breadwinner of this large family felt it was his duty to go overseas when word reached Canada that his brothers in England had enlisted. In 1916, Jack signed up with the Queen’s Own Rifles, the 255th Battalion, and set sail for France to assist the Allies.

With deep sadness, Jack sent home personal letters to all four of his cherished children to comfort them in his absence.

“To Miss Anne,” Jack wrote to his eldest daughter, “You ask me if I like France. No little girl. I like home far better and I hope with God’s grace to be back some day with mother and you all.”

“Dear John, just a line or two from Daddy to let you know that I haven’t forgotten your dump cart and if you’re a good boy and always do what mother tells you, I will fix it up for you as soon as ever I get back home.”

“To the teeny one—big big kiss and heaps more for you all.”

Thankfully, Jack survived the war and after the Armistice, returned to his job as a conductor for the Toronto Transit Commission and to his home on St. Helen’s Street. On the surface, Jack’s life had gone back to normal, but in truth, the slaughter he witnessed at the Front had turned him against the war. And so, when offered the Military Medal for his valour on the battlefield, Jack refused to the honour, even protested the ceremony.

“He just felt that there should not be awards for killing,” says daughter-in-law Barbara Dobson. “He was known to say how dreadful the war was and how painful it was to kill ‘those beautiful blond German boys.’”

In 1924, Jack passed away suddenly. The loss was hard on the whole family but particularly for Annie, who now, in addition to caring for five children—including infant son, Henry—was pregnant with twins. As for Henry, he has spent his life trying to know his father through the bits and pieces of information he’s patched together.

“I think it’s part of making him into a real person, when we never knew him,” said Barbara Dobson, Henry’s wife.

Do you have an ancestor who served in the Great War? Submit their story and it could be included on this Great War Album website.