Posted 4 years ago
This is the case of the mysterious John Black
When looking for collectibles, ever feel unusually drawn to something? That’s how I felt with this e-Bay lot awhile back. The items for bid were the framed photo and the cigarette case containing C/27 and Canada title, and a victory medal without ribbon. I was searching for victory medals, but it was the photo that I was inexplicably drawn to, so I went with my gut and bid on it.
When the lot arrived, I noticed the back of the frame was a little bit loose anyway, so I took the photo out of the frame to see if there was anything written on the back. Instead I found tucked behind the photo a marriage certificate for John Black and Emma Johnston dated 1913. The photo of the 27th Battalion CEF, also known as the City of Winnipeg Battalion, was probably taken in 1915, when the battalion was raised. It fought on the Western Front. My thought was “why would someone place a marriage certificate under a photo taken a couple years later of men about to go off to war?” My heart sank at the possibility that John Black didn’t make it back.
There are 5 men named John Black who died in WWI listed on the Canadian Virtual War Memorial, none of whom were from the 27th. Could John have been in another unit when/if he died? There are 72 John Blacks listed in the CEF in the Library and Archives of Canada, some of which are missing attestation documents, but the ones that are there do not provide a clear match to our John Black (I assume that if there was a middle name it would be on the marriage certificate, so I didn’t open every file - yet). I even e-mailed the seller to see if she had more information. I learned these items came from a storage unit auction in Ontario, so the seller had no idea who the original owners were.
Other considerations: If John didn’t come back, then how did the Canada shoulder title and C/27 collar insignia get home? Also, the Victory medal isn’t named to John Black, but to a Pte A. Kent in the 13th Canadian Infantry, possibly a different relative in the same family?
All of this is of course speculation. This John Black might not have been a soldier at all. I’m sure there are reasons for that marriage certificate to be behind the photo that have nothing to do with the war. I’m just not sure what those reasons might be.
So, I’m happy to do my own digging, but does anyone have a suggestion where next?