My great-uncle – for whom I was named – and my grandfather, respectively:
JAMES DUNLOP GEMMILL is Captain of the Seventh Field Company of the Royal Engineers of the British expeditionary force. He was born in Ottawa, Canada, December 11, 1885. His father was John Alexander Gemmill, a prominent barrister of Ottawa, and a director of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company. His mother, Emily Helen Gemmill, is now a widow living at Armstrong Point, Winnipeg, Canada. Before her marriage she was Emily Helen Ogilvie, the daughter of one of the oldest and most prominent families of Montreal. Captain James Gemmill graduated from the Royal University College of Kingston, in 1906, with the highest honors, receiving the Governor-General’s gold medal, and thereby winning his commission in the Royal Engineers. Immediately following his graduation, he spent two years in the School of Military Engineering in Chatham, England, and from there was sent for five years to Gibraltar. From thence he was sent for six months to Calais, France, and it was while serving here that he was called to the front as Captain, commanding the Seventh Field . Company, which has recently been highly praised by Sir Douglas Haig.
PATRICK GEMMILL, the younger brother of Captain James Dunlop Gemmill, enlisted as a trooper at the age of nineteen in the Fort Horse, and went over the seas with the first contingent in September, 1914. He spent the first winter of the war on Salisbury Plains where he endured great hardships. In the spring he was transferred to Lord Strathcona’s Horse and went to France where, on May 24, in a sharp battle, he was severely wounded. For nineteen hours after receiving his wounds he lay unattended in the trench, tormented by thirst and expecting each moment to be his last. During this whole period he was under continuous fire from the enemy’s guns. At last, under cover of darkness, he was rescued and sent to England, where he lay for a month in the hospital at Norwich. On his recovery he received a commission in the artillery service and spent a year training Territorials in England. In July, 1916, he was again sent to the front, and from that time to this has been almost continually under fire. His superior officer writes of him: “He is doing splendid work for his country.” The noble mother of these two gallant young soldiers now lives with her other two sons in Winnipeg, and in closing a letter written to me concerning her sons at the front, under date December 11, 1916, she signs herself: “Yours sincerely, E. H. Gemmill, the proud mother.”
My father still has the shrapnel my grandfather removed from his leg with his bayonet. He was sent to France in 1940 as well, this time as Colonel. Despite being stricken with an illness that would strike him down a few years later, he stayed on active duty until the severe shortage of trained artillery officers had been addressed.