16th Battalion, Canadian Infantry (Canadian Scottish) - Panel 26
John Geddes was born on 6 November 1878, son of Alexander and Frances Geddes of Blairmore, Aberdeenshire, and nephew of Sir William Geddes, the principal of Aberdeen University. Following completion of his education at Rugby School, he left for the New World, finally settling in Canada, where he made a new life with his wife Helen and their three children. When war broke out in 1914, he was already 36 years old – approaching the maximum age for military service – but he was one of the first to volunteer: ‘If they have any use for me,’ he said, ‘I’m ready.’
His battalion landed in France in February 1915 and, following a brief initiation in the trenches at Bois Grenier and a period of training at Estaires, was sent north for its real baptism of fire in the Ypres Salient. They did not have to wait long. The Canadian Scottish went into the trenches at Poelkapelle on 16 April 1916, and less than a week later the Germans launched the gas attack that marked the opening of the Second Battle of Ypres. The 16th was just one of the many battalions, both British and Canadian, thrown piecemeal into the fray to try to plug the resulting gap in the Allied lines, and John Geddes and his comrades played a huge part in closing this gap with a heroic attack at Kitcheners Wood on the night of 22–23 April.