The Napiers – John and Alan

Pte. John (Jack) Napier – 1874/1917 / Pte. Alan Jack Napier – 1899/1985

John (Jack) Napier was born in 1874 in Edinburgh, Scotland. His father, Thomas Napier died soon after at about 1878 and the family moved to London soon after. In 1898 he married Kate Rulton at Barking Essex. Their first child was Alan Jack Napier, born 1899.

In 1900, they embarked to Canada and settled in the Bowden area of Alberta and tried to homestead. But since they had no experience in farming, they nearly starved during the winter of 1900/1901. Soon after, they returned to England, but the lure of the new world was too much, and they returned to Canada about 1907 and settled in Vancouver.

John Napier was a contractor in Vancouver and built a number of houses and small commercial buildings.

When war was declared in 1914, although he was 41 years old and had three other young children besides Alan at this time, John Napier felt he had to do his part and enlisted on 01 January 1916 with the 158th Battalion (Duke of Connaught’s Own) in Vancouver. Alan followed in his father’s footsteps since there was a lot of pressure to join up including from his high school principal, and enlisted in the same Battalion on 11 July, 1916 at age 16.

John Napier and son, Alan sailed for England from Halifax on 14 November, 1916. They were stationed at Shoreham, England until 28 December, 1916 when they were sent to France where they went through training at the Canadian Base in Etaples, France. They were both transferred to the 54th Battalion when they departed for France.

John was sent forward on 9 February 1917. The 54th Battalion participated in a raid 1 March 1917 which turned out to be failure with many causalities.

On 9 April, 1917 the Vimy Ridge attack took place and Pte. John Napier was killed in action that day. It is understood from a letter sent to his widow by a colleague that he suffered an arm wound during the attack and was returning to a medical station when he was hit by an artillery shell. Alan Napier did not participate in the attack but when he was informed of his father’s death, he admitted in later years that it caused him severe shock. He was returned to England in June 1917 since his mother had requested he be released from service due to is young age and that she needed his help to support the family. Alan was returned to Canada in November 1917 and discharged in February 1918.

Alan Napier went on to university and trained as an electrical engineer. Later on he started up his own company in the neon sign business which he operated until he sold it and retired about 1965. He died in Vancouver in 1985 at the age of 85.