George Fraser Kerr was born in Deseronto on June 8th, 1895, the son of John James Kerr and Isabella (née Fraser). By 1901 the family had moved to Napanee and in 1911 they were living in Galt. When Kerr enlisted on this day in 1914, they were living at 135 Tyndall Avenue in Toronto and George was working as a chemist. He joined the 3rd Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force in Valcartier, with the regimental number 9570.
Kerr’s service record shows that he arrived in England on October 25th, 1914. On February 11th, 1915, he went to France with the 3rd Battalion. He was promoted to Lance Corporal on June 2nd and to Acting Corporal on September 18th of that year. On February 2nd, 1916 he was appointed Corporal and Lance Sergeant, but this promotion was shortlived: he was reduced to the ranks on April 7th at a Field General Court Martial:
From 14.3.16 to 7.4.16: In confinement awaiting trial. Tried 7.4.16 and convicted by F.G.C.M. of (1st charge) When on A[ctive] S[ervice] being in a place prohibited by D.R.O. [Divisional Routine Order] 586 without a pass 14/3/16 (2nd charge) When on A.S. Drunkenness 14.3.16 & sentenced to be reduced to the Ranks
On June 13th, 1916 Kerr was involved in the Battle of Mont Sorrel. He was awarded the Military Medal for his actions:
After his platoon officer had been wounded and the Sgt. killed, he led the platoon with skill and bravery to the final objective established a bombing post, and held it throughout the day. His courage and ability were very noticeable during the action on MOUNT SORRELON 13th June 1916. A.F.W. 3121
After this event, Kerr was appointed Acting Sergeant on June 18th, 1916. Kerr was one of four 3rd Battalion men wounded on July 28th in the trenches near Ypres. He received shrapnel injuries to his right wrist and left thigh and ankle and was sent back to England to recover. He remained in hospital until December 12th, when he was discharged to the 12th Reserve Battalion at Hastings, Sussex.
He received a commission as a lieutenant in the 12th Reserve Battalion on August 1st, 1917 and went back to France on October 15th, 1917. He rejoined the 3rd Battalion a month later. In February and March 1918 he was treated in hospital in France for scabies, rejoining his unit on April 2nd. Kerr was one of six officers wounded at the Battle of Amiens on August 8th, 1918. It may have been this action for which he was awarded the Military Cross (the citation is vague about the date of the engagement). This is how his actions were described in the citation, published in the Edinburgh Gazette on December 4th, 1918:
For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. When leading his platoon to the jumping-off line he found a gap, which he filled, putting an enemy machine-gun nest out of action, killing about thirty and capturing a battery of 77 m.m. guns. At the jumping-off line he found one company had not arrived, so he led his platoon into its place, with the advancing waves. He was then wounded, but continued to the final objective, clearing out another machine gun nest of two guns on the way. The next two days he continued in the line doing splendid work, and refusing to leave owing to shortage of officers.
Kerr was back in action on September 2nd, this time at the Drocourt-Quéant Line. He received a bar to his Military Cross for this attack:
BAR TO MILITARY CROSS
For conspicuous gallantry, initiative and skill during the Drocourt-Queant attack on the 2nd and 3rd September, 1918, when he led his company forward with great dash. Later he led two platoons to the assistance of one of the attacking companies, which was held up by heavy machine gun fire, surprising the hostile machine gun crews, and personally accounting for several of the enemy. His splendid courage afforded a most inspiring example at a critical time. L.G.31158 / 1-2-19
Kerr was appointed Temporary Captain on September 15th, 1918. Twelve days later, he was involved in the action which resulted in him being awarded the Victoria Cross:
For most conspicuous bravery and leadership during the BOURLON WOOD operations on 27th Sept. 1918, when in command of the left support company in attack. He handled his company with great skill, and gave timely support by out-flanking a machine gun which was impeding the advance. Later, near the ARRAS-CAMBRAI road, the advance was again held up by a strong point. Lt. KERR far in advance of his company, rushed this point single-handed and captured four machines and thirty one prisoners. His valour throughout this engagement was an inspiring example to all. L.G. 31109 6.1.19
Kerr’s medals are held at the Canadian Museum of History.
George Fraser Kerr ended the war with the rank of Captain. On January 3rd, 1919 the horse he was riding in Lind, Germany shied into a tree, causing George to fracture his right arm. He was treated in hospital in England and then sent home to Canada on May 23rd on the SS Megantic. The fingers of his right hand had already been damaged by the shrapnel wound he received in 1916 and now his right elbow had a limited range of movement. He was discharged from the army as medically unfit for further service as a result of his injuries on July 16th, 1919 in Toronto.
In 1923 George was appointed as a Captain in the Militia. He was working as a metal broker at the time.
Kerr married Mary Beeman on March 16th, 1924 in Toronto and the couple had two daughters. George died of carbon monoxide poisoning on December 8th, 1929 and was buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Toronto.