Lieutenant John “Jack” Fergusson McLaren was born in Toronto 2 December 1892, son of J. A. and Annie G. McLaren. He attended Harbord Collegiate Institute before entering University of Toronto Schools in 1910.
Always interested in military affairs, he became a member of the Queen’s Own Rifles in 1911 and was a Lieutenant by the time the war broke out.
When the 58th Overseas Battalion was organised he was given command of No. 1 Platoon in “A” Company and spent the summer of 1915 training with his battalion at Niagara Camp. He went overseas in November and spent several months at the front in France before he was wounded and sent to England to recuperate.
He rejoined the 58th early in 1917 but was briefly in London again that February. Learning that he was back in England, his fiancée, Miss Rita Harvey, boarded the S.S. Olympic (one of Titanic’s sister ships) and sailed from Canada to meet him. Their wedding took place on 18 February and after a mere three days of marriage he was recalled to the front. He was severely wounded at Vimy Ridge and died at No. 33 Casualty Clearing Station, the only UTS alumnus to leave a widow behind him.
His father, whose eldest son William had been killed overseas in September 1916, received two telegrams in the evening of 23 April 1917. The first informed him that his son had been badly injured, and the second that he had died. Rita McLaren, who had only arrived in Canada that afternoon, learned the news an hour later. After the end of the war, his father established the John Ferguson McLaren Memorial Scholarship at UTS, but the prize is no longer awarded.
McLaren is buried in Bruay Communal Cemetery Extension in Bruay, France, and commemorated in his parish church, Bloor Street Presbyterian – now Bloor Street United – along with his fellow UTS alumni Herbert Cumming, Fleetwood Daniel, and Wilfrid Tait. “They feared not Death and meeting it they won the Victor’s Crown.”
From the UTS First World War Commemorative site.