John Harvey Bainbridge Kayss was a vicar’s son, and an only son. Born in May 1894, in Wigton, Cumbria, he left School House in 1910 at the age of 16 after a two year stay. A good athlete, he helped School House to the Athletics trophy in his last year, coming second in the U16 100 yards dash and winning the hurdles competition. In 1912, he emigrated to Canada where he worked for the Bank of Montreal.
He joined Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry and served in France for fourteen months, where he was awarded the Military Medal, was recommended for the DCM, and was mentioned in despatches. He then returned to England to train for his commission. His Platoon Commander wrote: “In the field, he was perfectly cool and absolutely fearless, loved and respected by both officers and men. He was an example to us all of endurance under trying circumstances and of cheerfulness under all conditions.”
He died at Shorncliffe on the Kent coast on 25th March 1918 as a result of an accident when drilling at the Canadian School of Musketry. Apparently, he was involved in fire drill training when he tripped and hit his head on a steel bar, dying of a cerebral haemorrhage almost instantly. He was 23 years old. During the war, Shorncliffe was an important base for the Canadian army and Canadian Army Medical Corps had hospitals there.
The citation for his Military Medal reads: “On 26th August 1917, Kayss led a bombing party up the sap, showing the utmost gallantry in holding the enemy off while the working party established a block behind him, killing two Germans with his revolver and putting others out of action with grenades. The success of this operation was largely due to his example which inspired the men with him.”
Because he died in Kent, he was one of the few Oundelians to be buried in England. He was taken back to his home town of Wigton for burial.