Allan Barrie Duncan was born in Unionville, York County, on 15 April, 1898, the son of George Petrie Duncan, and his wife Helena Goodwin. George Petrie Duncan was born in Scotland and came to Canada in 1887; he married Helena Vivian Goodwin in 1888 at which time he gave his occupation as a tailor, but sometime between 1898, when Allan was born, and 1901 he became a minister in the Presbyterian Church. He was the incumbent at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Port Credit from 1905 to 1922.
Three of his sons, Allan Barrie, Wallace Stevenson, and George Gordon, enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force.
Allan enlisted at Niagara on 20 October 1915, as a lieutenant in the 75th Battalion, Canadian Infantry (Central Ontario Regiment). He indicated on his attestation form that he belonged to the 36th Peel Regiment of Militia, and that he was currently a student. He gave his birthdate as 15 April 1897, thus making himself a year older than his seventeen years. He named his father as his next of kin, and was described as 5 feet 11 inches tall, with medium complexion, blue eyes and dark brown hair. He had no distinguishing marks. Oddly, there is no regimental number on his attestation form.
The 75th Battalion was organized in June 1915 under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel S. G. Beckett. An initial draft was sent to England on 1 October 1915 and the rest of the battalion embarked on the Empress of Britain on 1 April 1916 so it is most likely that Allan would have gone overseas at that time. The battalion arrived in France on 12 August 1916. At the same time, Allan’s father had himself enlisted on 8 March 1916 as a chaplain in the 126th Peel Battalion. He had lost his wife, Helena, who died in 1911; two years later George Petrie Duncan married again, to Kate Westman.
The Streetsville Review of 14 March 1918 reported that Allan had been promoted to captain and had been home the previous summer due to an attack of appendicitis. The Review of 11 July 1918 reported further:
“Consistent devotion to duty during a long period with the 75th Battalion by Capt. Allan B. Duncan of Port Credit has brought the second military cross to a family of fighters. Capt. Duncan, who is only twenty years of age, won his Captaincy before he had reached his last birthday. His father and two brothers have also served in France. He is a son of Capt. (Rev.) George P. Duncan who went overseas as a chaplain. The eldest son, Capt. Gordon Duncan, who went overseas with the first contingent, fell at Festubert in May 1915.”
His brother, Wallace, had also won the Military Cross.
Allan was killed in action on 29 September 1918. The record of the Canada War Graves Registers, Circumstance of Casualty reported:
“While acting as second in command of his Battalion during an attack north of Cambrai, he went forward to ascertain the disposition of the Battalion. He had only gone a short distance when he was instantaneously killed by enemy fire.”
The Toronto Star of 10 October 1918 also reported Allan’s death.
Allan is buried in the Cantimpre Canadian Cemetery, Sailly, Nord, France.
Cantimpre Canadian Cemetery
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
In 1920 George Duncan travelled to France to visit the graves of his two sons who had been killed in the war. Allan is also commemorated on his parents’ headstone in Dixie Union Cemetery.