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Remembering World War I Yarmouth Connections
Name: John Robert Pannell Service: Merchant Navy Date of Birth: October 19, 1898 Place of Birth: Yarmouth, NS Cemetery: Camp Hill Cemetery, Halifax, NS John Robert Pannell (or Pannill) was the son of John Robert (b. 1862) and Abbie (Nichols) Pannell (b. 1875), and brother of Hilda Pannell, Lydia Mae Pannell, and Chester Pannell. His father’s own death record indicates John senior was born in “Alabama, SC”, USA, whereas John’s birth record indicates his father was born in Lynchburg, Virginia. John senior was the son of Abram and Clarissa (their occupations listed as cotton farming in Virginia). John’s mother was born in Plymouth, Yarmouth Co., NS. John’s brother, Chester Pannell served in the 2nd Battalion, with Canadian Expeditionary Forces and died in the First World War on April 10, 1917. John married Florence L Adams (1901-1962) on November 5, 1918 in Halifax, NS. They had one daughter, Eleanor Dianne in 1944. “In 1981, The Society for the Protection and Preservation of Black Culture in Nova Scotia, which had been incorporated in 1977, chose as its first public event a reunion of black First World War veterans. This reunion was held November 12-14, 1982 in Halifax, Nova Scotia and was attended by nine of the approximately twenty known surviving black veterans. They were: William Carter (No. 2), John W. Hamilton (No. 2), Percy J. Richards (No. 2), Gordon C. Wilson (No. 2), Albert D. Deleon (CFC), A. Seymour Tyler (No. 2), Sydney M. Jones (106BN, The RCR), Isaac Phills (85BN), and John R. Pannill (Merchant Navy).” In the book, The Black Battalion by Calvin Ruck - Pen Sketches and War Memories, John Pannell, recollects, “I was living in Halifax at the time and I decided to join the Army. I went to the Armouries and inquired. The recruiting officer informed me that I could not enlist because they were not taking Black fellows.” John Pannell left the Armouries, went down to the shipping office and had no problem signing up as a seaman. He worked in the engine room as a fireman on the boilers and sometimes as an oiler. The ship’s crew, “a pretty rough and fearless bunch”, consisted of men from all over the world. Pannell remembered life as a wartime seaman as ‘pretty good’, although it was dangerous due to German submarines. The merchant ships sailed at night under the protection of warships. After his wartime service ended, Pannell remained in Halifax, where he secured employment with the Canadian National Railway as a sleeper-car porter. He was later promoted to Porter-in-Charge. He retired from the CNR on October 10, 1972, with more than 43 years of continuous service to his credit.”
John Robert Pannell
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Seaman John R Pannill (from Black Battalion by Calvin Ruck)
John Pannill (picture from Ray Lorenzo Clayton Adekayode)