By 1916, John was living in SW Calgary Alberta and was employed as a labourer with the Calgary Gas Company. It was the enlistment of his son, John Henry with the 82nd Battalion on the 4th of January 1916 that prompted John to enlist himself. He attested with the 137th Battalion in Calgary just two months later. John Pattison was said to have wanted to look after his son in service. At 40 years of age the training as an Infantry Private could not have been easy on him. Maybe more so with his short stature (a bit over 5’2” and 125lbs on enlistment. Still he seems to have been in fine shape and has no sickness recorded on his service file.
Departing Canada in August 1916 with the 137th Battalion, Private Pattison remained with his Battalion until they combined with the 175th Battalion and formed the 21st Reserve Battalion in England in January 1917 to provide reinforcements for the Canadian Corps in the field. It less than a month later that Private John Pattison joined the 50th Battalion, also a Calgary-recruited Battalion, in France. By then the 50th had seen action, as part of 10th Brigade 4th Canadian Division at Ancre Heights in October 1916. They spent a quiet winter in preparation for the upcoming Vimy Battle and that was about when John Pattison joined them. He did managed to be wounded in February, receiving “multiple contusions” from some unknown action but was back with his unit in a few days.
On the 9th of April 1917, the 4th Division, on the far left of the Canadian Corps, had measurably the least distance to cover to reach their first day objectives. Unfortunately, there were considerable terrain and enemy obstacles in their way. That combined with some gaps in the artillery fire plan led to the Division having a very difficult time. Pattison’s 10th Brigade was to act as follow on troops to the 11th and 12 Brigades and not attack the feature known as the Pimple until the following day. Events in 4 Divs front changed that plan.
On the first day of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, 11 and 12 Brigades ran into immediate difficulties and left many pockets of resistance still fighting and objectives un-taken. Canadian Battalions were greatly dispersed over their front and German cross-fire was even affecting 3 Div on the right. Hill 145 and the Pimple remained untaken and the units attempted to take their objectives in front of Givenchy En Gohelle. It wasn’t until the next day, 10 April that that Hill 145 was taken and 50th Battalion was committed. They and the 44th from Winnipeg were moved south and their task was to vault over the Hill and take the woods at the rear of the ridge.
It was on this approach that Private John Pattison won his Victoria Cross. As the Battalion struggled forward under fire, Pattison noticed a German Machine Gun stronghold taking it’s toll on the Canadians. Crouched over and going forward from shell hole to shell hole, he advanced on the position. When he was within range, Pattison stood up and threw three grenades at the enemy. Before the crew could recover, he charged with bayonet fixed and the German position was put out of action. Pattison comrades could resume their advance, taking ground and their ultimate objective. Private Pattison’s bold single-handed attacked led greatly to the entire Battalion advance continuing. His VC was announced in the London Gazette on 2 August 1917 but 42 year old Private John Pattison never read it. He was killed in action on 3 June 1917 near Lens. He is buried in La Chaudiere Military Cemetery, Vimy. His son, went to the front one month later but happily, survived the war.