Kenora Great War Project

 

Personal Details
Date of BirthJuly 10, 1897
Place of BirthKenora, Ontario
CountryCanada
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinGertrude Howard (mother), Kenora, Ontario
Trade / CallingLabourer
ReligionPlymouth Brethren
Service Details
Regimental Number198979
Service RecordLink to Service Record
Battalion6th Light Trench Mortar Battery
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Field Artillery
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentKenora, Ontario
Address at EnlistmentKenora, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentFebruary 21, 1916
Age at Enlistment18
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathAugust 17, 1976
Age at Death79
Buried AtLakeview Memorial Gardens Cemetery, Kelowna, British Columbia

Howard, William Thomas

Private William Thomas Howard enlisted at age 18 and served overseas for three years. He spent a year in France and Belgium with the 28th Battalion and several months with a trench mortar battery.

William was the oldest son of William Henry Thomas and Gertrude Wilson of Kenora, Ontario. William Henry was born in England and came to Canada as child. He settled in Rat Portage (now called Kenora) around 1886, when he was about 20, and he found work in the lumber industry. His wife Gertrude was born in Cheddar, Somerset, England in 1866 and she immigrated to Canada in the 1880s. She made her home in Rat Portage, along with other members of her family.

William Henry and Gertrude were married in Rat Portage in August 1890. They had seven children, all born in Rat Portage/Kenora: Gertrude Milicent (1891), Maud Elizabeth (1893), Thurza May/Mary (1895), William Thomas (10 July 1897), Sadie Florence (1901), John/Jack Edward (1904) and Albert Wilson (1911). The family lived in Lakeside and by 1911 William Henry was working as a market gardener.

William Thomas turned 18 years old in July 1915, just before the war entered its second year. Late that fall recruiting started for a new unit, the 94th Battalion, and William enlisted in Kenora on 21 February 1916. The 94th was based in Port Arthur and the Kenora volunteers were sent there in May to train with the rest of the unit. They left for Quebec two weeks later and spent a short time at Valcartier Camp in Quebec. From there they headed to the east coast, embarking from Halifax on 28 June 1916 on the SS Olympic and landing at Liverpool on 5 July. In England the recruits were absorbed into reserve battalions to be used as reinforcements for other units.

Over the next eleven months William served with four different units – the 15th, 30th and 32nd Reserve Battalions and the 128th Battalion. On 23 May 1917 he was transferred to a front line unit, the 28th (North West) Battalion, and sent to France. After some time at the base depot and with an entrenching battalion he joined his new unit in the field in mid-June, in a draft of 50 reinforcements. The battalion was based at Haillicourt that summer where they were resting, reorganizing and training after two months of heavy fighting. In August they were at the Battle of Hill 70 and in early November they took part in the operations at Passchendaele. William had ten days leave in the UK in January 1918 and a month later he was awarded his good conduct badge for two years of service. He was sent on a course in May and on 9 July he was transferred to the 6th Canadian Light Trench Mortar Battery.

The final period of the war started on 8 August 1918 with the Battle of Amiens and ended three months later with the Armistice. After the successful operation near Amiens the Canadians Corps moved north to take part in the 2nd Battle of Arras. William became ill and he was admitted to No. 6 Canadian Field Ambulance on 13 September, suffering from dysentery. By 21 September he’d been moved to No. 14 Stationary Hospital in Wimereux and from there he was evacuated to England. He spent three and a half months recovering at Nell Lane Military Hospital in Manchester, followed by several weeks at the Canadian Convalescent Centre in Epsom. While he was there he contracted broncho-pneumonia and on 24 March 1919 he was admitted to No. 4 Canadian General Hospital in Basingstoke.

William was released from the hospital on 3 April and transferred to the general depot in Seaford. He underwent physical training and worked in the cookhouse while he was there. He embarked for Canada on 2 June on the SS Lapland, sailing from Liverpool and arriving on 11 June via New York. He was discharged on demobilization on 13 June in Winnipeg.

When the 1921 census was taken William was living with his parents in Kenora and working as a gardener like his father. He was married in Keewatin on 1 June 1925. His wife, 20-year-old Emma Irene Gates, was born in Treherne, Manitoba to George and Phoebe May Gates. The Gates family had emigrated from England in the 1880s and homesteaded in the area southwest of Winnipeg.

William took up farming and he and his wife settled in Holland, Manitoba, just a few miles from Treherne. He retired in the early 1960s and they moved to British Columbia a few years later. Their last years were spent at Sutherland Hills Rest Home in Kelowna. William passed away there on 17 August 1976, at age 79, and his wife died three years later. They are both buried in Lakeview Memorial Gardens in Kelowna.

By Becky Johnson

  Howard-William-Thomas-90 94th-1916-03-15 94th-1916-05-27a 94th-1916-06-10 Howard-William-Thomas-91 Howard-William-Thomas-92

Grave marker photo courtesy of Scott Hayes, findagrave.com; family photos courtesy of Britton public family tree on ancestry.com.


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