|Date of Birth||November 6, 1874|
|Place of Birth||Arnprior, Ontario|
|Next of Kin||Laura Atkinson, wife, Kenora, Ontario|
|Trade / Calling||Teamster|
|Religion||Church of England|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Place of Enlistment||Winnipeg, Manitoba|
|Address at Enlistment||160 Langevain St, St Boniface, Manitoba|
|Date of Enlistment||July 4, 1916|
|Age at Enlistment||41|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||August 26, 1947|
|Age at Death||73|
|Buried At||Lake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario|
Although he gave his birth place as Ottawa and year of birth as 1874 on his attestation papers, William Henry Atkinson was probably born on 6 November 1878 in Arnprior, Ontario. His father John Robert Atkinson had been born in Boston, Lincolnshire, England, immigrating around 1863, while his mother Eva Margaret Windsor was from Grand River, Ontario. For the 1891 Canada census for Arnprior, Robert’s occupation was listed as mill labourer. By the 1901 census the family had moved to Rat Portage (later renamed Kenora) in northwestern Ontario. Children born to the couple were John Blair (1874), Annie Elizabeth (1876), William, Alice Maude (1881), George Edward (1883), Della May (1888), and Eva Margaret (1893).
William married Laura Edith Westgate on 27 August 1898 in Rat Portage. Born in Palmerston, Ontario, Laura was the daughter of Frederick and Sarah (née Thompson) Westgate. With her family Laura had moved to the area as a child when her father found employment as a brakeman with the Canadian Pacific Railway. William and Laura had eight children: Olive Mary (1899), Sarah Edith (1900), Winnifred Evelyn (1905), Margaret (1908), Ruth Wilhemina (1910-1913), Eva Viola (1912), Patricia Mary (1914), and Frederick John (1916-1918).
William signed his first set of attestation papers in Kenora in March of 1916 and along with a number of other local fellows trained with the 94th Battalion in Port Arthur, Ontario before heading east on the first leg of the journey overseas. However once the battalion arrived at Valcartier in Quebec, William was diagnosed with a hernia and was unable to embark with the battalion when it sailed on the 26th of June. By early July he was in Winnipeg, signing his second set of attestation papers with the 221st Battalion on the 4th. He gave his next of kin as Laura Atkinson in Kenora and occupation as teamster.
Based in Winnipeg, the 221st Battalion had begun recruiting in early 1916. The battalion embarked from Halifax on 18 April 1917 aboard the Ausonia and Scandinavian. Once in England the battalion was absorbed by the 11th Reserve Battalion. By June of 1917 William had been transferred to the 78th Battalion and proceeded overseas to join the unit. Suffering from influenza, he was hospitalized in Etaples for a few days upon arriving in France.
The 78th Battalion (Winnipeg Grenadiers) was involved in most of the major battles during the war and it was at Passchendaele in October of 1917 that William was wounded due to shell gas poisoning. He also received a slight shrapnel wound to his leg.
First hospitalized in Etaples, William was invalided to the 1st Western General Hospital in Liverpool on the 11th of November. In mid March of 1918 he was transferred to the Military Convalescent Hospital in Epsom. William returned to Canada aboard the Tunisian in November of 1918 and was granted a 14 day leave to Kenora upon arrival. While in Kenora, going into the icy waters of Laurenson’s Creek, he rescued a young lad that had fallen in while sliding. William received his final discharge in Winnipeg due to demobilization on 29 January 1919.
William returned to Kenora after the war but it appears that he may have moved to Winnipeg for a few years. Predeceased by his mother Eva in 1927 and his father John in 1933, both in Kenora, and his wife Laura in 1938 at the home of their daughter Patricia Ouellette in Keewatin, William died on 26 August 1947 at the home of their daughter Winnifred McLay in Keewatin. Along with his parents, Laura, and his two children that died young, William is interred in the family plot at the Lake of the Woods Cemetery in Kenora. He was a member of the Kenora Branch of the Canadian Legion.
William is commemorated on the St. Alban’s Pro-Cathedral First World War Roll of Honour.
by Judy Stockham
photo of William: from Robbin Boulton’s public Boulton-Smith Family Tree on ancestry.ca
William’s grave marker was installed in Lake of the Woods Cemetery in 2018 by the Last Post Fund.