Kenora Great War Project

 

Personal Details
Date of BirthJuly 5, 1878
Place of BirthNorwich
CountryEngland
Marital StatusMarried
Next of KinMrs. Edith Blake (wife), Kenora, Ontario
Trade / CallingCar repairer
ReligionMethodist
Service Details
Regimental Number199161
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion17th Reserve Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentKenora, Ontario
Address at EnlistmentKenora, Ontario
Date of Enlistment16/03/1916
Age at Enlistment37
Theatre of ServiceGreat Britain
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of Death09/05/1954
Age at Death75
Buried AtLake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario
PlotChapel Grounds East, 0E-14-1

Blake, Thomas

Private Thomas Blake enlisted with the 94th Battalion in Kenora, Ontario in March 1916. He served in England for six months before being discharged for medical reasons.

Thomas was the son of George and Emma Blake of Hellesdon, Norwich, Norfolk County, England. George and Emma (née Sanham) were married in Norwich in 1869 and they had 13 children, nine sons (James William, George, Stephen, Thomas, Edward, Alfred, twins Ernest and Arthur, and another Edward) and four daughters (Honor, Emma, Jessie and Elsie). Thomas, the middle child, was born on 5 July 1878 in Hellesdon, a small village where his father worked as a farm labourer. When the 1901 census was taken he was 22, living at home and employed as a gardener. His brother Alfred, age 18, was also working as a gardener and by then their father was a steward on a farm.

Thomas was married in Norwich on 5 July 1902 to Edith Mary Land. Edith was four years younger than Thomas and she’d grown up in Hellesdon like him. Her mother had passed away in 1896 when she was 14. At the time of the 1911 census Thomas and Edith were living in Norwich where he worked as a maltster and they had two sons, Arthur Reginald, age 6, and Thomas Frank, age 1. Another child died as an infant. Thomas’ brother Alfred immigrated to Canada in 1907 and he settled in the town of Kenora in northwestern Ontario, where he found work with the Canadian Pacific Railway. Thomas decided to join his brother in Canada. He arrived in Kenora in 1912 and his wife and two children followed the next year.

The war started in August 1914 and Thomas and Alfred Blake both enlisted early in 1916. Alfred went to Winnipeg where he signed up with the 61st Battalion on 25 February 1916. Thomas enlisted in Kenora three weeks later, joining the local 94th Battalion on 16 March. He was 37 years old and working as a car repairer for the CPR at the time. The 94th was based in Port Arthur and recruited in towns throughout northwestern Ontario, and in May 1916 the Kenora volunteers were sent to Port Arthur to join the rest of the unit. They left for Quebec two weeks later and spent a short time at Valcartier Camp before embarking from Halifax on 28 June 1916 on the SS Olympic. In England the recruits were absorbed into reserve battalions to be used as reinforcements for other units. Thomas was assigned to the 17th Reserve Battalion on 13 July but after four months of training he was transferred to the Canadian Casualty Assembly Centre in order to be discharged. He was found medically unfit for service due a pre-existing heart condition and he returned to Canada, arriving in Halifax on the SS Olympic on 7 December 1916. He was officially discharged in Quebec on 30 December and he was back in Kenora in the new year. His brother survived the war and arrived home in April 1919.

Thomas returned to his job as a car repairer with the CPR and in 1920 he and his wife had a daughter, Irene Grace. He enjoyed flowers and gardening and their home was one of the ‘showplaces’ in town. Thomas was a member of the Kenora branch of the Canadian Legion and the Brotherhood of Railway Carmen. He worked for the CPR for more than thirty years, retiring on 31 December 1944, then he had a second career as superintendent of parks for the town of Kenora. Thomas passed away in the Winnipeg General Hospital on 9 May 1954, at age 75. He was survived by his wife Edith, daughter Irene, sons Reginald and Frank, two sisters in Norwich, England, Mrs. Jessie Emms and Mrs. Elsie Benington, and his brother Alfred of Kenora. His mother had died in 1908 and his father in 1923.

Thomas is buried in Lake of the Woods Cemetery in Kenora. His wife passed away in 1960 and she is interred beside him.

By Becky Johnson

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