|Date of Birth||May 21, 1863|
|Place of Birth||Hamilton, Ontario|
|Next of Kin||Mrs. Kennina Brydges (wife), 276 Mountain Avenue, Winnipeg, Manitoba|
|Trade / Calling||Seaman / Boat Captain|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Place of Enlistment||Winnipeg, Manitoba|
|Address at Enlistment||276 Mountain Avenue, Winnipeg, Manitoba|
|Date of Enlistment||July 2, 1915|
|Age at Enlistment||52|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||March 4, 1948|
|Age at Death||84|
|Buried At||Lakeside Cemetery, The Pas, Manitoba|
Private Edward Webster Brydges was 52 years old when he enlisted in July 1915. He served in France and Belgium for fifteen months with the 78th Battalion (Winnipeg Grenadiers) and returned to Canada in March 1918.
Edward’s parents, William Brydges and Elizabeth Summerfield, were married in 1862 in Haldimand County, Ontario (called Canada West at the time). Edward was born on 21 May 1963 in Hamilton, Wentworth County and his brother Clarence was born two years later. They were followed by six daughters: Mary, Marvilla, Melissa, Alice, Amanda Matilda and Harriet Emily. In the late 1870s the family moved from the Hamilton area to the new town of Petrolia in Lambton County. Petrolia had been founded about ten years earlier with oil production as its main industry.
Edward was still at home in Petrolia for the 1881 census but a couple of years later he moved west to Manitoba. He worked at sawmills in the Shoal Lake district and he was a teamster in the Qu’Appelle area during the Riel Rebellion. He was married in Winnipeg on 25 November 1886. His wife, Kennina McKenzie Leitch, was born in Ontario and moved to Manitoba with her family as a child. Edward and Kennina settled in Rat Portage (later called Kenora), in northwestern Ontario and Edward owned and operated steam ferries on Lake of the Woods. At the time of the 1891 census they were living in the neighbouring town of Keewatin with Edward listed as a boat captain. Kennina’s parents, Neil and Margaret Leitch, had moved to Norman, a small village between Keewatin and Rat Portage. Edward’s brother Clarence was also living in Keewatin and working as a boat captain but he returned to Petrolia a few years later.
Edward and Kennina’s first son, Henry Neill, was born in Keewatin in September 1891 and sadly died at age 11 months. He was followed by three daughters: Edna, Ethel (1896) and Evelyn (1903). Two of the steam boats Edward managed were the Kennina and the Edna Brydges, which was launched in 1895 and used to haul passengers and freight between Rat Portage and Fort Frances. Kennina’s father died in the fall of 1904 and her mother passed away three months later. They are both buried in Lake of the Woods Cemetery in Kenora. Around that time Edward and his family moved to Selkirk, Manitoba. He continued to manage passenger and freight boats as well as lumber barges. By 1908 they were living in Portage la Prairie and the two youngest children, Earl Webster and Edwin Kenneth, were born there in 1908 and 1911. When the 1911 census was taken Edward’s occupation was marine captain.
By the time Edward enlisted, in the summer of 1915, he and his wife had relocated to Winnipeg. He signed up in Winnipeg on 2 July, joining the 78th Battalion. He was 52 years old at the time but he passed himself off as ten years younger and said he belonged to a local militia unit, the 100th Winnipeg Grenadiers. The recruits trained at Camp Sewell (later renamed Camp Hughes) during the summer and moved back to Winnipeg for the winter. They headed overseas in the spring, embarking from Halifax on the Empress of Britain on 20 May 1916 and arriving in Liverpool about nine days later.
After training in England for several months the 78th Battalion was sent to France on 12 August 1916. They became part of the 12th Infantry Brigade in the new 4th Canadian Division. They were at the Somme Offensive that fall and the Battle of Vimy Ridge in April 1917. In September 1917 Edward became ill with herpes zoster (shingles) and he recovered for two weeks in a field ambulance unit. He rejoined his battalion in time for the Battle of Passchendaele but before the operation ended he was sent to the Canadian Infantry Base Depot. He was 54 years old by then and unfit for further service in France. On 10 November he was back in England where he was posted to the Manitoba Regiment Depot. He returned to Canada in March 1918, sailing from Liverpool on the SS Grampian and arriving at St. John, New Brunswick. He was discharged on 17 April in Winnipeg, due to being unfit for further war service.
Edward returned to his family in Winnipeg but a short time later they moved to The Pas. He operated the Opasquia Hotel there as well as running a bakery. His son Earl got involved in sled dog training and racing and he won The Pas Dog Derby in 1930 and 1931, a race that had started during the war years and was about 150 miles long. Edward had returned to freighting by that time, operating a boat out of Cranberry Portage, north of The Pas. Earl enlisted in the army in the Second World War. He went overseas in 1943 and was wounded in Belgium in 1944.
In November 1946 Edward and Kennina celebrated their diamond (60th) wedding anniversary. Edward passed away at his daughter Edna’s home in The Pas on 4 March 1948, at age 84. His death was considered to be due to his war service and a memorial cross was sent to his wife in November 1948. Kennina died at the Grace Hospital in Winnipeg on 24 May 1959, at age 90. Edward and Kennina are both buried in Lakeside Cemetery in The Pas.
By Becky Johnson
Grave marker photos courtesy of Ralph McLean, South African War Graves Project