|Date of Birth||November 16, 1881|
|Place of Birth||Falkirk, Stirlingshire|
|Next of Kin||Janet Erskine, wife, Kenora, Ontario|
|Trade / Calling||Iron worker|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Place of Enlistment||Kenora, Ontario|
|Address at Enlistment||Kenora, Ontario|
|Date of Enlistment||January 4, 1916|
|Age at Enlistment||32|
|Theatre of Service||Great Britain|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||January 18, 1971|
|Age at Death||87|
|Buried At||Lake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario|
Although he gave his year of birth as 1883 on his attestation papers, Charles Stewart Erskine was born on 16 November 1881 in Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland. His parents were Thomas and Janet (née Stewart) who had married in 1870 in Falkirk. Over the years Tom made his living as a joiner journeyman (contract carpenter). The 1871 Scotland census found the family living in Partick, Glasgow in Lanarkshire where the couple gave birth to their first child, a son William. A second son Thomas was born in 1874. By 1876 the family was back in Falkirk. Family members included on the 1881 census were Tom and Janet and children Thomas, Jane (1876) and Mary (1879); sadly William was no longer with the family as he had died. By 1891 four more children were added to the family, Charles, William (1884), Andrew (1887), and Eliza (1891).
By the 1901 Scotland census for Falkirk Charles was working as an iron moulder. On 31 December 1903, in Falkirk, he married Janet Simpson Gardner, daughter of David, a baker by trade, and Janet (née Simpson) Gardner. Born in Falkirk in 1885, Janet was a middle child in the family. Charles and Janet gave birth to a daughter Janet Simpson (Nettie) in 1908 in Edinburgh and another daughter Jeanie Stewart (Jane) in 1909 back in Falkirk.
Charles’ sister Jane was the first to immigrate to Canada. She had married James Francis in Falkirk and along with their two children they arrived in Canada aboard the Ionion in July of 1905. Their destination was Rat Portage (later named Kenora) in northwestern Ontario. Charles immigrated to Kenora in early September of 1912, arriving in Halifax on the Lake Champlain on the 3rd. It appears that he became ill during the voyage and was detained upon arrival before proceeding to Kenora. Janet and the two children left Glasgow on the Cassandra at the end of May in 1913 to join Charles.
Once in Kenora Charles found work in his profession with the Canadian Pacific Railway in their shops. The family went through a very difficult time in 1914, giving birth to twins Margaret and Catherine in April, only to lose both of them within days of each other to dysentery caused by cholera infantum six months later. In 1915 they gave birth to a daughter Eliza and a daughter Davine in 1917.
Charles signed his attestation papers in Kenora on 4 January 1916. His occupation was given as iron worker and his next of kin his wife Janet. With recruitment taking place throughout northwestern Ontario, the 94th Battalion had its headquarters in Port Arthur. In mid May of 1916 Private Charles Erskine, along with a number of other local fellows, left Kenora by train for the Lakehead, wished well by a large crowd that gathered to see the boys off. In early June the battalion moved to Valcartier, Quebec for further training before embarking for England from Halifax aboard the Olympic on the 28th.
Once in England Charles was transferred to the 17th Reserve Battalion. In mid November he was admitted to the Moore Barracks Hospital in Shorncliffe. Although he had passed his medical examination in Kenora, it was found that he had a mitral regurgitant heart murmur (leaky heart valve) that caused his heart to be enlarged, shortness of breath, and edema of the legs. Upon discharge he was granted a leave to Falkirk for a week in January of 1917, but upon his return he was admitted to the Monks Horton Convalescent Hospital in Kent, followed by the Canadian Military Hospital in Hastings. Charles’ service record states that his condition originated on service but it was likely that he had it before enlisting. Deemed medically unfit for service, Charles returned to Canada in mid July and was discharged in Winnipeg on 31 January 1918.
Once back in Kenora the Erskine family grew. Thomas was born in 1921 and twins Charles and Catherine in 1923. But once again dysentery claimed a child with Catherine passing away that September. Two more children were born to the family, Mary in 1924 and James in 1926. Charles was employed as a painter with Stone’s Boat Works for many years and was a member of Knox United Church.
Charles and Janet’s son Charles Stewart served during WW2 with the South Saskatchewan Regiment and was reported as killed in action on 25 July 1944. He is interred in the Bretteville-sur-laize Canadian War Cemetery in Calvados, France.
Predeceased by Charles, his wife Janet in 1958, son Jim in 1967, and daughter Jean (Malcolm) McLeod, Charles died on 18 January 1971 in the Lake of the Woods District Hospital, Kenora. He was survived by his four daughters Janet (Andrew) Kilgour and Eliza (Frank) Wylie of Thunder Bay, Davine (John) Dronyk of Fort Frances, and Mary (Lyle) Douglas of Winnipeg as well as son Thomas of Kenora. Also surviving were twenty-four grandchildren and twenty-four great grandchildren. Charles is interred in the Lake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora.
by Judy Stockham
photos of Charles and Janet courtesy of the public Kilgour Family Tree on ancestry.ca