|Date of Birth||April 12, 1888|
|Place of Birth||Peterborough|
|Next of Kin||mother, Mrs. M. J. Hales of 2 William Ave. Peterborough, England|
|Trade / Calling||Fireman for CPR|
|Religion||Church of England|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Battalion||Canadian Army Medical Corp|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Place of Enlistment||Kenora, Ontario|
|Address at Enlistment||Y.M.C.A. Kenora, Ontario|
|Date of Enlistment||December 23, 1914|
|Age at Enlistment||26|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||January 2, 1948|
|Age at Death||59|
|Buried At||Lake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario|
Ernest Odam was one of the group nicknamed the ‘Peterborough Boys’ from Kenora, Ontario. These men came from England to work for the Canadian Pacific Railway. They were all single young men who lived across from the railroad station at the newly built YMCA. They knew each other well and quickly became known to the residents of their new home town. Becoming involved in many local activities around town they enjoyed ‘outings’ together in their leisure time.
Ernest born on 12 April 1888 in Peterborough, England was the youngest child in the household of George and Mary Ann Odam. The 1891 England Census lists his siblings as William, Mary Jane, Annie and George (Jr.). However, it appears that Ernest was actually the son of Mary Jane Odam and the grandson of George and Mary Ann Odam. In 1899 Mary Jane married William Hales and the 1901 England Census shows William, Mary Jane and Ernest living as a separate family unit. At 14 years of age Ernest was working as a junior clerk for the Midland Railroad Company in the Borough station. The records show he was employed from October 27, 1902 through to the end of January 1904 when he resigned. At this age Ernest was lacking the education to go further. In 1911 Ernest along with his friend Fred Gray emigrated from England to Canada and joined their fellow friends in Kenora, Ontario. The opportunities of employment with the Canadian Pacific Railroad were very good at this time. The majority of these young men obtained work with the railroad. When the war broke out many of them enlisted and their life was to change forever.
Shortly after the start of WW1, Ernest enlisted with the 52nd Battalion in Kenora. He listed three and a half years previous military experience with the 90th Winnipeg Rifles on his attestation papers. After training in Port Arthur, Ontario he embarked for England aboard the S.S. Missanabie on 04 September 1915. By December of 1915 Ernest had been promoted to the rank of Corporal. However, upon his arrival in France with the 2nd Battalion in May of 1916, he reverted to the rank of Private. On 03 September 1916, during the battle of the Somme at Pozieres ridge, Ernest received a gunshot wound to his left hand. He was hospitalized in Leicester, England until January of 1917. In March 1917 Ernest returned to France and joined the 2nd Battalion in the field on 13 April. Unfortunately he sustained a second injury during the battle of Ypres and on 06 November 1917 Ernest was admitted to the #6 Field Ambulance Depot with a shrapnel wound to his head. He was treated in hospitals in Manchester and Epsom until 29 April 1918. Because he suffered headaches, dizziness and some deafness in both ears Ernest received a ‘B2’ classification and was posted to base duty with the Canadian Army Medical Corps in England. In the spring of 1918 he married May Bessie Chapman in Peterborough, England. Ernest returned to Canada in September 1919 and was discharged as medically unfit for further service.
Ernest and May made their new home in Kenora. Ernest went back to work with the Canadian Pacific Railway starting out in the car department and working his way up to becoming a clerk. May gave birth prematurely to a son Ernest (Jr.) who didn’t survive. In the 1921 when the census was taken in Kenora they were living on 3rd Street North not far from the railroad office where Ernest was then working as a clerk. They had a 1 year old daughter Elsie. His good friend Fred Gray was lodging with the family. Another daughter Patricia was born. At some time they moved to 208 4th Street North. Ernest was a pioneer staunch life member of the Kenora Legion and a member of the Pequonga Masonic Lodge where he became widely known.
After several years of ill health Ernest died suddenly in Kenora, Ontario on January 2, 1948 in his 60th year. His Veteran Death Card lists his wife, May Bessie Odam of Kenora as his next of kin. He is interred in Lake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora. The funeral was held at the Brown’s Funeral Home the next day after his passing with Masonic rites observed at his graveside. Surviving Ernest was his wife May Odam, his oldest daughter Elsie at home and his youngest daughter Patricia (who was then Mrs. Roy J. Whitaker) with his one grandchild. May was laid to rest in 1979 along with her husband.
By Linda Pelletier
Veteran death card courtesy of Library and Archives Canada.