Kenora Great War Project

 

Personal Details
Date of BirthJune 8, 1885
Place of BirthPeninsula Harbour, North Shore, Lake Superior, Ontario
CountryCanada
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinMrs. Jane Morrison (sister), Keewatin, Ontario
Trade / CallingLabourer
ReligionPresbyterian
Service Details
Regimental Number439602
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion52nd Battalion
ForceArmy
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentKenora, Ontario
Address at EnlistmentKeewatin, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentAugust 7, 1915
Age at Enlistment30
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathMay 31, 1958
Age at Death72
Buried AtForest Lawn Memorial Park, Burnaby, British Columbia

Steele, David Carswell

Private David Carswell Steele enlisted with the 52nd Battalion in August 1915. He served overseas in England, France and Belgium and returned to Canada with his unit in March 1919.

David was the son of James Steele (Steel) and Agnes Carswell of Keewatin, Ontario. James and Agnes were both born in Scotland and at the time of their marriage, in March 1861, they were living in Grattan Township, Renfrew County, Ontario. James was a farmer and they had at least six children: Jane, James, Agnes, Margaret, Thomas and David. David was born in June 1885 at Peninsula Harbour, on the north shore of Lake Superior. His mother was about 43 years old by then and he was likely the youngest child. Within a few years the family moved to Keewatin and his mother died there in 1890, when he was five years old.

David found work at the Lake of the Woods flour mill in Keewatin. He enlisted on 7 August 1915 in the neighbouring town of Kenora, joining the 52nd (New Ontario) Battalion. The battalion was being raised as part of the third overseas contingent and the Kenora and Keewatin recruits were already training in Port Arthur. David joined them there and a few months later they left for the east coast. The unit embarked from St. John, New Brunswick on 23 November on the SS California. The recruits trained in England for a few weeks before being sent to France on 20 February 1916. They spent the first night in tents in a snowstorm and moved to Belgium by train the next day.

The battalion went into the trenches for training and orientation in the first week of March. Later that month the Canadian Corps took up positions in the south part of the Ypres Salient, between St. Eloi and Hooge, and the 52nd had their first rotation in the front line there in early April. Afterwards they supplied men for work parties then went back into the line on 9 April. David suffered his first injury the next day, 10 April. He was carrying a piece of corrugated iron used to reinforce trench walls when he fell and cut his hand. He was evacuated to No. 3 General Hospital in Boulogne where he spent seven weeks. After some time at a convalescent depot and on base details he rejoined his unit at the end of June.

The Canadians were still in the Ypres Salient that summer and the 52nd Battalion trained, supplied work parties and had regular rotations in the trenches. On 26 July they relieved the 1st CMRs in a section of the front line and at night all available men worked on repairs. David suffered a gunshot wound on 27 or 28 July, possibly one of two casualties recorded in the unit’s war diary, both by snipers. He was sent to No. 30 General Hospital in Calais then he spent two months recuperating at convalescent camps. He became ill with a fever in October and it was early November before he rejoined his unit. They had been at the Battle of the Somme that fall but by November they were back near Lens, across from Vimy, where they spent the winter.

The 52nd Battalion was in the 9th Infantry Brigade and in January 1917 David was transferred to the 9th Brigade Trench Mortar Battery. A short time later the Canadian Corps began training for the upcoming assault on Vimy Ridge. The battle started on the morning of 9 April, Easter Monday. Following the successful operation the Canadian units stayed in the area holding the new front line. Early in June David became ill with trench fever and he was evacuated to England on the hospital ship St Matthew. Over the next nine months he was treated in several different hospitals for trench fever and other illnesses. Once he had recovered he was attached to the 18th Reserve Battalion and by the end of March 1918 he was back in France. He rejoined the 52nd Battalion in early April in the Lens area and in mid-May the Canadian units were pulled from the line to go into reserve. A week later David was attached to the 9th Brigade Trench Mortar Battery again and he served with them until the end of July, when he returned to the 52nd Battalion.

The final period of the war, known now as the Hundred Days Offensive, began in August 1918 and ended with the Armistice. The Canadians were heavily involved in the operations in those last three months and they had some of their greatest victories during that time. Following the Armistice the 52nd Battalion stayed in Belgium for a few months and on 15 January 1919 David was given two weeks leave in the UK. When his leave ended he was kept in England and his unit returned there on 11 February. The men spent about five weeks at Bramshott Camp and they left for Canada on 17 March on the SS Olympic. There was a huge reception when the troops arrived back in Port Arthur and the unit was demobilized there at the end of the month.

David returned to Keewatin and he was honoured at a local ceremony on 4 August, when badges and medals were presented to returned veterans and the families of fallen soldiers. When the 1921 census was taken he was working at the flour mill and living with his sister Jane (Mrs. John Morrison). He was married on 20 September 1922 to Hortensa Maud Zeran, a school teacher. Maud was born in 1893 in Finch, Ontario and they were married in the nearby town of Newington. David and Maud settled in Keewatin and he continued his career with the flour mill. He retired around 1939 and they moved to Vancouver about six years later. David passed away in Burnaby General Hospital on 31 May 1958, just before his 73rd birthday. Maud died in 1974, at age 81, and they are both buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Burnaby.

David is commemorated on the Lake of the Woods Milling Company plaque and the Municipality of Keewatin ‘For King and Country’ 1914-1918 Honour Roll.

By Becky Johnson

52nd-1915-12-08 Steele-David-98 Steele-David-Carswell-4 Steele-David-99 Steele-David-Carswell-5 LOW-milling-image

Grave marker photo courtesy of Velda Olding (#48038513), Find A Grave.


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