|Date of Birth||June 4, 1877|
|Place of Birth||Birmingham|
|Next of Kin||Mrs. Harry Tompkins (wife), 95 Whitehall Road, Handsworth, Birmingham, England|
|Trade / Calling||Jeweller|
|Religion||Church of England|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Place of Enlistment||Winnipeg, Manitoba|
|Address at Enlistment||Winnipeg, Manitoba|
|Date of Enlistment||June 2, 1915|
|Age at Enlistment||37|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||April 30, 1954|
|Age at Death||76|
|Buried At||Lake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario|
|Plot||Chapel Grounds-East Block, 0E-12-4|
Birth date and location: Harry’s actual birth is recorded in the second quarter of 1877 in the registration district of Aston, County of Warwickshire, England; however he states that his birth was June 4, 1879, Birmingham, Warwickshire, England. There appears to be no explanation as to how this date was determined.
Family and early life: Harry was the son of George Henry Tomkins (born 1840, Warwickshire) and Fanny Tomkins (born 1841, Birmingham). He was one of 9 children who had been recorded in the census between 1871 and 1891. His siblings, all of whom were born in Aston included George (born about 1866); Clara (born about 1868); Charles H (born about 1869); Fanny (born about 1871); Amy (born about 1874); Janet (born about 1876); Alfred (born about 1879); and, Lizzie, born 1881. Harry, born in 1877, was third youngest. Fanny, George`s wife died shortly after the birth of Lizzie and, by the time of the 1891 Census, George had remarried.
Throughout this time, the family was living at 26 Wheeler Street in Aston. George was recorded as a Gem Setter or Jeweler over the years. Also throughout this time, there were several other Jewelers and their families living in, what appears to have been, an apartment building, Aston Manors, on Wheeler Street.
By the 1891 Census, some of the older children had moved away and Lizzie, the youngest, is no longer listed with the family. Harry, age 13, was working as an errand boy and two of his siblings were now working alongside their father as Jewelers. Sometime before the 1901 census, George died. His second wife, Emma, became a grocer and moved with Harry and three of his siblings to a new home at 39 Hockley Street in Birmingham. Like two of his brothers, Harry became a Jeweler.
At the age of 25 in 1902, Harry married Jessie Neale in West Bromwich, Staffordshire. In the 1911 census, they were living with their seven year old daughter, Gladys, at 183 Westminster Road, Handsworth, Staffordshire. In a later record, Handsworth is recorded as being in Birmingham. Harry was an established Jeweler by this time. In 1913, Harry arrived alone in Canada, and settled in Winnipeg.
War experience: On June 2, 1915, Harry enlisted in Winnipeg with the 61st Overseas Battalion and was later transferred to the 13th Battalion (Royal Highlanders of Canada). The 13th Battalion was formed from volunteers from several militia units, including the Royal Highland Regiment of Canada (Black Watch). Harry indicated he belonged to an active militia at time of enlistment. Jessie and Gladys were still living in England at 95 Whitehall Road, Handsworth, Birmingham when he enlisted; however, when he wrote his will, Jessie and Gladys were living at 17 Princess Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham. The will was not dated, but it appeared to have been written after enlistment, on a soldier’s regulation pay book.
His service, in order of dates, included the following:
Canada: June 4, 1915 to November 8, 1915. Harry sailed from Montreal on the S.S. Metagama 11/09/1915 to England
England: November 8, 1915 to January 3, 1916
France: January 3, 1916 to November 1916. Harry arrived in France on January 2nd, taken on strength as a Private and headed to his unit in the field of battle. He was hospitalized for 6 weeks as the result of a gunshot wound to his back but later returned to the field. He was promoted to Corporal in the field June 13, 1916. In September, he was in the 8 Stat Wimereux Hospital being treated for the gunshot wound in his back. It appears the wound was in his left shoulder and scalp area. Afterwards he spent time at the convalescent depot in Boulogne and, in November 1916 was returned to England.
England: November 1916 to December 14, 1917. He sailed from Liverpool on the S.S. Saxonia and was taken on strength at the CCAC (Canadian Casualty Assembly Centre) to further assess his wounds and treatment. Throughout most of 1917, he was transferred between Hastings, Seaford and St. Leonards.
Canada: On December 14, 1917, Harry was made an Instructional Cadet C.S.A.S. (Canadian Small Arms School) with the PPCLI (Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry). He held the temporary rank of Sergeant. He was then temporarily assigned to the Canadian Army Gymnastics Staff (CAGS). On May 5, 1918, he was on command to Hart House School in Toronto then on July 13 to Tuxedo Hospital. He remained in the military after World War 1 ended.
After the War: On January 1, 1919, Harry was promoted to C.S.M. (Company Sergeant Major) and remained an instructor at military school. He then returned to the CAGS in February, 1919. Harry was discharged in Winnipeg, March 31, 1922, ending his military career with the rank of Company Sergeant Major. He was declared fully healthy upon his discharge.
Jessie and Gladys, now aged 15, came to Canada arriving in Saint John, New Brunswick on June 5, 1919. They sailed on the vessel, Melita out of Liverpool. Winnipeg was their destination, moving into Suite 22, Alhambra Apartments. By the 1921 Census, Harry, Jessie and Gladys had moved to Suite 129 Alhambra Apartments. Harry was still in the military earning $1500 a year. Gladys was a stenographer, making $660 annually.
It has been difficult to trace Harry and Jessie after this time. His obituary says he had a twenty-year career in the army and retired in 1937 as a Warrant Officer Class I. It also mentions that he and Jessie lived in Winnipeg and Victoria, British Columbia, yet they are both buried in Kenora. Voters Lists in Ontario, Manitoba and British Columbia between 1935 and into the 1950’s all have married couples, where the husband’s name is Harry, but, the wives’ names are rarely given. It has also been difficult to determine the connection to Kenora other than the fact that their daughter married Ernest Carter in June 1935. Gladys, Ernest and their only child, lived in Kenora. ‘Ernie’ was the mayor of Kenora from 1966 t0 1971.
Death and burial: Harry died at Deer Lodge Hospital, in Winnipeg, April 30, 1954. He has a grave marker in the veteran’s grounds in the Lake of the Woods Cemetery. There is also a large granite headstone with the names of both Harry and Jessie. She died in 1970. Both markers are in the Chapel Grounds -East Block of the cemetery.
By Susan (Hillman) Brazeau in support of the Kenora Great War Project – honouring all who served, remembering those who died
England and Wales Birth Indexes
England Marriage Indexes
1871 England Census
1881 England Census
1891 England Census
1901 England Census
1911 England Census
Library and Archives Canada
Canada Passenger Lists (1919)
1921 Canada Census
Kenora Miner and News (1954 Obituary)
Northwestern Ontario Gravemarkers Gallery
Other Resources Unsuccessfully Accessed:
Manitoba Vital Statistics
Canada-Voters’ Lists 1935 to the mid 1950’s
Passenger Lists 1913-1915