Kenora Great War Project

 

Personal Details
Date of BirthFebruary 3, 1890
Place of BirthStagsden, Bedfordshire
CountryEngland
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinMrs. Harry Wilding (mother), Astwood, Buckinghamshire, England
Trade / CallingLocomotive fireman
ReligionChurch of England
Service Details
Regimental Number461461
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion44th Battalion
ForceArmy
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentWinnipeg, Manitoba
Address at EnlistmentBredenbury, Saskatchewan
Date of EnlistmentFebruary 25, 1915
Age at Enlistment25
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathAugust 19, 1965
Age at Death75
Buried AtMinnedosa Cemetery, Minnedosa, Manitoba
PlotSection B, Lot 130, Plot 1

Wilding, Alfred John

Lance Sergeant Alfred John Wilding enlisted in February 1916 and served overseas for three years. He was wounded twice but he survived the war and returned to Canada in June 1919.

Alfred was born on 3 February 1890 in Stagsden, Bedfordshire, England. His parents were Harry Wilding, a farm worker, and Jane Elizabeth Hobbs. Harry and Jane were married in 1883 and they had at least nine children, four sons and five daughters. At the time of the 1911 census Alfred was living at home in Stagsden and working as a stockman on a farm. Later that same year he immigrated to Canada, arriving in Quebec on 2 June on the SS Ascania. His destination was the village of Bredenbury in the RM of Saltcoats, Saskatchewan.   His older brother William had immigrated a year earlier and he was living in the Saltcoats area. Both of them found work with the Canadian Pacific Railway.

The war entered its second year in August 1915 and Alfred enlisted that winter. He was living in Kenora, Ontario at the time and working as a locomotive fireman for the CPR. He was boarding with Mrs. H. Dennett, whose son Robert was serving in France. Alfred signed up in Winnipeg on 25 February 1916, joining the 61st Battalion. He was one of several CPR employees from Kenora who enlisted with the battalion that day. Just a month later they were on their way to the east coast. During the brief stop in Kenora on 27 March friends and relatives gathered at the train station to see them off and wish them well. They embarked from Halifax on 1 April 1916 on the SS Olympic, arriving in England eleven days later.

Alfred was transferred to the 44th Battalion on 12 May and after three more months of training he was sent to France, landing there on 12 August. The 44th Battalion became part of the 10th Infantry Brigade in the new 4th Canadian Division. That fall the Canadians were at the Somme Offensive, which had started on 1 July. The 44th Battalion arrived at the Somme in early October and later that month they took part in the assault on Regina Trench. The trench was captured on 11 November and the Somme operations ended on 18 November. Alfred was one of the casualties in the last few days, suffering a shell or gunshot wound to his back. He was admitted to No. 16 General Hospital in Le Tréport on 19 November and he recovered there for five weeks. Afterwards he spent some time at a convalescent centre then on base details and it was early April 1917 when he rejoined his unit in the field.

The Canadian Corps captured Vimy Ridge in April then stayed in the Vimy area holding the new front line. Alfred became ill and on 7 May he was admitted to No. 7 General Hospital in Omer, suffering from mumps and trench fever. After a month there he was transferred to a convalescent depot and in mid-July he was well enough for base details. In August he spent some time with an entrenching battalion before rejoining the 44th Battalion in early September. In October the Canadians moved to the Ypres Salient for the assault on Passchendaele but Alfred was given leave in the UK just before the battle started. A few weeks after returning he was promoted to Corporal and sent on an NCO course and in March 1918 he took a bombing course.

Early that summer the Canadians went into reserve before undergoing about eight weeks of intensive training in open warfare. The final period of the war, known now as the Hundred Days Offensive, started in August with the Battle of Amiens (8-11 August 1918). The 44th Battalion moved into position near Amiens on 9 August and took part in the operations on the last two days. During the assault Alfred was wounded in the neck, one of 275 casualties in his unit. He was admitted to No. 6 General Hospital in Rouen on 12 August. A month later when he was fit for duty he was posted to the Canadian Infantry Base Depot, where he served for three months. The Armistice ended hostilities in November and he rejoined the 44th Battalion two days before Christmas. They were in Belgium by then and they stayed there for the next four months.

Alfred had two weeks leave in the UK in January 1919. His unit entrained for Le Havre, France on 17 April and sailed for England about nine days later. Alfred was promoted to Lance Sergeant on 26 April. His battalion spent a month at Bramshott Camp before embarking for Canada on the Empress of Britain on 27 May. They landed at Quebec on 4 June and arrived back in Winnipeg on 8 June, with the men getting discharged on demobilization the same day.

Alfred was married in 1921 and when the census was taken that year he was living in Bredenbury, Saskatchewan. His wife, Christina (Nina) Mary Ann Rumbles, was born in 1900 in Banffshire, Scotland, the daughter of William and Margaret Rumbles. Her family came to Canada in May 1914 and settled in the Bredenbury area. Alfred and Nina had two children, Marjory and James. They moved to Minnedosa in 1928 and Alfred had a long career with the CPR, becoming an engineer and retiring in the 1950s. He passed away on 19 August 1965, at age 75, and he’s buried in Minnedosa Cemetery. Nina died in December 1988 at the Princess Elizabeth Hospital in Winnipeg.

Alfred is commemorated on the Canadian Pacific Railway Roll of Honour and the Roll of Honour for St. Alban’s Pro-Cathedral in Kenora.

By Becky Johnson

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Photo of Alfred provided by his grandson David McLean


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