|Date of Birth||September 9, 1897|
|Place of Birth||Kenora, Ontario|
|Next of Kin||Mrs. Mary Coppard (mother), Kenora, Ontario|
|Trade / Calling||Labourer|
|Religion||Church of England|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Battalion||1st Machine Gun Company|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Branch||Canadian Machine Gun Corps|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Place of Enlistment||Kenora, Ontario|
|Address at Enlistment||Kenora, Ontario|
|Date of Enlistment||02/02/1916|
|Age at Enlistment||18|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||25/12/1954|
|Age at Death||57|
|Buried At||Lake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario|
|Plot||38E-35-1, Liberty View|
Private William Coppard was one of three brothers who served in the First World War. He was wounded twice but he survived the war and returned to Canada in January 1919.
William was born on 9 September 1897 in Rat Portage (later called Kenora) in northwestern Ontario, the youngest son of Henry Coppard and Maria McPherson. Henry, also known as Harry, was from Rye, Sussex, England and his wife was born in Ontario to Scottish-métis parents. They had eight children, four sons and four daughters. Two of the girls died in 1907, Rosie Jane at age 15 and an infant at age 4 days. William’s surviving siblings were Richard (1890), Samuel (1893), George (1895), Maude (1900) and Nellie (1903). When the 1911 census was taken William was 13 years old and living with his family on Sixth Avenue South in Kenora. His three brothers were working at the Rat Portage Lumber Company and his father was a labourer for the railway.
When the First World War started Richard was the first to sign up, enlisting with the 52nd Battalion in February 1915. William signed up a year later, joining the 94th Battalion on 2 February 1916. The 94th was based in Port Arthur and recruited in towns throughout northwestern Ontario. In May the Kenora volunteers left for Port Arthur to join the rest of the unit. A huge crowd gathered to see the lads off as they marched from the Kenora armouries to the station to board a special train. The battalion headed to Quebec on 9 June and spent a short time at Valcartier before embarking for the UK at the end of the month. In England the men were transferred to reserve battalions to be used as reinforcements for other units.
William trained for three months with the 17th and 30th Reserve Battalions and in October 1916 he was drafted to the 7th Battalion and sent to France. When he joined his new unit in late November they were based in the Lens-Arras area, opposite Vimy. The Canadian Corps had just been at the Somme Offensive where they suffered 24,000 casualties in 2-1/2 months. Over the winter the battalions received reinforcements to bring them back up to strength and in April they took part in the Battle of Vimy Ridge. In July 1917 the Corps was ordered to capture the town of Lens in France. General Currie instead supported a plan to take the high ground to the north of Lens and the Canadians began training for what would be the Battle of Hill 70 (15-25 August 1917). The 7th Battalion moved into position on the night of 14 August and the assault began at 4:25 the next morning. The men advanced against heavy machine gun fire and William suffered a severe wound to his left knee. He was evacuated to a hospital on the coast of France and from there to the UK.
He spent six weeks in hospital then another six months with two reserve battalions in England. In March 1918 he was back in France with the 7th Battalion but a short time later he was transferred to the 1st Battalion, Canadian Machine Gun Corps. The final period of the war, known now as the Hundred Days Offensive, started that summer with the Battle of Amiens. The Canadians were heavily engaged in the operations and suffered 20% of their battle casualties in those last three months of the war. Early in October they were involved in intense fighting north of Cambrai and William was injured again, suffering a wound to his lip and leg. He was evacuated to the 1st Eastern General Hospital in Cambridge, England then transferred to the convalescent centre at Epsom in early December. He was released on 11 December, a month after the Armistice. He embarked for Canada on the SS Aquitania on 18 January 1919, landing at Halifax six days later. Back in Canada he was posted to #10 District Depot (Manitoba) and discharged on 27 February 1919 in Winnipeg.
His oldest brother Richard Coppard served in France and Belgium for two years. He was gassed by a German shell in March 1918 and he died two months later in a hospital in England. Conscription had started in Canada by then. A month after Richard’s death their brother George Coppard was called up and he served in Canada. Their uncle Charles Miller of Kenora was killed at the Battle of Amiens on 10 August 1918, three months before the Armistice.
Shortly after William arrived in England his father died in a railway accident, in August 1916. He was working as a guard at a tunnel near Sioux Lookout when he was struck by a train.
William lived in the Kenora area after the war and never married. He worked for the government, first with Ontario Lands and Forests for 22 years then, for the last seven years of his life, as a patrolman for the Ontario Department of Highways. In 1954 he was living in Perrault Falls, Ontario and he went to Kenora to visit relatives for the Christmas holidays. He died there on Christmas Day, 1954, at age 57. His funeral was held in Kenora and he’s buried in Liberty View Block in Lake of the Woods Cemetery. His mother passed away in Kenora in 1936 and she’s also buried there, as well as his sister Rosie (1892-1907). His brother George had died in Fort William in 1953.
William was survived by his brother Samuel and his sisters Maude (Mrs. Walter Bradley) and Nellie (Mrs. Marcus Blight). Samuel (1893-1958), Maude (1900-1972) and Nellie (1903-1995) are all buried in Lake of the Woods Cemetery. Maude’s husband Walter Bradley and Nellie’s husband Marcus Blight were both veterans of the First World War. Three of Maude’s sons served in the Second World War and one of them, Ernest William, was killed in action in France in June 1944, at age 21.
William is commemorated in Kenora on the St. Alban’s Pro-Cathedral First World War Roll of Honour.
By Becky Johnson