Kenora Great War Project

 

Personal Details
Date of BirthNovember 30, 1892
Place of BirthOakville, Ontario
CountryCanada
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinMrs. Mary Husband, 341 7th Avenue S., Kenora, Ontario
Trade / CallingRailroad Brakeman
ReligionMethodist
Service Details
Regimental Number2125011
Service Record Link to Service Record
BattalionNo. 58 Broad Gauge Railway Operating Company
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Railway Troops
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentWinnipeg, Manitoba
Address at Enlistment341 7th Avenue S., Kenora, Ontario, Canada
Date of EnlistmentFebruary 2, 1917
Age at Enlistment24
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathJanuary 1, 1976
Age at Death83
Buried AtLake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario
Plot31E-2-4

Husband, Clare Elmer

 

My father was a quiet   man who never spoke about the war. He did,however, have a wooden box of faded, curled photographs of devastated landscapes, shelled buildings, groups of smiling soldiers and trains – lots of trains. Poking through those old photos as a child, I wondered what trains had to do with the war. I didn’t ask and he didn’t say.

Many years later I found out.

My father, Clare Elmer Husband was born in Oakville, Ontario on November 29, 1892, the youngest surviving child of John Henry Husband and Mary Jane Walker. John Henry’s grandfather, John Husband had brought his family to Canada from Ireland in 1822. As a naval veteran of the Napoleonic Wars, he was granted 100 acres in Halton County. Mary’s grandfather, Phillip Walker was a United Empire Loyalist who settled his family in 1796 on a land grant of 1200 acres in the Niagara Peninsula.

The family remained in Oakville until 1906 when John died of cancer. Mary and four grown children moved to Kenora where John’s younger brother, Robert had a painting and wallpapering business. Clare worked with his uncle until he went to work on the Canadian Pacific Railway as a brakeman c.1915.

In 1917, when the call went out for skilled railway workers to serve in the Canadian Expeditionary Force in France, Clare, along with others from Kenora went to Winnipeg on Feb. 2   to join up. This group of Number One Section Skilled Railway Workers, recruited in military districts east of Winnipeg, was  under the command of Captain A.H. Kendall and  was to become part of the  No. 58 Broad Gauge Railway Operating Company.  A contingent of 28 left Kenora on Feb. 7 to be mobilized with others in Montreal. The  Number One Section Skilled Railway Workers  left Canada on March 4 on the Ausonia and arrived in England on March15. They left for France on April 17, 1917   where they came under the command of Brig.-Gen. Stewart.

NOTE: Since it was the policy laid down by Canadian military authorities that every Canadian engaged at the front on work of a technical nature must first be trained as a fighting soldier, I presume that during the time in Montreal and/or in England this battalion received some military training. ( fr. Canadian Expeditionary Force 1914-1918  By Col. G.W.L. Nicholson,C.D)

Details of Clare’s war service are sketchy. However, the service of the  No. 58 Broad Gauge Railway Operating Company  mentions that this unit was operating in the immediate rear of active operations. Trains hauled troops, ammunition, supplies and food to the front lines and returned with the wounded and refugees. As the battle lines moved forward, more track was laid. The Germans, of course, were eager to cut off these supply lines. Trains and unprotected workers were shelled, machine gunned, strafed and picked off by snipers. The 58th laid track and ran trains for the battles of Messiness Ridge (June 1917) and Lys (April 1918)

After the Armistice in 1918, Clare remained in France until April 17, 1919. There were no medals, no glory, he did the job he signed up for and survived. But my father told us with a grin, that after the war, he had stolen England’s greatest treasure- our mother.  He had met Irene Bristow while on leave in London   in August 1918. They married in London on April 29, 1919 and returned to Canada on August 22 on board the Melita.

When the couple stepped off the train in   Kenora, Irene, a London girl, surveyed the wooden sidewalks and muddy streets and silently vowed she would not be there long! However, except for a brief visit to England in 1925, she remained in Kenora the rest of her life, declaring Canada the best country in the world.

Clare and Irene raised six children – Alice( Myles) 1920, Norah (Frost) 1923, Robert (1924), Bert(1928), Dorothy(Beach) 1931, and Margaret (Hanna) 1937.

Clare returned to work on the C.P.R. as a brakeman. However, during the Depression, when work on the railroad was sporadic,  he had to return to painting and paper hanging as well as working on building the trans- Canada highway. Irene did her part by taking in roomers and boarders as well as sewing and baking bread.

At the outbreak of WW II, Clare returned to full time work on the CPR. Bob joined the navy in 1942 and served on corvettes on North Atlantic convoys. Norah worked in a war plant and then joined the Women’s Division of the RCAF as a parachute packer.

Clare retired as a conductor in 1957. The next year he got cancer, but after a rigorous series of radiation treatments, he lived another 18 years. He and Irene celebrated 55 years of marriage. He died January 1,1976. Irene lived to enjoy another 16 years of good health. She passed away on June 26, 1992. She is buried beside Clare in the Lake of the Woods Cemetery.

Submitted by Dorothy Beach

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