Kenora Great War Project

 

Personal Details
Date of BirthSeptember 10, 1885
Place of BirthToronto, Ontario
CountryCanada
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinMrs. May McKee (stepmother), Deloraine, Manitoba
Trade / CallingLocomotive Engineer
ReligionPresbyterian
Service Details
Regimental Number2125016
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 EnlistmentYMCA, Kenora, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentJanuary 30, 1917
Age at Enlistment31
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathMarch 2, 1972
Age at Death86
Buried AtChapel Lawn Memorial Gardens, Winnipeg

McKee, Albert William

Throughout the war railroads were essential for evacuating the wounded and moving troops, equipment and supplies, and skilled workers were needed for their construction, maintenance and operation. Corporal Albert William McKee, a CPR engineer from Kenora, Ontario, enlisted with a railway unit in January 1917 and served in France and Belgium for two years.

Albert was born on 10 September 1885 in the village of Shelburne in Dufferin County, Ontario. His parents, William Alexander McKee and Eliza Ellen Mallett, were both born in Ontario. They were married in March 1881 in Eliza’s hometown of Brussels in Huron County. William was a shoemaker and they had three children: Rosie, Albert and Birty (Bert) Raymond. Bert was born in Shelburne in March 1888 and a short time later the family moved to Deloraine, Manitoba. Eliza’s brother William Mallett had a jeweller’s shop in Deloraine and William McKee may have worked for him. Sadly, Eliza died in September 1889, at age 26, and she’s buried in the Brandon Municipal Cemetery. When the 1891 census was taken William was living alone in Deloraine and working as a watchmaker. Albert and his sister Rosie were both staying in Halton, Ontario with an aunt and uncle, John Matthews and his wife Ann (née Mallett). William got married again in November 1891 to Mary Emma Leggatt, also known as May. At the time of the 1901 census the family was in Deloraine with all three children back at home.

By late 1916 Albert was living in Kenora, Ontario and working as a locomotive engineer for the Canadian Pacific Railway. During the war Canada played a major role in providing skilled workers for the construction and operation of railways in France and Belgium. The railroad systems were being expanded throughout 1916 and more recruits were needed. Albert enlisted in Winnipeg on 30 January 1917, signing up with No. 1 Section Skilled Railway Employees. A week later he left Winnipeg by train with the other volunteers, on the first leg of their journey overseas, and they had a short stop in Kenora on the way through. The recruits included 32 local men and a large crowd gathered at the Kenora train station to see them off and wish them well. The men continued on their way to Montreal, where the unit had its headquarters, and on 4 March they embarked for the UK on the   SS Ausonia. In England No. 1 Section became No. 58 Broad Gauge Railway Operating Company (Canadians), Royal Engineers. The men spent only a month in England before being sent to France, arriving there on 19 April 1917.

During the Battle of Messines Ridge in June 1917 No. 58 Company operated just behind the combat areas where trains were used to haul troops, ammunition, supplies, ambulance units and refugees. Albert had been promoted to 2nd Corporal in March and in August 1917 he became a Corporal. Beginning in August 1918 the fighting moved into a more open phase and railways were essential for maintaining supplies to the front lines. The Armistice ended hostilities in November but it was months before most of the Canadian troops returned to England. The 1st and 2nd Canadian Divisions occupied parts of Germany while the other two divisions remained in Belgium, and the railway troops were kept busy until the spring of 1919. No. 58 Company returned to England in April, exactly two years after first arriving in France. The unit was disbanded and the men were transferred to the Canadian Railway Training Depot. They returned to Canada the following month, arriving in Halifax on the SS Aquitania on 25 May 1919. Albert was discharged in Montreal two days later.

After the war Albert settled in Winnipeg and had a long career as an engineer with the CPR. He was married in Winnipeg on 15 December 1928 to Christiana Cora Laruson. The couple lived at 826 Banning Street for more than forty years. Albert retired around 1950 and passed away in the Winnipeg General Hospital on 2 March 1972, at age 86. He’s buried in Chapel Lawn Memorial Gardens in Winnipeg.

By Becky Johnson

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