Kenora Great War Project

 

Personal Details
Date of BirthOctober 14, 1891
Place of BirthSouth Shields, Durham
CountryEngland
Marital StatusMarried
Next of KinAnnie Armstrong, wife, 249 King Street, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Trade / CallingAuto Mechanic/Motor Body Builder
ReligionChurch of England
Service Details
Regimental NumberCan 174591/3307713
Service Record Link to Service Record
ForceRoyal Air Force
BranchRoyal Air Force (Canada)
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentWinnipeg, Manitoba
Address at Enlistment249 King Edward Street, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Date of EnlistmentJune 5, 1918
Age at Enlistment26
Theatre of ServiceCanada
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathFebruary 10, 1959
Age at Death67
Buried AtLake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario
Plot54E-21-2

Armstrong, Robert Wharton

According to his attestation papers Robert Wharton Armstrong was born on 14 October 1891 in South Shields, Durham in England. His father Robert Wharton Armstrong was from Sunderland in Durham while his mother Etta Moore was from High Shields, Durham, the couple marrying during the 3rd quarter of 1890. Robert was their first born child followed by Joseph Cox (1893), Elizabeth (abt 1894), William (1896), and James (abt 1899). The 1901 census found the family living in the Jarrow area of South Shields with father Robert working as a blacksmith in a shipyard. By the time of the 1911 census Elizabeth had passed away and it appears that Robert had left for Canada as he was not listed on the census. At the time of the census both Robert Jr and Joseph were working as miners and shifters while William was working as a coal screener. James was attending school.

On 11 August 1911, in South Shields, Robert married Annie Forster. Born about 1893 in South Shields, it appears that her father died young with her mother Margaret marrying Joseph Maiers in 1904. In August of 1912 Robert and Annie gave birth to son Robert Wharton Armstrong. The next year Robert and his brother Joseph immigrated to Canada, arriving in Quebec aboard the Laurentic on 19 May. Listed as miners on the passenger list, the brothers were on their way to Winnipeg, Manitoba. Along with Robert’s mother Etta and his brothers William and James, Annie and the baby immigrated the next year, arriving in Quebec aboard the Empress of Britain on 6 June. In November of 1913 Robert moved to Dawson, New Mexico, with Annie and Robert Jr following in January of 1914. Dawson had become a mecca for coal miners from all over the world with immigrants arriving from Italy, China, Poland, Germany, Greece, Britain, Finland, Sweden, Canada, and Mexico. It is not known how long the young family stayed in Dawson as Robert’s obituary suggested that he lived in Racine, Wisconsin while working for the Ford Motor Company before transferring to Winnipeg with the company.

Robert enlisted with the Royal Air Force on 5 June 1918, joining the service in Toronto on the 8th. Living in Winnipeg at the time, Robert had been working as an auto mechanic/motor body builder. His wife Annie in Winnipeg was given as next of kin, address later changed to Toronto. His year of birth was given as 1890. At the time of attestation Robert’s rank was given as Air Mechanic 3rd Class, appointed Air Mechanic 2nd Class on 1 November. Air mechanics worked as armourers, acetylene welders, blacksmiths, coppersmiths, tinsmiths, engine fitters, gear mechanics, aircraft riggers, electricians, magneto-repairers, fitters, machinists, and sailmakers. With the end of the war, Robert was discharged from service on 3 February 1919 in consequence of being surplus to RAF requirements (not having suffered impairment since entry into the service).

After discharged Robert returned to Winnipeg where he signed his second set of attestation papers on 11 March 1919 as a Private with the 10th Detachment Canadian Garrison Regiment. His occupation was given as auto assembler and his wife Annie on St Mary’s Avenue as next of kin. He was discharged from service by reason of demobilization on 31 July 1919 in Winnipeg.

At the time of the 1921 census Robert, Annie, and Robert Jr were living in the East Kildonan area of Winnipeg where he was working as a auto builder. His parents and siblings were also living in Winnipeg, his father working over the years as a blacksmith with the Canadian Pacific Railway, Weston shops. In October of 1934 Robert Jr married Pearl Hedberg in Brandon, Manitoba, with the couple making The Pas, Manitoba their home. Around 1937 Robert and Annie moved to Malachi, Ontario, a very small community with a train station on the Canadian National Railway about 40 kilometres northwest of Kenora. Robert was the postmaster for the community and operated a general store. During the summer months the area attracted vacationers from Winnipeg, travelling by train to Malachi as well as other stops along the railway.

Robert died on 10 February 1959 in Malachi. He was predeceased by his mother Etta (1929), brother James (1946), father Robert (1950), and his brother Joseph (1958), all in Winnipeg. According to his obituary he was also predeceased by Annie (1948). At the time of his death Robert was survived by his son Robert and family in The Pas and brother William in Toronto. Robert is interred in an unmarked grave in the Lake of the Woods Cemetery in Kenora. His son Robert died in 1993, survived by his wife and three children and their families.

By Judy Stockham

Photo of Malachi train station: Canada-Rail, public domain

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