Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthNovember 17, 1881
Place of BirthStonewall, Manitoba
Marital StatusMarried
Next of KinEmma Louise Conn (wife), 11121-85 Avenue, Edmonton, Alberta
Trade / CallingDentist
Service Details
Regimental NumberN/A
Service Record Link to Service Record
BattalionArmy Medical Services
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Army Dental Corps
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Address at EnlistmentEdmonton, Alberta
Date of EnlistmentAugust 12, 1916
Age at Enlistment34
Theatre of ServiceGreat Britain
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of Death19620805
Age at Death80

Conn, Robert William

Captain Robert William Conn was commissioned as an officer in the Canadian Army Dental Corps in August 1916. He served in Great Britain for sixteen months and was invalided home to Canada in September 1918.

Robert William was born on 17 November 1881 in Stonewall, Manitoba. He was the oldest of at least ten children of Robert Conn and Mary Ellen Curle. Robert and Mary were both born in Ontario and they were married in Egremont, Grey County in April 1880. By the following year they had moved to the RM of Rockwood, Manitoba where Robert William was born. He was followed by a daughter Elizabeth Evans in 1884. From there the family moved to the village of Douglas in the RM of Elton, Manitoba. Mary’s parents and other Curle relatives had settled in Douglas. Robert and Mary had eight more children born in the Douglas area: John Alvin, William Curle, Mary Ellen, Rhoda Irene Ethel, Fergus (Bertie), Reginald, Wallace Homer and Zella Rae.

Between the births of William Curle (1890) and Mary Ellen (1893) the Conns spent some time living in Rat Portage (now called Kenora), in northwestern Ontario. They were there at the time of the 1891 census, with Robert’s occupation listed as house carpenter. When they returned to Douglas he operated a lumberyard and sash and door factory. When the 1901 census was taken their oldest daughter Elizabeth was a school teacher. She taught at Douglas School as well as another school in a neighbouring village. Their son Bertie died in November 1901, at age four, and he’s buried at Madford (Douglas) Cemetery. The family was still in Douglas for the 1911 census but about a year later they moved out west to Vernon, British Columbia.

Robert William became a dentist and along with some of his brothers he moved to Alberta. He was married in Wetaskiwin in 1913 to Emma Louise Redden. Emma was born in Campbellford, Northumberland County, Ontario in 1891, the daughter of George and Harriet Redden. Robert and Emma settled in South Edmonton, living on 85th Avenue with his dental practice located in the Benson Block. The war started in August 1914 and Robert was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Canadian Army Dental Corps on 12 August 1916. Two weeks later he was promoted to Captain. He was sent overseas the following spring, embarking from Halifax on 3 May 1917 and arriving at Liverpool about ten days later. While he was in Great Britain his wife moved back to Campbellford, Ontario.

Robert served as a dentist with several different units, including a garrison battalion and the 15th Reserve Battalion. He started having stomach problems in late 1917 and on 12 March 1918 he was admitted to No. 12 Canadian General Hospital at Bramshott. He was diagnosed with chronic gastritis and transferred to the Canadian Convalescent Officers’ Hospital at Matlock Bath on 4 April. He was discharged to duty three weeks later. On 27 August 1918 he was back in No. 12 Canadian General Hospital and three days later he was moved to Granville Special Canadian Hospital at Buxton. He had lost weight and this time he was diagnosed with a duodenal ulcer.

Robert was invalided to Canada in September on HMT Neuralia, arriving on 1 October. After some time in Campbellford he spent a week at a hospital in Toronto before being moved to a convalescent hospital in Edmonton. His father was ill and he passed away in Vernon, BC on 28 November. Robert was given compassionate leave and he returned to Edmonton on 17 December. He spent another month in the hospital, getting released on 21 January 1919. He was discharged from the army on 11 March. Four of his brothers also served – John Alvin, William Curle, Reginald and Wallace Homer – as well as two of Emma’s brothers, Harry and James Redden.

When the 1921 census was taken Robert and his wife were living in Edmonton and his brother Reginald was staying with them. By the early 1930s they had moved to Vancouver. Robert’s mother was also living in Vancouver and she passed away there in 1937. Robert and Emma settled in neighbouring New Westminster and they had at least one son. Robert died in New Westminster on 5 August 1962, at age 80, and Emma on 11 April 1966, at age 74.

By Becky Johnson

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