Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthMay 13, 1896
Place of BirthWinnipeg, Manitoba
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinDr JR Steep, father, 249 Bell Avenue, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Trade / CallingBank clerk
Service Details
Regimental Number1423
Service Record
BattalionNo 4 Canadian Field Ambulance
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Army Medical Corps
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Date of EnlistmentMarch 10, 1915
Age at Enlistment18
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathMarch 31, 1946
Age at Death50
Buried AtLake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario

Steep, Wilfred Russell

Wilfred Russell Steep was born on 13 May 1896 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, date confirmed by his Manitoba Birth Registration record. His father Doctor John Robert Steep was born about 1860 in Cincinnati, Ohio, graduating from the University of Manitoba Faculty of Medicine in 1886 and licensed to practice Allopath Medicine the next year. Wilfred’s mother Hester Andrews was born in 1874 in Clinton, Huron, Ontario. Although he was living in Winnipeg at the time, John and Hester married on 27 June 1894 in Clinton. The couple were to make Winnipeg their home, giving birth to two children, Wilfred and later Lillian in 1898.

Wilfred signed his attestation papers on 10 March 1915 in Winnipeg with the No 4 Canadian Field Ambulance, Canadian Army Medical Corps. He gave his date of birth as 9 April 1894, occupation as bank clerk, and his father in Winnipeg as next of kin. After his father’s death in 1916 in Winnipeg, next of kin was changed to his mother.

As a Private with the No 4 Canadian Field Ambulance, Wilfred arrived in England on the Northland on 29 April 1915. In early September he was transferred to the Canadian Army Service Corps Training Depot at Shorncliffe. For most of December and into early January of 1917 Wilfred was hospitalized (vdg) , proceeding overseas in early February to the 3rd Divisional Supply Column, attached to the 3rd Canadian Base Casualty Clearing Station. That July Wilfred was sentenced to seven days Field Punishment No 2 for being absent for roll call for 20 minutes. In September Wilfred was transferred to the CASC Base Pool and then on to the 2nd Army Troops Supply Column in late October. He was granted a leave in early November, then admitted to No Stationary Hospital in Rouen on the 29th (vdg), discharged to base details on 17 January 1918. In early February Wilfred was attached to the 1st Canadian Railway Troops with effect where he was to remain for the rest of the war. Returning to England in early February of 1919, Wilfred embarked for Canada aboard the Celtic on 7 May and was discharged from service on the 19th in Winnipeg.

After the war Wilfred stayed in Winnipeg for a while, living with his mother at the time of the 1921 census. Later that year they both married on 17 September, Wilfred to Sydney Agnes Bliss and his mother to Roland Wellington Robinson. Born in Ottawa on 8 June 1896, Sydney was the daughter of Lawrence Cameron Donald Forster Bliss and Bertha Francis Costigan. Following the marriage Wilfred and Sydney immigrated to the United States, moving to Santa Monica, California. At the time of the 1930 census Wilfred was working in Santa Monica as a radio salesman. The couple gave birth to two children, Dorothy Elizabeth (Bessie) in 1923 and Donald Robert in 1927. At some point the marriage failed with Wilfred returning to Canada and Sydney and the children moving to San Mateo by 1935. Sydney later married Laban Richey in 1944.

Around 1934 Wilfred moved to Kenora in northwestern Ontario where his sister Lillian Gunne was living. Lillian had married WW1 veteran Doctor Livingston Gilbert Gunne in 1920 in Winnipeg, making Kenora their home where Bert practiced medicine. According to his obituary Wilfred was associated with various enterprises before joining the Ontario-Minnesota Pulp and Paper Company as camp auditor in 1945.

Wilfred’s life came to a tragic end in late March of 1946. Leaving an O&M camp on Dryberry Lake south of Kenora on the 29th to walk about 5 miles out to the highway to head into Kenora, Wilfred became lost in the bush. Once realizing that he was missing, many search parties scoured the area but his body was not found until the 14th of April in the vicinity of Otakus Lake, about half way out to the highway. Knowing he was going to die, Wilfred had left a note addressed to his mother, sister Lill (mistakenly reported as Bill in the local paper), and her husband Bert. At the time of his death Wilfred was survived by his mother Hester, sister Lillian and family, and his ex-wife and children in California. Hester later died in 1957 and Lillian in 1977, both in Winnipeg. Wilfred is interred in the Lake of the Woods Cemetery in Kenora as is his mother, her second husband Roland, and Lillian and Bert Gunne.

By Judy Stockham

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