Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthApril 11, 1889
Place of BirthBirmingham
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinMrs Lydia Curtis, mother, 36 Summer Lane, Birmingham, England
Trade / CallingCook
Service Details
Regimental Number2355946
Service Record Link to Service Record
BattalionNo 1 Training Depot
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Army Medical Corps
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Address at Enlistment7th Street, Niles, Michigan, U.S.A.
Date of EnlistmentDecember 29, 1917
Age at Enlistment28
Theatre of ServiceCanada
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathJuly 23, 1971
Age at Death82
Buried AtLake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario

Watkinson, William Reuben

Although he gave his date of birth as 23 July 1893 in Birmingham, Warwickshire, England on his attestation papers, Reuben William Watkinson was born in 1889. His mother Lydia Ashman was born in London and married his father George Watkinson, widower, in Birmingham in 1883. George, born in Birmingham, had previously married Mary Ann Fisher in 1865 and the couple had a number of children before Mary Ann’s death in 1882. George was a glass cutter by trade and some of his children from his first marriage were involved in the jewellery business, Sarah a gold jeweller, Ada a pearl polisher, George a caster.

Lydian and George gave birth to at least five children, Lydia (1883), Gertrude (1885), Reuben William, Minnie (1895), and Ethel (1898). George died in 1907 and by the 1911 England census Lydia was listed as married to Edwin Curtis, a news agent widower with children from his first marriage.

Although he went by the name of Reuben in England once he headed for Canada he changed it to William. As William he was found on the passenger list of the Lake Manitoba that arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick in April of 1908. By the 1911 Canada census he was living in Hamilton, Ontario and working as a porter in a hotel. His first attempt to serve during the war was in November of 1917. Living in Niles, Michigan, he signed his US World War I Drafter registration card, giving his date and place of birth as 11 April 1893 in St Thomas, Ontario. However he was refused due to his varicose veins. Suffering from them since childhood, he had had surgery earlier that year.

Back in Canada William signed his attestation papers on 29 December 1917 in London, Ontario. With occupation given as cook he gave his mother Lydia Curtis in Birmingham as next of kin. His address upon enlistment was Niles, Michigan. First listed as a Private with the Western Ontario Regiment 1st Depot Battalion, by January of 1918 he was transferred to the Canadian Army Medical Corps Training Depot #1. However in March William was admitted to a hospital in London suffering from varicose veins. Spending two weeks in the hospital, he was later found medically unfit for service and was discharged in May. His records indicated two places of residence after discharge, Highland Park, Detroit Michigan to work as a cook and/or Grand Rapids, Michigan to work as a groom.

In February of 1925 in Regina, Saskatchewan, William married Helen (Lena) Bailey. Born in Balognie, Saskatchewan, Lena Kornelson was the daughter of Frederick and Marie (Zinkhaw) Kornelson. She had married James Emerson Bailey in 1915 in Selkirk, Manitoba and the couple had given birth to a son Edwin. Emerson enlisted in London, Ontario in March of 1917, giving his wife Lena in Listowell as next of kin. Emerson went overseas with the 3rd Battalion, Canadian Engineers and died of influenza in the Bramshott No 12 Canadian General Hospital in April of 1919. In 1927 his burial registration was sent to Lena Watkinson in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

By the mid 1940’s William, Lena, and Edwin were living in Kenora, Ontario where William was employed as the manager of   the Kenora Specialty Company on Matheson Street. William, more commonly known as Bill, was very involved in organizing and financing baseball, hockey, and football for children. For his efforts he was made an honorary life member of the Kenora Rotary Club. He was also participated in lawn bowling in Kenora and was a member of the Lakeside Baptist Church. He was a ‘well known and highly respected citizen of Kenora.’

William died on 23 July 1971 in Pinecrest Home for the Aged in Kenora. His wife Lena died in 1979 and they are interred in the Lake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora. At the time of his death he was survived by Lena, his son Edwin Bailey, and four grandchildren.

by Judy Stockham



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