|Date of Birth||January 18, 1883|
|Place of Birth||Rudston, Yorkshire|
|Next of Kin||Richard G. Witty (Father) Wykeham, Yorkshire, England|
|Trade / Calling||Preacher|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Battalion||12th Field Ambulance|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Branch||Canadian Army Medical Corps|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Address at Enlistment||317 Boyd Ave., Winnipeg, Manitoba|
|Date of Enlistment||June 15, 1915|
|Age at Enlistment||32|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||September 3, 1918|
|Age at Death||35|
|Buried At||Ligny-St. Flochel British Cemetery, Pas-de-Calais, France|
|Plot||III. F. 1.|
Robert William Witty was born on 18 January 1893 in Rudston, Yorkshire, England. His parents Robert Goforth and Jane Elizabeth (Chambers) Witty had married during the first quarter of 1892, marriage registered in the district of Bridington, Yorkshire East Riding. By the 1891 census, he had two brothers, Charles R. (b 1884), and Jeremiah (b 1890) and his father’s occupation was listed as agricultural labourer. In 1901, using the forename William, he was a boarder with the Corner Family in Rudston, Yorkshire, apprenticing as a joiner. A new sister, Jane Elizabeth had been born to his family in 1899.
R W Witty was found on the passenger list of the Kensington, date of arrival in Halifax 15 April 1906. His destination was given as Winnipeg, occupation as mechanic. The Manitoba census of 1906 showed William as a boarder with Wilson and Susan Denton (?) on Corydon Avenue, Winnipeg.
Robert William Witty enlisted in Winnipeg on 15 June 1915, and he stated his profession was a preacher, and his religion Wesleyan although other documents give his religion as Methodist. With dark blue eyes and fair hair, he stood 5 feet 8 inches tall. Originally with the 61st Battalion, he was transferred to the No 12 Field Ambulance once it was organized in Winnipeg in March of 1916 under the command of Lieutenant Colonel H F Gordon. He left for England from Montreal on 23 June 1916 on the ship ‘Scandinavian’, strength of 10 officers, 235 other ranks. They arrived in July, and he was in France by August as part of the 4th Canadian Division. Upon arrival in England, Witty had been promoted to Sergeant at Shorncliffe. In late November/early October of 1917, he was sent to the Canadian Company Gas School for a week. He was also able to enjoy two weeks of leave in England, from November 11, 1917 to November 24th, when he rejoined his unit in France. Near the end of the following February he was temporarily detailed to the 4th Canadian Division Machine Gun Battalion for duty, rejoining No 12 Field Ambulance later in March.
Sergeant Robert William Witty died of his wounds as the No 33 Casualty Clearing Station on 3 September 1918. He is buried in the Ligny St Flochel British Cemetery, Pas de Calais France.
War Diary entry containing description of the wounding & death of Sgt. Witty: War Diary, No. 12 Canadian Field Ambulance, September 1918 Sept. 3rd: Today, in morning, Scouts reported enemy to be falling back on canal. 11th Amb. established collecting post on main Cambrai Road at Factory-Villers-Cagnicourt. Cars cleared from here to A.D.S. Casualties lighter today. 12th Canadian Infantry Brigade in reserve l’Esperance. In the early morning a party of bearers at Advanced Dressing Station had just finished loading a train on light railway with stretcher cases, when a shell lit amongst them causing the following casualties to personnel: 535984 Pte A.J. Lewis, 532302 Pte P. McBeth, 532317 Pte R.C. Neil-Killed. 460654 Sergt R.W. Witty, 541071 Corp L.V. Martin, Pte N.A. Houston, 528982 Pte G. Miller, 532238 Pte J.F. Taylor were wounded and evacuated. Rear party still at C.15.D. Weather fine. At night the party of bearers in charge of Sergt J. Tait were loading patients on an Ambulance car when a bomb lit close to them wounding 532359 Sergt J. Tait, 510602 Sergt J. Banks and 460919 Pte F. Cohen*, and they were evacuated. No 528007 Pte C.R. Carter was wounded whilst carrying a case out of the forward area and was evacuated. No 460654 Sergt R.W. Witty died of wounds at C.C.S. No. 33 later in the day. *No 460919 Pte F. Cohen died the following day, Sept. 4th.
Sergeant Robert William Witty was Mentioned in Dispatches by Sir Douglas Haig in the 27 December 1918 issue of the London Gazette.
No other members of Robert William Witty’s family immigrated to Canada; they all stayed in Yorkshire. His mother died in 1932 and his father in 1950. His brother Charles married Hannah Harrison in 1910; he died in 1951. His brother Jeremiah married Margaret Pickard in 1919; he died in 1976. Jeremiah and Margaret named one of their sons William R. His sister Jane married Herbert Clough in 1918; she died in 1963.
Robert William Witty is commemorated on page 525 of the First World War Book of Remembrance in Ottawa, on the Keewatin Cenotaph located in Beatty Park in Keewatin, and on the Lake of the Woods Milling Company plaque, the Municipality of Keewatin plaque, and the Town of Keewatin plaque. In August of 1919 Keewatin held a demonstration to honour all who had enlisted from Keewatin. On the Honour Roll was listed Rev R W Witty.
by Penny Beal
photographs of Robert William Witty and his gravemarker are from Canadian Virtual War Memorial, veterans.gc.ca