|Date of Birth||April 13, 1894|
|Place of Birth||Fulham, London|
|Next of Kin||Albert Dentry (father), Cordova, Manitoba|
|Trade / Calling||Farmer/Locomotive fireman|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Battalion||1st Divisional Train|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Branch||Canadian Army Service Corps|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Date of Enlistment||September 23, 1914|
|Age at Enlistment||20|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||July 2, 1966|
|Age at Death||72|
|Buried At||Redditt Cemetery, Redditt, Ontario|
Private William John Dentry enlisted early in the war and served overseas for four and a half years. He returned to Canada in May 1919 with a war bride.
William was born on 13 April 1894 in Fulham, London, England, the oldest son of Albert Isaac Dentrey (Dentry) and Eliza Moore. Albert was also born in Fulham and Eliza was from Gloucestershire. They were married in 1891 and their first ten children were born in London: William, Arthur, Frank, Percy, Lillian, Ernest, Alice and three children who died young. At the time of the 1911 census the family was living in Fulham and Albert was working at a gas factory. William, age 16, was employed as a paper roller for a wallpaper manufacturer.
Albert immigrated to Canada in 1911 and Eliza and the children joined him the following year. William arrived with his mother and siblings on 25 October 1912 on the Empress of Ireland, their destination listed as Neepawa, Manitoba. The family settled in the village of Cordova, a few miles southwest of Neepawa, where Albert worked for the CNR. Two more children were born there, Fanny Gertrude and Albert.
Britain declared war on 4 August 1914 and three days later mobilization orders were issued in Canada. Volunteers were told to enroll with their local militia then go to Valcartier, an area northwest of Quebec City that would become the site of a large military camp. William joined the militia in Minnedosa on 12 August and travelled to Quebec by train with the other recruits. At Valcartier they underwent training, medical tests and inoculations. William was found fit for service and he enlisted with the 5th (Western Cavalry) Battalion on 23 September 1914. His unit was part of the first Canadian contingent, which embarked for England in late September in a convoy of 32 transport ships. They arrived safely in Plymouth on 14 October.
The Canadians were sent to Salisbury Plain in southern England where they trained for several months. The men were billeted in tents and huts and due to the cold, wet winter weather many of them became sick with severe colds, pneumonia and meningitis. William contracted meningitis in early January 1915 and he was sent to the military hospital at Bulford Camp. After he recovered he was assigned to the 11th Reserve Battalion. In April he was sent to France and transferred to the 4th (Central Ontario) Battalion as a reinforcement. The battalion had arrived in France in February and it was in the 1st Infantry Brigade, 1st Canadian Division.
The Canadians spent the winter of 1915-16 in Belgium, holding a section of the front line between Ploegsteert Wood and St. Eloi. William had a problem with his eyes in November and he was treated at a field ambulance for a week. In January 1916 he was given eight days leave in England and he got married while he was there. His wife was 18-year-old Louisa Weston and their wedding took place on 15 January in Wandsworth, London. William returned to his unit after his leave and in June they were at the Battle of Mount Sorrel (2-13 June 1916). During the battle he suffered shell shock and he spent a week at No. 1 Convalescent Hospital in Boulogne. Late that summer the Canadians were moved south for the Somme Offensive, where they suffered 24,000 casualties in less than three months.
On 25 October 1916 William was attached for duty to No. 182 Tunnelling Company, Royal Engineers. Two months later he was transferred to the 1st Divisional Train and he served with them for the rest of the war. Divisional trains were part of the Canadian Army Service Corps, which was responsible for the transport and supply of food, ammunition, equipment, clothing and supplies for the Canadian troops. In May 1917 William’s father Albert Dentrey enlisted and he served in France for about 18 months with the Canadian Forestry Corps. William’s brother Arthur Dentrey had enlisted in 1916 and he was killed in France in April 1918, while serving with the Fort Garry Horse.
In June 1918 William became ill with trench fever and he spent two weeks at No. 26 General Hospital in Etaples. The final period of the war started in August and the fighting moved away from trench warfare into a more open phase. The 1st Divisional Train relocated several times, working near Amiens in August then moving north and east with the troops, past Cambrai towards Belgium. When the Armistice ended hostilities on 11 November they were close to the Belgian border. They continued advancing with the 1st Canadian Division, crossing into Germany on 6 December and remaining there with the occupying forces until mid-January 1919, most of that time based in Cologne.
On 24 February William was given two weeks leave in the UK and when it ended he was kept in England, where he served for another two months. He left for Canada with Louisa on 13 May on the RMS Minnedosa, sailing from Liverpool to Quebec. He was discharged in Quebec on 24 May, with his intended address listed as Winnipeg. He was awarded the British War and Victory Medals and the 1914-15 Star.
When the 1921 census was taken William and Louisa were living on Dudley Street in Winnipeg. Their oldest son Albert was born later that year and five more children followed: Raymond, Louisa, Lillian, Violet and Arthur. William had a long career as a locomotive hostler, working on the repair and maintenance of railway cars. He and his wife lived in Winnipeg and also spent some time in Kindersley, Saskatchewan. In the late 1940s they moved to the village of Redditt in northwestern Ontario and William joined the local branch of the Canadian Legion. He retired around 1955 and passed away on 2 July 1966, at age 72. Louisa died in 1987 and they are both buried in Redditt Cemetery.
By Becky Johnson
Photo at top: 1914-15 Star