Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthApril 11, 1889
Place of BirthBirmingham, Warwickshire
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinMrs A Sawkins, mother, 144 Milton Street, Walsall, Staffordshire, England
Trade / CallingFireman
Service Details
Regimental Number311983
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion4th Divisional Ammunition Column
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Army Service Corps
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Address at EnlistmentBox 237, Kenora, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentJanuary 22, 1916
Age at Enlistment26
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathApril 16, 1962
Age at Death73
Buried AtLake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario

Sawkins, Frederick Frank

Frederick Frank (Fred) Sawkins was born on 11 April 1889 in Birmingham, Warwickshire, England. His father William Henry Sawkins was born in St George, London while his mother Amelia Mary Clarke was from Upton, Worcestershire. The couple married during the last quarter of 1882 in the Registration District of King’s Norton, Worcestershire. Their first two surviving children were born in Birmingham, Amelia Caroline in 1884, and Fred.  The family eventually settled in Walsall, Staffordshire where William found employment as a Railway Guard.  Included  in the  1901 England census were parents William (age 40)  and Amelia (age 38), and children Amelia Caroline (age 17)  who was listed as a paper box worker, Frederick Frank (age 11), Clara Jane (age 9), Ernest Harold (age 7), Edith May (age 4), Sidney Arthur (age 3), and Herbert Victor (age 1). For the 1911 England census the family was living at 144 Milton Street, Walsall. Family members included parents William and Amelia, and children Fred who was working as a groom domestic, Ernest Harold who was working as a railway porter, Edith May who was working as a tailor’s assistant, Herbert Victor who was attending school, and born since the last census, Albert Edward (age 9), Doris Eliza (age 4),  and Gwendolyn Elizabeth (age 1). Daughter Amelia was working as a  housemaid at Cottage Hospital, Sutton Ceofield and Arthur was living with relatives in St Aldate, Oxfordshire where he was listed as an apprentice to a Cycle Factor. The census noted that William and Amelia had given birth to 13 children although only 10 had survived childhood.

Fred was found on a passenger list of the Royal George that arrived in Quebec on 24 May 1911. His destination was given as Hamilton. He was next found on the Canadian Northern Railroad list at the border crossing of Port Huron, Michigan, returning to Hamilton in April 1912. His occupation was given as groomer. By 1913 Fred had settled in Kenora, Ontario where he had found employment  with the Canadian Pacific Railway.

Fred enlisted in Winnipeg on 18 January 1916. Grey-eyed with light brown hair, he gave his occupation as fireman. The 3rd Canadian Divisional Ammunition Column was organized in December 1915: No 1 Section recruited in Kingston, No 2 Section in Toronto, and No 3 Section in Winnipeg. Passing through Kenora on 9 March 1916 on the first leg of the journey overseas, with the No 3 Section Fred left Saint John, N on 17 March 1916 aboard the Metagama, arriving in England 25 March. On 15 July 1916 the 3rd Canadian Divisional Artillery arrived in France. While in France, Fred served as Driver.

In thanks for a parcel of Christmas gifts from Kenora, a letter from Driver Fred Sawkins appeared in the 17 January 1917 edition of the Kenora Miner and News. The men  were very appreciative for receiving the socks due to the ‘awful climate…the weather is awful at present – stormy and lots of rain and the mud is fierce‘. He also wrote of the Kenora lads with the 52nd Battalion: ‘I may tell you that in the recent heavy fighting on the Somme the boys won new honors and have left a trench there in the name of the town. It is called the Kenora Trench and has been the scene of some severe fighting’.

In June of 1917 Fred was transferred to the 4th Divisional Ammunition Column. In the weeks leading up to the Battle of Passchendaele his unit suffered casualties from artillery shelling and bombs dropped by German planes. Granted a ten day leave in October, upon his return Fred was admitted  to the No 15 Casualty Clearing Station and then transferred to the No 26 General Hospital in Etaples with diagnosis of shell shock. The intensity of the bombardment and fighting had taken its toll. Usual symptoms of shell shock included headache, dizziness, tremor, tinnitus, amnesia, and hypersensitivity to noise. After further recuperation at the No 6 Convalescent Depot in Etaples, Fred rejoined his unit in late February of 1918. He had been awarded a Good Conduct Badge that January.

Fred arrived back in Canada at Halifax on 8 June 1919 aboard the Adriatic. On 5 April 1920 Fred married Elsie Valentine Selman, daughter of John and Alice (née Knee) Selman. Along with her parents, Elsie, born in Bristol,  were also listed on the passenger list of the Royal George in 1911, destination given as Kenora. Perhaps the couple had met onboard and that was what brought Fred to Kenora in 1913, but then again the CPR had been hiring at the time. Fred remained with the CPR, working in the shops in Kenora and then later transferring to Ignace in 1939. Fred and Elsie made several trips back to England, arriving in England 30 March 1930, 8 May 1937 (occupation listed as engine hostler), and 3 December 1956. The latter two trips gave Walsall as the destination.  Fred retired from the CPR in 1954.

Fred died on 16 April 1962 in Ignace. He is interred in the Lake of the Woods Cemetery in Kenora. Sometime after his death Elsie moved back to Kenora and was residing in Pinecrest Home for the Aged  at the time of her death on 9 December 1973. She is also interred in Lake of the Woods Cemetery. They did not have any children. Three other of Fred’s siblings found their way to Canada, Ernest Harold in 1913, Clara Jane in 1921, and Albert Edward in 1922.

Fred’s brother Ernest Harold enlisted in Kenora on 1 January 1915 and went overseas with the 2nd Reinforcing Draft of the 52nd Battalion. Once overseas he was transferred to the 15th Battalion, one of three battalions raised for service during WW1 by the 48th Highlanders of Canada. Promoted to Lance Corporal, he was awarded the Military Medal on 9 November 1918. After the war, he returned to Kenora. Back in England, Fred’s brother Herbert Victor served during WW1 with the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve and was later awarded the RN Long Service and Good Conduct Medal on 13 December 1928. Having enlisting in Birmingham, Fred’s brother Arthur Sidney served as a Private with the 3rd Battalion of the Coldstream Guards and was reported as having died of his wounds on 9 October 1917 in France and Flanders. He is interred in the Etaples Military Cemetery about 27 Kilometres south of Boulogne.

Fred is commemorated on the St. Alban’s Pro-Cathedral First World War Roll of Honour.

by Judy Stockham