Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthJanuary 19, 1889
Place of BirthChristchurch, Hampshire
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinT E Shirvell, Christchurch, Hampshire, England
Trade / CallingBaker
ReligionChurch of England
Service Details
Regimental Number439071
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion3rd Field Bakery
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Army Service Corps
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Address at EnlistmentKenora, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentJanuary 1, 1915
Age at Enlistment26
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathDecember 25, 1950
Age at Death62
Buried AtLake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario

Shirvell, Thomas William John

The second born child, Thomas William John Shirvell was born during the first quarter of 1889 in Christchurch, Hampshire, England. His parents Thomas Edward and Mary Jane (née Scott) Shirvell had married in Christchurch during the last quarter of 1886. As baker, confectioner, and pastry cook, Thomas’s parents operated  a bakery from their home. Other children in the family were Amy (1887-1967), Dorothy (1893-1948), Mable (1896-1982), Elsie (1898-1980), and Harold (1899-1982), and over various censuses were sometimes  listed as assistants in the bakery. Thomas’ mother was  shown  as being blind in the 1901 census and by 1903 she had died. His father continued to operate the bakery, with household members in the 1911 census being father Thomas, and children Amy, Dorothy, Mable, Elsie, and Harold.

Along with two other lads from Christchurch, Alfred Chalk and Walter Hilliar, young Thomas was found on the arriving passenger list of the Oceanic of 2 April 1908, destination Glanford, Ontario. Tom, as he was known to his friends, had given his occupation as gardener. He eventually made his way to Kenora, Ontario, and following in his father’s footsteps, found employment as a baker. He made a trip back to England to visit family in 1913, returning to Kenora in March.

With good friend Ernest Harold Sawkins,  Tom enlisted in Kenora on 1 January 1915. Standing 5 foot 5 inches, he was blue-eyed with dark brown hair. The 52nd (New Ontario) Battalion had been raised in northern Ontario during the spring of 1915 with its headquarters in Port Arthur. Although the battalion was still training, Colonel Hay had been required to provide a draft of about 250 troops to act as reinforcements for the 1st and 2nd Divisions already in Europe. With the 2nd Reinforcing Draft of the 52nd Battalion, Privates Thomas William Shirvell and Ernest Harold Sawkins embarked from Montreal aboard the Missanabie on 4 September 1915. After continued training at Shorncliffe, a Kenora newspaper reported that the 2nd Draft had been sent to France 20 November 1915. Although Thomas’ name is listed in the report, he had been taken on strength with the No 1 Company at Shorncliffe on 14 September 1915 and then transferred to the Canadian Army Service Corps TD on 11 February 1916. In March he was then transferred to the 3rd Canadian Field Bakery and had arrived in France by the end of the month. Tom was granted a fourteen day leave to the UK in September 1918 and shortly after his return he was confirmed in the rank of Corporal. He returned to Canada aboard the Belgic in April of 1919.

After the war Tom  travelled to England for a visit with his family in Christchurch in May of 1921, returning to Canada aboard the Scandinavian in October. On 26 June 1925, in Kenora,  Tom married Margaret Christie, a native of Glasgow, Scotland. His best man/witness was good friend Harold Sawkins. The couple stayed in Kenora but were met with tragedy in the form of the early deaths of their two children, Mable, age 4  and Thomas at birth. Over the years Tom worked at Jackson’s Bakery and was renown for his skills as a baker. However, his health was never great and he spent the last year of his life at Deer Lodge Hospital in Winnipeg.

Tom died on 25 December 1950 in Winnipeg and is interred in the Lake of the Woods Cemetery in Kenora. His wife Margaret died in April of 1978 in Kenora.  Tom remained good friends with Harold and his family over the course of their lives, a favourite ‘uncle’ to Harold’s children.  No other members of his birth family immigrated to Canada. His father died in Christchurch in 1936.

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

by Judy Stockham