Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthNovember 26, 1879
Place of BirthSorel, Quebec
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinLouis Villiard (father), Sorel, Quebec
Trade / CallingMechanic
ReligionRoman Catholic
Service Details
Regimental Number199358
Service RecordLink to Service Record
Battalion1st Divisional Train
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Army Service Corps
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentKenora, Ontario
Address at EnlistmentKenora, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentMay 10, 1916
Age at Enlistment36
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathMay 17, 1961
Age at Death81
Buried AtLake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario
PlotRCC 14 - 5

Villiard, Joseph

Private Joseph Villiard enlisted in Kenora, Ontario in May 1916 and served for almost three years in Canada, the UK and France, returning home in February 1919.

Joseph was the son of Louis Villiard and Marie Cédélie Couturier dite Labonté of Saint-Michel-d’Yamaska, Quebec, a parish about 15 km east of the town of Sorel. Louis was a farmer and he married Cédélie in Saint-Michel in 1872. Over the next 23 years they had at least ten children, eight sons and two daughters. Joseph, born in November 1879, was the fourth oldest. Two of the children were born in the US, Marie in 1888 and Zéphyr in early 1891. When the 1891 Canadian census was taken in April that year the family was living back in Yamaska and Joseph was 11 years old. His mother passed away in the US in October 1899, at age 50, and she’s buried in Saint-Michel. Around that time Joseph left home and a few years later he settled in the town of Kenora in northwestern Ontario. In 1906 he moved to the nearby village of Redditt where he found work on the construction of the Canadian Northern Railway.

By the fall of 1915 the war was in its second year. Joseph enlisted in Kenora the following spring, signing up with the 94th Battalion on 10 May 1916. He was 36 years old, single and employed as a mechanic for the CNR at the time. The 94th was based in Port Arthur and recruited in towns throughout northwestern Ontario. The Kenora volunteers left on 25 May to join the rest of the battalion in Port Arthur and a huge crowd gathered at the train station to see the men off. They headed to Quebec on 9 June and spent a short time at Valcartier Camp, northwest of Quebec City, before embarking from Halifax on the SS Olympic on 28 June 1916. In England the recruits were transferred to reserve battalions to be used as reinforcements for other units.

Joseph trained with the 32nd Reserve Battalion for two months. On 21 September he was drafted to the 5th (Saskatchewan) Battalion and sent to France. After a few days at the Canadian Base Depot he joined his new unit in early October during the Battle of the Somme. The Canadians were suffering heavy casualties in the offensive and he arrived in a large draft of reinforcements. His battalion had a two day rotation in the front trenches before moving to billets in Albert on 17 October. Along with the rest of the units in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Canadian Divisions they were relieved and sent north to the Vimy front.

By January 1917 plans were underway for the assault on Vimy Ridge, set to take place around Easter, and all four Canadian Divisions underwent intensive training over the next few months. On the night of 8 April the 5th Battalion moved into position for the operation, which started at 5:30 the next morning in a snow and sleet storm. The unit was on the far right flank of the front line and by 9 am the troops had reached both of their objectives and suffered about 350 casualties, mostly from machine gun fire. A large number of German prisoners were captured and some of them were put to work as stretcher bearers. Joseph survived the fighting but apparently bullets pierced both his helmet and his haversack. The battalion held the line for several days, taking part in another advance on 14 April then being relieved the next day.

After the battle the Canadian divisions remained at the Vimy front and on 23 May Joseph was transferred to a new unit, the 1st Divisional Train in the Canadian Army Service Corps. The CASC was responsible for supplying food, forage, equipment, clothing, materials and ammunition to the Canadian Corps. They also operated repair shops for motor vehicles and Joseph may have been transferred to the 1st Divisional Train due to his experience as a mechanic. He served with them in France for the next 18 months, getting a ten day leave in the UK in October 1917, during the Battle of Passchendaele. In November 1918, a week before the Armistice, Joseph was given another leave in England. While he was there he was admitted to the 2nd London General Hospital in Chelsea to be treated for a lacerated finger. He was released on 10 December and posted to the 18th Reserve Battalion. He left for Canada at the end of January 1919, embarking from Liverpool on the SS Baltic and arriving in Halifax on 8 February. He was officially discharged on 27 February in Montreal.

After the war Joseph returned to Redditt where he had a long career with the Canadian National Railway Company. He married Florida Negre (née Morin), a widow, on 13 March 1921 in Redditt. Her husband Edmond had drowned in May 1918 leaving Florida, age 20, and an infant daughter. Joseph became very involved in local sports and he was a member of the Redditt branch of the Canadian Legion and the Brotherhood of Maintenance Employees. He retired around 1945 and he and his wife moved to Kenora. Joseph passed away in St. Joseph’s Hospital on 17 May 1961, at age 81. He was survived by his wife, his stepdaughter Amelia (Mrs. Harvey Davis) of Toronto and one brother in Quebec. His wife Florida died in 1964 and they are both buried in the Roman Catholic section of Lake of the Woods Cemetery in Kenora.

Joseph is commemorated on page 164 of the Canadian National Railway Roll of Service: ‘Canada’s National Railways: Their Part in the War.’

By Becky Johnson

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Veteran death card courtesy of Library and Archives Canada

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