|Date of Birth||February 13, 1883|
|Place of Birth||Chardstock, Dorsetshire|
|Next of Kin||Eleanor Welch, wife, 821 Lorette Avenue, Winnipeg, Manitoba|
|Trade / Calling||Wheelwright|
|Religion||Church of England|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Battalion||4th Divisional Train|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Branch||Canadian Army Service Corps|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Date of Enlistment||October 15, 1915|
|Age at Enlistment||32|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||March 26, 1956|
|Age at Death||73|
|Buried At||Lake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario|
The son of Emily Elizabeth Welch, William George Welch was born on 13 February 1883 in Chardstock, Dorsetshire, England. Emily, daughter of David and Lavinia (née Hodder) Welch, had been born in Bridport, a community about 30 kilometres southeast of Chardstock. The 1891 England census found William living in Chardstock with his widowed grandmother Lavinia, housekeeper, and Lavinia’s brother-in-law Elias Miller (who she later married), William’s mother Emily, Emily’s brother George, and children who were likely his siblings, Ida (15), Arthur (9), and Lavinia (2). Elias and George were both listed as bakers and confectioners while Emily was working as a machinist. The next year, 1892, Emily married James Larcombe and later gave birth to a son Abraham. With James’ death in 1894, by the 1901 census William was living with his grandmother and Uncle George and was working as a carpenter’s apprentice. Living next door were his mother Emily and children Arthur, Lavinia, and Abraham. Ida had married Samuel Apsey in 1896 and was also living in Chardstock.
During the first quarter of 1908 in the registration district of Bridport, Dorset, William married Eleanor Mary Harrison. Born in Milborne Port in Somerset, Eleanor was the daughter of Daniel and Felicia (née Smith) Harrison. By the 1901 census Eleanor was living with her widowed mother and some of her siblings in Yeovil in Somerset and was working as a glove machinist. By the end of 1908 William and Eleanor had given birth to a daughter Kathleen Florence. The first to immigrate, William was found on the passenger list of the Lake Erie that arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick in late April of 1909. Eleanor and Kathleen followed that summer, arriving in Quebec on the 5th of August aboard the Empress of Britain, destination given as Brampton. The family stayed in southern Ontario for a short time and by the next year they had moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba where William found work as a carpenter. The family grew as William and Eleanor gave birth to five more children, Violet Sunville, Winnifred Ivy Florence, Arthur William, Margaret, and after the war, George.
William signed his attestation papers at Camp Hughes in Manitoba on 15 October 1915, giving his wife back in Winnipeg as next of kin and his occupation as wheelwright. As the word would suggest, a wheelwright built and repaired wooden wheels for carts and wagons. With fair hair and blue eyes, William listed prior military service as seven years with the 3rd Volunteer Battalion Devonshire Regiment. As a Private with the 3rd Canadian Divisional Train, Canadian Army Service Corps, William embarked from Saint John, New Brunswick aboard the Scandinavian in early March of 1916.
The Canadian Army Service Corps was responsible for the transport and supply of food, forage, ammunition, equipment, clothing, and engineering material and stores. Each division of the army had a certain amount of transport under its own command, known as the divisional train. It was the workhorse of the division in terms of carrying stores and supplies, providing the main supply line to the transport of the brigades of infantry and artillery and other attached units. The train moved with the division. Supplies were moved by horse drawn, steam, and motor powered vehicles as well as by rail and waterways. Resupplying front line units involved many steps. From ports and depots, supplies were first taken by railway to railheads. From there the Canadian Army Service Corps units were responsible for moving the supplies by truck or light railway to supply dumps. From the supply dumps the CASC’s divisional train and ammunition supply column, both of which used horse drawn carts and wagons, were responsible for bringing the supplies closer to the front lines to their respective divisions or individual units.
Upon arrival in England William was promoted to Acting Staff Sergeant and was transferred to the 4th Canadian Divisional Train in July, the 4th Canadian Division having been created that April from units already in the field or expected soon. By mid August of 1916 William was in France where he was confirmed in the rank of Wheeler Staff Sergeant, his prewar occupation serving him well during the war. He would have been responsible for making and repairing a multitude of wooden wheels of carts and wagons as well as other duties as needed. The 4th Canadian Division was involved in many of the major engagement of WW 1:
1916: Battle of the Le Transloy 1-17 October
Battle of the Ancre Heights 17 October – 11 November, (capture of the Regina Trench )
Battle of the Ancre 13-18 November
1917: Battle of Vimy Ridge 9-14 April
Affairs South of the Souchez River 3-25 June
Capture of Avion 26-29 June
Battle of Hill 70 15-25 August
Second Battle of Passchendaele 26 October – 10 November
1918: Battle of Amiens 9-11 August
Actions round Damery 15-17 August
Battle of Drocourt-Quéant 2-3 September
Battle of the Canal du Nord 27 September- 1 October
Battle of Valenciennes 1-2 November (capture of Mont Houy )
Passage of the Grande Honelle 5-7 November
In October of 1916 William was admitted to the No 76 Field Ambulance suffering from ‘dental caries’, tooth decay or cavities with infection. Transferred to the No 75 Field Ambulance, it was mid December before he was discharged to duty.
William was granted his first leave in August of 1917, ten days to England. In December of 1917 he was admitted to the No 13 Canadian Field Ambulance with an infected hand, discharged three days later. His next leave was in early January of 1918, just over two weeks to England. In February of 1918 William was sent on course to the Canadian Light Horse, returning in mid March. In September he was granted a working day pay raise of 50 cents as wheeler. He was granted two more leaves, one to Paris in October of 1918, and a second one to the UK in March of 1919. By May he was back in England and embarked for Halifax on the 6th of June aboard the Olympic.
William returned to Winnipeg where he was officially discharged on the 17th of June 1919. The 1921 Canada census found the family living on Lorette Avenue with William’s occupation given as carpenter. In 1934 the family moved to Norman, Ontario, a village located a couple of kilometres west of Kenora where William opened a florist business. He was also head gardener for Mando, the owner of the local paper mill. He was a member of St Alban’s Pro Cathedral in Kenora and was well known for his interest in gardening, hunting and fishing. He was an active supporter of the Kenora Agricultural Society as well as local hunting and fishing clubs.
William died on 26 March 1956 in Kenora following a lengthy illness. His Veteran Death Card listed his wife Eleanor Welch of Kenora as his next of kin. William is interred in the Lake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora. At the time of his death he was survived by his wife Eleanor, sons Arthur and George of nearby Keewatin, daughters Kathleen Barton of Vancouver, Violet Timlick and Florence Lane of Winnipeg, and Margaret Broad of Kenora. Eleanor died in 1964 in Winnipeg. She is interred with William in the Lake of the Woods Cemetery.
by Judy Stockham