Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthJune 17, 1882
Place of BirthLancaster, Ontario (as per attestation)
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinAlexander Dingwall, father, Dryden, Ontario
Trade / CallingManager
Service Details
Regimental NumberNA
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion2nd Tramway Company
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Engineers
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Address at Enlistment148 Fort Street, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Date of EnlistmentJanuary 1, 1916
Age at Enlistment33
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathJanuary 3, 1958
Age at Death75
Buried AtLake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario

Dingwall, William Haldane

William Haldane (Hal) Dingwall was born on 17 June 1882 in the Township of Charlottenburg in the county of Glengarry, Ontario. Located in southeastern Ontario, the nearest city in the area was/is Lancaster. Charlottenburg and Lancaster were two of the original eight ‘Royal Townships’, established along the Saint Lawrence River in Upper Canada in the 1780s. This area was first settled by United Empire Loyalists. From the late 18th century to the early 19th century, the area was almost entirely settled by Scottish highlanders, especially from Inverness-shire, after the Highland Clearances. Scottish immigrants continued to be attracted to the area. Hal’s father Alexander Dingwall, born in 1847, was from the Halkirk and Thurso area in Caithness in northern Scotland. It appears that Alexander’s brother Donald was the first to immigrate to Canada, settling in the Lancaster area around 1867, followed by Alexander in 1870 who arrived in New York aboard the SS Britannia on May 20th. Alexander eventually owned three tracts of farmland in Charlottenburg, two adjacent to his brother James’ property, James having immigrated around 1873. Hal’s mother Barbara McDonald, born in 1837, was from the Cromdale area in Inverness, northern Scotland and arrived in Canada aboard the SS Ottawa on 29 August 1871. She was travelling with John Grant who was likely a relative, given her mother’s maiden name of Grant. There were both Grant and McDonald families farming in Charlottenburg in those early days of settlement. Alexander and Barbara married on 25 February 1876 in Vankleek Hill, a community about 35 kilometres north of Charlottenburg. Hal was the youngest child in the family, his older siblings were Edith Christina, James Alexander, Lillian Catherine, and Donald Grant. Besides farming, Hal’s father Alexander also worked as a mason.

Hal was living on Fort Street in Winnipeg, Manitoba when he signed his Officer’s papers as a Lieutenant with the 222nd Battalion on 1 January 1916. His place of birth was given as Lancaster, occupation as civil manager, and his father Alexander who had relocated to Dryden, Ontario, as next of kin. After training in Manitoba, the battalion embarked for overseas aboard the SS Olympic on 15 November 1916.

Once in England the battalion was absorbed by the 19th Reserve Battalion. In March of 1917 Hal was drafted to the 1st Canadian Mounted Rifles, arriving in France on the 9th. By the 22nd he had left base camp and joined the unit in the field. While on command to the 3rd Divisional Training School late that May, Hal was admitted to the No 1 Canadian Field Ambulance on June 2nd, suffering from scabies, rejoining the unit on the 22nd. In early July of 1917 Hal was transferred to the Canadian Corps Light Railway, to eventually be attached to the No 2 Tramway Company, Canadian Engineers. ‘These companies built, maintained and operated light railways in forward areas. The gauge used was 60- centimetre and the cars were interchangeable with the Army Light Railway System. The trains were powered with petrol because they operated beyond the point where it was considered safe to use steam power. Tramways carried ammunition to artillery batteries, engineering supplies, troops, rations, gas and other comparatively light loads. They also ran hospital trains to carry the wounded to field ambulance stations. (Library and Archives Canada)

In January of 1918 Hal was granted a fourteen day leave to the UK. On June 19th he was admitted to a Field Ambulance, his foot had been caught between a running board and tie when a tractor had derailed. He was transferred to the No 14 General Hospital in Wimereux on the 22nd, rejoining the unit in late July. Hal was granted a second leave, fourteen days, in early September. With the end of the war, he was attached to the Canadian Engineers Depot at Seaford in England in late February of 1919 and embarked for Canada aboard the SS Lapland on June 2nd. Hal was discharged from service by reason of demobilization on 15 June 1919 in Ottawa.

After the war Hal was to make Dryden, Ontario his home. His brother Donald had moved there after graduating from medical school and had set up practice by the time of the 1911 census. Hal’s parents had also retired to the town. In 1921 Hal opened the first automobile garage in Dryden, set up to service Ford vehicles. On 17 February 1926, in Dryden, Hal married Reba Georgina Veitch. The daughter of physician George and Harriet (née Thompson) Veitch, Reba was born on 30 April 1894 in Port Elgin, Ontario. By the time of the marriage she was living in Dryden and working as a nurse. Hal’s occupation was given as merchant on the marriage document.

Hal and Reba gave birth to two sons, William George (Bill) in 1926 in Dryden, and Donald Veitch (Don) in 1930 in Kenora. Although making Kenora their home, Hal was to operate two businesses, the garage business in Dryden and Dingwall Motors in Kenora. He was a member of the Lake of the Woods Lodge AF and AM No 445, the Kenora Rotary Club, the Canadian Legion, and the United Church.

Hal died suddenly on 3 January 1958 in Clearwater, Florida. He was predeceased by his mother Barbara in 1929 and his father Alexander in 1931, both in Dryden, and brother James in 1954 in Sylvan Lake, Alberta. At the time of his death he was survived by his wife Reba, and sons Bill and family of Chatham, Ontario, and Don and family of Kenora. He was also survived by his brother Donald of Dryden, sister Edith McLachlan of Lancaster, Ontario and sister Lillian McCrimmon of Sylvan Lake, Alberta. Reba died on 2 November 1984 and is interred with Hal in the Lake of the Woods Cemetery in Kenora.

Today Hal’s legacy in the automobile industry continues on, into the fourth generation of Dingwalls. After graduating from the University of Toronto, Hal and Reba’s son Bill went into the family car business that took him to Chatham, Windsor, and eventually Toronto. Their son Don graduated from the University of Western Ontario and was in the automotive industry, the teaching profession, and then drawn back into the car industry in Kenora. Today Hal’s grandchildren and great grandchildren carry on the legacy in northwestern Ontario, with car dealerships in Kenora, Dryden, and Sioux Lookout, as well as a boat dealership in Kenora.

From the Kenora Miner and News Editorial Viewpoint, 6 February 1958: ‘Citizens from all parts of the Kenora district tomorrow will pay homage to the late Hal Dingwall, a successful businessman whose interests were not contained to Kenora and Keewatin, but spread to Dryden and Sioux Lookout as well. For the past 31 years his name has been held in the highest regard, not only in automotive circles, but in all walks of life. His interests were many and varied. He was a veteran of the First World War, serving overseas for three years. For 25 years he was a valued member of the Kenora Rotary Club and he also served the community through the endeavors of the Masonic Lodge. He was a valued member of Knox United Church. He loved sport, especially golfing. By his friendly, gentle manner, he taught those he met the value of a sense of humour. The day for many people was brightened by a story or a word of jest, of which Hal had an unlimited supply. We join in mourning the passing of one of Kenora’s prominent sons, and extend to Mrs Dingwall and members of the family, sincere condolences.

By Judy Stockham

photo of Hal: courtesy of the Lake of the Woods Museum Archives
photo of the Dryden Garage: courtesy of the family
obituaries: Kenora Miner and News

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