Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthDecember 5, 1886
Place of BirthKenora, Ontario
Marital StatusMarried
Next of KinMrs Annie Martin, wife, Lakeside, Kenora, Ontario
Trade / CallingSanitary Engineer
ReligionChurch of England
Service Details
Regimental Number504496
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion1st Field Company
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Engineers
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Address at Enlistment209 1st Avenue South, Kenora, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentMarch 21, 1916
Age at Enlistment29
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathDecember 11, 1964
Age at Death78
Buried AtVancouver Crematorium, Vancouver, BC

Martin, William Henry

The second born child of Richard and Sarah (née Bardosen) Martin, William Henry Martin was born on 6 December 1886 in Rat Portage (later renamed Kenora), Ontario. His father, the son of Cornish immigrants, had been born at sea as they were crossing the Atlantic while his mother was from Norway. Richard had first come to Rat Portage in 1882 during the construction period of the Canadian Pacific Railway and later had the distinction of being the first policeman in town. Sarah had also arrived in 1882.

The Martin family was listed in the 1891 Algoma Rat Portage West census, with household member including parents  Richard and Sarah, and children John Bard (b1885), William, Oscar (b 1888), and baby Phoebe (b 1890). As on William’s birth registration, Richard’s occupation was given as carpenter. For the 1901 Canada census there was a  new addition to the family, George (b 1892). By this time Richard was working as a millwright with the Rat Portage Lumber Company. By the 1911 Canada census household members were parents Richard and Sarah, and Oscar and George. William had married Annie Wolchuk, daughter of Gregorius and Antonia Wolchuk on 16 June 1909 in Kenora, and Phoebe had married George Morrison, son of William and Mary (McCoy) Morrison in 1910. Oscar Martin later married Marie Helen Poirier, daughter of Alfred and Marie (Bruley) Poirier and George married Laura Belle Graham, daughter of Harry and Sarah (Ekfeldt) Graham.

At the time of the 1901 census Annie had been living in the Gimli, Manitoba area where her family farmed. She was born in Poland on 17 May 1889 and according to the census they had immigrated to Canada around 1899. William and Annie’s marriage record gave her name as Annie Walters, daughter of George and Annie (Millon) Walters but other records confirmed her name as Annie Wolchuk. The 1911 census listed the couple in Kenora, with William working as an engineer. Over the years his occupation was given as engineer, mechanic, sanitary engineer, mechanical engineer, game warden, and steamfitter. Sadly, the couple had given birth to son Elvin in February of 1910 who died three days later, daughter Ellen Olive in June of 1911 who died that August, as well as a stillborn son in 1914.

William signed his attestation papers with the Canadian Engineering Training Depot on 21 March 1916 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. His occupation was given as sanitary engineer, his date of birth as 5 December 1896, and his wife Annie in the Lakeside area of Kenora as next of kin. During his time overseas Annie lived in Kenora, Winnipeg, and Winnipeg Beach/Gimli.

William arrived in England aboard the Missanabie on 28 June 1916, taken on strength at Shorncliffe. He was transferred to the 1st Field Company, Canadian Engineers in late September, joining the unit in the field on 3 October. These troops were responsible for construction of defences, sanitation systems, water supplies, bridging, and assisting with trench raids. William was hospitalized in early February to mid March of 1917 (vdg), rejoining his unit in the field on the 26th. In early April at Vimy Ridge William sustained a gunshot/shrapnel wound (slight) to the left leg below the knee, admitted to the No 18 General Hospital Dammes Camiers on the 7th following care in the No 1 and No 2 Canadian Field Ambulances. He was evacuated to England and admitted to the 2nd Weston General Hospital in Manchester on 23 April. In late July William was transferred to the Canadian Convalescent Hospital Woodcote Park in Epsom, discharged in late August. It was decided that William would be returned to Canada, embarking for Canada aboard the Saxonia on 17 November. He was admitted to the Manitoba Military Convalescent Hospital in Winnipeg on 23 January 1918, discharged on 9 April. Sapper William Martin was discharged from service as being no longer medically fit for War Service on 10 April 1918 in Winnipeg. His intended residence at the time was given as Elmwood in Winnipeg.

William’s brother John enlisted in August of 1915, going overseas with the No 10 Field Ambulance, Canadian Army Medical Corps. He was reported as killed in action on 2 June 1916 at the Battle of Mount Sorrel. With no known grave he is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial.

At some point William and Annie gave birth to son William (Billy). At the time of his mother’s death in 1936 in Kenora, the family was living in Kapuskasing, Ontario. It appears that they later returned to Kenora. William was a hockey enthusiast, a fifty year member of Pequonga Lodge in Kenora, and a member of the Plumbers and Steamfitters Union Local 140. Around 1944 William and Annie moved to Vancouver.

William died on 11 December 1964 in the Shaughnessy Hospital in Vancouver. His British Columbia death record gave his occupation as steamfitter, last year of work listed as 1959, and Vancouver Crematorium as the cemetery. At the time of his death he was survived by his wife Annie, son Billy, sister Phoebe Morrison and brother George, the latter two in Kenora. He was predeceased by his infant children, father Richard (1914), mother Sarah (1936), and his brother Oscar (1959). Phoebe died in 1967 and George in 1974 and are interred in the Lake of the Woods Cemetery in Kenora along with Richard, Sarah, and Oscar. Annie later died on 5 February 1968, her remains also cremated.

By Judy Stockham

Photo of William: taken during the war shortly after his return to Canada, Lake of the Woods Museum Archives
Vancouver obituary: courtesy of Mike Melen

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