Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthSeptember 11, 1882
Place of BirthDundee
Marital StatusMarried
Next of KinWife: Mrs W (Mary) Scotland, 426 3rd Street North, Kenora, Ontario PO Box 27
Trade / CallingFitter
Service Details
Regimental Number503739
Service Record Link to Service Record
BattalionCanadian Overseas Railway Construction Company
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Engineers
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Address at EnlistmentKenora, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentFebruary 17, 1916
Age at Enlistment33
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathJune 5, 1924
Age at Death41
Buried AtLake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario

Scotland, William

William Scotland was one of three brothers living in Kenora in the pre-war years to serve in the First World War.

The children of James Scotland and Agnes Headridge, they had all been born in Dundee, Scotland.

The family was a large one.

The 1891 Scottish census listed the family as James McDuff Scotland (age 39), Agnes nee Hardrige (36) and children (Jessie (13), Annie (8 months), William (9), Peter (6) and Alexander (3). By the 1901 census three more children had been added to the family – John, Isabella and Agnes. James had passed away, leaving Agnes to care for the children.

William was the first to come to Kenora after arriving in Canada in 1904. Sept. 21, 1906 he married Mary Ann Leitch, who’d come to Canada from Scotland that same year. In the 1911 census they are listed as living at 426 Third Street North with three children William Harris (1909), Sinclairene (1909) and Weldon (1910).

William, according to newspaper reports was a popular man in town and a well respected machinist at the CPR repair shop in Kenora.

Also living in Kenora by 1914 were his brothers John and Alexander, sisters Agnes and Bella, and his mother Agnes.

John Scotland, a British Army reservist was the first to leave for the war, called back to the Royal Engineers in late July.

Alexander was the next to leave, joining the first contingent of Kenora volunteers leaving for Valcartier, Quebec on Aug. 23, 1914.

William’s mother and sister Agnes returned to their home town in Scotland in October as Alexander and John had been living with them, while his sister Bella moved to Winnipeg, where she was a nursing sister.

In February 1916, William left his wife and five children and went to Winnipeg where he enlisted in the 2nd Field Troop of the Canadian Engineers.

He shipped to England in March 1917 and was assigned to the Canadian Engineers Training Depot. From there, because of his railway background, he was re-assigned to the Canadian Overseas Railway Construction Company, also designated as the 256th Battalion CEF.

The battalion was one of a number of specialized railway units that formed the Canadian Railway Troops. The CRT grew from just 512 officers and men when it was created in December 1915 to nearly 15,000 by war’s end. Responsible for building, maintaining and operating a railway system in France for the British empire forces, the Canadian railway corp was more than double the size of the Imperial Railway Troop corp. Over the course of its three years the CRT laid and maintained nearly 2,000 miles of broad and narrow railway line.

After further training in England, William shipped to France in December 1917 and joined his unit in the field in January 1918. His service record indicates he suffered no injuries or wounds during his time in France and in January 1919 he was returned to England to begin his demobilization. He returned to Canada aboard the Scotian, arriving in St. John on April 4, 1919. From there he travelled by train to Winnipeg where he was discharged on April 8, rejoining his family who had moved there. The Scotland family returned to Kenora shortly thereafter and the 1921 census lists the family as living at 800 River Street, with six children listed: Harris (13), Lola (11), Weldon (10), Bert (8), Ronald (7) and Betty (1).

William fell overboard and drowned June 5, 1924, while on an excursion aboard the steamer Verbena with fellow Masonic Lodge members enroute to Rainy River. A newspaper report of the incident says he tripped over a “cavel” while walking around the stern of the boat and fell overboard. A fellow Lodge member immediately jumped to his aid, while another tossed a life preserver overboard. The boat was turned around and William attempted to swim towards it, however, by the time his rescuer got near him he had slipped below the water.

He is buried at the Lake of the Woods Cemetery.

By Bob Stewart



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