|Date of Birth||March 20, 1877|
|Place of Birth||Quebec|
|Next of Kin||Elizabeth Thompson (mother), Crosswoods P.O., Saskatchewan|
|Trade / Calling||Farmer|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Battalion||1st Pioneer Battalion|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Place of Enlistment||Prince Albert, Saskatchewan|
|Date of Enlistment||April 17, 1915|
|Age at Enlistment||38|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||September 15, 1916|
|Age at Death||39|
|Buried At||No known grave; commemorated on the Vimy Memorial|
Sapper Robert Charles Thompson enlisted in April 1915 and died at the Somme about a year and a half later. His younger brothers William and Clifford also enlisted and they both survived the war.
Robert was the oldest son of William Richmond Thompson Sr. and Elizabeth O’Hara. According to census records William Sr. and Elizabeth were born in Quebec and they had at least six children between 1875 and 1891. Robert was born in Quebec on 20 March 1877. Two of his sisters – Sarah Matilda and Mary Abigail – were also born in Quebec. Sometime after Mary’s birth William Sr. and Elizabeth headed west. A son, William Richmond Jr., was born in Keewatin, Ontario in 1883 and two children were born in Saskatchewan (part of the North-West Territories at that time) – George Clifford (May 1886) and Rachel Edith (March 1891). The family settled in the Southey area north of Regina. When the census was taken in April 1891 Elizabeth was listed as a widow and a farmer with her six children still living at home, the youngest a month old.
Around 1895 Elizabeth moved to North Dakota with her daughters Mary and Edith. Matilda had married John Alexander Mitchell and she stayed in Saskatchewan along with her brothers, who took out homesteads in the Southey/Crosswoods area. When Elizabeth returned to Canada she spent some time in Winnipeg before moving back to Saskatchewan around 1908. When the 1911 census was taken Robert and Clifford were living with their mother. Mary was married and living with her husband, Godfrey Rowland, and Edith was staying with her brother William. Edith married a neighbouring farmer, Wallace Anderson, around 1913. The war started in August 1914 and Robert and William both enlisted the following spring. George Clifford followed in January 1916.
Robert was the first to enlist, signing up with the 53rd (Northern Saskatchewan) Battalion on 17 April 1915 in Prince Albert. He was a farmer, next of kin was his mother in Southey (Crosswoods P.O.), and he said he belonged to a militia unit, the 52nd Regiment Prince Albert Volunteers. On 1 November he was transferred to the 1st Canadian Pioneer Battalion and he headed overseas with his unit later that month. They embarked from Montreal on the SS Metagama on 20 November and arrived in England ten days later. The battalion was sent to France in early March 1916 but Robert was kept in England due to illness. In January he spent about two weeks in the hospital in Hounslow. In March he had German measles followed by tonsillitis and he recovered for about six weeks at the Moore Barracks hospital. During that time he was assigned to the Pioneers Training Depot.
After recovering Robert trained in England for another two and a half months. On 28 June 1916 he was transferred back to the 1st Canadian Pioneer Battalion and sent to France. He joined his unit in the field in mid-July. Starting in August the Canadians moved south to take part in the Somme Offensive. Pioneer battalions worked closely with the engineers and spent a large part of their time at or near the front lines. Their work included mining, wiring, tunnelling, railway and road work, constructing water systems, and building and repairing trenches and dugouts. Robert was killed in action at the Somme on 15 September 1916. His body was not recovered and his final resting place is unknown.
Robert’s brother William served in France and returned to Canada in February 1918. Clifford also served in France and he came home in 1919 with a war bride. Their mother had died in November 1916 and she’s buried in Southey Cemetery in Southey, Saskatchewan. Matilda (Mrs. John Mitchell) passed away in 1922 and she’s interred at Hillcrest Cemetery in Weyburn, Saskatchewan. William died in 1941 and he’s buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Nipawin, Saskatchewan. Mary (Mrs. Godfrey Rowland) died in 1950 and Clifford and his remaining sister Edith (Mrs. Wallace Anderson) both passed away in 1970.
Robert is commemorated on the Vimy Memorial in France, on the provincial War Memorial in Regina, and on the Saskatchewan Virtual War Memorial. He is also remembered on his mother’s grave marker in Southey Cemetery. Along with his brothers William and Clifford he is commemorated on the First World War Roll of Honour for Southey and District.
By Becky Johnson
Some information is from the book “Pioneers and Progress: The History of Southey and District” by Southey History Committee, 1980.
Photo at the top is the Vimy Memorial. Grave marker photo courtesy of Amarilla44 on findagrave.com.