Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthSeptember 30, 1893
Place of BirthNorman, Ontario
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinMrs Janet Thornton, mother, 557 Selkirk Avenue, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Trade / CallingPipe fitter
ReligionChurch of England
Service Details
Regimental Number2005688
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion4th Battalion, CE
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Engineers
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Address at Enlistment557 Selkirk Avenue, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Date of EnlistmentFebruary 25, 1917
Age at Enlistment23
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathApril 28, 1972
Age at Death78

Thornton, Robert

Robert Thornton was born on 30 September 1893 in Norman, Ontario, a small community a couple of kilometres west of Rat Portage (later renamed Kenora) in northwestern Ontario. Both of his parents were born in Scotland, father Peter Thornton in 1850 in Edinburgh and mother Janet Middlemas Anderson in 1857 in Paisley. The couple married during the third quarter of 1885 in the registration district of Cockermouth in Cumberland in England, immigrating to Canada a short time later. Peter arrived in Quebec on 6 September 1885 on the Oregon, listed as a labourer on his way to Winnipeg on the passenger list. A record for Janet was not found but she was likely on the same ship or arrived soon after.

Peter and Janet first settled in Winnipeg, Manitoba, giving birth to son Arthur in December of 1886 followed by son David in July of 1888. Sadly, David died that August. Moving to Norman, Norman was born in 1890 followed by Robert. At the time of the 1891 census for Norman, Janet’s brother Robert was also living with the family. Returning to Winnipeg, Martin Gavin was born in 1896. Over the years Peter worked as an accountant.

Robert enlisted on 25 February 1917 in Winnipeg. His occupation was given as pipe fitter and mother Janet in Winnipeg as next of kin. With the 25th Draft Canadian Engineers to the Canadian Engineers Training Depot, Robert arrived in England aboard the Justicia on 14 May 1917. That December Robert proceeded overseas to the Canadian Engineers Pool in France and in late March of 1918 was transferred to the 4th Field Company, Canadian Engineers. The 4th Field Company was absorbed by 4th Battalion, Canadian Engineers in June 1918. Robert was granted a two week leave to the UK on 21 November 1918 and while on leave he was admitted to the 2nd Scottish General Hospital in Edinburgh on the 27th, diagnosed with influenza. In late December Robert was transferred to the Canadian Convalescent Hospital Bearwood Park in Wokingham, Berkshire, discharged on 3 January 1919. He embarked for Canada on 14 May and was discharged from service on demobilization on the 30th in Winnipeg.

Robert’s brother Norman enlisted in Winnipeg in January 1916 and served overseas with the No 10 Canadian Ambulance, Canadian Medical Corps. Sustaining shrapnel wounds to his head and neck in the latter part of the war, he was invalided to Canada and later discharged as medically unfit in May of 1919.

At the time of the 1921 census Robert was living in Winnipeg with his parents and some of his siblings, occupation listed as draughtsman. By 1933 he was living in Toronto where he married Mona Barber on 12 June 1933. Born on 22 October 1904 in Boharm, Banffshire in Scotland, Mona was the daughter of Jane Barber and Mary Ann Cowie. At the time of the marriage Robert was working as an architect and Mona as a probation nurse.

Not a lot is known about Robert’s life after the marriage. By the mid 1940’s Robert and Mona were living in Ottawa, Ontario where Robert was working as an architect, having given birth to daughter Audrey Bernice. By the early 1960’s they were living in Toronto, Voters Lists indicating that Robert had retired.

Robert died on 28 April 1972 in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Toronto. At the time of his death he was survived by his wife Mona, and daughter Bernice (Roland Henrich) Riem of Oakville. He was predeceased by his father Peter (1932), mother Janet (1934), brother Martin (1944), and brother Norman (1960), all in Vancouver. His brother Arthur had moved to Australia and further trace of him was not found.

By Judy Stockham

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