Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthJune 2, 1883
Place of BirthDalton Township, Victoria County, Ontario
Marital StatusMarried
Next of KinMrs. Elizabeth McLeish (wife), 538 - 5th Avenue N.E., Calgary, Alberta
Trade / CallingConstruction
ReligionChurch of England
Service Details
Regimental Number51060
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion13th Brigade, 53th Battery
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Field Artillery
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentCalgary, Alberta
Date of EnlistmentJanuary 12, 1915
Age at Enlistment31
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathOctober 22, 1930
Age at Death47
Buried AtStayner Union Cemetery, Stayner, Ontario

McLeish, William Roderick

Gunner William Roderick McLeish enlisted in January 1915 and served overseas for four years with the Canadian Army Medical Corps and the Canadian Field Artillery. He returned to Canada in June 1919.

William was born on 2 June 1883 in Dalton Township, Victoria County, Ontario, with his birth registered in Dalton Township in March 1884. His parents were James McLeish, a farmer, and Margaret McIntosh. James and Margaret were married in September 1883 in the town of Orillia in Simcoe County and William was probably their only child. Sadly, Margaret died in 1885, at age 21, and James in 1886, at age 26. They are buried in Mud Lake Cemetery in Kawartha Lakes, Ontario. At the time of the 1891 census William, age 7, was living with his uncle and aunt Joseph and Annie (McLeish) Baker in Rama Township, Simcoe County. Joseph was a farmer and he and Annie had six children of their own, aged from 2 to 14.

When the 1901 census was taken William was living back in Dalton Township and lodging with the family of John and Mary (McLeish) Powell. He was 17 years old and working as a farm labourer. William headed west sometime after that and he was married in Winnipeg, Manitoba on 1 July 1907. His wife, Elizabeth Duff, was born in Ontario in 1882, the daughter of James and Sophia Duff. William and Elizabeth’s first child, James Gordon, was born in Kenora, Ontario in February 1908. William’s occupation at the time was rock foreman. James was followed by a daughter, Kathleen, born in February 1910 in the RM of Brokenhead in southeastern Manitoba.

By the time of the 1911 census William and his family had settled in Calgary, Alberta and he was working as a building construction foreman. Over the next four years he and Elizabeth had three more daughters: Rose, Sophia Jean and Margaret. The war started in August 1914 and William enlisted on 12 January 1915, signing up in Calgary and joining the Canadian Army Medical Corps Training Depot. He was sent overseas that spring, embarking on 1 May 1915 and arriving in the UK about nine days later.

William served in England for almost three years, much of that time with the Duchess of Connaught’s Canadian Red Cross Hospital, the Ontario Military Hospital in Orpington and No. 14 Canadian Field Ambulance. He was promoted to Corporal in September 1915 and received additional pay for being a cook. In October 1917 William was transferred to the Canadian Field Artillery and four months later he was sent to France. He spent about six weeks at the Canadian Corps Reinforcement Camp. At the end of March 1918 he was posted to the 5th Canadian Divisional Trench Mortar Group and he joined them in the field a short time later, serving with the V5C Heavy Trench Mortar Battery.

The Canadian Corps was in the Lens-Arras area in the spring of 1918, holding a section of the front line and supporting British units during the major German offensive. William suffered a shell or gun shot wound to his face on 10 June and he was admitted to No. 42 Canadian Field Ambulance. The injury wasn’t serious and he was back with his battery about five days later. That summer the Canadians had several weeks of intensive training in open warfare and they were heavily involved in the final three months of the war. The Armistice ended hostilities on the Western front on 11 November and the 5th Canadian Divisional Trench Mortar Group was disbanded five days later.

William was transferred to the 53rd Battery in the 13th Brigade and in January 1919 he had two weeks leave in Paris. He returned to England on 10 May and embarked for Canada on 11 June on the SS Scotian. He arrived in Quebec about ten days later and was discharged on demobilization on 23 June in Toronto. While he was away his wife had moved to New Lowell, Ontario, where her parents lived. Her brother George Hunt Duff had enlisted in December 1915 and another brother, Gordon Thomas Duff, was called up for service in May 1918. They both served in France.

After the war William and Elizabeth moved to Winnipeg and they had two more daughters, Mildred Mary and Elizabeth. William continued to work in construction and in 1922 he went to the U.S. to look into employment opportunites. When the 1930 U.S. census was taken he was living in Detroit, Michigan and working as a construction shop foreman. He said he was married and he had moved to the U.S. in 1923. Living with him were his daughter Kathleen and his son James, who was married and also working in construction.

In the summer of 1930 William was treated for pulmonary tuberculosis at Grace Hospital in Detroit. He passed away in Ferndale, Michigan on 22 October 1930, at age 47. The cause of death was pulmonary tuberculosis and he had last worked on 1 April. William is buried in the family plot in Stayner Union Cemetery in Stayner, Ontario. His wife died in 1972 and she is also interred there along with their son James (1908-1959), daughter Margaret (Mrs. Norris Redpath) (1915-1970) and other family members.

By Becky Johnson


Grave marker photo courtesy of Township of Clearview Clerks Department, Clearview, Ontario

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