Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthOctober 3, 1897
Place of BirthWinnipeg, Manitoba
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinSidney Steele Tomkins, father, Matlock, Manitoba
Trade / CallingTeamster
ReligionChurch of England
Service Details
Regimental Number1250470
Service RecordLink to Service Record
Battalion76th Depot Battery
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Field Artillery
Enlisted / ConscriptedConscripted
Place of EnlistmentWinnipeg, Manitoba
Address at EnlistmentMatlock, Manitoba
Date of EnlistmentNovember 12, 1917
Age at Enlistment20
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathJuly 12, 1968
Age at Death71
Buried AtChapel Lawn Memorial Gardens, Winnipeg, Manitoba
PlotGood Shepherd Gardens

Tomkins, Robert Edward Steele

Robert Edward Steele Tomkins was born on 3 October 1897 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. His father Sidney Steele Tomkins was from England, immigrating as a child with his parents to Winnipeg, while his mother Ada Hanes was from New Brunswick, both families living in Winnipeg by the time of the 1891 census. Sidney and Ada married on 15 December 1896 in Winnipeg. Following Robert’s birth Sidney and Ada settled in the RM of St Andrews/Selkirk on the outskirts of Winnipeg where they farmed. Other children born to the family were Edith Marian (1899-1989), Thomas Russell (1904-1974), and June Marjorie Margaret (1909). In later years Sidney worked as a caretaker, drayman, and CNR baggage agent in the Matlock area.

With the onset of conscription in the latter part of the war, Robert reported to the Registrar’s Office prior to enlistment on 12 November 1917. Living in Matlock at the time, his occupation was given as teamster and his father Sidney in Matlock as next of kin. As a Private with the 8th draft of the 76th Battery of the Canadian Field Artillery, Robert arrived in England on 19 April 1918 aboard the Metagama. Upon arrival he was taken on strength with the 18th Reserve Brigade. In late October he proceeded overseas and joined the 4th Canadian Divisional Artillery Column, rank of Driver. Divisional Ammunition Columns were responsible for the delivery of ammunitions to batteries and other units from ammunition refilling points. With the end of the war Robert returned to England in late April of 1919 and embarked for Canada on the Aquitania on 18 May. Robert was discharged from service on demobilization on 27 May 1919 in Montreal.

At the time of the 1921 census Robert was working as a grocery clerk and living with his parents and siblings Thomas and June in Matlock, Edith having married Percy Trout in 1920. On 23 June 1923, in Winnipeg, Robert married Gladys Griffiths. Born on 18 December 1903 in Winnipeg, Gladys was the daughter of Henry Griffiths and Charlotte Ann (née Ormand) Chipperfield. Her parents had married on 23 October 1901 in Winnipeg.

A 1935 Voters list placed Robert and Gladys as living on Langside Street in Winnipeg with Robert working as a clerk. The marriage failing, on 23 October 1939, in Selkirk, Robert married Vigdin Jonina (Dorothy/Dede) Swanson. Born on February 1908 in Beulah, North Dakota, Dede was the daughter of Icelandic immigrants Oddur Swanson and Ingeborg Jonasson. In 1910 her family had moved to the Selkirk area in Manitoba where they ran a dairy farm. Robert and Dede made their home on Banning Street while also maintaining a summer home on Rock Lake just outside of Keewatin in northwestern Ontario.

Alone at the time, Robert died in a house fire at their place on Rock Lake on 12 July 1968. At the time of his death he was survived by his wife Dede, siblings Edith Lawrie, Thomas (Alice), and Marjorie Grant, all of Winnipeg. He was predeceased by his father Sidney in 1951 and his mother Ada in 1967, both interred in Saint James Cemetery in Winnipeg. Robert’s brother Thomas died in 1974 and sister Edith in 1989, both in Winnipeg. At the time of Edith’s death among other family she was survived by her sister Marjorie Sanderson in Vancouver. Dede later moved to Victoria, British Columbia to live with her niece Carol Johnson, passing away on 22 September 1997. Robert and Dede are interred in Chapel Lawn Memorial Gardens on the outskirts of Winnipeg.

By Judy Stockham

Grave marker photograph by Leone Hanson Sigurdson,

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