Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthFebruary 11, 1872
Place of BirthBrixton, London
Marital StatusMarried
Next of KinFlorence Austen, wife, Kenora, Ontario
Trade / CallingSwitchman
ReligionChurch of England
Service Details
Regimental Number475006
Service Record Link to Service Record
BattalionRailway Construction and Forestry Depot, CFC
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Forestry Corps
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Address at EnlistmentWinnipeg
Date of EnlistmentAugust 10, 1915
Age at Enlistment43
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathJanuary 15, 1958
Age at Death86
Buried AtLake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario

Austen, Charles Albert

Charles Albert Austen was born 11 February 1872 in Brixton, Surrey, England.  His parents were Austin Austen and Mary Ann Headington/Watkins.  Siblings included brother – James Stephen (b. 1870), sister – Lydia Mary (b. 1877) and half-sister Emily Beatrice Watkins. As a boy, Charles sang in St. Michael’s Anglican Church. First a telegraph boy, he developed a liking for soldiering, watching the guards at Buckingham Palace. He then served his apprenticeship as a butcher and tried, unsuccessfully to join the forces at age 18.  He returned to his trade, and worked for a New Zealand firm as manager.

On 03 August 1896 Charles married Florence Louise Cunnew at St. Savior’s Church, Parish of Camberwell, London, England. Daughter Florence Lydia was born in 1898, son Charles in 1900 and daughter Mary Ruby in 1903.  In May of 1903 the family immigrated to Canada. Charles worked first at Gananoque, and then joined the staff of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway. The family settled in Kenora, Ontario where  Charles started service  as a trainman with the CPR on 31 May 1907.  In 1910 he  became a yardman with the CPR. In  1911  the family was  living on 6th Ave. South in Kenora.  Charles was working as a switchman on the CPR and two more daughters had arrived – Lillian Maple in 1905 and Lucy May in 1911.  In 1914 Charles was promoted to CPR yard foreman.

With WW1 raging in Europe, Charles enlisted on 10 August 1915 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. His regimental number was 475006 and he was with the 90th Winnipeg Rifles. By March of 1916 Charles was in France and was taken on strength by the 1st Machine Gun Corp on 24 June 1916.  Less than a month later he was wounded at Dickie Bush near Ypres suffering a gunshot wound to his right knee and right elbow.  He was invalided to England and was in hospital at Ipswich, Epsom and Ramsgate until December 1916.  At that time he was sent back to Canada and was treated in Winnipeg hospitals until 30 June 1917. His wife, Florence, had passed away on 24 December 1916 at the Mimico Asylum in Toronto. A guardian had been appointed for his children and the Patriotic Fund was contributing to their upkeep.

Just 3 days after his discharge from hospital in Winnipeg, Charles re-enlisted. This time he joined the 16th Reinforcing Draft and his service number was #2302972. He embarked from Halifax on 27 November 1917 and was transferred to the Canadian Railway Troops on his arrival in England. By March of 1918 he was an acting Sergeant and in July of 1918 he became a Quarter Master Sergeant in Purfleet, England. His service record shows he was granted a ‘Free Warrant Leave’ in January of 1919 and then, on 15 February 1919 the notation was made of ‘approval of marriage’.  Charles returned to Canada in September of 1919 and was followed in October by his new wife, Lily Austen and her two children Bernard and Jasper.

The 1921 Canadian Census shows the Austen family (Charles, Lily, Lillian, Bernard and Jasper) living in Kenora and Charles working as a switchman for the CPR. Lily died in 1935 in Winnipeg and is buried in St. Boniface cemetery.

Charles retired from the CPR on 01 July 1937. In 1939, at the age of 67, Charles purchased a ticket to England and enlisted with the British forces for WW2. His service number this time was D29876. He passed the medical exam and served with the 12th Battalion, Queen’s Royal Regiment in England until 1940 when he suffered a broken arm and foot while on duty in a storm.  With the end of his military career, Charles returned to Kenora. He married Bertha West on 29 September 1942.

Charles died on 15 January 1958 in Deer Lodge Hospital, Winnipeg, Manitoba. He and Bertha (who passed away in 1967) are both buried in Lake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario.

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Photos of Charles and the WW2 newspaper article provided by Charles’ grandson Arnold Austen.


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