Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthDecember 29, 1894
Place of BirthLanark County, Ontario
Marital StatusMarried
Next of KinMadaline M. Devlin (wife), 212 Colony Street, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Trade / CallingCarpenter
Service Details
Regimental Number2184585
Service Record Link to Service Record
BattalionNo. 53 District
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Forestry Corps
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Address at Enlistment212 Colony Street, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Date of EnlistmentJanuary 22, 1918
Age at Enlistment23
Theatre of ServiceGreat Britain
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of Death19721225
Age at Death77
Buried AtLake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario

Devlin, Percy Clarence

Private Percy Clarence Devlin enlisted in January 1918 and served for sixteen months with the Canadian Forestry Corps in England.

Percy was the oldest son of John Allan Devlin and Isabella Jane Morris. John and Isabella were both born in Beckwith Township, Lanark County, Ontario and they were married there in January 1892. John was a farmer and blacksmith and Percy, their first child, was born in Beckwith on 29 December 1894. When Percy was growing up his family lived in the nearby towns of Carleton Place and Smiths Falls and he had four sisters and one brother: Emily (born 1896, died as an infant), Elsie (1898), twins John Burton and Bertha (1900), and Helen (1906). Their father died at Carleton Place in July 1913, when Percy was 18 years old, and a year later his mother moved the family to the small town of Keewatin in northwestern Ontario. Her older brother Joseph Morris had been living there for about ten years, working as a carpenter and contractor.

Percy also found work as a carpenter and he married a Keewatin girl, Madalene (Magdalene) Martha McPherson, on 6 November 1917 in Winnipeg. Madalene was born in Keewatin in 1893, the daughter of John McPherson and Margaret Carnegie. Her mother had died in 1897 and her father in 1901. Percy’s sisters Bertha and Elsie were living in Winnipeg during the war, both working at Eatons, and Percy and Madalene decided to stay in the city too. The war was in its fourth year by then and Percy enlisted early in 1918, signing up in Winnipeg on 22 January with the Forestry and Railway Construction Depot, Military District No. 10 (Manitoba). In February he was sent to Brockville, Ontario where he was transferred to No. 6 Forestry Draft and he left for the UK at the end of the month.

Percy spent the next sixteen months serving with the Canadian Forestry Corps in England. He worked in No. 53 District which was headquartered at Egham, southwest of the city of London. There were eight companies in the district and Percy was assigned to No. 135. The unit had been organized just a few months earlier and it was based at Sandhurst, 20 km from Egham. When Percy joined them in March 1918 the saw mill was still under construction and it began operating on 8 April. The men cut timber in the nearby forest, laid railway track as needed, hauled the logs to the saw mill, operated the mill and transported lumber to the nearest railway. The unit had about 50 horses for doing work in the forest and mill, and several motor lorries for transporting logs and lumber. In the company camp were sleeping huts, a dining room, a recreation hut, canteens, various officers’ quarters and messes, a workshop and garage, bath houses, stables and a hospital. Like other camps No. 135 Company also had a large farm where grain and vegetables were grown for their own use.

By the spring of 1919 forestry operations in the UK were winding down. Percy spent five weeks with two other companies, No. 101 and No. 140, and in mid-June he was transferred to the Canadian Forestry Corps Base Depot. He embarked for Canada on 5 July on the SS Carmania and he was discharged in Halifax two weeks later, with his intended residence listed as Keewatin where his wife was living. On 4 August 1919 he was honoured at a ceremony in Keewatin, when badges and medals were presented to returned veterans and the families of fallen soldiers. Two of Madalene’s brothers also served during the war, George McPherson and James Leonard McPherson. Her cousin Gerald Walton Bailiey of Keewatin died in a flying accident in 1918 while training with the Royal Air Force.

After the war Percy and Madalene stayed in the Kenora area and he found work with the local pulp and paper mill, which began production in 1924. He worked with the company’s horses and became the veterinary and barn foreman. He was very interested in horse racing and he belonged to the Keewatin branch of the Canadian Legion. He and his wife raised two children, a son James Hilliard born in 1928 and a daughter Elizabeth Ann in 1931. Madalene passed away in the Kenora Hospital in October 1955, after a long illness. Percy married his second wife Bertha May Pritchard (nee Hodgson) on 10 October 1958. Bertha was from the small village of Roland, Manitoba, the daughter of Archibald and Mary Hodgson. Her first husband, Howard Pritchard, had died in May 1955.

Percy passed away in Winnipeg on 25 December 1972, four days before his 78th birthday, and he’s buried in Lake of the Woods Cemetery in Kenora. Also buried there are his first wife Madalene, his mother Isabella and other family members. He was survived by his wife Bertha, his son Hilliard of Fort Frances, his daughter Elizabeth of Surrey, British Columbia, his brother John of Vancouver and several stepchildren. Elizabeth (Mrs. David Harley Helget) died in Surrey in 1975 and she’s buried there at Sunnyside Cemetery. Bertha died in Carman, Manitoba in 1989, at age 94, and she’s interred in Fairview Cemetery in Roland. Hilliard (1928-1997) is in Riverview Cemetery in Fort Frances, Ontario.

Percy is commemorated on the Municipality of Keewatin ‘For King and Country’ Honour Roll 1914-1918.

By Becky Johnson

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