Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthNovember 30, 1885
Place of BirthUxbridge, Brock Township, Ontario
Marital StatusMarried
Next of KinMrs. Pearl McKee (wife), 692 8th Avenue West, Vancouver, British Columbia
Trade / CallingSteam Engineer
Service Details
Regimental Number1013339
Service RecordLink to Service Record
BattalionNo. 32 Company, District No. 2
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Forestry Corps
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentVancouver, British Columbia
Address at Enlistment692 8th Avenue West, Vancouver, British Columbia
Date of EnlistmentJanuary 16, 1917
Age at Enlistment31
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathApril 28, 1953
Age at Death67
Buried AtLake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario

McKee, Robert Elsworth

Private Robert Elsworth McKee was married and the father of a baby daughter when he enlisted in January 1917. He served in England and France with the Canadian Forestry Corps and returned to Canada in November 1918 after suffering an injury.

Elsworth was the youngest son of John McKee, a farmer, and Margaret (Maggie) Thompson. John was born in Montreal to Scottish/Irish parents and his wife was born and raised in Brock Township, Ontario. They were married in November 1874 and they had at least six children: Minnie Florence, Amos, John, William, Robert Elsworth and Ethel May. Elsworth was born on 30 November 1885 in Uxbridge, Brock Township. When the 1891 census was taken his family was living in nearby Reach Township but by 1901 they had moved west to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. While they were there Elsworth served for two years with a local militia unit, the 95th Saskatchewan Regiment.   He was married in Saskatoon on 23 November 1913 to 25-year-old Pearl Viola Reeds. Pearl was born in Victoria County, Ontario and moved to Saskatchewan with her family as a child. Her parents, Thomas and Cecilia Reeds, settled in the Maidstone area northwest of Saskatoon where they farmed.

Elsworth and Pearl had a daughter Emma Clarice born in August 1914. Around that time John and Maggie McKee moved to Vancouver and when Elsworth enlisted he and his wife were living there too. He signed up in Vancouver on 16 January 1917, joining the 230th Overseas Battalion. He was 31 years old and his occupation was steam engineer. Due to a sports injury he was blind in one eye and not medically fit for front line service. The 230th was a forestry battalion raised in Ontario and the western provinces and  drafts of men were sent to England as needed. Elsworth was one of 350 recruits in the 3rd Draft. They embarked from Halifax on the SS Ausonia on 4 March 1917 and landed at Liverpool 11 days later. In England the draft was absorbed into the Canadian Forestry Corps.

In April Elsworth was transferred to a newly-organized unit, No. 32 Company of the Canadian Forestry Corps, and he arrived in France with them on 29 April. The company was in District No. 2, based in the area of Conches, west of Paris. Forestry work included cutting timber, running sawmills, preparing railway ties and helping to clear terrain. Other work listed in the war diaries included ‘clearing sites, ditching, draining, trimming and felling trees, hauling gravel, levelling, making culverts and drains, earthing, grading, ploughing, scraping, filling depressions, uprooting hedges, re-sodding, cutting pickets, stripping turf.

On 28 May 1918 Elsworth was injured when the door of a railway car slammed shut on his right hand, smashing several of his fingers and fracturing one of them. He was sent to the camp hospital where he was treated for a month before being moved to Rouen then evacuated to England. He was admitted to No. 4 Canadian General Hospital in Basingstoke, Hampshire where he spent two weeks. During that time he was assigned to the 3rd Canadian Convalescent Depot. A medical exam in August found he was no longer fit for overseas service and he embarked for Canada on 22 November on the SS Aquitania, landing at Halifax a week later and proceeding to Regina. In Regina he was posted to the Casualty Company and given leave for most of December. While he was overseas his wife had moved back to Saskatchewan and she was living with relatives in Maidstone. Elsworth returned to Regina after the holidays and was officially discharged as medically unfit on 7 January 1919, with his intended residence listed as Maidstone.

After his war service Elsworth and Pearl stayed in Saskatchewan and they had one more child, their daughter Jean Annette who was born in August 1919. When the 1921 census was taken they were living in Swift Current and Elsworth was working as a farm labourer. Around 1932 they moved to Kingston, Ontario and their daughter Jean was married there to Kenneth Murray. Their oldest daughter Clarice married John Edward Longe and they lived in his hometown of Kenora. Around 1946 Elsworth and Pearl moved to Kenora and Elsworth joined the local branch of the Canadian Legion. He passed away at Deer Lodge Hospital in Winnipeg on 28 April 1953, at age 67. He was given a Legion funeral in Kenora and buried in the veterans section of Lake of the Woods Cemetery.

 By Becky Johnson

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