|Date of Birth||August 25, 1900|
|Place of Birth||Dalrymple, Ayr, Ayrshire|
|Next of Kin||Thomas Armour (father), Keewatin, Ontario|
|Trade / Calling||Improver Miller|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Place of Enlistment||St. Charles Camp, Manitoba|
|Address at Enlistment||624 Balmoral Street, Winnipeg, Manitoba|
|Date of Enlistment||September 11, 1917|
|Age at Enlistment||17|
|Theatre of Service||Canada|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||July 28, 1964|
|Age at Death||63|
|Buried At||Lake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario|
Private William Armour was the youngest of four brothers who enlisted for service in the First World War. He was 17 years old when he signed up in the fall of 1917 and he served in France and Belgium in the last months of the war.
William was born on 25 August 1900 in Dalrymple, Ayrshire, Scotland. His parents were Thomas Armour and Jane Kennedy and he had four brothers and five sisters. His father worked as a ploughman and farm labourer and later as a farm manager. In 1911 two of William’s brother immigrated to Canada. The next year the rest of the family joined them, arriving in May 1912 on the SS Grampian and settling in the town of Keewatin, in northwestern Ontario. When William was old enough he found work at the Lake of the Woods flour mill.
The war started in August 1914 and over the next year each of the four oldest boys enlisted. Thomas signed up in Kenora in December 1914, James in Winnipeg in October 1915 and Robert in Winnipeg in January 1916. William turned 17 in August 1917 and he enlisted two weeks later, passing himself off as a year older. He went to St. Charles Camp, just west of Winnipeg, where he joined the Depot Squadron of the 34th Fort Garry Horse on 11 September. He gave a Winnipeg address for his attestation but he was working as a miller at the time and likely still lived at home in Keewatin. After training for two months he was transferred to the 1st Draft of the Manitoba Depot Battalion in November. He embarked for the UK on the SS Megantic at the end of the month and landed in England on 7 December.
When William arrived he was transferred to the 11th Reserve Battalion and he trained with them for the next nine months. The Canadians were heavily involved in the final period of the war, starting with the Battle of Amiens in August 1918. They suffered high casualties and reinforcements were needed for the front line units. William was sent to France on 5 September to serve with the 43rd Battalion. After arriving at the Canadian Corps Reinforcement Depot he was transferred instead to the 8th Battalion (Winnipeg Rifles) and he joined them in the field later that month. Over the next eight weeks the Canadians crossed the Canal du Nord and took part in the capture of Cambrai and Valenciennes. In early November the 8th Battalion was based at Auberchicourt, west of Valenciennes. From their war diary, 11 November 1918: ‘At 08.45 hours the wonderful news was received over the wire that hostilities with Germany would cease at 11.00 hours. The information was immediately communicated to the Battalion on parade, and three thunderous cheers went up.‘
William’s unit continued their advance northeast, crossing into Belgium on the morning of 15 November. Along with the rest of the battalions in the 1st and 2nd Canadian Divisions they took part in the March to the Rhine. The 8th Battalion entered Germany on 6 December and remained there with the occupying forces until 6 January 1919. After another six weeks in Belgium they entrained for the coast and arrived back in England at the end of March. William left for Canada on 26 April on the Empress of Britain, landing at Quebec on 4 May. There was a huge reception for the 8th Battalion on 6 May, when they arrived in Winnipeg. William was discharged on demobilization two days later. On 4 August William and his brother Thomas were honoured at a ceremony in Keewatin, when badges and medals were awarded to returned veterans and the families of fallen soldiers. For veterans the medals were inscribed: For gallant service in the Great War 1914-1918 Keewatin Aug.4/19.
After his discharge William returned to his job at the flour mill in Keewatin. His father had passed away in October 1918 and he lived with his widowed mother. He was married to 19-year-old Lily Beckett on 9 August 1920. Lily, the daughter of Walter and Margaret Beckett, was born and raised in the Kenora area. William and his wife had a daughter Henrietta in 1921 and a son William Douglas about two years later. Douglas served with the Royal Canadian Air Force in the Second World War and he was killed on 23 September 1944, at age 21. He’s buried in the town of Wick in northern Scotland.
William and Lily divorced in 1949 and he later married Emma Harkins (née LaBelle). Emma’s first husband, John Jerry Harkins, was also a veteran of Great War. He had passed away in 1938, at age 49. William had a long career with the Lake of the Woods Milling Company in Keewatin, retiring as a superintendent after almost fifty years of service. He was a member of the Keewatin Masonic Lodge and the Keewatin branch of the Canadian Legion. He passed away in St. Joseph’s Hospital on 28 July 1964, four weeks before his 64th birthday. Emma died in 1970 and they are both buried in Lake of the Woods Cemetery in Kenora.
William is commemorated on the Lake of the Woods Milling Company plaque, the Municipality of Keewatin for King and Country 1914-18 plaque and the Town of Keewatin Roll of Honour.
By Becky Johnson