Kenora Great War Project

 

Personal Details
Date of BirthFebruary 4, 1886
Place of BirthNorth Bay, Ontario
CountryCanada
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinWilliam Biers (father,) Dunfermline, Saskatchewan
Trade / CallingRailroad bridge repairer
ReligionPresbyterian
Service Details
Regimental Number2383504
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion18th Reserve Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedConscripted
Place of EnlistmentPort Arthur, Ontario
Address at EnlistmentDunfermline, Saskatchewan
Date of EnlistmentJanuary 3, 1918
Age at Enlistment31
Theatre of ServiceGreat Britain
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathAugust 2, 1950
Age at Death64
Buried AtWoodlawn Cemetery, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Plot79-L114-N1/2 Grave 15045

Biers, William James

Private William James Biers was called up in January 1918 and sent overseas seven months later. He served in Great Britain for a year, returning to Canada in August 1919.

Willilam James, usually known as James, was the son of William Biers and Maria Hughes of Dunfermline, Saskatchewan. William and Maria were both born in Ireland and immigrated to Canada around 1884. They settled in North Bay, Ontario at first and James was born there on 4 February 1886. He was followed by three more boys: Robert, Adam John and Richard Henry (born 1892). The family was living in Keewatin, Ontario by 1895 when daughter Elizabeth (Lizzie) Jane was born. Another daughter, Rachel May, was born in 1899 in the neighbouring town of Rat Portage (now called Kenora). When the 1901 census was taken the family was living in Keewatin and all six children were still at home.

Around 1907 James’ parents moved to Saskatchewan and took up farming northwest of Saskatoon. Robert, Richard, Lizzie and Rachel went with them but James and Adam stayed in Keewatin. They were both working at a flour mill and lodging with a family in Keewatin. By the fall of 1917 the war was in its fourth year and conscription had started in Canada. James had his army medical on 29 January 1917 in Rainy River, Ontario. His occupation was railroad bridge repairer and he was likely living in the Kenora-Rainy River area, although he gave his address as Dunfermline, Saskatchewan. Next of kin was his father William in Dunfermline.

James was called up for service on 3 January 1918 in Port Arthur and assigned to the 1st Depot Battalion, Manitoba Regiment. Depot battalions sent drafts of recruits overseas as needed and James went with the 81st Draft, arriving in England on HMT Nellore on 15 August 1918. The next day he was transferred to the 18th Reserve Battalion. In mid-December he was put on command to the London headquarters of the Overseas Military Forces of Canada for duty as an orderly. He served with them until July 1919. Later that same month he was on his way back to Canada, sailing on the SS Winifredian and arriving in Halifax on 28 July. He was discharged on demobilization on 3 August 1919 in Saskatoon with his intended residence listed as Dunfermline. His brother Richard Henry Biers was also called up in 1918 and he served in Canada for about three months.

A few months after James returned home Miss Amy Violet Harding immigrated to Canada, arriving on 30 October 1919 on the SS Corsican. Her destination was Saskatoon and she said she was going to be married to William James Biers. Amy was born in Chelsea, London, England in 1894, the daughter of Alfred James Harding and Edith Mary Wilson. Her younger brother, Alfred Victor, had served with the Royal Army Service Corps from 1915 to 1919 in Italy, France and Great Britain.

When the 1921 census was taken James and Amy were married and living in Saskatoon. James was listed as a dairyman and they had a son, William Alfred, who was ten months old. Three more children followed: Robert John, Doris Edith and Alexander George. James had a long career as a dairyman and he retired in the late 1940s. His son William served overseas with the Canadian forces in the Second World War. James passed away in a hospital in Saskatoon on 2 August 1950, at age 64, and he’s buried in Woodlawn Cemetery.

A few years after she was widowed Amy moved to Victoria, British Columbia where her sons William and Alexander were living. She died in St. Joseph’s Hospital in Victoria on 8 February 1956, at age 61. She’s buried with James in Woodlawn Cemetery in Saskatoon. Also interred there are their daughter Doris (Mrs. Michael Norman Kryway), their son William (1920-1998),  James’ parents, his brothers Robert and Richard and his sister Elizabeth. His brother Adam (1889-1956) is buried in Lake of the Woods Cemetery in Kenora and his sister Rachel (1899-1952) is in Terrace Lawn Cemetery in North Bay.

James is commemorated on the R. Douglas Fraser (Town of Keewatin) Roll of Honour and the Municipality of Keewatin ‘For King and Country’ 1914-1918 plaque.

By Becky Johnson

Obituaries courtesy of Elsie Henry.


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