Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthSeptember 9, 1876
Place of BirthDerby, Derbyshire
Marital StatusMarried
Next of KinMrs. Mildred Bush (wife), Kenora, Ontario
Trade / CallingCarpenter
ReligionChurch of England
Service Details
Regimental Number199141
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion10th Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentKenora, Ontario
Address at EnlistmentKenora, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentMarch 12, 1916
Age at Enlistment39
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarNo
Death Details
Date of DeathMay 1, 1917
Age at Death40
Buried AtEcoivres Military Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France
PlotV. H. 18.

Bush, William Jabez

Private William Jabez Bush enlisted in March 1916, at age 39, as a bandsman with the 94th Battalion. He was killed in France in May 1917 when a large shell landed on the building he was sleeping in.

William was the son of John Henry Bush and Annie Mason of Derby, Derbyshire, England. John Henry and Annie were married in 1872 and William was the second of their four children, all born in Derby: John Augustus (1874), William Jabez (9 September 1876), Edward Arthur (1879) and Ernest Edgar (1882). John Henry was a locksmith and ironmonger and he died in October 1885 when William was nine years old. At the time of the 1891 census William was 14 and living with his widowed grandfather John Bush, an ironmonger and whitesmith. Also in the household were an uncle and a domestic servant, Mary Ward. Edward and Ernest were living in a nearby parish, lodging with Mary Ward’s mother Mrs. Eliza Ward, a widow. Their mother had remarried in March 1891 and she was in Nottingham, Nottinghamshire with her husband William Butler, a coal miner. Her oldest son John Augustus was also in Nottingham, staying with an aunt and uncle Mary and George Brasher.

When the 1901 census was taken William was living in Derby with his mother Annie Butler, who was widowed again, and his youngest brother Ernest. He was working as a labourer in a railway boiler shop. A short time later he immigrated to Canada and by 1904 he’d settled in the town of Rat Portage (now called Kenora), in northwestern Ontario. His brother Ernest immigrated next, arriving in December 1904 with his destination listed as Rat Portage. He moved to Saskatchewan where he took up farming in the Maple Creek district, west of Swift Current. In 1909 William’s brother Edward joined him in Kenora, arriving in May with his wife Louisa (née Yeomans) and planning to work in a lumber yard with his brother. Five years later, in May 1914, Louisa’s sister Mildred Yeomans also came to Canada and on 17 February 1915 William and Mildred were married. William was 38 years old by then and it was the first marriage for both of them. He worked as a lumberman, carpenter and mechanic and he was employed at the Rat Portage Lumber Company for several years. His only child, William Jr., was born in 1916.

All three brothers enlisted early in 1916. Ernest signed up with the 209th (Swift Current) Battalion and he was sent overseas in November. Edward joined the 94th Battalion in Kenora in January 1916 and William enlisted with the same unit on 12 March. The two brothers were musicians and members of the Kenora town band and they both joined the battalion band. The 94th was based in Port Arthur and recruited in towns throughout northwestern Ontario, and in May 1916 the Kenora volunteers were sent to Port Arthur to join the rest of the unit. They left for Quebec two weeks later and spent a short time at Valcartier before embarking from Halifax on 28 June 1916 on the SS Olympic. In England the recruits were absorbed into reserve battalions to be used as reinforcements for other units.

On 18 July 1916 William was transferred to the 32nd Reserve Battalion and after six more weeks of training he was assigned to the 5th Battalion and sent to France. He joined his unit in the field in September and became a member of the battalion band a month later. That fall the Canadians were at the Somme Offensive, where they suffered 24,000 casualties in less than three months. In mid-October William’s unit left the Somme and moved north to the area between Lens and Arras, opposite Vimy. On 30 December he was transferred again, this time to the 10th Battalion, and in February 1917 he spent a week in a field ambulance suffering from debility and myalgia.

The 10th Battalion – the Fighting Tenth – had arrived in France in 1915 with the 1st Canadian Division. By the time William joined them they’d been in the battles of Ypres (St. Julien), Festubert, Mount Sorrel and the Somme. William and his fellow band members accompanied the 10th on their route marches and also put on concerts for the troops. The regimental song was the well-known ‘Colonel Bogey’s March.’ During combat the band members served as stretcher-bearers, often rescuing the wounded under enemy fire and sometimes carrying them long distances through knee-deep mud and over terrain destroyed by artillery shells.

In the spring of 1917 all four Canadian Divisions were based between Arras and Lens preparing for the Battle of Vimy Ridge (9-14 April 1917). After the successful operation the 10th Battalion remained in the Arras area, billeted at Mont-St. Eloi. Early in the morning on 1 May 1917 William was killed when a large German shell destroyed the building in which he was sleeping. A letter from a fellow soldier said William was one of three band members who died that morning. Twelve other men were killed and 38 were wounded.

From the War Diary for the 10th Battalion, 1 May 1917: ‘Battalion in Billets Mont St. Eloy. At 6 A.M. the enemy commenced the bombardment of Rear Area surrounding Mont St. Eloy with Naval Gun, probable calibre 13 inch. The first shell struck the building occupied by Headquarter Details, destroyed it completely, and small hut in rear occupied by Battalion Headquarters officers and Orderly Room. The casualties inflicted were heavy, the Scout Section with the exception of 1 man were all casualties. All the Band were evacuated to Hospital, suffering from wounds, contusions and shock, with the exception of 3, who were killed. The total casualties amounted to 53 all ranks. 1 Officer and 14 Other Ranks being killed.’

William is buried in Ecoivres Military Cemetery near Mont-St. Eloi in France. He is commemorated on the Kenora Cenotaph, the Kenora Legion War Memorial, the St. Alban’s Anglican Pro-Cathedral Memorial plaque and the marker erected by Gold Hill and Minnetonka Lodges of Kenora and Keewatin. The marker, in Lake of the Woods Cemetery, is in memory of Lodge members who gave their lives in the Great War.

His brother Edward Arthur became a Lance Corporal and served with the Canadian Forestry Corps. He survived the war and returned to Canada in February 1919. Ernest Edgar also survived the war, returning to Canada in June 1919 with a war bride.

In August 1918 William’s widow Mildred married Henry Parsons, a veteran who had been invalided back to Canada earlier that year. They lived in Kenora and had one son, Robert. Mildred passed away in 1974. William Bush Jr. owned and operated Bill’s Shoe Box on Main Street in Kenora for many years. He died in 1996 and he’s buried in Lake of the Woods Cemetery.

By Becky Johnson

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