|Date of Birth||February 2, 1890|
|Place of Birth||Catthorpe, Leicestershire|
|Next of Kin||Finlay Campbell, Bridgetown, West Australia|
|Trade / Calling||Trainman|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Address at Enlistment||Kenora, Ontario|
|Date of Enlistment||December 28, 1914|
|Age at Enlistment||24|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||April 23, 1983|
|Age at Death||93|
|Buried At||Wesley United Church Cemetery, Browns Flat, New Brunswick|
Algar Udolph Campbell was born on 2 February 1890 in Catthorpe, Leicestershire in England. His father Finlay Campbell, farm bailiff, was from Daviot, Inverness in Scotland while his mother Annie Thorton was from Libourne in Northamptonshire. The couple had married in 1882 in Catthorpe. Sadly, Finlay and Annie’s first two children, Thomas Finlay born in 1883 and Margaret Charlotte born in 1885, both died before the age of two. Other known children born to the family were Malcolm Henry (1888), Eadmer Alwyn (1892), and Cecil Mentor (1895), all in Catthorpe.
Algar was found on the passenger list of the Tunisian that arrived in Canada on 10 April 1908, occupation given as farmer’s assistant. His brothers Eadmer and Cecil immigrated to Australia in 1911 and by 1913 Algar was back in England, in time to travel to Australia with his parents, arriving in Fremantle on the 4th of March. He returned to Canada in late May of 1913, arriving in Vancouver, British Columbia aboard the Niagara on the 28th. The passenger list indicated that he was returning to Kenora, Ontario where he had been working as an engineer with the Canadian Pacific Railway.
With occupation given as trainman and his father Finlay in Bridgetown, West Australia as next of kin, Algar signed his attestation papers in Kenora on 28 December 1914. The local newspaper later reported that he was also working for the Keewatin Lumber Company as a fireman at their mill in nearby Norman. The 52nd (New Ontario) Battalion, CEF was raised in Northern Ontario during the spring of 1915 with its mobilization headquarters at Port Arthur (Thunder Bay), Ontario. Recruiting took place during the spring and summer, drawing from Kenora, Fort Frances, Dryden, Port Arthur and Fort William. With a number of local men leaving Kenora in June for training throughout the summer in Port Arthur, the battalion left the city on 4 November 1915 for New Brunswick. On 23 November 1915, with the 52nd Battalion, Private Algar Campbell embarked from Saint John aboard the California.
Once in England the battalion spent 6 weeks of training under British instructors at Witley Camp and then moved on to Bramshott for 2 more weeks. On 26 February 1916 the 52nd sailed from Southampton to La Havre in France and then on to Belgium by train.
From Algar’s service record: ‘on 27 May 1916 in the support trenches at Ypres, Algar was hit by fragments of high explosive shell in the head, right shoulder, left elbow and hand, and right hand. Three fingers of left hand were practically blown away entirely and left elbow joint was penetrated. There were two severe wounds in left forearm and right ring finger was fractured. Was unconscious for a short time after being hit. Walked to dressing station. Poperinghe May27-30th Operated on under general anaesthetic. Three fingers on ulnar side of left hand completely removed with metacarpal. Ring finger of right hand removed without metacarpal. Wounds in head were not severe. Boulogne (No 13 Stationary) May 31st-June 21st Operation on elbow. Bone scraped. Tube put into left hand. Wounds in head healed. Nottingham (Bagthorpe) 21 June-8 September Bone removed from elbow.’ Upon discharge from the military hospital in Bagthorpe, Algar was transferred to the Kings Canadian Convalescent Hospital at Bushey Park and by November was on his way back to Canada.
A Kenora Miner and News article of 25 November 1916 reported of Algar’s arrival in the town by train on his way to Winnipeg for further recuperation. He was to spend time in the Winnipeg General Hospital from the 25 January-26 February 1917, undergoing excision of the left elbow. On 31 October 1917, in Winnipeg, Algar was discharged from service as medically unfit.
While in Winnipeg it appears that Algar trained as a baritone with Robert Watkin-Mills, adopting the stage name of Finlay Campbell along the way. Another Kenora newspaper report of December 1918 spoke of the huge successes Finlay was achieving, performing in New Brunswick before travelling throughout the eastern States and Chicago. For a while he was a soloist with the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra before returning to Canada in the 1920’s. The Daily Iowan newspaper spoke of his upcoming performance with the symphony in May of 1920 in Iowa: ‘After his first appearance with the Minneapolis Symphony orchestra in 1918, the Minneapolis Journal pronounced him the possessor of a rich, mellow, sonant baritone voice.’
Although living in Ottawa at the time, on 27 May 1921 Algar married Bessie Lovatt Forbes in Saint John, New Brunswick. Born in 1899 in Arlington, Massachusetts, Bessie was the daughter of Charles Forbes, carpenter, and Margaret Ann McNaughton. As a young child the family had moved to New Brunswick where Charles was from. In January of 1923, in Ottawa, Finley performed and was very well received in an Artistic Programme for a War Memorial benefit. ‘In all of his songs there was an abundance of fine interpretation. He has a basso-cantata voice of unusual range and development of striking richness and beautyвЂ¦his delivery and vocal execution in the difficult A White Rose were noteworthy as was his sincerity of fervor and impression in the well-known In Flanders Fields which song was dedicated to Mr Finlay Campbell. To say the least it is regrettable that his physical injuries received overseas should restrict this artist from frequent recitals.’
Later that year Algar and Bessie travelled to Australia via England, leaving Saint John in mid May and returning to Canada in late October. An advertisement in a 1926 edition of an Ottawa paper spoke of Finlay as a singing master offering lessons, the only teacher in Ottawa with an international reputation as a first class professional singer with over 100 appearances with symphony orchestras.
In 1927 Algar and Bessie gave birth to a daughter, Margaret Ann (Peggy). The family was to live in Montreal for a number of years before moving to Glenwood in the Saint John River Valley during WW2. The Montreal Gazette published a column in April of 1931 praising the abilities of Finlay, Toronto baritone, for his performance at the American Church Parlors. ‘What was heard was sufficiently convincing to place Mr Campbell among singers of Canada who are well worth hearing. His voice possesses resonance and is manly in character. He can also sing with genuine feeling and with attention to the musical demands of his songs.’
Algar died on 23 April 1983 in Saint John, New Brunswick. Bessie died on 1 September 1998 in Fredericton where she had been living with their daughter Peggy Fenerty. Algar and Bessie are interred in the Wesley United Church Cemetery in Browns Flat, New Brunswick.
According to the Australian Military website, Algar’s brother Cecil served during both WW1 and WW2 although details of his service are unknown.
Library and Archives Canada Virtual Gramophone, Canadian Historical Sound Recordings, has a recording of a performance done by Finlay in 1928, link provided here: link
by Judy Stockham
Algar and Bessie’s grave marker photograph provided by Brenda Sherrard, findagrave.com