|Date of Birth||August 11, 1887|
|Place of Birth||Shelborne, Ontario|
|Next of Kin||Father: Frederick Campbell, Mother: Janet Campbell|
|Trade / Calling||Watchmaker|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Place of Enlistment||Winnipeg, Manitoba|
|Date of Enlistment||January 1, 1915|
|Age at Enlistment||27|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||September 26, 1916|
|Age at Death||29|
|Buried At||no known grave/Vimy Memorial|
Randolph Arthur Campbell was a watchmaker by trade when he joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force on January 1, 1915.
The Campbell family – Frederick Sr., his wife Janet and children Thomas, Mary, Lillian, Duncan, Randolph, Katherine and Frederick Kenneth – had come to what was then Rat Portage in 1893 from Shelborne, Ontario. Frederick, born in Stanley, New Brunswick in 1850, and Janet (née McDonald), born in Ireland in 1850, had married in Shelborne where Fred worked as a merchant.
Their daughter Mary married Jacob Seegmiller in 1900 in Rat Portage (renamed Kenora in 1905), and a few years later her parents moved on to Winnipeg where Fred and three of his sons worked as commercial travellers (salesmen). Randolph, or ‘Dolph’ as he was known to his friends, remained in Kenora where he learned the watchmaker’s trade. He worked for G.M. Rioch and lived with his sister Mary and her family on Seventh Street South in Lakeside. In 1912 Randolph joined his family in Winnipeg. A short item in the Kenora Miner and News noted his friends had presented him with a suitcase as a parting gift in July of that year in recognition of his involvement in local groups, especially a local baseball team.
Over the Christmas holidays in 1914, he decided to join his younger brother Frederick Kenneth Campbell in service to his country. Kenneth, working as a commercial traveller out of Winnipeg, had enlisted three months earlier on Sept. 26, 1914, joining the 34th Fort Gary Horse, a cavalry unit sent to Valcartier as part of Canada’s First Contingent of 30,000 men being raised for the war effort. The 34th was merged with other units to create the 6th Battalion for overseas duty when it shipped to England later that fall.
Randolph enlisted with the 44th Battalion, a local unit that had just been mobilized in Winnipeg, and he left with them for the east coast in October, on the first leg of their journey overseas.The Miner and News noted that the local boys were warmly greeted during the short stop at the Kenora train station. The battalion sailed from Halifax on October 23, 1915 on the SS Lapland.
Randolph was promoted to Lance Corporal in January 1916 and three months later, in mid-April, he was attached to the 8th Battalion (The Winnipeg Rifles) and sent to France. He was with the 8th when he fell in action on 26 September 1916 during the Battle of the Somme. The battalion was involved in heavy fighting near Courcelette that September. Their war diary notes they re-entered the front lines on September 25 with 23 officers and 644 other ranks on the muster roll, and by September 28 the battalion had been reduced to just over 200 men, with 48 confirmed killed, 171 missing and 240 wounded.
The exact circumstances of Randolph’s death aren’t known. The Circumstances of Death card notes he was first reported missing, then declared Killed In Action by the ‘explosion of an enemy shell.’ He was buried near the village of Courcelette but after the war his grave could not be identified. His name is listed on the Vimy Memorial along with the names of over 11,000 other Canadians who died in France and have no known grave.
Randolph’s brother Frederick survived the war, having attained the rank of Lieutenant. His parents both died in Kenora, his mother in December 1918 and his father in 1930. They are buried in the family plot in Elmwood Cemetery in Winnipeg.
Along with being included in national war memorial lists, Randolph Campbell is commemorated on the WW1 Roll of Honour for the 8th Battalion (Royal Winnipeg Rifles), the Kenora Cenotaph, the Kenora Legion War Memorial, and the Kenora/Keewatin High School Plaque.
by Bob Stewart
Photographs from the Lake of the Woods Museum Archives.