|Date of Birth||December 9, 1897|
|Place of Birth||Tauton, Somerset|
|Next of Kin||Mrs. Annie Challes - Mother, Kenora, Ontario|
|Trade / Calling||Clerk|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Address at Enlistment||Kenora, Ontario|
|Date of Enlistment||February 20, 1916|
|Age at Enlistment||18|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||August 13, 1960|
|Age at Death||62|
|Buried At||Lake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario|
William Ralph Challes was born to William John Challes and Mary Anna Garnsey on December 9th, 1897 in Taunton, Devon, Somerset, United Kingdom. In the 1901 census, father William is listed as a breadmaker. The family immigrated to Canada in 1910, and took up residence in Kenora. The 1911 Canadian census shows William Challes (baker at Jackson’s), his wife Mary, son William, son Jack and daughter Mary all living in Kenora.
With the break out of WW1, William Ralph enlisted on February 20, 1916 in Kenora, where he was working as a clerk. Enlisting with the 94th Battalion, he sailed for England on June 28, 1916 on the SS Olympic. The men arrived in England on July 5th, 1916. After several months of training in East Sandling, he joined the 16th Battalion in France on November 4th. Shortly afterwards, he was sent to hospital in Wimereux, with a gun shot wound to his upper arm. He spent several months recuperating, partly in England, but rejoined his unit on March 24th, 1917. He spent several months fighting with his unit, until he was re-injured with shrapnel, on November 2. Again, after preliminary treatment at No. 3 Australian Co. clearing station, and the USA General Hospital in Rouen, William was transported to England to continue his recovery. In December, his wound healed, but he contracted tonsillitis, so continued to be kept in convalescent care at the 1st CCD East Sandling.
In April, 1918, he was taken on strength to the 16th Battalion, and served out the war until the end. The war diary for the 16th describes the events of November 11, 1918:
Monday, November 11, 1918
In billets. Battalion route march. Armistice was signed and orders were received that hostilities would cease at 1100 hours. Arrangements were made for a celebration at 2000 hours, in conjunction with the 15thBattalion. A great bonfire was made, all the people of the village attending. During the night there were great scenes of enthousiasm (sic).
William returned to England on the ‘Baltic’ on March 22, 1919, and was on his way back to Canada on November 19th, 1919. He served three years with the 94th and 16th CF Battalions.
One interesting adventure seems to have taken place while on his first convalescent leave in England, as there is a note in his file: ‘admonished, placed under stoppages to make good value of equipment destroyed (ankle boots value 100 pounds) for making away with by destruction of his equipment.’ Wouldn’t it be interesting to hear William’s explanation of this admonishment!
William returned to live in Kenora, and on the 1921 census, he and his father are living in the north ward. The record is unreadable as to William’s occupation, but his father is still a baker. William Ralph moved to Keewatin in 1930 and worked as a packer in the flour mill there for 22 years. In 1940, he married Martha Eunice Marietta Acheson, in Broadway Baptist church in Winnipeg.
William Ralph Challes died on 13 August 1960. He is buried in Lake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora.
by Penny Beal
photographs courtesy of Gordon Billings