Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthJune 22, 1893
Place of BirthKenora, Ontario
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinThomas Dougherty (father), Kenora, Ontario
Trade / CallingTrainman
ReligionRoman Catholic
Service Details
Regimental Number150371
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion1st Depot Battalion, Saskatchewan Regiment
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Address at EnlistmentSouris, Manitoba
Date of EnlistmentApril 6, 1916
Age at Enlistment22
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of Death19620121
Age at Death68
Buried AtSt. Mary's Cemetery, Calgary, Alberta

Dougherty, William Edward

Cadet William Edward Dougherty enlisted in April 1916 and served for over two years with the Canadian Infantry in England and France. He was in training as a Royal Air Force Cadet when the Armistice was signed in November 1918.

William was the youngest son of Thomas Arthur and Mary Dougherty of Kenora, Ontario. Thomas was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and his wife Mary (née O’Keefe) was from Lacrosse, Wisconsin. They moved to Canada around 1887, settling in the town of Rat Portage about four years later. They had five children, three sons and two daughters: Thomas Jr. (1889), Frances (1891), Charles James (1892), William Edward (22 June 1893) and Ethel (1895). The last three children were born in Rat Portage (now called Kenora), where Thomas worked for the Canadian Pacific Railway, first as a brakeman and later as a conductor. William’s mother passed away in September 1914, at age 47. She’d been suffering from ill health and she went into St. Joseph’s Hospital for an operation and never recovered.

The war started in August 1914 and William and his brother Charles James both enlisted. William was living in Souris, Manitoba where he worked for the CPR and he joined the 79th Battalion on 6 April 1916 in Brandon. The 79th was based in Brandon and recruited mainly in Manitoba but a number of young men from Kenora and Keewatin went there to sign up. The battalion left Brandon aboard two large trains on 19 April, heading to the east coast. William and some of the other local lads were at home for a short visit and the trains stopped on their way through Kenora to pick up them up. A huge crowd of friends and relatives gathered at the station to see them off. Four days later they were on their way to England, embarking from Halifax on 24 April on the SS Lapland.

There were over 1,100 officers and men in the 79th and in England some of them were drafted to front line units with the remainder going to the 17th Reserve Battalion. Just a month after arriving in England William was transferred to the 1st Canadian Mounted Rifles and sent to France. The 1st CMRs had started the war as a mounted unit but in January 1916 they were converted to infantry and together with three other CMR units they formed the 8th Brigade of the 3rd Canadian Division. In the fall of 1916 all four Canadian Divisions took part in the Somme Offensive and during that time William was promoted to Corporal then to Sergeant. Over the winter of 1916-17 the Canadians were based between Lens and Arras, holding a stretch of the front line opposite Vimy, and William had a position as a battalion orderly room clerk. In the new year the Canadians began to prepare for their next big operation, the Battle of Vimy Ridge (9-14 April 1917). The carefully planned assault on the ridge was a remarkable achievement and has often been called our national ‘coming of age.’ Afterwards William was given ten days leave in Paris and he rejoined his battalion at the end of May. That fall he had a short period in a rest camp and in January 1918 he was given two weeks leave in the UK.

The final period of the war, known now as the Hundred Days Offensive, began on 8 August 1918 with the Battle of Amiens. Later that month William was sent to England to train as an Officer Cadet with the Royal Air Force. His position was probationary and shortly after the Armistice was signed he was transferred to the 15th Reserve Battalion then to the Saskatchewan Regiment Depot. He left for Canada on 18 January 1919 on the SS Aquitania, arriving in Halifax a week later, and he was discharged in Winnipeg on 28 February. His brother Charles also survived the war but he died in Kenora in January 1926, at age 33.

After the war William went back to his job with the CPR in Manitoba. He was married to Clara Alma O’Neail on 18 September 1922 in Souris and they made their home there for about 25 years. They had one son, Thomas Edward, born in Souris in 1927. Around 1947 William and his family moved to Calgary, Alberta, where his oldest brother Thomas was living. William was a long-time member of the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen and in Calgary he became the Secretary to the General Chairman. He also belonged to the Knights of Columbus and the Royal Canadian Legion.

William passed away after a lengthy illness on 21 January 1962, at age 68. Clara died in 1985 and they are both buried in St. Mary’s Cemetery in Calgary.

By Becky Johnson

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