Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthJuly 31, 1899
Place of BirthKenora, Ontario
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinHarry Favel (father), Whytewold Beach, Manitoba
Trade / CallingFarmer
ReligionChurch of England
Service Details
Regimental Number721402
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion1st Canadian Mounted Rifles
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Address at EnlistmentSt. Louis Guilbert, Manitoba
Date of EnlistmentDecember 3, 1915
Age at Enlistment16
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of Death19520922
Age at Death53
Buried AtBrookside Cemetery, Winnipeg, Manitoba

Favel, John Thomas

Private John Thomas Favel enlisted in December 1915, at age 16, and served in France and Belgium with the 1st Canadian Mounted Rifles. He was wounded twice but he survived the war and returned home in December 1918. His father and older brother also enlisted and served overseas.

John Thomas, usually known as Thomas, was the son of Henry ‘Harry’ Favel and Mary Anna Bella Irvine of Petersfield, Manitoba. Henry was métis and born in 1869 in the Red River Settlement. His grandfather Samuel Favel and other family members had worked for the Hudson’s Bay Company. Henry and Mary Anna Bella were married in 1894 in Selkirk, Manitoba. Their oldest child, Walter Lawrence, was born in 1895 in St. Louis Guilbert (later renamed Petersfield). Not long after that they moved to northwestern Ontario and settled in or near Rat Portage. Thomas was born on 31 July 1899 followed by William George on 4 July 1902. Both births were registered in Rat Portage (later renamed Kenora).

Sometime after William’s birth Henry and his wife returned to St. Louis Guilbert and took up farming. They had at least five more children, all born in Manitoba: Irene (1905), Henry Irwin (1908, died at age 9 months), James Cornelius (1909), Wallace (1912) and Sarah Ellen (September 1914). The war started shortly before Sarah was born and the oldest son, Walter Lawrence, enlisted in October 1914. He was sent overseas in the spring of 1915 and later that year Thomas and his father both enlisted. Thomas signed up in Selkirk on 3 December and joined the 108th (Selkirk) Battalion. He was just 16 years old but he passed himself off as 17 and said he was a farmer.

Thomas trained with his unit over the winter and spring and in May 1916 he was transferred to the 90th Battalion. His father was also in the 90th Battalion and they were both sent overseas with the unit, embarking from Halifax on 31 May on the SS Olympic and arriving in England on 8 June. In July Thomas contracted the mumps and recovered at an isolation hospital in Folkestone, Kent. He spent about six weeks with the 11th Battalion before being transferred to the 1st Canadian Mounted Rifles. He was sent to France on 7 September 1916 and joined his new unit in the field a short time later. The Canadians were at the Somme Offensive that fall and Thomas was wounded on 13 October. He suffered a gunshot or shell wound to his right hand and he was sent to No. 22 General Hospital in Camiers and evacuated from there to England. He received treatment at the 2nd Western General Hospital in Manchester until early January 1917 then recovered at the convalescent hospital in Epsom until the end of February.

Thomas served in the UK with several different units until November 1917. In late October he was sentenced to 28 days in the detention barracks but his sentence was shortened and he was sent to France on 8 November. He rejoined the 1st Canadian Mounted Rifles in the field just after the Battle of Passchendaele. Over the winter and spring the Canadian Corps held a long stretch of the front line in the Lens-Arras area and in the summer of 1918 they were given several weeks of intensive training in open warfare. The final period of the war started with the Battle of Amiens on 8 August and the Canadians were heavily involved in operations in those last three months.

Late in August the 1st CMRs took part in the Capture of Monchy-le-Preux, part of the Second Battle of Arras. Thomas was wounded in the leg on 26 August and the following day he was admitted to No. 3 Canadian General Hospital in Boulogne. He was evacuated to England on 29 August and recovered for the next three weeks at Cambridge Hospital in Aldershot and the Bearwood convalescent hospital. He was kept in England for the last months of the war. He returned to Canada a month after the Armistice, sailing from Liverpool on the SS Melita and arriving in St. John, New Brunswick on 18 December. He was discharged on demobilization on 29 January 1919 in Winnipeg. Thomas’ brother Walter Lawrence spent more than two and a half years as a prisoner of war and returned home in April 1919. Their father Henry served in France with the 27th (City of Winnipeg) Battalion and returned home in October 1918 but continued to serve in Canada until April 1919. Henry’s brother Robert James Favel served with the 1st Canadian Mounted Rifles and he was killed in action in October 1916 at the Somme. Robert is commemorated on the Vimy Memorial in France and the War Memorial in Selkirk, Manitoba.

Thomas was married in Winnipeg on 20 May 1920. His wife, Ethel Harriett Lillie, was born in the RM of St. Andrews, Manitoba in 1895. Her parents were John George Lillie and Sarah Favel and she was likely a second cousin to Thomas. When the 1921 census was taken Thomas and Ethel were living in St. Andrews where they were farming. Within a few years they had moved to Winnipeg where Thomas worked as a tinsmith and sheet metal worker. Ethel died in Winnipeg on 20 February 1939, at age 43, and she’s buried in Robinson Spur Cemetery near Matlock, Manitoba. Thomas remarried two months later, on 29 April. His second wife, Elsie Favel, was born in Manitoba in 1916, the only daughter of Ethel Hazelton (née Favel). Ethel was born in the RM of St. Andrews and was a second cousin to Thomas. Elsie was raised in the Selkirk and Teulon areas by her grandparents, John and Elizabeth Favel. She had one brother, Thomas Harold Favel, who was born in 1920 in Teulon. Their mother moved to Chicago in the 1920s and married Robert Hazelton, returning to Winnipeg after his death in 1956.

Thomas had at least four sons with his first wife Ethel: Thomas Gerald (ca1924), James Wilton, Burton Morley (1932) and Ronald Keith (1936, died at age 11 months). With Elsie he had two daughters: Marion Yvonne and Sandra. Both Thomas and his oldest son Thomas Gerald enlisted during the Second World War. Thomas served as a Sergeant with the Royal Canadian Engineers (reg. no. H-19753) and by the spring of 1944 he was overseas. Thomas Gerald joined the army at age 16 and served as a gunner with the Royal Canadian Artillery (reg. no. H-66972). He was killed in a motor vehicle accident in England in May 1946 and he’s buried in Brookwood Military Cemetery in Surrey, England. Thomas’ younger brothers William and Wallace also served overseas during the Second World War.

Thomas was a long time member of the Army, Navy and Air Force Veterans Association and served on the executive of the Young Street branch. He also belonged to the Sheet Metal Workers Union and was past president of their Winnipeg local. He passed away in St. Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg on 22 September 1952, at age 53. His funeral was held three days later and attended by a large number of veterans, metal workers, friends and family. His wife Elsie moved into Golden Links Lodge in St. Vital in 2008 and died in 2011, at age 95. Thomas and Elsie are buried in Brookside Cemetery along with Thomas’ infant son Ronald, his father Henry and other family members.

By Becky Johnson

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