Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthFebruary 5, 1895
Place of BirthLondonderry, County Derry
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinMrs. Thomas Fleming, mother, 578 Pine Street, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Trade / CallingTinsmith
ReligionChurch of England
Service Details
Regimental Number874175
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion27th Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Address at Enlistment578 Pine Street, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Date of EnlistmentFebruary 26, 1916
Age at Enlistment21
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathJuly 8, 1958
Age at Death63
Buried AtLake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario

Fleming, Thomas Alexander

Although he gave a birth date of 4 February 1896 on his attestation papers, and his gravemarker  has a birth year of 1898, a birth registration for Thomas Alexander  Fleming, in Londonderry, Ireland, gives the date as 5 February 1895.  His parents were Thomas and Elizabeth Sarah (Wilkinson) Fleming. His siblings were William John (1889-1975), Margaret ‘Maggie'(1893-1981), Mathew Henry (1898-1938), and Elizabeth Sarah ‘Lily’ (1900-1970). The 1901 Ireland census found the family living in Coleraine, Londonderry where Thomas SR was working as a coachman. The family immigrated to Canada in May of 1911, arriving in Halifax aboard the Scotian on the 16th.  For the 1911 Canada census, taken in June, the family was living in Winnipeg, Manitoba where Thomas was working as a ‘fitter helper’. By the 1916 census, Thomas Sr was working as an elevator operator in Winnipeg while both Thomas, tinsmith, and Mathew, bookkeeper, were training at Camp Hughes.

Upon enlistment in Winnipeg on 26 February 1916, Thomas was assigned to the 184th O.S. Battalion. He sailed on the Empress of Britain, arriving in England on November 11, 1916. There he was quickly transferred to the 11th Reserve Battalion, then to the 27th Battalion and was in France by the 29th of November.

With the 27th, Thomas would have been at the Battle of Vimy Ridge in April 1917. While in the area of Thelus Wood, one member of the 27th was honoured in the Battle Diaries: ‘Bandsman ‘Paddy Smith’ one of the original men of the  Battalion had volunteered and received permission to go through with the leading waves. He displayed the greatest courage playing the Regimental march on his Piccolo during the approach and assault. Unfortunately he was killed shortly after reaching the objective.’ By April 11th, the Battalion was relieved from the front, and were given ‘great coats and a hot meal’ – both of which they had only dreamed of while enduring the assault at the front. At the end of April, it was noted that there were 41 KIA, 3 died of wounds, 13 missing, and 149 wounded for the unit. Thomas seems to have survived this part of the fighting intact.

In May the 27th took part in the capture of Fresnoy, a small hamlet east of Vimy. The operation began before dawn on the morning of May 3rd. They faced uncut barbed wire and heavy German gunfire and the unit suffered over 200 casualties. In June they  were relieved to Ruitz for training. While there, the 27th Battalion hosted a ‘Programme of Grand Fete and Exhibition Sports’ for the local community, with all proceeds going to the local ‘la Croix Rouge Francaise.’ Inhabitants of Ruitz as well as the military lads took part in a variety of events such as races, tent pegging, horseback wrestling and potato races. It was stated that 3000 civilians attended and 1055 francs were raised for La Croix Rouge.

In July the Battalion moved to the Laurent Sector, near the city of Lens, and during their rotations in the trenches they were subjected to artillery shells, mortar bombs and gas attacks. The Battle of Hill 70 began on August 15th and the 27th Battalion took part in the assault on August 21st. ‘Centre Company, after heavy fighting, held up concrete strong-point. Other Companies got through but with very severe casualties ‘Severe hand to hand fighting kept up all day. Spirit of Officers and Men superb.’ from the War Diary of August 21st.

During this time, Thomas suffered a shrapnel wound to his buttock and was taken to the 22 Casualty Clearing Station. He was dispatched back to duty on September 16th. In October the Canadians were moved back to the Ypres Salient to take part in the Battle of Passchendaele. The final action for the 27th was the capture of the ruined village of Passchendaele on November 6th. In December Thomas had two weeks leave, over Christmas and New Years, and he spent some of the time in Londonderry.

On January 1st 1918 Thomas was ill and he spent the remainder of the winter in and out of treatment. In April he was sent back to his unit, but suffered a relapse and was returned to the hospital until August 25th when he was assigned light duty.

He rejoined the 27th Battalion in September, but once again was ill, this time with gastroenteritis in October. The armistice was signed on November 11th, and shortly after he rejoined his unit. He remained healthy to the end of the war. He proceeded to England on April 12 1919, and home to Canada on May 13th.

In 1921 (census)  Thomas was living in Winnipeg, Manitoba with his mother and father, and brother Mathew and sister Lillian. On 21 September 1924, in Winnipeg, he married Margaret Leone Mathews. Born in the RM of Langford in Manitoba in 1902, she was the daughter of James and Katie Jane (McKay) Mathews. By the 1911 census her family had moved to Winnipeg where James eventually opened a cleaning and pressing shop.

The newlyweds settled in Kenora, Ontario where Thomas worked for the Campbell Heating Company as well as  for  another company before founding the TA Fleming and Son Plumbing and Heating Company. The couple gave birth to four children: Hazel Elizabeth, Glen Matthew, Joyce Margaret, and Nora Leone. Known as a sportsman, Thomas was a member of the Kenora Hunters and Anglers club, as well as a past president and an honorary member of the Kenora Curling Club. He was also a member of the Kenora Legion and the Lake of the Woods Masonic Lodge AF and AM, No 445.

Thomas Fleming died on 8 July 1958 in Kenora. He is interred in the Lake of the Woods Cemetery. He was predeceased by his mother Elizabeth Sarah in Winnipeg in 1936 and his father Thomas in Kenora in 1944. They are buried in Brookside Cemetery in Winnipeg. At the time of his death he was survived by his wife Margaret, daughters Hazel (later Johnson) of Kenora, Mrs Joyce (Harold) Campbell of Geraldton, Mrs Nora (William) Pagan of Edmonton, and son Glen (June Snook), partner of the business in Kenora. Margaret died in 1979 and is interred beside him.

Thomas’ brother Mathew enlisted in Winnipeg on 17 January 1916. With the 101st Battalion he embarked from Halifax  on 29 June 1916 aboard the SS Olympic. Details of his service are unknown. Mathew died in Winnipeg in 1938.

by Penny Beal and Judy Stockham

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