Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthNovember 21, 1887
Place of BirthKeewatin, Ontario
Marital StatusMarried
Next of KinJoseph Godin, Father, Rainy River, Ontario
Trade / CallingFisherman
ReligionRoman Catholic
Service Details
Regimental Number820439
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion8th Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Address at EnlistmentRainy River, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentMarch 23, 1916
Age at Enlistment31
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathApril 4, 1960
Age at Death75
Buried AtHoly Cross, Riverview Cemetery, Fort Frances, Ontario
PlotBlock G

Godin, Phillipe

Background: Keewatin, Ontario, added one more person to its small population with the birth of Phillipe Godin on November 21, 1887, son of Joseph [Norbert] Godin, who was employed as a Timekeeper, and his wife, Mary Morrison. Phillipe was baptized January 8, 1888 by Father J. Baudin, OBI. In some family records, Phillipe is referred to as Arthur Phillipe, however, no document has been located in which Arthur is a given name. It is also important to note that there are three spelling variations of his name: Phillippe, Phillip and Philip.

Joseph, the father, was born in Trois-Rivières, Québec, in 1850. He ventured west making good use of his skills working on lakes and rivers. Initial research suggests his family is descended from, or connected to the Acadians of Nova Scotia who remained in that province during the Expulsion between 1755 and 1764. Although it is unclear where Mary was born, it appears her birth was in the area of Kenora and Keewatin, Ontario. Additional research suggests she is descended from men out of early Quebec, who were with the fur trade. Her surname is sometimes interchanged between Morrison and Morrisseau.

According to an undated letter on from the Secretary of the Notre Dame Parish of the Oblate Brothers, Kenora, Ontario, Phillipe’s parents were married in Kenora by Reverend A. Lacombe on November 25, 1881. Upon review of all the information provided in the letter, some discrepancies occur. For example, a different, unsourced date of February 26, 1878 is given for their marriage, in a family tree, on (Please see comments in the Source section of this tribute).

Early life: In the 1891 Census the family is living in the Western Division of the District of Algoma, Subdistrict of Rainy River. No specific village or town is indicated; however, it is likely Keewatin, Ontario, since other children continued to be born there. The family, which is of the Roman Catholic faith, is recorded as parents Joseph and Mary and five children: Thomas (b. 1880); Margaret (b.1883); Josephine (b. 1885); ‘Phillip’ [Arthur P.] (b1887) and Joseph [George] (b.1890).

By 1901, the census still has them living in Keewatin, District of Algoma. The family increased by two: Michel (age 6) and Norbert (age 1). Thomas, the eldest brother, is married with a family and also living in Keewatin. He is employed as a contractor.

In the 1911 census, some of the family members are now living in the town of Rainy River, Ontario. Joseph is a Master Mariner and he and Mary have the following family living with them: Josephine and her husband, James McLean and their two children, Isabella (age 7) and Edward (age 1); Norbert (age 12); Mary (age 6); George (age 20) working as a labourer; and Michael (age 18, employed as a sailor). Phillipe is not living with them and no census record was located for him.

After reviewing several census records and other documents, it appears that Joseph and Mary had the following children between 1878 and 1900: Thomas Joseph, Marguerite Sophie, Josephine Isabel, Arthur Phillipe, Joseph George, Michel, Mary, and Norbert Joseph. There was also a son, Joseph Xavier, who was born and died in 1883. Records are available for most of the children.

Although a marriage record has not been located, Phillipe indicated in his military record that he was married to Mrs. Elizabeth Godin and that he had two step-children: Charma or Charmaine (born about 1909) and Louis (born about 1914).

War Experience: On March 23, 1916, Phillipe enlisted with the 141st Overseas Battalion, in the Town of Rainy River, where he had been residing. He was 29 years of age and working as a fisherman at the time. Although he was married, Phillipe listed his father as next of kin. He had his soldier’s pay sent to his wife, Mrs. Elizabeth Godin, at one point; then changed it to his mother, Mary. In both instances each woman was identified as the guardian of the two children. Phillipe’s Regimental Number was 820439. In his Attestation Paper, he signs his name as Phillip, and gives his birthdate as December 28, 1887, which is different than both his birth and baptism records.

Phillipe stayed in Canada for just over a year before embarking on the SS Olympic in Halifax on April 28, 1917. In that time, he had been promoted to Lance Corporal. Shortly after his arrival in Liverpool on May 7th, the 141st was absorbed by the 18th Reserve Battalion. Phillipe’s rank reverted to Private and, on May 17th, he was taken on strength at Shorncliffe. Just over two months later, on August 28th, he was taken on strength with the 8th Battalion Canadian Infantry (also called the 90th Winnipeg Rifles) and embarked for France and eventually, Belgium.

In the September 2nd, 1917 War Diary for the Battalion, it is recorded that 49 ranks arrived from the 18th Reserves. One of these men was Phillipe. It was just 11 days after the 8th Battalion was significantly involved in the capture of Hill 70, just north of Lens, and 2 months into the plan to take Passchendaele. Over the next two months, the Battalion marched, fought in the trenches, gathered more troops and faced inclement weather, gas warfare and heavy shelling, as they made their way to through the French and Belgium country sides: Hallicourt, Bouviny, Lievin, Aix Nouvelle Huts, Gouy-Servins, Bruay, Ham-on-Artois, Les Cisseaux, St. Marie Cappell, arriving in Zuytpeene in late October. Here, final training and preparations were made for the upcoming battle at Passchendaele.

On November 5th, the Battalion reached the muster point near St. Jean, after having passed through the Brandoek Area No.1 near Properinghe in the Ypres Salient and marching through the ruined town of Ypres. The daily recording in the War Diary then goes silent, from November 8th to 11th. It is during this time that Phillipe receives his injuries. The role of the 8th Battalion at Passchendaele is reported in detail in the Appendices of the Diary, thus, giving us a view of what Phillipe might have experienced.

‘On the 8th of November 1917 the 8th Battalion (90th Rifles), took over the frontline trenches ‘During the night of the 8th/9th, the battalion was heavily shelled especially in the support and reserve trenches’. There were sixty-five casualties and 25% of the Battalion had been buried by shell fire over those first 24 hours. During the early morning hours of the 10th, heavy gunfire prevented messages from being relayed. As a result, there was confusion about orders and locations. When messages finally did get through, it was learned that one of the allied units had misread their directions, thereby forcing one of the Canadian companies to move from their position, leaving them fully exposed and another area of the front undefended. By 7:30 in the morning, the 8th Battalion had sustained heavy casualties. By 5:00 in the afternoon, it was reported that only 150 men of the 8th Battalion remained on the front line, tired, exhausted and with no ammunition.

Phillipe was one of the many injured on this day. He was removed from the field and taken to a nearby medical station in France for initial treatment then was hospitalized on November 12th, at the #7 Canadian General Hospital in Etaples, with a ‘severe’ gunshot wound in his right arm that permanently impaired the use and movements of the arm, elbow, hand and shoulder. Phillipe also had shrapnel in the right side of his chest that created difficulty breathing in his left lung.

Over the next several months, Phillipe was sent to different hospitals in England for evaluation and treatment: Queen Mary’s Military Hospital in Whalley; Granville Canadian Specialty Hospital in Buxton; and, the 5th Canadian General Hospital in Liverpool. He was invalided to Canada, May 3, 1918, on the H.S. Ghoorka out of Avonmouth, England. Phillipe received further treatment in Winnipeg, Manitoba, until he was discharged on July 15, 1918 as medically unfit for further service. Throughout these many months, his conduct was considered Very Good and that he maintained a positive attitude. Phillipe received the War Service Badges Class A and Class and one gold bar.

Family Members Who Also Served: Phillipe was not the only member of his family to enlist. His brother George joined the Non-permanent Active Militia. Norbert, although initially declared physically fit to serve, was discharged after only a few months once he was diagnosed with Pott’s Disease and rheumatism. In 1917, Michel/Michael, who had been living and working in Baudette, Minnesota, USA, received a Draft Registration Card from that country. There is no record of him having served in either country.

Life after the war: Upon being discharged, Phillipe returned to Rainy River almost immediately and married Eliza Bell Nelson, on August 21, 1918. Eliza, a Protestant, was born February 17, 1898, in Rainy River, the daughter of Angus Nelson and his wife Jessie Auge. It is stated in the marriage registration that Phillipe is a widower. Thus, despite the similarity between the names Eliza and Elizabeth (the wife’s name in Phillipe’s military records), these appear to be two separate women. Phillipe was living in Rainy River and employed as a labourer and Eliza was working as a servant, at the time. (The letter from the Notre Dame Parish of Oblate Brothers, however, has Eliza and Phillipe marrying on January 10, 1957, St. Mary’s Church in Fort Frances, Ontario. Please see comments in the Source section of this tribute).

In the 1921 Census, Phillipe continues to work as a labourer and he, Eliza and their infant daughter, Martha are living in the town of Rainy River. The two children in his military record are not living with them. The next record for this family is from the 1953 Canadian Voters’ List. ‘Phillip’ is working as a taxi driver and he and Eliza are living at 534 Mowat Avenue, Fort Frances.

Date of death and burial location: Phillipe died April 4, 1960, and is buried in Holy Cross, Riverview Cemetery, Block G, Fort Frances, Ontario. A headstone was not found for Eliza, in this, or other cemeteries, in the Rainy River District. Phillipe’s father died in Rainy River in 1925 and his mother in 1943.

Prepared by Susan [Hillman] Brazeau for the Kenora Great War Project.

Sources: (access to Canadian Births, Marriages and Deaths; Canadian Census 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891, 1901, 1911, 1921; Canadian Voters’ Lists; Assorted records, family trees, documents and photographs in the public domain)
Canadian Encyclopedia (History of the Acadians)
Library and Archives Canada (First World War Personnel Database; War Diary of the 8th Battalion)
Northern Ontario Canada Gravemarkers
Comments re Notre Dame Parish letter: This researcher has located several instances where couples of Metis or First Nations ancestry and of the Roman Catholic faith, who were married in the mid to late 1800’s, were ‘re-married’ at some later date. Different reasons were given for this, including the possibility that there was no marriage in the eyes of the church (i.e., the marriage was ‘of the country’, in which a couple (i) chose to live together as husband and wife; or (ii)when there was no minister or priest to perform a ceremony). Re-marriages also took place when a marriage certificate or record could not be provided. This sometimes happened when children were being baptized, or when the couple was in old age.




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