|Date of Birth||December 8, 1896|
|Place of Birth||Drayton, North Dakota|
|Next of Kin||Mrs. Dorothy Godkin, Mother, 1250 Scarth St., Regina, Saskatchewan|
|Trade / Calling||Clerk|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Address at Enlistment||1250 Scarth St. Regina, Saskatchewan|
|Date of Enlistment||December 2, 1915|
|Age at Enlistment||19|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||December 14, 1991|
|Age at Death||95|
Background: Wilbur Godkin was not born in Kenora, never grew up in Kenora, and never died in Kenora; however, he had an important role in the short time that he lived there, before World War II. Wilbur, commonly known as Webb, became President of the Royal Canadian Legion, Kenora Branch #12, for 1941-42. It is not known why he moved to the area; however, there was a family connection that might have been the reason. Wilbur’s daughter, Betty Godkin, married William James Peter Crandall, of Kenora, better known as Bill. Although they lived in Calgary most of their adult lives, Bill and Betty kept in close contact with Bill’s brother, James (Jim) in Kenora. Many local area residents would remember Jim by his nickname, ‘Porky’ Crandall (1929-2002). With the relationship established, here, then, is a brief story of the life of Wilbur/Webb Godkin.
Birth and Early Life: Born December 8, 1896 in Drayton, North Dakota, United States of America (USA), Wilbur was the son of James Edward Godkin (born in McKillop Township, Huron Country, Ontario, 1867) and his wife Dorothy Hamilton Boyd (born in Seaforth, Ontario, 1868). Both were descended from long lines of Irish ancestors who came to Ontario in the mid 1800’s. James and Dorothy married in 1896 and moved to Drayton, District of Pembina, North Dakota, that same year. It was an area of the state to which many Canadian farmers had moved and settled between about 1880 and 1900.
According to the 1900 USA Census, James owned his own farm, although it was still under mortgage. Both he and Dorothy read, wrote and spoke English. It was also recorded that Dorothy had given birth to two children who were still living: Wilbur, and Morris Boyd (born 1898). James’ brother, Alexander Morris Godkin, also a farmer, lived with the family. As well, a school teacher boarded with them.
In the 1911, Census of Canada, the family was living at 1250 Scarth Street, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, having moved there in 1908. A new addition to the family was daughter, Hester (born 1904, USA). Several single lodgers are also living with them. James was working as a Carpenter in a warehouse, but also did some farming. The family is recorded as being Methodist.
In the 1916 Canadian Census of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, the family continues to reside at the same address; however, Wilbur, age 19, now a Naturalized citizen, is recorded as being in Service Overseas . James is a Farmer and Morris is a Shipper Receiver for a Wholesale Confectionary.
War Experience: Wilbur enlisted with the 68th Overseas Battalion, in Regina, Saskatchewan, on December 2, 1915, a few days before his 19th birthday. He was tall, at 5 feet 9 1/2 inches, with medium complexion, grey eyes and dark brown hair. His Regimental Number was 105501.
Wilbur’s unit sailed out of Halifax, April 28th, 1916, on the S.S. Olympic, arriving in Liverpool May 7th. From there, he was taken to Shorncliffe, where he received Corporal’s pay that had been earned from April 24th, while still in Regina. On July 7th, Wilbur reverted to the rank of Private when he was taken on strength with the 32nd Reserve Battalion. Then, on August 6th and 7th, Wilbur was transferred to and taken on strength with the 16th Battalion. He arrived in France on the same day, at which time he was sent directly into the field of battle.
Not long after Wilbur was seriously injured. The War Diaries for the 16th Battalion record his injuries: ‘On October 7th, 1916, standing to in the trenches [on the Somme], was hit by pieces of shrapnel in both legs and right arm – and was thrown by concussion on the left elbow.’
Over the next several months, Wilbur was treated for his wounds and injuries, moving from one hospital or convalescent home to another: October 9th, he was taken to the hospital in Rouen; October 12th, he was transported to Folkestone; and, October 13th, he was placed in the North Hospital in Leeds, where he remained for one month. After initial diagnoses and treatments, Wilbur was sent to the Military Convalescent Hospital in Epsom for a period of 8 weeks and was later transferred to the Granville Canadian Special Hospital in Ramsgate, on January 15, 1917. Throughout this time, Wilbur was transferred between units; however, records indicate he ended his military service with the 16th Battalion.
The wounds to Wilbur’s right arm and left leg eventually healed; however, the elbow bones in his left arm had been shattered, limiting his range of motion; and, the shrapnel in his upper right leg and foot created the inability to fully stand thereby making him medically unfit to continue military service. Wilbur was invalided to Canada on December 16, 1917. Upon his return to Regina, he continued to have treatment at St. Chad’s Hospital as an inpatient. Wilbur was discharged, as medically unfit for service, on February 1, 1918, in Regina. His conduct is recorded as Very Good.
Life After the War: Webb appears to have remained in Regina, following his discharge. In the 1921 Canadian census, at age 24, he his living with his parents and siblings, Morris Boyd (age 22), and, Hester Sarah Ann (17). James, the father, was working as a Warehouseman; Wilbur is a Traveller; Morris was a Shipper; and, Hester was a Stenographer. Two lodgers were living with them, at the time.
On July 1, 1922, Webb married Gertrude (Gertie) Russell in Regina. They had one daughter, Dorothy Elizabeth (Betty), in 1926. Sometime in the 1930’s, Webb and Gertie moved to Kenora. According to his Legion Membership card, he became a member of the Kenora Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion, on November 20, 1938, and was President 1941-1942. Webb and Gertie are recorded as living at 125, 4th Street North in Kenora. He was employed as a Manager. During this time, tragedy struck Wilbur’s family. In 1939, both his father and brother, Morris, died two months apart. Then, in 1944, Hester passed away. All are buried in Regina. It is not known when Wilbur and Gertie moved away from Kenora, however, they were living in Victoria, British Columbia, in 1958 and 1962
Death: Gertrude died September 21, 1969. She and Wilbur had been living at Apartment 301, 905 Burdett Avenue, Victoria. Wilbur was the informant. Wilbur died at Oak Bay Lodge in Victoria, British Columbia, on December 14, 1991 at the age of 95. The informant was his daughter, who signed the document as Dorothy E. Crandall. She was living in Calgary, at the time. McCall Bros. of Vancouver Street, Victoria, were the Funeral Directors for both Gertie and Webb.
Prepared by Susan [Hillman] Brazeau for the Kenora Great War Project
Ancestry.ca: Births, Deaths and Marriages Registrations; 1900, 1911, 1916 and 1921 Census Records in the United States and Canada; 1940, 1958, 1962 Canadian Voters’ Lists; Saskatchewan Residents Index (SRI); additional available resources such as records, documents, photos; and, the Crandall family tree
British Columbia Archives: royalbcmuseum.bc.ca/Genealogy
Library and Archives Canada: First World War Personnel Data Base
Royal Canadian Legion, Kenora Branch #12 (Legion Card; Past Presidents List)
Transcribed excerpts from letters provided by granddaughter Jill Crandall