Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthAugust 4, 1898
Place of BirthBradford, Yorkshire
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinMrs. Catherine Proulx (mother), 4th and Moody Avenue, North Vancouver
Trade / CallingShipping clerk
ReligionChurch of England
Service Details
Regimental Number760879
Service RecordLink to Service Record
Battalion7th Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Address at Enlistment4th and Moody Avenue, North Vancouver
Date of EnlistmentJanuary 17, 1916
Age at Enlistment17
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of Death19730311
Age at Death74
Buried AtRossburn Cemetery, Rossburn, Manitoba

Graves, Percy Phillip

Private Percy Phillip Graves enlisted in 1916 at age 17 and served for three and a half years. He suffered gas poisoning and became very ill during the influenza epidemic but he recovered and returned to Canada in July 1919. After the war he had a long career with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Percy was born on 4 August 1898 in Bradford, West Yorkshire, England. His birth name was Percy Phillip Whiting and his mother, 22-year-old Catherine Ann Whiting, was from Sutton, Herefordshire. Catherine worked in Bradford as a domestic servant. She moved to Canada in the summer of 1908, arriving in August on the Lake Manitoba. She was on her way to North Bay, Ontario to join her future husband, James Graves. James was also from Sutton, Hertfordshire and he was working in a mine in northern Ontario. Percy joined his mother in Canada in May 1910, at age 11, sailing on the SS Victorian with his destination listed as Cobalt, Ontario.

When the next census was taken on 1 June 1911 Percy was living in Cobalt with his mother and his stepfather James Graves, who was 38. Sadly, James was killed in a mining accident just two weeks later, on 16 June 1911. He was working as a driller at the McKinley-Darragh-Savage silver mine when a piece of equipment broke and struck him on the head, fracturing his skull. He was buried in Farr Historic Cemetery in the village of Haileybury, just north of Cobalt. By 1913 Percy’s mother was remarried and the family was living in Vancouver, British Columbia. Her second husband, Joseph Andrew Proulx, was also from Cobalt. He worked as a butcher and later as a conductor for BC Electric Railway. Joseph and Catherine had four children: Patricia, Louise, Grover and Gordon.

The war entered its second year in the fall of 1915 and Percy enlisted that winter. He signed up in Vancouver on 17 January 1916, at age 17, joining the 121st (Western Irish) Battalion. The battalion trained at Camp Vernon during the spring and summer before heading overseas. The troops embarked from Halifax on 14 August 1916 on the Empress of Britain and landed in England ten days later. Percy spent some time on garrison duty and at the end of January 1917 he was assigned to the 3rd Labour Battalion. Two weeks later he was transferred to the newly-organized 4th Labour Battalion and they were sent to France in mid-March. Labour battalions were used for work behind the lines, such as railway construction, and Percy was with the unit for six months.

For most of the war regulations required soldiers to be 19 years old before they served with a front line unit. Percy turned 19 in August 1917 and in October he was transferred to the 7th (British Columbia) Infantry Battalion. The battalion was at the Battle of Passchendaele in October and November but it was early December before Percy joined them in the field. Over the winter the Canadian Corps held a long section of the front line between Lens and Arras. In the summer of 1918 the Canadians had several weeks of intensive training in open warfare and they were heavily involved in the final months of the war.

The 7th Battalion took part in the Battle of Amiens (8-11 August 1918) then moved north with the Canadian Corps for the 2nd Battle of Arras. On 28 August Percy’s battalion relieved another unit in the front line. On 30 August they were hit by gas shells and Percy was one of several casualties. He was admitted to No. 2 Stationary Hospital in Abbeville the following day, suffering from gas poisoning. He spent two weeks there followed by two weeks at a convalescent depot and he was back with his unit in early October. Cambrai had just been captured and the Canadians were advancing towards Valenciennes. In late October Percy had ten days leave in Paris and he rejoined the 7th Battalion on 12 November, the day after the Armistice.

The battalion took part in the March to the Rhine in early December, crossing into Germany and staying there with the occupying forces until January 1919. After a few more months in Belgium the troops left for Le Havre, on their way back to England. Percy became ill at the embarkation camp and he was admitted to No. 2 General Hospital in Le Havre on 14 March. He was suffering from influenza and listed as seriously ill. About a month later he was well enough to be transferred to England and on 20 April he was admitted to the Canadian General Hospital in Basingstoke. He spent three weeks there then another two weeks at the convalescent centre in Epsom. He sailed for Canada on the SS Olympic at the end of June, arriving in Halifax on 8 July. He was discharged on 14 July in Vancouver.

Percy joined the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in 1920 and went on to have a 27-year career with them. When the 1921 census was taken he was at the RCMP Barracks in Point Grey, Vancouver. From there he was posted to several locations in Manitoba, including the town of Rossburn. He was married in Rossburn on 8 September 1930 to a local girl, Gladys Marie Armstrong. Their only son, Percy James, was born about three years later. Percy was stationed at Norway House and Churchill until 1943, when he was put in charge of the RCMP detachment in Kenora, Ontario. He and his wife lived in Kenora until he retired from the force in October 1947.

After his retirement Percy and his family stayed in northwestern Ontario. They spent a short time in Dryden then moved to the community of Cocheneur, near Red Lake, where Percy worked as a security officer at a gold mine. He retired from the position in 1970 and Gladys died that same year, at age 62. Percy passed away at Grace Hospital in Winnipeg on 11 March 1973, at age 74. They are both buried in Rossburn Cemetery in Rossburn, Manitoba.

Percy lost his stepfather Joseph Proulx in 1924 but his mother Catherine Proulx survived him, living to the grand age of 99. His son Percy James had a long career in the Canadian Armed Forces, becoming a Lieutenant-Colonel with the Royal Canadian Artillery. He passed away in Vernon, BC in 2010, at age 77.

By Becky Johnson

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