Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthFebruary 19, 1891
Place of BirthSherborne, Dorset
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinMrs. Florence Halliday (mother), Dowgate House, Cambridge Park, Wanstead, Essex, England
Trade / CallingLocomotive fireman (CPR)
ReligionChurch of England
Service Details
Regimental NumberA38080/438080
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion8th Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentPort Arthur, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentDecember 21, 1914
Age at Enlistment23
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarNo
Death Details
Date of DeathSeptember 10, 1917
Age at Death26
Buried AtSucrerie Cemetery, Ablain St. Nazaire, France
PlotI. A. 16.

Halliday, William Charles

Private William Charles Halliday was sent to Canada as a Home Child in 1905. He enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force a few months after the war started. In 1916, while he was in England being treated for wounds, he saw his mother for the first time in eleven years. He recovered from his injuries but he was killed in action four months after returning to France.

William was the oldest son of Charles Lewis Halliday and Florence Nightingale. Charles and Florence were married in 1890 in the county of Somerset, in southwest England. William was born on 19 February 1891 in Sherborne, a small village in the neighbouring county of Dorset. At the time of the 1891 census his family was living in Sherborne and Charles was working as a gardener. Ten years later when the 1901 census was taken William and his mother were living in Barnes, Surrey, which is now part of greater London. William was ten years old and they were both employed as servants in the household of a gold jeweller and his family. Florence’s marital status was listed as ‘widow’ but her husband was probably still alive and living separately from her. Her only other child Henry (Harry) Lancet Halliday was born in March 1905 in Marylebone, London.

Florence apparently wasn’t able to take care of both boys. William was put in the care of the Children’s Aid Society of London and in September 1905, at age 14, he was sent to Canada as a Home Child. He arrived in Montreal on 15 September on the SS Tunisian with another lad, 16-year-old Walter Jamieson. For both of them the passenger manifest said, ‘From Children’s Aid Society, 32 Charing Cross, London, going to Mr. S. Fea 367 Selkirk avenue Winnipeg.‘ Reverend Samuel Fea was the Rector of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, located at 359 Selkirk Avenue in Winnipeg. He and his wife lived in the rectory next door, which was also the Winnipeg Receiving Home for the Children’s Aid Society. At the time of the next census in June 1906 William was listed as a pupil at an orphanage in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. By 1911 he had moved to Portage la Prairie, Manitoba and he was lodging in a private home along with three other men, all of them working as section hands for the railway. Walter Jamieson, the lad who had come to Canada with William, was working as a farm labourer in Miniota, Manitoba. In September 1911 Walter died of typhoid fever in Brandon General Hospital.

The war started in August 1914 and William enlisted four months later, when volunteers were being recruited for a third overseas contingent. His relatives said he joined the army so he could go back to England to see his mother again. He was living in Kenora, Ontario at the time, working for the Canadian Pacific Railway as a locomotive fireman, and he enlisted in Port Arthur. He was assigned to the 52nd (New Ontario) Battalion when it was organized in March 1915. While the volunteers were training the 1st Canadian Division was fighting in France and Belgium. Men were needed to replace casualties in the front line units and battalions in Canada were asked to send reinforcements. William was sent to England with the 1st Reinforcing Draft in June 1915, one of 250 men from the 52nd Battalion. In England he was transferred to the 32nd Reserve Battalion and just five weeks later, on 3 August 1915, he was drafted to the 8th Battalion and sent to France. The 8th had suffered high casualties in the Battles of St. Julien, Festubert and Givenchy and William joined them in a draft of 150 reinforcements.

Over the next year William spent about six months with the 8th Battalion and six months with other units, including the 2nd Field Company Canadian Engineers and 1st and 2nd Army Troops. He rejoined the 8th Battalion at the end of August 1916, just as they were being moved to the Somme area in France. The Somme Offensive had started in July and the first major operation for the Canadians would be on 15 September. William’s unit arrived near the city of Albert on 5 September and moved into the trenches two days later. On 8 September German artillery and machine gun fire caused several casualties in the unit and William suffered a serious wound to his left arm and chest. He was evacuated to England where he spent almost three months in hospitals and convalescent centres. During his recuperation he lived with his mother for three weeks, the first time he’d seen her in eleven years. He also met his 11-year-old brother Harry, who was just an infant when William was sent to Canada. After his wounds healed he served in England for another five months before returning to France.

William was drafted back into the 8th Battalion in May 1917 and later that month he joined them in the field. Over the summer they had their share of rotations in the front trenches and in August they took part in the Battle of Hill 70 near Lens in France. The men moved into position on 13 August and the assault began early in the morning on the 15th. The Canadian units advanced up the hill against formidable defences – deep trenches, thick barbed wire, concrete pill boxes and entrenched machine guns. The Germans made heavy use of high explosives and their new mustard gas shells. It was a hot day and the men were encumbered with gas masks and weighed down with their full uniforms and equipment. During the attack the 8th Battalion suffered 400 casualties out of a strength of 720 men (55%). William was wounded but not seriously and he spent two weeks at a Casualty Clearing Station. His unit was northwest of Arras when he rejoined them at the end of August. On 5 September they moved into a support position in the town of Liévin, where they were billeted in cellars, and while they were there William was killed by an artillery shell.

From the Circumstances of Death record for William: ‘About 5 P.M. on September 10th 1917, he was hit in the neck by a piece of enemy shell and instantly killed. His Company at the time was in support and occupying cellars and as no movement was allowed, food had to be conveyed underground from one cellar to another. Private Halliday was employed in taking round food at the time and the shell landed in the coal chute of the cellar he was passing through.’

William is buried in Sucrerie British Cemetery in the village of Ablain St. Nazaire, 13 km north of Arras. He is commemorated on the First World War Roll of Honour for the 8th Battalion (Royal Winnipeg Rifles) and on the Roll of Honour for the Canadian Pacific Railway Company. During the war over 11,000 CPR employees enlisted and one in ten gave their lives.

Harry was raised by Florence and he became a mechanical engineer. After he was married Florence lived with him and his wife until her death in 1952. Harry’s only memory of his brother was the three weeks William stayed with them while recuperating from his wounds. In 2000, at age 95, he made an emotional trip to France to visit William’s grave. He passed away the following year, at age 96.

By Becky Johnson

Family information courtesy of Harry’s son John Halliday. Photos from family tree on

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