|Date of Birth||November 26, 1889|
|Place of Birth||Rat Portage (Kenora), Ontario|
|Next of Kin||Laura Hilliard, wife, Kenora, Ontario|
|Trade / Calling||Clerk|
|Religion||Church of England|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Address at Enlistment||Kenora, Ontario|
|Date of Enlistment||June 7, 1915|
|Age at Enlistment||25|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||August 8, 1918|
|Age at Death||28|
|Buried At||Hourges Orchard Cemetery, Domart-Sur-La-Luce, France|
Harold Howell Hilliard was born on 26 November 1889 in Rat Portage, Ontario. His father was Louis Hilliard, a Norwegian who had immigrated to Canada in 1870 (date found in 1901 Canada census) and his mother was Ann McGinnis, origins given as Irish. The couple was found in the 1881 Canada census in what at the time was called the Province of Keewatin in District No. 112 of The Territories, also known as the Eastern Extension of the Manitoba Extension of Manitoba. Louis’ occupation was given as hotel keeper. At that time Whitemouth was an important construction point on the Canadian Pacific Railway. Recognizing that Rat Portage, later renamed Kenora, was destined to be another such point on the railway, the young family moved to the area. In 1883, Louis built the Hilliard House Hotel in Rat Portage. As the town continued to prosper, he built a second one in 1885, the Hilliard Opera House Hotel. This was primarily an opera house consisting of an auditorium with a seating capacity of 800, lobby, dining room, and small number of guest rooms. It was well known for the day and attracted many performers and shows as well as patrons. In 1898, fire destroyed the building, and Louis rebuilt an even more elaborate Hilliard Opera House Hotel. The new Hilliard Opera House had a seating capacity of 950 as well as an Assembly Hall with seating for 400 for lesser attractions, lectures, and dances. Once again fire touched the family as in 1902 the original Hilliard House Hotel that had been remodeled and enlarged in 1889, burned to the ground. The family, consisting of Louis, Annie, and children Charles, Harold, and Laura, moved to the Hilliard Opera House Hotel as Louis made plans to rebuild. However, he sold his interests to Jacob Hose and Joseph Johnson. The Town of Kenora eventually came to own the property/hotel, then known as the Tourist Hotel. In 1909, fire destroyed the Hilliard Opera House Hotel and this time Louis only rebuilt a small hotel. It, too, caught fire in 1914, and Louis died a short time later on 22 March 1914, immediate cause of death given as exhaustion although he had been ill with arteriosclerosis.
Charles was the first born Hilliard child, followed by Laura in 1887, and Harold in 1889. Another child, Archibald William Hilliard had been born in late 1885 but died in September of 1886. The Hilliard children grew up in the hotels, attended the local high school, and both Charles and Harold were well known in the sports circles of the day. Harold played hockey for the St Alban’s Church Team while his brother Charles played for the Thistles.
On 19 November 1913, Harold married Norwegian immigrant Laura Wold, daughter of John and Martha (Howsen) Wold. After the fires, in 1914 Harold built another Opera House, but this time it was to be used for moving pictures as well as live theatre (eventually it was bought by its manager Joseph Derry and renamed Derry’s Palace Theatre).
Harold enlisted with the 52nd Battalion in Kenora on 7 June 1915.
The 52nd (New Ontario) Battalion, CEF was raised in Northern Ontario during the spring of 1915 with its mobilization headquarters in Port Arthur (Thunder Bay), Ontario. The Battalion joined the 9th Brigade, 3rd Canadian Division on 23 February 1916 and thus began the trial by fire for the men of the north in he trenches of France and Belgium. (from the 52nd Battalion website, no longer operational)
Although assigned to different battalions, his best friend, Harry MacKenzie, enlisted with Harold on the same day (see photo below, Harold on the left). On 23 November 1915, Harold left St John, New Brunswick, with the battalion aboard the California, arriving in Plymouth, England on the 3rd of December. From Plymouth the battalion moved directly to Witley Camp for 6 weeks of training under British instructors. Early in the new year, the battalion trained for another 2 weeks at Bramshott. During this time Harold became ill with double pneumonia and was hospitalized in the Aldershott Connaught Hospital. He later rejoined the battalion in France but continued to suffer with ill health. According to a Miner and News article, in early August of 1918 Private Harold Hilliard was able to rejoin his regiment but was reported as killed in action just days later on 8 August 1918.
From the CEF burial register for Harold: ‘Killed in Action’ He was killed by enemy shell fire in the vicinity of Hourges just before the battalion left the ‘jumping off’ position to attack Dodo Wood.
From the War Diary for the 52nd Battalion, near Houges, 8 August 1918: ‘Very foggy in the early morningвЂ¦. Zero hour was at 4:20 A.M. and very soon after, the Battalion commenced to move forward through a very heavy enemy barrageвЂ¦. During the attack the Battalion’s casualties were, unfortunately, fairly heavy.’
There were 6 Officers killed or wounded, Other Ranks – 8 killed, 4 died of wounds, 86 wounded and 6 missing. Harold Howell Hilliard is interred in the Hourge Orchard Cemetery in Domart sur la Luce, Somme, France. He is commemorated on page 429 of the First World War Book of Remembrance, on the Kenora Cenotaph, on the Kenora Legion War Memorial, on Kenora’s Cathedral Church of St Alban (Anglican) plaque, on the Kenora and Keewatin High School’s Plaque and on the Langruth Memorial Cenotaph in Langruth, Manitoba.
Sixteen days after Harold’s death, his friend Harry MacKenzie was killed in action in the same battle (Amiens).
After the death of Louis, Annie Hilliard lived with their daughter Laura, who had married Henry Treleaven on 16 April 1912. The 1916 Canada census found the family farming near Neepawa, Manitoba. Household members were Laura, Henry and children Margaret and Errol, mother Annie, and Charles’ daughter Margery. Annie Hilliard died on 25 April 1953 in the Melvin’s Nursing Home in Winnipeg and is interred alongside her husband in the Lake of the Woods Cemetery in Kenora. She left behind six grandchildren.
Harold’s sister Laura died on 10 July 1947 and her husband on 21 June 1953, both are interred in the Lake of the Woods Cemetery. They had four children, Margaret, Errol, who followed in his uncles’ footsteps, serving during WW2 and reported as Missing in Action, Gwendolyn, and Hilliard who later became a doctor, practicing in Kingston, Ontario.
Harold’s brother Charles enlisted in Kenora on 3 April 1914 and also made the ultimate sacrifice. With the 52nd Battalion, he was reported as having died of his wounds on 3 April 1917, leaving behind his daughter Margery.
Harold and his wife Laura had two children, Muriel and a second child Harold born shortly after he had left for overseas. After the war Laura and the children moved to Winnipeg for a while. Laura then lived in Calgary, working for the Eaton’s Department store chain. She never remarried and died in Toronto.
Muriel Hilliard married Stuart McLeod on 16 October 1939 in Toronto, wedding attended by both her mother and brother Harold. She went on to have three children and died in 1955 in Edmonton.
Harold Junior moved to Toronto where he worked for the Toronto Star and Star Weekly Magazine. He married Joan Creery and they had three children, Craig, Martin, and Karen. Harold died on 26 May 1989. ‘Harold Hilliard, who worked 40 years at the Star, will be remembered by fellow journalists, politicians and friends as a prolific writer who was scrupulously fair and hard-working.’ (Toronto Star, 28 May 1987)
by Judy Stockham
photographs courtesy of Martin Hilliard and the Lake of the Woods Museum Archives