Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthFebruary 22, 1893
Place of BirthKeewatin, Ontario
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinMrs Elizabeth Kelley, mother, Keewatin, Ontario
Trade / CallingLabourer
ReligionChurch of England
Service Details
Regimental Number198315
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion85th Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Address at EnlistmentKeewatin, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentNovember 25, 1915
Age at Enlistment22
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathJanuary 30, 1984
Age at Death91
Buried AtBrookside Cemetery, Winnipeg, Manitoba

Kelley, George

Although he gave his year of birth as 1895 on his attestation papers, George Kelley was born on 22  February 1893 in Keewatin, Ontario. Located in northwestern Ontario, Keewatin was a thriving community of the time, largely due to the Lake of the Woods Milling Company. George’s parents George SR and Elizabeth (Boswell) Kelley, both from Liverpool, England, had married in Keewatin in 1888. Witnesses to the marriage were George SR’s  brother Edward Kelley and Elizabeth’s sister Kate Boswell. George SR’s  brother David Kelley, along with Elizabeth’s sister Catherine Jane (Kate) Boswell, were the first to immigrate to Canada in 1887, followed by George SR’s parents George and Lucy Kelley and his brother Edward who were found in the 1891 census for New Westminster, British Columbia. Last to immigrate were George and Elizabeth. George SR had found work as a packer at the mill in Keewatin where he was to remain until his death in 1913. Other children born to the family were Eliza (1889), John Henry (1890), Eva Elizabeth (1895), Ethel May (1897), William Arthur (1900), Edna Pearl (1902), Cecil Ernest (1906), and David Edward (1910-1911).

With occupation given as labourer, and his mother Elizabeth in Keewatin as next of kin, George signed his attestation papers in nearby Kenora on 25  November 1915. Although his occupation  was listed as labourer on his attestation papers, elsewhere in his service record it  was recorded as cooper; he too likely worked for the flour mill. Organized in November of 1915 with recruitment throughout northwestern Ontario, the 94th Battalion had its headquarters in Port Arthur. In May of 1916, a large crowd gathered at the train station in Kenora as local members of the 94th boarded the train on their way to the Lakehead to continue their training for a few weeks before heading overseas. Private George Kelley was on board. On the 29th of June, the 94th embarked for England from Halifax aboard the  Olympic.

Once in England the members of 94th were absorbed into reserve battalions, with George being transferred to the 17th Reserve Battalion. In the fall of 1916, George spent time at the Canadian Convalescent Depot and the Canadian Casualty Assembly Centre before being transferred back to the 17th Reserve Battalion. In April of 1917, George was struck off strength to the 85th Battalion in France.

On 30 July 1917 George was admitted to the No 22 Casualty Clearing Station suffering from severe gas poisoning. From there he was transferred to the No 26 General Hospital in Etaples and by the third week in August had been invalided to England to the Kitchener Hospital in Brighton. In October he was moved to the Military Convalescent Hospital at Woodcote Park, Epson, being discharged in mid November. By April of 1918 he had rejoined the 85th Battalion in France.

Aboard the Adriatic, George arrived back in Canada in early June of 1919. Along with his mother Elizabeth and siblings Arthur, Ernie, and Edna, he moved to Winnipeg in late 1920 or early 1921, with the family found living on Young Street in the 1921 census. Both George and Arthur were working as coopers for a milling company. The 1935 Voters List found George, along with his wife and brother Ernie, living on Langside in Winnipeg, George listed as a pensioner. It appears that he could no longer work and that the marriage did not last. By the 1962 Voters List George’s brother Jack, who had moved from Keewatin to Winnipeg after the death of his wife,  was residing with him as well as a fellow by the name of Thomas Lowe. Thomas was also from Liverpool, served during the war, and had been living off and on with members of the Kelley/Boswell families over the years.

The last living member of his birth family, George Kelley died on 30 January 1984 in Deer Lodge Hospital in Winnipeg. He is interred in the Military Field of Honour in Brookside Cemetery. His brother Jack also served during the war, going overseas with the 52nd Battalion but later transferred to the 1st Battalion. The two brothers were honoured at a Keewatin Roll of Honour ceremony in August of 1919 and are commemorated on the Lake of the Woods Milling Company plaque, the Municipality of Keewatin For King and Country plaque, the Town of Keewatin Roll of Honour plaque, and on the Keewatin St James Anglican Church plaque.

by Judy Stockham

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Photograph of George courtesy of Mildred Smith.

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