Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthOctober 31, 1874
Place of BirthTownship of Smith, Peterborough, Ontario
Marital StatusMarried
Next of KinMrs Matilda Linn, wife, Drumheller, Alberta
Trade / CallingFarmer
Service Details
Regimental Number696950
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion175th Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentSarcee Camp, Alberta
Address at EnlistmentDrumheller, Alberta
Date of EnlistmentJune 16, 1916
Age at Enlistment41
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathNovember 30, 1951
Age at Death77
Buried AtBurnsland Cemetery, Calgary, Alberta

Linn, William Oliver

William Oliver Linn was born on 31 October 1874 in the township of Smith, Peterborough, Ontario, date confirmed by his Ontario birth record. He was the son of David Linn and Ann Regan who had married on 21 October 1868 in Peterborough. His known older siblings were David and Emma while younger siblings were Eliza Ann, Hugh, Lilly, and Clifford. The family first lived in the township of Smith where David worked as a labourer, then moved to Otonabee to farm, and by the time of the 1891 census were living in Peterborough where David found work in a saw mill. In 1894 David, Ann, and some of the younger children moved to Alberta to farm near Red Deer.

By 1899 William was living in Rat Portage (later renamed Kenora) in northwestern Ontario, working as a drayman. On 27 November 1899, in Rat Portage, William married Matilda Ritchie. Born on 2 August 1879 in Pitsligo, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, Matilda was the daughter of David Ritchie and Margaret Haddon who had married on 4 December 1864 in Pitsligo. After the death of her mother, Matilda, her father, and a sister immigrated to Canada in 1898, arriving on 1 July aboard the Pomeranian, on their way to Rat Portage. The couple gave birth to son Hugh George the next year. By the time of the 1901 census they were lodging with John and Sarah Gibson and family, with William working as a stone cutter.

By the next year William, Matilda, and Hugh had moved to Alberta, giving birth to daughter Matilda Mae that year. The family was to homestead for a number of years in the area of Erskine, a community about 70 kilometres east of Red Deer. By the time of the 1916 census they had moved north to Drumheller where they farmed and William also worked as a drayman. Other children born in Alberta were David Frederick (1904-1904), Jessie, Walter, Helen (1909-1911), and Orville. It appears that the couple gave birth to a stillborn child in 1916.

Both William and his son Hugh, age 15, signed their attestation papers on 16 June 1916 at Sarcee Camp, Alberta. William gave his date of birth as 31 October 1872, occupation as farmer, and his wife Matilda in Drumheller as next of kin. As Privates with the 175th Battalion, father and son embarked from Halifax aboard the Saxonia on 3 October 1916.

Once in England William was transferred to the 2nd Canadian Labour Battalion, a battalion that used men that were not fit for service in the trenches. Organized at Seaford in January 1917 under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel A. C. Garner, the 2nd Canadian Labour Battalion arrived in France on 10 February 1917 to work mainly on broad gauge railways. The battalion was redesignated as the 12th Battalion Canadian Railway Troops on 21 November 1917.

On 1 December 1917 William was appointed Acting Lance Corporal with pay. In late January of 1918 he was granted a two week leave, returning on 20 February. However all was not well with William, having strained his back when loading steel on a railway track in France as well as suffering from myalgia and psoriasis. He was admitted to the No 7 Canadian General Hospital in Etaples on 1 June 1918 and then invalided to England to the Graylingwell Hospital in Chichester a few days later. He spent time in a couple of convalescent hospitals until it was decided that he be returned to Canada, arriving in Saint John, New Brunswick aboard the Scandinavian on 30 November 1918. William was discharged from service as medically unfit and overage on 8 January 1919 in Calgary. His son Hugh, found to be underage, had returned to Canada just days earlier than William and was discharged on the same day, also in Calgary.

After the war William returned to Drumheller, working as a drayman in the 1921 census. At some point William and Matilda separated, with Matilda found living in Magrath, Alberta near Lethbridge in 1935, working as a cook, and later living with their son Alfred. In 1938 William was living with son Hugh and family in Granum and had moved to Calgary by 1940 where he was living with widow Julia Latham, Julia listed as his housekeeper on a Voters list. Julia was the mother of William’s son Hugh’s second wife Ann Latham, both immigrating to Canada in 1926. Around the time of William’s death, Julia married Henry Winch.

William died on 30 November 1951 in the Colonel Belcher Hospital in Calgary. His Veteran Death card listed his son Hugh Linn of Stavely, Alberta as next of kin. He is interred in a military plot in Burnsland Cemetery, Calgary. Living with son Alfred and family as she had for a number of years, Matilda died in 1972 in Hanna, Alberta, a community about 70 kilometres northeast of Drumheller. She is interred in the Hanna Cemetery as is Alfred and his wife Lois.

By Judy Stockham

Veteran Death card

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