Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthJanuary 3, 1891
Place of BirthPort Arthur, Ontario
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinMrs. William I. Margach (mother), 9215 - 99th Street, Edmonton, Alberta
Trade / CallingCivil Engineer
Service Details
Regimental Number503037
Service Record Link to Service Record
BattalionGeneral Depot
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentEdmonton, Alberta
Address at Enlistment9215 - 99th Street, Edmonton, Alberta
Date of EnlistmentFebruary 8, 1916
Age at Enlistment25
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathJuly 23, 1967
Age at Death76
Buried AtForest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery, Burnaby, B.C.

Margach, Gray McKay

Cadet Gray McKay Margach was one of three brothers who served in the First World War. He enlisted in February 1916 and served for three years in Canada, Great Britain and France.

Gray was the oldest son of William Innes Margach and Margaret Dunbar Hay of Edmonton, Alberta. William and his wife were both born in Ontario, William in Bowmanville and Margaret in Dundas. They were married in 1889 in Whitby. William was a lumber merchant and they spent a few years in Port Arthur where their first two children were born: Gray McKay (3 January 1891) and Margaret (1892). By 1894 they had moved to Rat Portage (later renamed Kenora), where William continued to work in the lumber industry. Three children were born in Rat Portage: Donald (1894), William (1897) and Florence (1902). By 1906 the family had moved to Calgary, Alberta and the youngest child, Walter Ross, was born there in 1907. Within a few years they have moved to Edmonton, where William Innes was president of Jasper Forest Saw Mills.

When the war started Donald James was the first of the brothers to enlist, signing up in Edmonton in November 1914. Gray enlisted in 1916 and William a year later. Gray signed up in Edmonton on 8 February 1916, joining the Canadian Engineers Training Depot. His occupation was civil engineer and he was living in Edmonton at the time. He was sent overseas five months later with the 17th reinforcing draft, sailing from Halifax on the SS Olympic on 22 July and arriving in England about a week later.

On 29 January 1917 Gray was transferred to the 5th Divisional Engineers then, on 9 March, to the 4th Labour Battalion. He was sent to France in mid-March and he joined his unit in the field a short time later. Labour battalions were used for work behind the front lines, mainly railway construction. On 14 April 1917 Gray was promoted to Corporal and in late March 1918 the 4th Labour Battalion was redesignated as the 2nd Canadian Infantry Works Battalion.

In mid-November 1918, shortly after the Armistice, Gray returned to England with the view of getting a commission. He was transferred to the General Depot and sent to a training centre. He spent four months in Great Britain and sailed for Canada on 24 March on the SS Canada, arriving in Halifax about a week later. He was discharged on 6 April in Calgary. His brother William had arrived home a few weeks earlier and Donald had been wounded and invalided to Canada in December 1916.

Gray was married in Medicine Hat, Alberta in 1920. His wife, Mary Helen Baltzer, was born in Liverpool, Nova Scotia on 20 April 1886. She was the oldest of three daughters. Her father, Johann, was from Germany and her mother, Emma Hay, was born in Nova Scotia. When the 1921 census was taken Gray and his wife were living in Calgary with his brother William Margach. They had at least one child, their son John Angus (1924-1994), who was born in Regina, Saskatchewan. By the early 1930s they had moved to Comox, British Columbia and by 1940 they had settled in Vancouver.

Gray had a long career as a civil engineer and he retired around 1958. He passed away in Vancouver on 23 July 1967, at age 76, and Mary died in 1970. They are both buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Burnaby. Other family members interred at Forest Lawn include Gray’s sister Florence (Mrs. Charles Sydney Arnold), his brother Walter and his father. Gray’s grandparents, William and Helen Gray Margach, his great-uncle James Margach and his great-aunt Eva Helen (Mrs. Nelson Schnarr) are buried in Lake of the Woods Cemetery in Kenora.

By Becky Johnson

Margach-Gray-McKay-90 Margach-Gray-McKay-91 Margach-Gray-McKay-92

Grave marker photos courtesy of Mike Melen.

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