|Date of Birth||April 18, 1894|
|Place of Birth||Chester-le-Street, Durham|
|Next of Kin||Mr Henry Marr, father, Keewatin, Ontario|
|Trade / Calling||CPR Freight Clerk|
|Religion||Church of England|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Date of Enlistment||October 22, 1914|
|Age at Enlistment||20|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||August 7, 1940|
|Age at Death||46|
|Buried At||Fort Frances Cemetery, Fort Frances, Ontario|
Private Harry Marr answered the call to serve shortly after the war was declared. Less than two months in Belgium, he was seriously wounded and survived against all odds.
Henry Ernest (Harry) Marr was born on 18 April 1894 in Chester-le-Street, Durham, England. His father Henry Marr, a railway booking clerk, was from Manchester, England while his mother Jane Ann Noble, although born in Rickerton (Riccarton) Junction in Scotland, grew up in Swalwell in Durham. The couple married during the last quarter of 1888 in the registration district of Newcastle Upon Tyne, Durham. Harry had two older siblings, William (b 1886) and Ada Jane (b 1890), and a younger sister Ethel May (b 1897). At the time of the 1891 census the young family was living with Jane Ann’s parents and siblings in Swalwell and by 1901 were living in Gateshead, Durham.
It appears that Henry immigrated to Canada first, an age appropriate Henry Marr found on the passenger list of the Tunisian that arrived in Montreal on 20 June 1903. The list indicated that he was on his way to Winnipeg although his obituary states that he lived for a short while in Ignace, Ontario before settling in Keewatin, a small town just west of Kenora in northwestern Ontario. At the time Keewatin was a huge drawing card for immigrants due to the local flour mill and its spinoff. Jane Ann and the children arrived in Canada the following May, landing in Quebec aboard the Lake Manitoba on the 21st. The family was to make Keewatin their home where for a number of years Henry worked as a railway freight office cashier and after his retirement served with the Department of Lands and Forests.
With occupation given as CPR freight clerk and his father Henry in Keewatin as next of kin, Harry signed his attestation papers on 22 October 1914 in Kenora, joining the 27th (City of Winnipeg) Battalion. The 27th had just been organized that month as part of the 2nd Canadian Contingent. It was being recruited in Winnipeg, Brandon and Portage la Prairie as well as the Kenora and Rainy River area. Harry headed to Winnipeg on 1 November 1914 along with fifteen other men from Kenora and Keewatin, and over the winter the battalion trained in Manitoba. The following spring they left for the east coast, on the first leg of their journey overseas. As their trains passed through Kenora on 12 May 1915 a huge crowd gathered at the station to wish them well and see them on their way. The battalion embarked from Quebec on 17 May on the Carpathia and the men spent several months training at Shorncliffe and Otterpool in southeast England. On 17 September they marched to Folkestone where they boarded the Marguerite. They disembarked at Boulogne on 18 September and four days later the battalion was in Belgium.
The 27th was based south of Ypres near the town of Kemmel and over the next two months had several rotations in the front lines. During one rotation in mid-November there was snow and heavy rain for the four days they were in the trenches. On the 16th, while repairing a trench parapet, Harry sustained a severe gunshot wound to the jaw. By the 20th he had been admitted to the No 22 General Hospital in Camiers, transferred to the No 20 General Hospital on the 23rd, also in Camiers. In early February of 1916 Harry was invalided to England, admitted to the Military Hospital at Shorncliffe for two weeks before being transferred to the War Hospital at Croydon where he was to stay until 23 July. After a stay at the Canadian Convalescent Hospital Woodcote Park it was decided that Harry be invalided to Canada, embarking on 1 September aboard the Grampian. Over the course of his recovery Harry underwent four surgeries to remove broken teeth and their roots, remove bone fragments, and attempts to unite the jaw bone that had been fractured in four places, with limited success. Unable to eat and restricted to a liquid and then minced diet, Harry loss significant weight. Once the town of Keewatin had heard of Harry’s wounding, the ladies of the town had made him a quilt that followed him from hospital to hospital as he recuperated. (The quilt was eventually donated to a historical house in Keewatin, Mather Walls, and remains there today.)
According to Harry’s son William, he said Harry would talk about being shot. It was by a sniper who was on higher ground and over a number of days he took out many young men. Harry threw up a helmet to get the sniper to shoot so his CO could see where he was. Harry was shot the next day. The sniper was eventually taken out by a bomb dropped by a fighter plane.
Once in Canada Harry spent time at a convalescent home in Winnipeg. In early September the town of Keewatin organized a complimentary ‘smoker’ at the Oddfellows Hall to pay tribute to Harry. Songs were rendered and the Keewatin band played a number of patriotic songs. Addresses were given by the mayor and other community members with Harry’s father Henry replying on behalf of his son. Harry was discharged from service as medically unfit on 14 February 1917 in Winnipeg. In August of 1919 the town of Keewatin held a demonstration to honour all who had served during the war, presenting the veterans and families of the fallen with medals and badges for their service. Harry’s name was on the list of veterans honoured as published in the Kenora Miner and News.
Harry’s brother William enlisted in Vancouver in March of 1916 with the 143rd Battalion. Landing in France in mid May of 1917 to serve with the 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles, William joined the unit on 8 June. Ten days later he sustained a severe gunshot wound to the jaw and was invalided to England. The following April of 1918 he returned to Canada and was discharged as medically unfit in Victoria on 31 May.
At some point after his discharge Harry moved to Fort Frances in northwestern Ontario. On 9 August 1920, in Fort Frances, he married Maude Edith Warner. Born on 18 September 1890 in Harwich, Kent, Ontario, Maude was the first born child of Lester Warner and Rosa Delong. By the time of the 1901 census Maude, her parents, and siblings were living in the Fort Frances area where Lester was working as a carpenter.
Harry and Maude were to make Fort Frances their home where Harry held the position of town treasurer for twenty years. The couple gave birth to two children, Jack and William. Harry was involved in various clubs and organizations in Fort Frances, serving as president of the Fort Frances Branch of the Canadian Legion and Vice President of the Fort Frances Hockey Association. He was an active member of the Masonic Lodge, the Oddfellows Lodge, and a strong worker and supporter of St John’s Anglican Church. During the early years of WW2 he was a a member of the Civil Home Guard at Fort Frances.
Harry died suddenly on 7 August 1940. At the time of his death he was survived by his wife Maude and children Jack and William of Fort Frances, his parents Henry and Jane Ann in Keewatin, his brother William in Vancouver, sister Ada Jane Cummer of Fort Frances, and sister Ethel Bell of Keewatin. His mother died in December 1948 and his father in March 1953, both interred in the Lake of the Woods Cemetery in Kenora. His sister Ada died in 1955 in Powell River, his brother William in 1963 in Vancouver, and his sister Ethel Whatmough in 1974 in Victoria. Harry’s wife Maude later married George Baeker and died on 28 November 1965. Harry and Maude are interred in the Fort Frances Cemetery.
Harry’s sons Jack and William both enlisted during WW2. Jack flew overseas but William was not deployed by the time the war ended. Jack became an accountant and was the payroll master for the mill in Fort Frances while William became a pharmacist and moved to Atikokan where he owned his drugstore.
Harry is commemorated for his service in WW1 on the Canadian Pacific Railway Roll of Honour, on the Municipality of Keewatin For King and Country plaque and the Town of Keewatin Roll of Honour plaque, the last two now housed at the Lake of the Woods Museum in Kenora after the closure of the Keewatin Legion.
By Judy Stockham
Family photos: courtesy of Linda-Beth Marr, Harry’s granddaughter
Gravemarker photos: courtesy of Gravemarker Gallery