Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthMarch 11, 1900
Place of BirthCampbelltown, Argyleshire
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinJoseph Matchett (father), Keewatin, Ontario
Trade / CallingLabourer
ReligionChurch of England
Service Details
Regimental Number439620 and 198084
Service RecordLink to Service Record
Battalion52nd Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentKenora, Ontario
Address at EnlistmentKeewatin, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentAugust 10, 1915
Age at Enlistment15
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathApril 26, 1957
Age at Death57
Buried AtBurton Old Cemetery, Burton, British Columbia

Matchett, Joseph

Private Joseph Matchett was only 15 years old when he enlisted in August 1915. He served in France and Belgium in the last year of the war, returning home in March 1919.

Joseph was born on 11 March 1900 in Cambeltown, Argyllshire, Scotland. His parents were Joseph Matchett and Ann McKendrick. When the 1901 census was taken Joseph, age 1, was living with his parents in Cambeltown and his father was working as a carter. His mother died in 1911 and the following year Joseph moved to Canada with his father. They arrived in Quebec from Glasgow on 13 May 1912 on the SS Letitia, their destination listed as Keewatin, Ontario. Two of Joseph’s uncles, Archibald and James Matchett, were already living in Keewatin with their families.

The war started in August 1914 and Joseph enlisted a year later, on 10 August 1915, signing up in the neighbouring town of Kenora. Although he was just 5’2″ and 112 lb. he passed himself off as 18 years old when he was actually only 15. He joined the 52nd (New Ontario) Battalion and was assigned regimental number 439620. The unit headed overseas in November but Joseph was held back and transferred to a new battalion, the 94th, with a new regimental number, 198084. Recruiting for the 94th continued over the winter and the men trained in the Kenora area during that time. The battalion was based in Port Arthur and the Kenora and Keewatin recruits were sent there on 25 May 1916 to join the rest of the unit. The men had a huge sendoff from family and friends at the Kenora train station that day. The troops left Port Arthur on 9 June on their way overseas but Joseph was held back again and transferred to another unit, the 141st (Bull Moose) Battalion.

The 141st trained in Port Arthur until the following spring. Joseph became ill with pneumonia in December and he spent two weeks recovering. He was with the 141st when they embarked from Halifax on 28 April 1917 on the SS Olympic. They arrived in Liverpool on 7 May and Joseph was transferred to the 18th Reserve Battalion the same day. At the end of August he was admitted to Moore Barracks Hospital with an abscess on his ankle and he spent most of September being treated there. On 1 February 1918 he was drafted to his original unit, the 52nd Battalion, and he joined them in the field in early March. At the end of April he was transferred to the 3rd Battalion, Canadian Machine Gun Corps. In July he was back on strength with the 52nd Battalion but it was early September before he rejoined them in the field.

The final period of the war had started with the Battle of Amiens in August and the Canadians were heavily involved in the operations in those last three months. When the Armistice ended hostilities in November the 52nd Battalion was in Belgium and they stayed there for three more months. They returned to France on 5 February 1919 and embarked for England five days later. The men proceeded to Bramshott Camp and most of them were immediately given leave. Joseph turned 19 years old in March and his pre-discharge medical exam shows he had grown 4′ and gained 40 lb. since enlisting. His unit sailed for Canada on 17 March on the SS Olympic and there was a huge homecoming celebration when they reached Port Arthur. Joseph was discharged there on demobilization at the end of March. The Kenora and Keewatin veterans were honoured at another large reception in Kenora on 1 April. In August Keewatin held its own commemoration ceremony, when medals were awarded to returned veterans and the families of fallen soldiers.

In the 1920s Joseph may have spent some time in Pangman, Saskatchewan, where his father was living. His two uncles in Keewatin, James and Archibald Matchett, both died in 1930 and his father passed away in Pangman in 1932. By 1934 Joseph had moved to the town of Burton in British Columbia. He was married in the nearby community of Nakusp on 8 June 1937. His wife, 21-year-old Edith Phyllis Walker, was born in Calgary and living in Burton at the time. Joseph worked in the logging and lumber industry, retiring in 1947. He passed away in Shaughnessy Veterans Hospital in Vancouver on 26 April 1957, at age 57. He is buried in Burton Old Cemetery, which now lies under the waters of the Arrow Lakes. The cemetery is commemorated by a cairn placed beside the highway near the village of Burton.

Joseph is commemorated on the Town of Keewatin Roll of Honour and the Municipality of Keewatin 1914-18 For King and Country memorial plaque.

By Becky Johnson

baj-1919-08-06 1919-08-09-Roll

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