Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthOctober 14, 1896
Place of BirthKenora, Ontario
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinMrs Eliza Jane McConnell, mother, 590 Furby Street, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Trade / CallingFarmer
Service Details
Regimental Number216631
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion78th Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentWinnipeg, Manitoba
Address at EnlistmentHamiota, Manitoba
Date of EnlistmentFebruary 29, 1916
Age at Enlistment19
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathJanuary 26, 1964
Age at Death67
Buried AtOcean View Burial Park, Burnaby, British Columbia

McConnell, Herbert Clinton

Herbert Clinton McConnell was born on 14 October 1896 in Rat Portage (later renamed Kenora), Ontario, date and place confirmed by his Ontario birth record. His parents Robert McConnell and Eliza Jane Copeland, although from Quebec, were both of Irish origin. They married on 14 May 1890 in Kazabazua, La-Vallee-de-la Gatineau in Quebec. The 1891 census found the couple with their two month old infant son Foster listed in the Cawood and Alleyn area in Pontiac, close to where they had married. By the time of Herbert’s birth they had relocated to Rat Portage where Robert found work as a teamster. Another son, Gilbert Earl, was born in October of 1898. It appears that Foster may have died before leaving Quebec. Sadly, after Robert died on 23 April 1900 of typhoid fever, the family unit disintegrated. Eliza and the children moved to Winnipeg and over the next two decades family members were to spend time in the Children’s Home on River Avenue and in Laura Crouch’s Home for the Friendless in both the Furby Street location and on the farm out in West Kildonan.

‘It (The Home for the Friendless) was billed as a Christian refuge of last resort but to the hundreds of vulnerable children and adults who witnessed its horrors, the Home of the Friendless was both a workhouse and prison from which few left unscathed. Established in 1900 as a shelter for unwed mothers, orphans, and destitutes by Kansas evangelist Laura Crouch and a cast of fire-and-brimstone followers, the home quickly mushroomed into a huge operation. Its assets included a four hectare headquarters on Main Street, a rescue home on Furby Street for unwed mothers, a 100 hectare farm in Rosser and a 10.4 hectare farm in West St Paul’ (West Kildonan). (Allison Bray, Winnipeg Free Press, 21 August 1995). According to author Len Kaminski, the home ‘used classic indoctrination techniques including fear and intimidation, starvation, long hours of work with little rest, being cut off from family and community, and being forced to participate in religious services for hours on end.’ The homes were closed in 1929 due to failure to pay taxes, with Crouch and her followers moving to British Columbia to open another home that also closed amid controversy.

Likely in the Furby Street location, Eliza gave birth to daughter Mildred Isabel in June of 1905 and son Arthur Clyde in May of 1909, both given the surname of McConnell. The 1906 census listed Herbert and Gilbert as inmates in the Children’s Home while Eliza and Mildred were living in the District of McDonald. A border crossing of 1908 had Eliza and Gilbert going to Forest River in North Dakota, and another one in 1911 listed Mildred, coming from the Home for the Friendless, on her way to Johnstown in North Dakota. By the time of the 1911 census Herbert had been sent to William and Mary Vickey’s farm near Hamiota to work as a farm labourer (age 14) and Gilbert had been adopted by William and Mary Ann Park of Swan River, both in Manitoba. Eliza, Mildred, and Clyde were living in the Furby Street home at the time of the census. By the time of the 1916 census Mildred and Clyde had been moved to the West Kildonan farm while Eliza remained at the Furby Street home where she was listed as a ‘helper’ in a later census. Although Clyde was still there, by the 1921 census Mildred was no longer listed as an inmate in the West Kildonan home/farm. Further trace of her was not found.

With occupation given as a farmer in Hamiota and his mother Mrs EJ McConnell at the home on Furby Street in Winnipeg as next of kin, Herbert signed his attestation paper with the 100th Battalion (Winnipeg Grenadiers) in Winnipeg on 29 February 1916. After training for a few months, as a Private with the battalion he embarked from Halifax aboard the Olympic on 18 September.

Once in England Herbert was transferred to the 78th Battalion, arriving in France on 1 December 1916. The 78th Battalion was authorized on 10 July 1915 and embarked for Great Britain on 20 May 1916. It disembarked in France on 13 August 1916, where it fought as part of the 12th Brigade, 4th Canadian Division in France and Flanders until the armistice.

A few days after arriving in Le Havre, Herbert was admitted to the No 2 General Hospital with a case of the measles. By the end of December he had left for the 4th Entrenching Battalion, rejoining the 78th Battalion in the field on 3 March 1917. A short time later, on 26 April at Vimy Ridge where the battalion was supplying working parties to carry ammunition to the forward area as well as consolidating and improving front line trenches, Herbert sustained shrapnel wounds to the left thigh and neck. He was admitted to the No 32 Stationary Hospital in Wimereux on the 27th. Following surgery he was evacuated to England and admitted to the Lord Derby War Hospital in Warrington on 3 May. Transferred to the Canadian Convalescent Hospital Woodcote Park in Epsom in early July, Herbert was discharged from the hospital on the 20th and joined the 11th Reserve Battalion. On 28 February 1918 he was awarded one Good Conduct Badge. By that March he was on command to the 18th Reserve Battalion, appointed Lance Corporal with pay later than month. Reverting to the rank of Private to proceed overseas, Herbert was struck off strength to the 78th Battalion in late April, joining the unit in the field on 2 May.

During the late summer/fall of 1918 Herbert was wounded twice, a shrapnel wound to the leg on 10 August and another wound to the head on 26 September. Following treatment to the head wound in Г‰taples he returned to the 78th Battalion, confirmed in the rank of Corporal on 27 December and appointed Acting Sergeant with pay on 14 March 1919. The next day he was granted a 14 day leave to the UK. In April Herbert returned to England, embarking for Canada aboard the Adriatic on 31 May. He was discharged from service on 12 June in Winnipeg, intended residence given as Ross Avenue in Winnipeg.

Herbert’s brother Gilbert Park enlisted at Camp Hughes in Manitoba in September of 1915. He served overseas with the 8th Battalion and the 1st Labour Battalion. He returned to Canada in March of 1918, discharged as medically unfit due to a knee injury.

By 1923 Herbert was living in Brownfield, Alberta. That year, in nearby Caster, he married Gladys Mae Henderson. Born in 1905 in Coronation, Alberta, Gladys was the daughter of Samuel Henderson and Mary Hortense Tobin. Marrying in 1887 in Norfolk, Ontario, they eventually ended up in Coronation where they farmed. Herbert and Gladys lived in the Calgary area for a while before moving to Vancouver by 1930. By the early 1940’s Herbert was employed as a painter with the British Columbia government. Over the years the couple gave birth to seven children, sons William James, Donald Earle, and Herbert, and daughters Kathleen, Patricia, Shirley, and Mary. Herbert was a member of the 78th Battalion (Winnipeg Grenadiers) Association and the Royal Canadian Legion, South Vancouver Branch 16.

Herbert died on 26 January 1964 in the Shaughnessy Hospital in Vancouver. His British Columbia death record mistakenly gave his place of birth as Kazabazua in Quebec. At the time of his death he was survived by his wife Gladys, sons William J of Vancouver, Donald E of North Delta, and Herbert E of Vancouver and daughters Mrs Kathleen Fleming of Comox, Mrs Patricia McElroy of Vancouver, Mrs Shirley Shelley of New Westminster, and Mrs Mary McGowan of Vancouver. He was also survived by his brother Reverend Clyde McConnell of Winnipeg and sister Connie MacKenzie of Calgary (possibly Mildred). He was predeceased by his mother Eliza Jane on Furby Street in Winnipeg in 1928 (Brookside Cemetery) and brother Gilbert Earl Park in 1943 in Regina (Regina Cemetery). Gladys died on 4 July 1981 in the Vancouver General Hospital. Herbert’s brother Clyde died in July of 1984 in Vancouver with a memorial service held later in Winnipeg. Herbert and Gladys are interred in the Ocean View Burial Park in Burnaby, BC.

By Judy Stockham

McConnell gravemarker photo and Herbert’s obituary: courtesy of Mike Melen

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