Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthMarch 5, 1885
Place of BirthKillybegs, Donegal
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinBrother: John McCullagh, Killybegs, Donegal, Ireland
Trade / CallingElectrician
Service Details
Regimental Number439237
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion52nd Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Address at EnlistmentKeewatin, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentMay 21, 1915
Age at Enlistment30
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathMarch 12, 1927
Age at Death42
Buried AtLake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario
PlotHI 29E-33-2

McCullagh, Thomas

Thomas was the son of Andrew McCullagh and Mary Anne Boyd of Killybegs, Ireland. His siblings were (older) Margaret, Bella, John, Bessie, Andrew (Jr) and (younger) Susan, Jane and James. Thomas’ birth year may not be correct on his attestation papers; it may have been 1881 or 1882.  Also in WW1 was his brother, James McCullagh #439274, who lost his life in action on May 27, 1916. Thomas may have immigrated before James as stated in his death announcement as 1907.  James’ approximate immigration year was 1910.  Both found jobs.  By the census of 1911 Thomas was working for the Lake of the Woods Flour Milling Company making barrels in their factory.  James  was also employed by the flour mill company but was hired as a miller for the production of the flour.  They made their new home at this time in a local boarding house in Keewatin.

On the 21st of May 1915 Thomas was accepted with the new 52nd Battalion recruiting in Kenora.  By mid June the new recruits were boarding the train for the army camp set up for training in Port Arthur. These men were to be a part of the 3rd contingent.  In early November the 52nd Battalion entrained to St John, New Brunswick, and aboard the SS California,  embarked for Plymouth,  England on the 23rd. Upon arrival in England the battalion  trained under British instructors at Witley Camp for 6 weeks and in the new year moved to Bramshott for 2 more weeks of training. On 20 February 1916, the 52nd  left England on its way to  France.

Thomas sustained a sprained ankle on 24 September 1916; in the vicinity of Chalk Mound, along with other members of the battalion, he was in the process of taking out two German prisoners as well as wounded comrades. He was admitted to the #4 General Hospital in Camiers and then on to the #16 Convalescence Depot in Etaples where he was to spend two months recuperating. After spending time at base details, he rejoined the unit in the field in mid December.

In August of 1917 Thomas was granted a 10 day leave to the UK and promoted to Corporal in late November. In January of 1918 he was granted a UK two week leave and was promoted to Sergeant at the end of September followed by another two week leave in  mid December. Back in France in early January, Thomas returned to England to start the process of demobilization in February, embarking from Liverpool on 17 March 1919 aboard the SS Olympic. A Military Honours and Awards Citation card for Sergeant Thomas McCullagh states that he was Mentioned in Despatches, London Gazette 31448 11 July 1919.

Thomas returned to Keewatin and his job as an engineer for the flour mill.  He was a known dog ‘fancier’ and became involved as a breeder for pedigree Irish terriers.  This made Thomas well known over a wide area of the district.  Thomas was a well-liked pleasant bachelor with a host of friends.

On Saturday March 12, 1927 Thomas was accidentally killed by an approaching passenger train.  It was believed he was walking the tracks on his way to work.  Normally Thomas was a cautious man but likely the sound of the approaching train was drowned out by the freight train that had just passed him.  Even though he had moved over the side off the tracks he was struck in the shoulder which resulted with his tragic death.  It was a shock to his community and he would be very much missed.  His funeral took place in Kenora at Taylor & Tackaberry Funeral Home with Rev. F. J. Price officiating.  A large number of Keewatin residents attended his funeral.  It was noted that Thomas had received news only 3 days before of a brother who had died in Ireland.

Thomas McCullagh was buried in the local Lake of the Woods Cemetery.  He is commemorate on the Lake of the Woods Milling Company Roll of Honour plaque, the For King and Country Municipality of Keewatin plaque, and on the Town of Keewatin Roll of Honour plaque.

by Linda Pelletier

Photograph of Thomas courtesy of Charlie Grace
Wartime photograph from the Lake of the Woods Museum Archives

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