Kenora Great War Project

 

Personal Details
Date of BirthJune 22, 1882
Place of BirthInverness, Invernesshire
CountryScotland
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinAt enlistment: Aunt; Harriet Millar, 9 Gladstone Terrace, Edinburgh, Scotland. After May 1915: Wife, Lena Millar, 483 Yonge St., Toronto, Ontario
Trade / CallingPlumber
ReligionPresbyterian
Service Details
Regimental Number27023
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion15th Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Address at EnlistmentBox 294, Keewatin, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentAugust 5, 1914
Age at Enlistment32
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathNovember 1, 1936
Age at Death54
Buried AtGreenwood Cemetery, Fort Erie, Ontario

Millar, Kenneth

Kenneth Millar was an accomplished bagpiper and while only in Keewatin for a short time before enlisting, he was already a familiar face and sound in the community.

Millar, born 22 June 1882 in Inverness, Scotland to Kenneth and Margaret Millar, had arrived in Canada on May 4 of 1914 bound for Keewatin with $25 in his pocket. A plumber by trade, he’d arranged employment as a machine hand in Keewatin. When war was declared in August, Millar was among the first to volunteer. On his attestation form he noted he’d previously served three years with the 3rd Battalion, Royal Scots, the Glasgow-based regiment’s militia battalion. Like several of the men over age 30, eager to enlist and not wanting to be excluded based on age — initial recruiting favoured single men aged 21-29 — Millar was flexible with his birth year, giving 1887 on his attestation papers. However his death record, census and immigration records support 1882 as his actual year of birth.

Local newspaper reports place him in a second group of six men taking their enlistment oaths locally on Aug 14. His army file records he actually stepped forward the day Great Britain declared war, taking his enlistment medical on Aug. 4 and enlisting Aug. 5. He was among two dozen others who’d stepped forward during the first days following the official declaration of war when the local militia unit, the 98th Regiment, had been given a directive to raise a local group for the war effort from its own ranks and local volunteers to join Canada’s 1st Contingent being gathered at Valcartier, Quebec.

Millar was among 44 local men to board one of the trains taking western troops east at the Kenora CP Rail station on Aug. 23 bound for Valcartier. Once there, likely because of his piping abilities, he was taken on by the 15th Battalion (48th Highlanders of Canada) rather than being assigned to the 8th Battalion (Royal Winnipeg Rifles) as most of the other local men were. Millar is listed on the 1914 payroll list for the 1st Contingent as a private in Company A, and by the time the battalion’s nominal roll was prepared when it sailed for England on Oct. 3 he had been designated as A Company’s piper and a member of the battalion pipe band. The battalion’s nominal roll noted he’d had previous service with the Royal Scots Regiment.

Millar arrived in France with the battalion and the rest of Canada’s 1st Division in February of 1915 and he was wounded the following month. The battalion’s history book records that it wasn’t a battlefield injury. The Battalion was in a rear area for training at L’Epinette, near Estaires, France after a time in the front lines, and on March 27 Millar, along with a Sgt. Rose from Company and several others were returning after an evening out with Millar playing his pipes as they walked along. As they passed one of the battalion billets the group failed to hear a challenge from a sentry.

‘For some unknown reason the sentry fired, wounded Sgt. Rose in the hip and the piper (Millar) in the back with the one shot,’ records the 48th Highlanders of Canada History Book of the incident.

Lt. Colonel JA Currie of the 48th Battalion, in his account of the 1st Canadian Division’s actions in Flanders published as The Red Watch in 1916, also recorded the incident, noting Millar suffered smashed ribs in his back and internal bleeding as a result of the wound. Currie attributed the ‘friendly fire’ incident to a combination of a high wind blowing at the time preventing the group from hearing the sentry’s challenge and the sentry misunderstanding his orders of what action to take when a challenge went unanswered. Currie noted the sentry was immediately placed under arrest.

According to Currie, Millar was a splendid piper and well liked, as was Sgt. Rose.  Millar, he wrote, and had a Glasgow accent that ‘convulsed everyone who heard him’. He also took great delight in exaggerating his accent and using ‘ the dialect of Bobby Burns in its purest form ‘getting his tongue around ‘Its a braw bricht moonlit nicht’ like Harry Lauder.’

Millar and Sgt. Rose were both evacuated to England on April 14, 1915 for hospitalization and treatment. Millar’s battalion service record lists him as stricken off strength at that point. He was re-assigned to the 17th Reserve Battalion, which provided replacement troops from those newly arrived in England, or recovering from wounds and illness. He earned promotion to Lance Corporal and eventually to Pipe Sergeant with the battalion.

While being treated in hospital Millar met Mary Lena Thomas. They were married when he was released from hospital in May of 1915 and a son, Kenneth Wallace Millar, was born the following year.

His file from the Queen’s Canadian Military Hospital at Shorncliffe notes the wedding on May 27, 1915 at Newington Church was a great affair with much ceremony and two bands in attendance. Vicar Buckwell performed the ceremony and Lady Markham and Dr. Wallace took leading roles and signed the registry for the newly wedded couple.

Following a number of medical reviews it was determined Millar’s wound had him left permanently unable to serve in a regular duty post and he was returned to Canada in October of 1916 and discharged from the army on medical grounds in January 1917 after two years and eight months of service.  Lena and young Kenneth Wallace followed Millar to Canada later that year.

In December 1917, in order to receive further treatment from the army for his wound, he re-attested in Toronto where the couple had settled.

According to the Kenora newspaper,  Millar returned to Kenora for a visit with former friends and comrades in Kenora in late February of 1918, bringing his wife with him. The couple had a second son, Ronald, born later in 1918. After the war the couple settled in Fort Erie where Kenneth Millar operated his own plumbing business. His health had been impacted by his wound and he passed away Nov. 1, 1936 after two months in the Christie Street Hospital in Toronto. The cause of death was given by the doctor as amelio pneumonia, with several chronic chest and lung conditions listed as underlying causes.

Kenneth Millar is interred in Greenwood Cemetery, Fort Erie.

by Bob Stewart

Grave marker photograph: Canadian Headstones

 


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