Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthMarch 22, 1867
Place of BirthWokingham, Berkshire
Marital StatusMarried
Next of KinMrs. Caroline Pepper (wife), Fort Garry Hotel, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Trade / CallingHotel manager
ReligionChurch of England
Service Details
Regimental NumberN/A
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion78th Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentWinnipeg, Manitoba
Address at EnlistmentFort Garry Hotel, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Date of EnlistmentMarch 10, 1916
Age at Enlistment48
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathSeptember 8, 1928
Age at Death61

Pepper, Halsey James

Captain Halsey James Pepper was commissioned as an officer in March 1916 and he served for three years in Canada, Great Britain and France. A few years after the war ended he moved to Los Angeles, California where he died by suicide in 1928.

Halsey was born on 22 March 1867 in Wokingham, Berkshire, England. His parents, William Pepper and Emma Halsey, were both born in Essex. They were married in 1852 and they had at least nine children: William Thomas, Alfred Isaac, Sarah Rebecca, Elizabeth, Alfred, Emma, Phoebe, Halsey and Edith. Alfred Isaac and Sarah both died young. At the time of the 1861 census the family was living in Streatham, Surrey and William was working as a gentleman’s gardener. By 1863 they had moved to Wokingham, where the four youngest children were born, and by 1881 they were living in Tewin, Hertfordshire. In Tewin both Halsey and his father were employed as gardeners.

Halsey’s oldest brother, William Thomas, had a career in the Royal Garrison Artillery, serving with them for at least ten years. When the 1881 census was taken he was a Sergeant stationed in Woolwich and he died the following year, at age 29. In October 1888 Halsey immigrated to the U.S. and settled in New York City, where he worked as a waiter. He was married in Manhattan on 6 November 1890. His wife, Caroline Bryant, was born in England and came to the U.S. in the late 1880s. Halsey and Caroline had one daughter, Elsie Emily, who was born in New York in 1893. By 1910 Halsey was working as the manager of a hotel in New York. In June 1915 he moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba and became the proprietor of the Fort Garry Hotel.

The war had started before Halsey moved to Canada and he joined a militia unit in Winnipeg, the 100th Winnipeg Grenadiers. He signed his Officers’ Declaration with the Canadian Expeditionary Force on 10 March 1916. He said he was currently in the militia and he’d also spent 15 months at West Point in the U.S. He was almost 49 years old but he passed himself off as 45 and he was commissioned as a Captain in the 212th Battalion (American Legion). His wife and daughter arrived in Winnipeg from New York on 26 March and they lived in the Fort Garry Hotel at first. Halsey was appointed Quartermaster for his battalion and at the end of April he resigned as manager of the hotel in order to devote more time to his military duties.

In September the 212th Battalion was absorbed into the 97th Battalion and Halsey was transferred to the new unit. The battalion embarked from Halifax on the SS Olympic on 19 September and arrived at Liverpool about a week later. Halsey was assigned to the 7th Reserve Battalion and he served in the UK for seven months. On 1 May 1917 he was transferred to a front line unit, the 38th Battalion, and sent to France. He joined them in the field in early June. In August he was sent on a course at the Divisional Gas School and at the end of August he was appointed Gas Officer for the 12th Infantry Brigade. Back in Winnipeg his daughter Emily was married on 10 November 1917. Her husband, Auguste Robert Napier Blair, was an enlisted soldier in the Railway Construction Troops Draft.

On 30 January 1918 Halsey was transferred to the 78th Battalion and he served with the unit for six months. He was Gas Officer for the 12th Brigade again from June to November 1918. The Armistice ended hostilities on the Western Front in November and at the end of the month Halsey returned to England. He was detailed to the Canadian School of Cookery until the following spring. He sailed for Canada on 3 May 1919 on the SS Mauretania, arriving in Halifax about a week later and getting discharged on demobilization on 17 May.

Halsey returned to Winnipeg, where his wife and daughter were still living, and in January 1920 they moved to Kenora, Ontario. Halsey became the manager of the Tourist Hotel and he and his wife lived in Kenora for about three years. He spent a few months in Vancouver before moving to Los Angeles, California in November 1923. His wife joined him there about two years later. Halsey was retired by then but he apparently found work as an extra at studios in Hollywood, where he met the actress Bertha Kirk. He was 61 years old at the time and Bertha was about fifty. On the morning of 8 September 1928 Halsey shot Bertha as she was getting out of a vehicle in front of her home. He then turned the gun on himself and took his own life. Bertha died a short time later.

Halsey’s wife passed away in Los Angeles in 1931. Their daughter, Elsie Emily Blair, died in 1944 and she’s buried at Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier, California. She was survived by her husband and two daughters, Carolyn (Mrs. William Menefee) and Gloria. Her husband remarried and died in England in 1962. Gloria (Mrs. James Benson) passed away in 2019 and she’s interred at Rose Hills Memorial Park.

By Becky Johnson

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