Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthAugust 14, 1897
Place of BirthNewcastle on Tyne, Northumberland
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinMrs Sarah Hannah Falls, mother, Manitou, Manitoba
Trade / CallingHotel Clerk
Service Details
Regimental Number439058
Service Record Link to Service Record
BattalionCanadian Machine Gun Depot
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Address at EnlistmentKenora, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentDecember 27, 1914
Age at Enlistment18
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathDecember 14, 1971
Age at Death75
Buried AtWoodlawn Cemetery, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Purvis, Thomas Harry

Thomas Harry Purvis was born in 1897 in the Newcastle upon Tyne, Northumberland registration district, birth registered during the 3rd quarter. His parents were William John Purvis and Sarah Hannah Forster who had married in 1896. Thomas had a younger sister Martha who was born in 1900. It appears that Thomas’ father died in 1910. Sarah and the two children were found on the passenger list of the Empress of Britain that arrived in St John, New Brunswick in early January of 1912, final destination given as Winnipeg. Sarah’s occupation was given as domestic while Thomas’ as rope maker. That November Sarah married Richard Falls in the district of Pembina where Richard was farming, the couple giving birth to a daughter, Erma Esther, in 1914 in Manitou.

Thomas was working in Kenora, Ontario as a hotel clerk when he signed his attestation papers on 27 December 1914. Probably to appear older, he gave his date of birth as 14 August 1896. He gave his mother Sarah Falls in Manitou as next of kin. The 52nd Battalion was organized in March of 1915 with headquarters in Port Arthur and recruitment throughout northwestern Ontario.  Along with a number of other Kenora fellows Thomas left for Port Arthur that June to begin training with the 52nd Battalion. A short time later he was on his way overseas as Private with the 2nd Reinforcing Draft of the 52nd, embarking from Montreal on 4 September 1915 aboard the Missanabie.

Thomas did not proceed overseas to France right away, out of service until January of 1916 (vdg). He embarked for France in mid February, taken on strength with the 15th Battalion as reinforcement on the 21st and joining the unit on March 11th. In October Thomas was transferred to the 3rd Machine Gun Company and granted a ten day leave to England in mid December. He was admitted to the No 11 General Hospital Dannes in Camiers in mid April of 1917, on to the No 6 Convalescent Depot in Etaples in early May, and rejoining the unit on the 12th. On 26 December 1916 he was awarded one Good Conduct stripe.

On 17 August 1917 Thomas suffered a gunshot or shrapnel wound to the arm and ear. He was admitted to the No 4 General Hospital in Camiers and then invalided to England to the Berrington War Hospital in Shrewsbury. In late October he was transferred to the Military Convalescent Hospital at Epsom, discharged in mid November. In June of 1918 Thomas was appointed Acting Lance Corporal of the Canadian Machine Gun Depot. He was to spend the rest of the war in the UK, arriving back in Canada on 30 December 1918 aboard the Carmania.

On 10 November 1924, in Kenora, Thomas married Beatrice Elders. Born in 1892 in Norman (now part of Kenora), Beatrice was the daughter of John and Mary Louise (née Lauzon) Elders. At the time of the marriage Thomas was living in Winnipeg and working as an insurance clerk.

Thomas and Beatrice were to first make Winnipeg their home where Thomas worked for the Wawanesa Mutual Insurance Company. The couple had one known child, daughter Patricia. Thomas was transferred to the Saskatoon branch in 1936 and then to the Edmonton office in 1948. The family returned to Saskatoon in 1953 when Thomas began working for the Saskatchewan Mutual Insurance Company until his retirement in 1957. Thomas was active in the Masonic Order, a member of lodges in Winnipeg and Saskatoon. He was a member of the Scottish Rifles, the Wa Wa Temple of the Shrine, and Knox United Church.

Predeceased by his sister Martha (George) Roberts in 1923 in Cleveland, Ohio, and his mother Sarah (John) Elliot in 1961 in Victoria, British Columbia, Thomas died on 14 December 1971 in Saskatoon. At the time he was survived by his wife Beatrice, daughter Patricia (John) Davidson of Ladysmith, British Columbia, two grandchildren, and his sister Erma (William) Grant of Saltair, British Columbia. Erma died in 1974 in Nanaimo and Beatrice in 1992 in the Cowichan District Hospital in Duncan, British Columbia. Diagnosed with melanoma, she had moved to British Columbia to live with her daughter Patricia and husband. Thomas and Beatrice are interred in the Woodlawn Cemetery, Saskatoon.

Beatrice’s brother Arthur went overseas with the 148th Battalion, later attached to the 24th Battalion in France. He was injured twice and underwent reconstructive plastic surgery to his face. It was May of 1920 before Arthur was discharged from the army. Thomas’ stepfather Richard Falls signed two sets of attestation papers, once in 1915 and the second in 1917. With the 184th Battalion he trained at Camp Hughes in 1915/1916, discharged in October 1916 as medically unfit. Attesting again in 1917 and although overage, he went overseas with the No 1 Railway Construction Draft and served with the 6th Canadian Railway Troops in France. He returned to Canada in February of 1919.

by Judy Stockham

Purvis-Thomas-Harry-1 Purvis-Thomas-Harry-2 Purvis-Thomas-Harry-3 Purvis-Thomas-Harry-4 Purvis-Thomas-Harry-5 Purvis-Thomas-Harry-6 Purvis-Thomas-Harry-7
grave marker photograph and obituary courtesy of Elsie Henry
photograph of Thomas and Beatrice provided by great granddaughter Darcy Carmichael

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