Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthApril 24, 1887
Place of BirthLamb Island, Lake Superior, Ontario
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinWilliam Richards (father), Kenora, Ontario
Trade / CallingCarpenter
ReligionChurch of England
Service Details
Regimental Number439539
Service RecordLink to Service Record
Battalion52nd Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentKenora, Ontario
Address at EnlistmentKenora, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentAugust 3, 1915
Age at Enlistment28
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathAugust 30, 1969
Age at Death82
Buried AtLake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario
PlotElmwood Circle, 34E-13-4

Richards, Edward John

Private Edward John Richards enlisted with the 52nd Battalion in August 1915 and served overseas for about two years. He was invalided back to Canada in February 1918 due to illness.

Edward was the youngest son of William Thomas Richards and Mary Saunders of Kenora, Ontario. William was born in Pembroke, Ontario and his wife was from Timmins. They had five children between about 1876 and 1887, sons Albert, Charles, William and Edward and daughter Mary Rachel. Edward’s birth is recorded on his attestation as 24 April 1887 at Lamb Island, Lake Superior but his marriage registration lists his birth place as the village of Chapleau. At the time of both the 1881 and 1891 censuses Edward’s family was living in the district of Nipigon, north of Lake Superior. Around 1892 they moved to Rat Portage (later renamed Kenora), in northwestern Ontario, and when the 1901 census was taken his father was working as a prospector. The two oldest boys died in Rat Portage of tuberculosis, Albert in 1898 and Charles in 1901. When the 1911 census was taken Edward was living at home and working as a carpenter. His sister’s son, five-year-old William Costello, was also staying with the family.

The 52nd (New Ontario) Battalion was raised in northwestern Ontario in early 1915 and the recruits trained in Port Arthur that summer. In July 250 of the men were chosen to go to England with the 2nd reinforcing draft and more volunteers were needed to bring the battalion back up to strength. Two officers returned to Kenora on 2 August to reopen the recruiting depot and Edward enlisted the next day. His brother William Ernest joined the same unit on 4 August and they were assigned consecutive regimental numbers. They were sent to Port Arthur to train with the rest of the volunteers and in early November the battalion headed to the east coast. They embarked from St. John on 23 November on the SS California and arrived in Plymouth ten days later. After a few more weeks of training the men were sent to France on 20 February 1916.

Overseas service:

-on 23 February the 52nd Battalion joined the Canadian Corps, becoming part of the 9th Brigade, 3rd Canadian Division
-that spring and summer the unit was in the Ypres salient in Belgium where the Canadians were holding the front line between St. Eloi and Hooge
-the 52nd took part in the Battle of Mount Sorrel (2-13 June 1916), their first time in combat
-Edward injured his knee in June when he fell while carrying ammunition, but he remained at duty
-in July and August the men worked on repairing barracks, dugouts and trenches and had regular rotations in the front lines
-German artillery was active and there were numerous casualties from the shelling
-the battalion went into the trenches on 16 August for a five day rotation
-there was a heavy bombardment by the enemy on 19 August
-Edward was admitted to a rest station that same day, suffering from shell shock; he rejoined his unit a week later
-his injured knee got worse and on 10 September he was sent to a field ambulance then to a hospital in Wimereux
-later in the month he was evacuated to England with a possible dislocated knee
-he was treated for a month at Moore Barracks Hospital
-in October 1916 Edward was transferred to the Canadian Casualty Assembly Centre
-from March to July 1917 he was assigned to the Manitoba Regiment Depot
-in July he was transferred to the 18th Reserve Battalion
-that fall Edward developed a cough and chest pains and he lost weight
-in October he was admitted to No. 1 Canadian General Hospital in Shorncliife and diagnosed with pleurisy
-in January 1918 he was admitted to No. 5 General Hospital in Liverpool with suspected pulmonary tuberculosis
-he was invalided to Canada for further treatment, arriving at Halifax on 16 February on the hospital ship Araguaya

In March Edward was a patient at the Manitoba Sanatorium in Ninette, Manitoba and he was officially discharged from service on 12 April 1918 in Winnipeg. He was married in Kenora on 8 January 1919 to Elizabeth Habgood (née Hayes), a widow. Elizabeth was born in Nottingham, England and she’d come to Canada in 1911 with her first husband, John. He died in a railroad accident at work in December 1917, leaving her with two young children, John Jr. and Ivy. Elizabeth had two more children with Edward, their daughter Verna (b.1919) and son Frank (b.1928). They lived in Kenora and Red Lake and Edward was self employed as a carpenter for many years. He enjoyed hockey, hunting and fishing and he was a member of the Kenora branch of the Canadian Legion. In January 1969 Edward and his wife celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary and he passed away seven months later, on 30 August 1969, at age 82. Elizabeth died in 1975 and they are both buried in Lake of the Woods Cemetery in Kenora.

By Becky Johnson

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