Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthMarch 29, 1886
Place of BirthChapleau, Ontario
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinWilliam Thomas Richards (father), Kenora, Ontario
Trade / CallingGuide
ReligionChurch of England
Service Details
Regimental Number439540
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion52nd Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentKenora, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentAugust 4, 1915
Age at Enlistment29
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathMarch 24, 1946
Age at Death60
Buried AtLake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario

Richards, William Ernest

Lance Corporal William Ernest Richards joined the 52nd Battalion in August 1915 and served overseas in England, France and Belgium, returning to Canada in March 1919.

William was the son of William Thomas Richards and Mary Saunders of Kenora, Ontario. William Thomas 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. William, the second youngest, was born on 29 March 1886 (or possibly a few years earlier) in Chapleau, Ontario. At the time of the 1891 census his family was living in the Nipigon area, 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. At the time of the 1911 census William was living at home and working as a marine engineer.

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 William enlisted two days later. His brother Edward John joined the same unit on 3 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 left for 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 the Canadians were in the Ypres salient in Belgium, holding the front line between St. Eloi and Hooge
-on 17 March William was posted to the 9th Brigade headquarters staff for duty and he served with them for 16 months, some of that time as a brigade guard
-at the end of July 1917 he developed cellulitis, a painful bacterial infection, on his right hand
-he was admitted to a hospital in Etaples and evacuated to England
-the cellulitis spread to his arm and he was treated at a hospital in Richmond then spent time at the convalescent centre in Epsom
-on 1 October he was discharged to the Canadian Convalescent Depot
-on 20 November he was transferred to the 18th Reserve Battalion
-William was drafted back into the 52nd Battalion on 29 March 1918 and sent to France
-he contracted mumps almost immediately and spent six weeks recovering
-he rejoined the 52nd Battalion in June
-along with the rest of the Canadian Corps they took part in the Hundred Days Offensive from 8 August to 11 November 1918
-on 10 October William was promoted to Lance Corporal
-the 52nd Battalion remained in Belgium after the Armistice and early in 1919 William had two weeks leave in the UK
-his unit left Belgium by train on 5 February and embarked from Le Havre on 10 February, landing in England the next day
-the men proceeded to Bramshott Camp and most of them were immediately given leave
-they embarked for Canada on the SS Olympic on 17 March

There was a huge reception for the 52nd Battalion when they arrived in Port Arthur and the unit was demobilized there at the end of the month. William was discharged on 31 March and his intended residence was Kenora where his parents were still living. On 20 October 1919 he was married in Kenora to 22-year-old Mildred Williams. Mildred was from England and she had arrived in Canada ten days earlier, listed on the passenger manifest as going to Kenora to be married. William and Mildred had two children, Ethel born in 1920 and Florence in 1924.

Mildred and the two girls were living in Manhattan, New York when the 1930 U.S. census was taken, their year of immigration (to the U.S.) recorded as 1924. William apparently returned to Kenora around 1945 and worked for the local pulp and paper mill at one of their bush camps. On 23 March 1946 he fell and suffered a serious head injury. He passed away the next day in St. Joseph’s Hospital. William was survived by his wife and daughters in New York and his brother Edward in Red Lake. He is buried in Lake of the Woods Cemetery in Kenora.

By Becky Johnson

52nd-1915-08-04 52nd-1915-12-08 Richards-William-Ernest-99 Richards-William-Ernest-4
William’s grave marker was installed in Lake of the Woods Cemetery in 2018 by the Last Post Fund.

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