Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Place of BirthTownship of Sunnidale, Simcoe, Ontario
Marital StatusMarried
Next of KinMary Riley, wife, Kenora, Ontario
Trade / CallingTeamster
Service Details
Regimental Number871501
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion183rd Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Address at EnlistmentKenora, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentMarch 15, 1916
Theatre of ServiceGreat Britain
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathApril 20, 1946
Age at Death81
Buried AtSt. Mary's Cemetery, Winnipeg, Manitoba
PlotSection CA Grave 75

Riley, Edward

Private Edward Riley was in his early 50’s when he enlisted in Winnipeg in 1916 and was to serve with the Canadian Forestry Corps in England for the last two years of the war.

Although a birth record for Edward could not be found it is likely that he was born in 1865 in the Township of Sunnidale, Simcoe where his family farmed. (Year and place confirmed through census documents and his age at death.) His father Edward Riley and mother Janet McAllister had immigrated to Canada from Scotland with their respective parents and siblings, both families taking up farming in Sunnidale. Edward Sr and Janet had married in February of 1862 and started their family the next year with the birth of their son Malcolm. Edward was their second born child, followed by children John (abt 1867), Jessie (abt 1870), Janet (abt 1874), William (abt 1877), and Colin (1880).

By the mid 1890’s Edward had moved to northwestern Ontario to take up mining in the local gold mines surrounding Rat Portage (later renamed Kenora). With Rat Portage given as his residence Edward married Mary Ellen Friel on 16 June 1897 in Toronto where Mary Ellen had been working as a domestic. Mary Ellen was the daughter of Irish immigrants Patrick and Mary (née Relighan) Friel. Their second born child, the family farmed in the Township of Flos in Simcoe, located beside Sunnidale. Edward and Mary were to make Rat Portage their home and gave birth to their only child, son Ernest Ambrose, in June of 1898.

Giving his birth as 1871 to appear younger and his place of birth as Georgetown, Ontario, Edward signed his attestation papers in Winnipeg on 15 March 1916 with the 183rd Battalion. His occupation was given as teamster and his next of kin as his wife Mary in Kenora. Organized in January of 1916 and mobilized in Winnipeg with recruitment in Manitoba, the 183rd Battalion (Manitoba Beavers) embarked from Halifax aboard the Saxonia and Missanabie on 4 October 1916 as reinforcements to the 100th, 107th, 108th, 139th, and 144th Battalions.

Once in England Edward was taken on strength with the 107th Battalion at Witley. In early February of 1917 he was transferred to the Canadian Forestry Corps in London. In May he was attached to the 17th Company in No 2 District (later renamed No 52) of the CFC at Carlisle.

The Canadian Forestry Corps provided lumber for the Allied war effort by cutting and preparing timber in the United Kingdom and on the continent of Europe in the First World War. Forestry units also cleared terrain for the construction of installations such as airfields and runway, prepared railway ties, as well as lumber for the creation of barracks, road surfaces, ammunition crates, trench construction, etc. These units were sometimes called on to perform as infantry.’(

On 15 March 1918 Edward was awarded a Good Conduct Badge. In late November he was struck off strength to Base Details, CFC. In December Edward came down with influenza and was admitted to the Beech Hill Hospital at Englefield Green. In early January of 1919 he was transferred to the West Cliff Canadian Ear and Eye Hospital at Folkstone and then on to the 16th Canadian General Hospital in Orpington on the 15th, with discharge on the 11 of March. The Medical Board found Edward had a moderate degree of debility due to his age and aggravated by the influenza. He embarked for Canada on the 14th of May, with final discharge due to demobilization on the 30th.

After the war Edward and the family moved to Winnipeg. As found on the 1921 Canada census they were living on Beverley Street with Edward working as a boilermaker at a factory and Ernest as a office accountant.

Predeceased by his wife Mary Ellen in 1937, Edward died at the Academy Road Annex to Deer Lodge Military Hospital in Winnipeg on 20 April 1946. His Veteran Death Card listed his son Ernest Riley of Winnipeg as his next of kin. Along with Mary Ellen he is buried in St Mary’s Roman Catholic Cemetery, Winnipeg. It appears that Edward’s son Ernest served during WW2 as a Flight Lieutenant. Ernest died in 1961 in Winnipeg and is also interred in St Mary’s.

by Judy Stockham

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grave marker photograph courtesy of Bocephus on

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