Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthOctober 1, 1890
Place of BirthKeewatin, Ontario
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinWilliam Ballantyne Steele (father), Clark Manor, Alberta
Trade / CallingFarmer
Service Details
Regimental Number108553
Service RecordLink to Service Record
Battalion1st Canadian Mounted Rifles
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentVegreville, Alberta
Date of EnlistmentJanuary 2, 1915
Age at Enlistment24
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Death Details
Date of DeathDecember 20, 1945
Age at Death55
Buried AtIrma Cemetery, Irma, Alberta

Steele, William Thompson

Lance Corporal William Thompson Steele enlisted in 1915 and served overseas for four years in France, Belgium and Great Britain. He returned home in 1919 with a war bride.

William was the son of William Ballantyne Steele and Sarah Ann Clark. William Ballantyne was Scottish and born in Quebec and his wife was born in Nepean, Ontario. They were married in Ottawa on 2 January 1890. William’s residence at the time was Keewatin, Ontario and his occupation was horse dealer. He returned to Keewatin with his wife and William Thompson was born there on 1 October 1890. Sometime after that the family moved back to the Ottawa area and William Thompson was followed by five siblings: Christina Marjorie (1893), Elizabeth Ballantyne (1895), Ina Clark (1896), John Keith (1899) and Clark McMillan (1900). They were all born in the Vars-Navan area, just west of Ottawa. William Ballantyne was a farmer at the time.

In 1906 William Ballantyne took out a homestead in the Wainwright area in Alberta and he and his family settled there. About two years later the village of Irma was founded nearby. In 1913 William Thompson took out his own homestead east of Irma. The war started a year later and he enlisted on 2 January 1915 in Vegreville, Alberta. He signed up with the 3rd Regiment, Canadian Mounted Rifles, which was being recruited in Alberta. His occupation was farmer and next of kin was his father in Clark Manor, Alberta. William trained in Canada for five months and headed overseas with his unit that summer. They embarked from Montreal on 12 June on the SS Megantic, arriving in England about nine days later.

William spent only three months in England before being sent to France in September 1915. The Canadians spent that winter in Belgium, holding a section of the front line between St. Eloi and Ploegsteert Wood. Due to a re-organization, William was transferred to the 1st Battalion, Canadian Mounted Rifles on 2 January 1916. In May he had a one week leave of absence in England and in June the Canadians took part in the Battle of Mount Sorrel. William was wounded on the opening day of the battle, 2 June, suffering an injury to his hand and face. He was evacuated to England on the hospital ship Jan Breydel and admitted to the War Hospital in Dartford on 5 June. After six weeks there he was transferred to the Woodcote Park convalescent centre but then moved to the military hospital at Shorncliffe to get treatment for vd. He was discharged to duty in February 1917 and assigned to the 19th Reserve Battalion.

William was kept in England for the next 18 months. He was married in London on 12 July 1917 to Mary Adeline Wainwright. Mary, also known as May, was born in Wandsworth, London in 1892, the daughter of George Wainwright and Grace Archibald Toop. In October 1917 William spent three weeks in the hospital with stomach problems and that same month he was transferred to the 15th Reserve Battalion. The final period of the war, known now as the Hundred Days Offensive, started with the Battle of Amiens on 8 August 1918. William was sent back to France on 18 August and he rejoined the 1st Battalion, Canadian Mounted Rifles. In early October his wife left for Canada, sailing on the SS Olympic via New York, on her way to Clark Manor, Alberta where his parents lived.

After the Armistice William’s unit stayed in France. In January 1919 he became ill with influenza and he was admitted to a hospital in Boulogne. Later that month he was evacuated to England and he recovered for a month at the Royal Herbert Hospital in Woolwich followed by a month at the Woodcote Park convalescent centre. He returned to duty on 24 March and served in the UK for another ten weeks. He sailed for Canada on the SS Aquitania, arriving in Halifax on 19 June and getting discharged in Edmonton on 25 June. His intended residence was Irma, Alberta.

William and May settled in the Crescent Hill district east of Irma, where they farmed for the next 25 years. They had eight children: Eric, William, Stella, Douglas, Kenneth, Christina, Jack and Victoria May (who died at age one). The two oldest boys served overseas during the Second World War.

William passed away on 20 December 1945, at age 55. He was survived by his wife and seven children as well as his five brothers and sisters. His father had died in 1924 and his mother in 1928. William is buried in Irma Cemetery along with his infant daughter, his parents and other family members.

By Becky Johnson