Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthJanuary 25, 1888
Place of BirthToronto, Ontario
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinMrs. E. Switzer (mother), Paisley, Ontario
Trade / CallingHardware clerk
Service Details
Regimental Number151248
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion43rd Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentBrandon, Manitoba
Date of EnlistmentSeptember 1, 1915
Age at Enlistment27
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarNo
Death Details
Date of DeathMarch 15, 1917
Age at Death29
Buried AtAubigny Communal Cemetery Extension, Pas de Calais, France
PlotI. H. 20.

Switzer, Milford William

Private Milford William Switzer enlisted in September 1915 and served for 18 months in Canada, England and France. For much of that time he suffered from ill health and he died of pneumonia in March 1917.

Milford was the oldest son of John Thomas Switzer and Elizabeth Kingsborough of Paisley, Ontario. Thomas and Elizabeth were both born in Ontario, called Canada West at the time, and they were married in 1886 in Toronto. Thomas worked as a labourer, carpenter, grocer and market gardener. Milford, their first child, was born in Toronto on 25 January 1888. He was followed by a son George Edward in 1891 and twin girls Pearl and Pansy in 1894. By 1899 the Switzer family had moved to the Port Elgin/Paisley area, near Lake Huron, where Thomas took up farming. Their youngest son Nelson was born there in 1899 and he drowned in a swimming accident when he was eight years old. Sadly, their two remaining sons both died in the First World War, Milford in March 1917 and George in March 1918.

By 1915 Milford had moved west and settled in the town of Kenora in northwestern Ontario where he worked as a clerk at Fife’s hardware store. The war had started the previous year and he enlisted on 1 September 1915 in Brandon, Manitoba, joining the 79th Battalion. The 79th was based in Brandon and recruited mainly in Manitoba but a number of Kenora and Keewatin lads went there to sign up. According to a newspaper article Milford returned to Kenora after enlisting and helped to recruit more volunteers for his battalion. In November he spent a short period of time in the hospital in Brandon and early in 1916, when he was ill again, he was allowed to go to his parents’ home in Paisley to recuperate. When his health improved he returned west to rejoin his unit.

The 79th Battalion left Brandon aboard two large trains on 19 April 1916 and early the next morning they stopped on their way through Kenora to pick up the local volunteers. A large crowd gathered at the train station to see the lads off on the first leg of their journey overseas. Just four days later they were on their way to England, embarking from Halifax on 24 April 1916 on the SS Lapland. There were over 1,100 officers and men in the 79th and after arriving the battalion was broken up and used to reinforce other units. Milford was assigned to the 17th Reserve Battalion on 12 July 1916 and a week later he was admitted to hospital suffering from influenza. When he was discharged he spent almost two months on duty at the 2nd Brigade headquarters.

At the end of September Milford was considered fit enough for front line service and he was transferred to the 43rd Battalion (Cameron Highlanders) and sent to France. When he joined his unit in October they had just returned from the Somme Offensive, where they suffered heavy casualties in the assault on Regina Trench, and Milford arrived in a draft of reinforcements. The battalion was in the area between Lens and Arras, opposite Vimy, and on 24 October they went into the trenches for a one week rotation. After five days of rest they were sent back in again on 6 November. The war diary mentioned that the weather was very wet and the trenches were in bad shape. Milford was still suffering from health problems and on 11 November he was sent to the divisional rest station and from there to No. 30 Casualty Clearing Station. By early February 1917 he was listed as dangerously ill with influenza but his condition improved later in the month. Not long after that he took a turn for the worse again and he died of pneumonia on 15 March.

Milford is buried in Aubigny Communal Cemetery Extension in the village of Aubigny-en-Artois, near Arras in France. He is commemorated on the Cenotaph in Kenora, on the Kenora Legion War Memorial and on the Cenotaph in his hometown of Paisley.

His brother George served with the Royal Canadian Dragoons and he died a year after Milford, on 23 March 1918. He is also buried in France.

In 1947 Milford’s parents moved to Edmonton to be near their daughter Pansy and Mr. Switzer died there in April 1948. His wife passed away in June 1952 and they are both buried in Sanctuary Park Cemetery in Port Elgin, Ontario. They were survived by their daughters Pansy (Mrs. Walter Hale) and Pearl (Mrs. Hazen Waddle).

By Becky Johnson

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Photos of Paisley Cenotaph courtesy of Clive Card.

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