Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthOctober 31, 1899
Place of BirthKeewatin, Ontario
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinSamuel and Charlotte Thomas (parents), 29 Hillsview Avenue, Toronto
Trade / CallingClerk
ReligionChurch of England
Service Details
Regimental Number225970
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion52nd Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentToronto, Ontario
Address at Enlistment29 Hillsview Avenue, Toronto
Date of EnlistmentOctober 16, 1916
Age at Enlistment16
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathAugust 28, 1969
Age at Death69
Buried AtMount Evergreen Cemetery, Quinte West, Ontario

Thomas, Mervin Elias

Private Mervin Elias Thomas enlisted in October 1916, at age 16, and served in France and Belgium with the 52nd Battalion. He returned to Canada in March 1919.

Mervin was the only son of Samuel Albert Thomas and Charlotte ‘Lottie’ Sullivan of Toronto, Ontario. Samuel was born in East Flamborough Township, Wentworth County, Ontario and Charlotte was born in London, England. By 1881, at age 8, Charlotte had lost one or both of her parents and she was living in the Lambeth Union Workhouse. She was sent to Canada as a Home Child in 1885, in a group of children from Barnardo’s Homes on their way to Peterborough, Ontario. By 1891 Charlotte was working as a domestic and living in Burlington, Ontario. She married Samuel in Burlington in 1895. They already had a daughter, Daisy Lavinia, who was born the previous year. Samuel was a carpenter and he and his wife moved to northwestern Ontario sometime after their marriage. Two children were born there, Mervin on 31 October 1899 and Ida Lillian on 24 March 1901. Mervin’s birth was registered in Keewatin and Ida’s in the neighbouring town of Rat Portage (later renamed Kenora).

When the 1901 census was taken the family was living in Rat Portage but by 1911 they had moved to Toronto. Mervin’s oldest sister Daisy married Henry Gordon Horne in February 1915. Henry enlisted two months later and he was wounded in June 1916 in Belgium. Mervin enlisted in the fall of 1916, signing up in Toronto on 16 October and joining the Depot Regiment of the Canadian Mounted Rifles. It was two weeks before his 17th birthday but he passed himself off as 18 years old. In November and December he was in the hospital in Hamilton, Ontario for about 16 days, first with influenza then with quinsy. In January he had a tonsillectomy and he spent three weeks in a hospital in Toronto. Two months later he was on his way to the UK as part of his unit’s 7th overseas draft. He embarked on 26 March 1917 on the SS Missanabie and arrived in England on 7 April.

Mervin spent the next year training in the UK, first with the 8th Reserve Battalion then with the 119th Battalion. On 27 March 1918 he was drafted to a front line unit, the 52nd Battalion, and sent to France. He joined them in the field in mid-April. That spring Canadians were holding a long stretch of the front line in the Lens-Arras area and in the summer they were given several weeks of intensive training in open warfare. They were heavily involved in the final three months of the war, a period known now as the Hundred Days Offensive. In October Mervin served for ten days as batman to an officer and about two weeks later the Armistice was signed. The 52nd Battalion spent another three months in France and Belgium. Mervin had two weeks leave in the UK in January 1919 and he returned to England with his unit on 10 February. He embarked for Canada the following month, sailing from Liverpool on the SS Cretic and arriving in Halifax on 24 March. He was discharged on 28 March in Toronto.

When the 1921 census was taken Mervin was living back home with his parents in Toronto. His sister Ida was married in Toronto in March 1921 to war veteran William Walter Morris. William had enlisted in 1915 and served overseas for more than three years. Mervin was married in St. Catharines, Ontario on 14 January 1922. His wife, Helen/Ellen Eliza Blanchard, was the daughter of James Alfred Blanchard and Henrietta Jones. She was born in Hastings County, Ontario in 1899 and she had an older sister, Viola. Their mother had died in 1912, at age 52.

Mervin and Ellen lived in Toronto at first and they had a son, Russell Lynne, who was born in Toronto on 2 May 1923. Sometime later they moved to Windsor, where they were living in the early 1950s, and then to Trenton. During the 1960s Mervin was listed as a plant manager in the federal voters lists for Trenton. Russell moved to Michigan and he served in the U.S. army during both the Second World War and the Korean War.

Mervin passed away at his home in Trenton on 28 August 1969, at age 69, and his wife Ellen followed in April 1975. They are both buried in Mount Evergreen Cemetery in Quinte West, Ontario. Russell died in Detroit, Michigan in 1994.

By Becky Johnson

Obituaries courtesy of Quinte Branch, OGS.

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