Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthMay 6, 1883
Place of BirthKeewatin, Ontario
Marital StatusSingle (married in May 1915)
Next of KinElizabeth Thompson (mother), Southey, Saskatchewan
Trade / CallingSteam engineer
ReligionRoman Catholic
Service Details
Regimental Number440264
Service RecordLink to Service Record
Battalion53rd Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentSaskatoon, Saskatchewan
Date of EnlistmentMarch 25, 1915
Age at Enlistment31
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathNovember 7, 1941
Age at Death58
Buried AtWoodlawn Cemetery, Nipawin, Saskatchewan

Thompson, William Richmond

Private William Richmond Thompson was one of three brothers from Saskatchewan who served in the First World War. William and his younger brother Clifford survived the war but their oldest brother Robert died in September 1916 at the Somme.

William was born on 6 May 1883 in Keewatin, Ontario. His parents were William Richmond Thompson Sr. and Elizabeth O’Hara. According to census records William Sr. and Elizabeth were both born in Quebec and they had at least six children between 1875 and 1891. The oldest three – Sarah Matilda, Robert Charles and Mary Abigail – were born in Quebec. William Richmond Jr. was born in Keewatin, a small town in northwestern Ontario. It’s not known if the family stayed in Keewatin for any length of time or if they were just passing through on their way west. By 1886 William and Elizabeth had settled near Regina in what is now Saskatchewan (at the time it was part of the North-West Territories). They took up farming and had two more children, George Clifford (May 1886) and Rachel Edith (March 1891). When the census was taken in April 1891 Elizabeth was listed as a widow and a farmer with her six children still living at home.

Sometime in the 1890s Elizabeth moved to North Dakota with her daughters Mary and Edith. Matilda was married by then and she stayed in Saskatchewan along with her brothers, who took out homesteads in the Southey/Crosswoods area. When Elizabeth returned to Canada she spent some time in Winnipeg before moving back to Saskatchewan around 1908. When the 1911 census was taken Robert and Clifford were living with their mother, Mary was married and living with her husband, and Edith was living with her brother William. Edith married a neighbouring farmer, Wallace Anderson, around 1913. The war started in August 1914 and William and Robert Charles both enlisted the following spring. George Clifford followed in January 1916.

William signed up in Saskatoon on 25 March 1915, joining the 53rd (Northern Saskatchewan) Battalion. His occupation was steam engineer and next of kin was his mother in Southey. William was married in Saskatoon on 3 May to Catherine Mary Matalski. Catherine was 17 years old and living in Saskatoon at the time. She was born in October 1897 in Ohio. Her parents, Joseph and Mary Matalski, were both from Poland and they had at least 16 children. They lived in Ohio and Oregon before moving to Canada around 1903. William headed overseas six weeks after getting married, embarking from Montreal on 17 June on the SS Scandinavian. In England he was transferred to the 32nd Reserve Battalion and he trained with them for about a month. On 3 August he was drafted to a front line unit, the 5th Battalion, and sent to France.

The 5th Battalion was in the 2nd Infantry Brigade and starting in November 1915 William was with the brigade grenade company for about four months. The Canadians spent that winter in Belgium, holding a section of the front line between Ploegsteert Wood and St. Eloi. In February 1916 they moved to the Ypres Salient and William suffered a minor wound to his thigh in May. He recovered for a few days in a field ambulance. In June the Canadians fought at the Battle of Mount Sorrel and in August they began moving south to take part in the Somme Offensive.

William was wounded at the Somme on 29 September 1916, suffering a gunshot wound to his right arm and hand. He was evacuated to England and admitted to Queen Mary’s Military Hospital in Whalley on 3 October. On 14 November he was moved to Woodcote Park convalescent centre and while he was there his mother passed away in Southey, Saskatchewan. She’s buried in Southey Cemetery. William returned to duty in January 1917 and served in the UK with the 15th Reserve Battalion and the Saskatchewan Regiment Depot. In September he was in the Bramshott military hospital due to myalgia and a medical board recommended that he be returned to Canada. He sailed from Liverpool on the SS Olympic on 2 February 1918, arriving in Halifax about ten days later.

In April William was assigned to the 12th Battalion, Canadian Garrison Regiment and he served with them for about four months. He was discharged in Regina on 15 August 1918, “for the purpose of returning to civil employment.” His character was noted as very good and he was entitled to wear two gold (casualty) stripes. He intended to return to farming in Southey. His brother Clifford served in France for more than two years and came home in 1919 with a war bride. Their brother Robert arrived in France in June 1916 and he was killed in action less than three months later. His body was not recovered and he’s commemorated on the Vimy Memorial.

After the war William and Catherine had at least six children, some of them born in Southey. In the late 1920s they were farming in the Three Lakes area, northeast of Saskatoon, where Catherine’s parents also lived. William passed away on 7 November 1941, at age 58, and he’s buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Nipawin, Saskatchewan. During the Second World War his son Joseph Henry (1921-1987) served with the Saskatoon Light Infantry. Catherine remarried and at some point moved to British Columbia with her husband, Arthur Joseph Phoenix. She passed away in 1977 in Duncan, British Columbia and she’s buried in Cedar Valley Memorial Gardens.

William, Robert and Clifford are commemorated on the First World War Roll of Honour for Southey and District.

By Becky Johnson

Some information is from the book “Pioneers and Progress: The History of Southey and District” by Southey History Committee, 1980.

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