Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthMarch 25, 1891
Place of BirthKenora, Ontario
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinMrs. Margaret Williamson (mother), Kenora, Ontario
Trade / CallingTeamster
ReligionChurch of England
Service Details
Regimental Number198529
Service RecordLink to Service Record
Battalion1st Labour Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Labour Corps
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentKenora, Ontario
Address at EnlistmentKenora, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentDecember 20, 1915
Age at Enlistment24
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathMarch 19, 1967
Age at Death75
Buried AtLake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario

Williamson, Hector Stuart

Private Hector Stuart Williamson enlisted in the 94th Battalion in September 1915 and served overseas for almost two years. He was wounded twice, at the Vimy front in October 1916 and at Ypres a year later.

Hector was the oldest son of Paul Williamson and Margaret Finlayson of Kenora, Ontario. Paul was born in Selkirk, Manitoba and he worked for the Hudson’s Bay Company as a labourer and trapper. Margaret was from St. Andrew’s, Manitoba and her father, grandfather and great-grandfather had all worked in the fur trade. By the early 1890s Paul and Margaret were married and living in Rat Portage (later renamed Kenora), in northwestern Ontario. They had three sons: Hector Stuart (March 1891), Benjamin (1894) and Nicol (1899). They also lost three other children as infants. Sadly Hector’s father died in a shooting accident in March 1899, a few months before his youngest son was born. When the 1901 census was taken Margaret and the three boys were still living in Rat Portage, staying with her younger brother Ben Finlayson.

At the time of the 1911 census Hector was 20 years old and working as labourer in a local tie mill. The war started in 1914 and he enlisted the following year, signing up in Kenora on 20 December 1915. His brother Benjamin Paul had enlisted in 1914 and he was already overseas. Hector joined the 94th Battalion which was based in Port Arthur and recruited in towns throughout northwestern Ontario. Two of his Finlayson cousins also signed up with the 94th and after training over the winter the Kenora volunteers were sent to Port Arthur in May 1916 to join the rest of the unit. They left for Quebec two weeks later and spent a short time at Valcartier, a large military camp northwest of Quebec City, before embarking from Halifax on 28 June on the SS Olympic. In England the recruits were absorbed into reserve battalions to be used as reinforcements for other units.

Hector was transferred to the 17th Reserve Battalion and in August he became ill with influenza, spending three weeks in the hospital. Following his recovery he was drafted to a front line unit, the 16th Battalion (Canadian Scottish), and on 21 September 1916 he was sent to France. The Canadians were suffering heavy losses on the battlefields of the Somme that fall and Hector arrived in a large draft of reinforcements. After a short time at the Canadian Base Depot he joined his new unit in the field in early October. They had just taken part in an unsuccessful assault on Regina Trench, which would be their last operation at the Somme. A week later the battalion was relieved and moved north to the Vimy front, between Lens and Arras. Their first rotation in the trenches there started on the morning of 27 October and Hector was one of the casualties that day, suffering a shrapnel wound to his right thigh. His injury wasn’t too serious and after two weeks of treatment he was discharged to the divisional rest station. Instead of returning to his unit he was assigned to special duty with a Town Major. Town Majors were officers responsible for the billeting of troops in towns and villages behind the front lines. They arranged quarters for the soldiers and officers as well as access to baths, the supply of water and the disposal of waste. Soldiers recovering from wounds were sometimes assigned light duty with a Town Major, which could involve a variety of jobs. In January 1917 Hector was sent to work for the Town Major in Bully Grenay, northeast of Lens, and in March he went to the town of Ecoivres, east of Arras. In June his special duty with Town Majors ended and he was transferred to the Canadian Base Depot.

After two months at the depot Hector was assigned to a new unit, the 1st Labour Battalion, and he joined them in mid-August in a small draft of reinforcements. The battalion was stationed near Ypres at the time, where the British were involved in an offensive aimed at capturing Passchendaele Ridge. Hector’s unit worked on roads and railways, laid water pipes and did construction work as needed. Parties of men were also sent to help out at a nearby Royal Engineers camp. Over the next eight weeks the battalion suffered casualties almost daily from enemy artillery fire and bombs dropped by German airplanes. On 13-14 October there were 26 casualties in the unit and Hector was one of the injured. He suffered a shell or gunshot wound to his back and left arm, including damage to the nerves in his elbow. He was evacuated to a hospital in Г‰taples on the coast of France and from there to England, where he spent the next four months recovering in three different hospitals. He was discharged from a convalescent centre on 18 February 1918, classified as unfit for further war service.

Hector was invalided to Canada a few weeks later, arriving in Halifax on 26 March on the hospital ship Araguaya, and after his two-week landing leave he was admitted to the Manitoba Military Hospital in Tuxedo Park, Winnipeg. He was discharged from service on 12 October and a month later the Armistice ended hostilities.

After the war Hector lived in Winnipeg for awhile before moving back to Kenora. He worked as a scaler for the pulp and paper mill from the late 1920s until his retirement in 1956. He was a member of St. Alban’s Pro-Cathedral and the Kenora branch of the Canadian Legion. He married Victoreen Slager in September 1940 in Kenora and they had one son, John. Hector passed away in the Kenora General Hospital on 19 March 1967, a few days before his 76th birthday. His funeral was held on 22 March and he’s buried in Lake of the Woods Cemetery.

Hector is commemorated on the St. Alban’s Pro-Cathedral First World War Roll of Honour.

By Becky Johnson

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