|Date of Birth||September 17, 1888|
|Place of Birth||Kenora, Ontario|
|Next of Kin||Merceline Phillips, mother, Box 12, Central Park, Vancouver, BC|
|Trade / Calling||Bridgeman|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Branch||Canadian Overseas Railway Construction Corps|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Date of Enlistment||May 6, 1915|
|Age at Enlistment||26|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||August 22, 1949|
|Age at Death||61|
|Buried At||Ocean View Burial Park, Burnaby, BC|
Russell Frederick Phillips was born on 17 September 1888 in Rat Portage (later renamed Kenora) in northwestern Ontario, date confirmed by his British Columbia death record. His father Jame Phillips was born in 1822 in Dunblane, Scotland while his mother Merceline Bourassa was from Buckingham, Quebec, born in 1850. The couple married on 30 April 1877 in Ottawa, Ontario. At the time James was living in Thurso, a community about 20 kilometres east of Buckingham, where he was working as a mason. The family settled in Ottawa, giving birth to Robert (Bob)(1878-1953) and Margaret (1879-1975). In 1882 they moved to Rat Portage where James was a superintendent of construction during the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway west of the Great Lakes. He would later return to masonry/contracting work. Children born in Rat Portage were Thomas (Tommy) (1883-1923), Louise (1885-1966), Russell, and Effie May (1890-1892).
James died of cancer in 1904 and the family remained in Rat Portage for a few more years. In 1906 Margaret married druggist Lowry Johnson and in 1910 Louise married contractor Norman McLeod. Both Tommy and Russell were active in sports, playing hockey for the Kenora Thistles at the time of winning the Stanley Cup in 1907. Tommy was captain of the team, however during the two game series Russell, a winger, sat on the sidelines as a spare. By the time of the 1911 census Merceline, Robert, Tommy, and Russell were living on Maple Street in South Vancouver, British Columbia.
Russell enlisted on 6 May 1915 in Vancouver with the Canadian Overseas Railway Construction Corps that was organized in the spring of 1915 as a result of a request by the British Government for Canada to supply a railway construction unit for service in France. His occupation was given as bridgeman, his mother Merceline in Vancouver as next of kin, year of birth as 1887, and service with Military Force as 3 years Canadian Militia. He embarked from Saint John, New Brunswick on 14 June 1915 aboard the Herschell, arriving in England on the 25th. In late August he embarked from Southampton for France to serve as a Sapper with the CORCC. Initially attached to 2nd and 6th Divisions of the Belgian Army, the unit returned to England on 5 October 1915 for transfer to Salonika, orders rescinded on collapse of Serbia. Returning to France on 2 November 1915, the unit was attached to Royal Engineers and later absorbed with Canadian Railway Troops on 23 April 1918. A excellent description of the CORCC and their work in France/Belgium during the war can be found here. On 23 June 1917 Russell was awarded a Good Conduct Badge and granted a fourteen day leave in early January of 1918. With the end of the war he returned to England in mid January of 1919, spending a month in the No 12 Canadian General Hospital, disease listed as debility (nervous, rundown, insomnia). He was discharged on 19 March and embarked for Canada on 11 May on the Saturnia. Russell was discharged from service on 22 May 1919 in Montreal.
After the war Russell returned to Vancouver. On 6 January 1920 in the Knox Church in Collingwood East, he married Annie Pearl Thompson. Born on 11 December 1889 in Manitoba, Annie was the daughter of farmers John Thompson and Annie Kirk. Her father was born in Ontario while her mother was from Ireland, the couple marrying in 1877 in Grenville, Ontario. Russell’s occupation was given as builder at the time of the marriage but by the next year in the 1921 census he was working as a grocer. In later life Russell worked as a tallyman for BC Forest Products. The couple gave birth to two known children, Kenneth and Douglas.
Russell died on 22 August 1949 in the Vancouver General Hospital. At the time of his death he was survived by his wife Annie, his sons Kenneth and Douglas, brother Bob in Vancouver, and sisters Margaret (Lowry) Johnson and Louise (Norman) McLeod in Kenora. He was predeceased by his young sister Effie, his father James, his brother Tommy (1923 in Toronto), and his mother Merceline (1944 in Vancouver). At age 101, Annie died on 31 March 1991 in the Cedar Hill Langley Memorial Hospital. Along with Russell she is interred in the Ocean View Burial Park in Burnaby, BC.
By Judy Stockham
Annie’s grave marker photo provided by Mike Melen