Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthMarch 22, 1874
Place of BirthLondon
Marital StatusMarried
Next of KinMary Brown (wife), First Street North, Kenora
Trade / CallingCar repairer & Inspector, CPR
ReligionChurch of England
Service Details
Regimental Number2125296
Service RecordLink to Service Record
Battalion13th Light Railway Operating Company
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Railway Troops
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentWinnipeg, Manitoba
Address at EnlistmentFirst St North, Kenora, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentMarch 12, 1917
Age at Enlistment43
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarNo
Death Details
Date of DeathMarch 28, 1918
Age at Death44
Buried AtAnzin-St Aubin British Cemetery, France
PlotIII. B. 3.

Brown, Joseph

Throughout the war railways in France and Belgium were essential for transporting men and supplies and skilled employees were needed for their construction, maintenance and operation. Although the units worked behind the front lines they were often within range of enemy artillery fire and they suffered casualties from artillery shells as well as from bombs dropped by German airplanes. Corporal Joseph Brown, a railway worker from Kenora, Ontario, was one of the casualties.

According to his attestation and census records Joseph was born in March 1874 in London , England. He immigrated to Canada around 1887 and by 1898 he was married and living in the town of Rat Portage (later called Kenora) in northwestern Ontario. His wife Mary Robinson was from Manitoba. Joseph worked as a labourer for a  few years but by 1906 he was employed by the Canadian Pacific Railway as a car repairer and inspector. He and his wife lived in the Rideout area and their six children were all born in Rat Portage/Kenora: William Thomas (1898), Harry (1900), Florence (1902), Joseph (1905) Rose (1906) and Roy (1910). The war started in August 1914 and their oldest son William Thomas enlisted in December when he was just 16 years old.

Joseph signed up in Winnipeg on 12 March 1917, at age 43, joining No. 2 Section Skilled Railway Employees. The unit had been organized in February and it was being recruited across Canada. Joseph was one of nine men from the Kenora area who joined No. 2 Section and when they all left town on 16 March a large crowd gathered at the train station to see them off. A month later they embarked from Halifax on the SS Grampian and in England they were renamed No. 13 Light Railway Operating Company, Royal Engineers. After a few weeks of training the company was sent to France, arriving at Le Havre on 10 June 1917. That fall they were renamed once again, becoming No. 13 Canadian Light Railway Operating Company, and in November Joseph was promoted to Corporal.

Between August and November 1917 the Canadians Corps fought at several major battles, including Passchendaele (26 October-10 November 1917). Over the winter they held a section of the front line near Lens and Arras in France. Railways were vital for moving troops and supplies as well as evacuating the wounded. In March 1918 Joseph’s unit was based near the town of Maroeuil, northwest of Arras. Around 5 am on the morning of 28 March a large German shell exploded in the camp while the men were still sleeping. Joseph was severely injured and he died from his wounds that same day after being transported to a field ambulance. Several other men in his unit were wounded in the explosion.

From the Circumstances of Death record for Joseph, ‘This non-commissioned officer while asleep was severely wounded in the abdomen by the bursting of an enemy shell in the camp at Maroeuil, about 5 a.m. on March 28th, 1918. He was rushed to 2/1st London Field Ambulance immediately, but died shortly after being admitted. He was unconscious from the time he was hit until his death.

Joseph is buried in Anzin-St Aubin British Cemetery in the village of Anzin-St Aubin, a couple of km east of Maroeuil in France. He is commemorated on the Cenotaph in Kenora, Ontario, on the Kenora Legion War memorial and on the Roll of Honour for the Canadian Pacific Railway Company. During the war over 11,000 CPR employees enlisted and 1,116 of them gave their lives.

His son William Thomas was wounded twice but he survived the war. Mary passed away in Kenora in 1937, at age 66, and she’s buried in Lake of the Woods Cemetery. At least two of their sons are also buried there: Joseph (1905-1978) and Roy (1910-1980).

Daughter Florence married Kenora resident Morton Frank Guest, a veteran of the war. In the 1930s they moved to Winnipeg. Florence died there in 1961 and she’s buried beside her husband in Brookside Cemetery.

Brown-Joseph-90 Brown-Joseph-91

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