Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthApril 12, 1898
Place of BirthSault Sainte Marie, Ontario
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinMrs WF Haig, mother, Lynn Valley, North Vancouver
Trade / CallingFarmer
ReligionRoman Catholic
Service Details
Regimental Number489674
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion9th Battalion, CRT
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Railway Troops
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Address at EnlistmentLynn Valley, North Vancouver
Date of EnlistmentFebruary 9, 1916
Age at Enlistment17
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathMay 26, 1944
Age at Death46
Buried AtLake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario

Byers, Henry Joseph (Harry)

Although he gave his date of birth as 12 April 1896 on his attestation papers, Henry Joseph (Harry) Byers was born in 1898 in Sault Sainte Marie, Ontario. A birth record was not found but elsewhere in his records the year was 1898 and was also given in census records and his obituary. His mother was Philomene (aka Phyllis) Boissoneau. Harry was raised by his grandparents, Emery and Angelique (neé Belleville, Bellavale) Boissoneau. Emery, born in Quebec, was employed by the Hudson Bay Company as a carpenter and boatbuilder. Angelique, Philomene’s mother, was Emery’s second wife. For both the 1901 and 1911 Canada censuses for Sault Sainte Marie, Henry, with the surname given as Boissoneau, was living with his grandparents. His mother married Narcisse (aka Nelson) Soucie in 1900 but by the 1911 census was living with her parents, Henry, and some of her siblings, along with her daughter Blanche Delma who had been born in 1904.

At some point after the 1911 census, Henry, his mother, grandparents, and sister all moved out west to British Columbia. Enlisting in Vancouver on 9 February 1916, Henry gave his mother, Mrs WF (Walter Findlay) Haig as next of kin. He was living in Lynn Valley, a rural community north of North Vancouver with his mother and Walter, a police constable. Henry gave his occupation as farmer.

With the 1st Reinforcing draft of the 1st Canadian Pioneer Battalion, Harry (as he was now known as) embarked from Halifax aboard the SS Lapland on 13 March 1916, taken on strength in the field with the 1st CP by the end of June. From Library and Archives Canada: ‘Pioneer Battalions worked in conjunction with the Engineers, and continually in the Forward Area: the work in the back area being left to Labour units and Entrenching battalions. The work is varied but consists of consolidating positions captured by the infantry, tunnelling, mining, wiring, railroad work, deep dugout work and laying out, building and keeping trenches in repair.’ (RG 9, III, vol. 4454, folder 6, file 11)’.

In May of 1917 the 1st CP became known as the 9th Battalion Canadian Railway Troops. In June Harry was granted a 10 day leave of absence, and a few days after his return he suffered an injury to his foot, cause by an accident with an axe. He was out of service until July 10th. In January of 1918 he was admitted to No 107 Field Ambulance due to vomiting, rejoining the unit on the 27th. With the war’s end, Harry returned to Canada aboard the Aquitania, disembarking in Halifax on 24 January 1919.

Returning to Vancouver to live with his grandparents and sister Blanche, Harry signed attestation papers for the Permanent Force on 26 July 1919. He gave his occupation as chauffeur and his sister as next of kin. However, by the fall he was no longer with the force.

By the 1930’s Harry was living in Kenora, Ontario and working at the Katz Fish Market. On 27 April 1937, in Kenora, he married Laura Vandall. Born in 1921 in Kenora, Laura was the daughter of Adolphus and Olive (née Atkinson) Vandall. According to his obituary, Harry and Laura gave birth to five children, Phyllis (1937), Albert, Julia (1940), Henry, and William.

Predeceased by his mother Phyllis (Philomene) in 1916, his grandfather Emery in 1931, and his grandmother Angelique in 1934, all in British Columbia, Harry died on 26 May 1944 in Kenora. At the time he was survived by his wife and five children. Two months later Laura gave birth to daughter Patricia Charlotte. Harry is interred in a soldier’s plot in the Lake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora. His grave marker was replaced in 2015. Laura later married WW1 veterans Arthur Henry Waltenbery and Ford Fredrickson Day. She died on 19 February 1972 in nearby Norman and is interred in the Lake of the Woods Cemetery.

by Judy Stockham

obituary: Kenora Miner and News, 30 May 1944

Byers-Henry-Joseph-1 Byers-Henry-Joseph-3

« Back To Soldier Biographies