|Date of Birth||March 4, 1894|
|Place of Birth||Thornbury, Gloucestershire|
|Next of Kin||Maria Cripps (mother), Austin, Manitoba|
|Trade / Calling||Fireman|
|Religion||Church of England|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Battalion||No. 58 Broad Gauge Railway Operating Company|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Branch||Canadian Railway Troops|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Address at Enlistment||Kenora, Ontario|
|Date of Enlistment||January 30, 1917|
|Age at Enlistment||22|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||April 27, 1970|
|Age at Death||76|
|Buried At||Stonewall Cemetery, Stonewall, Manitoba|
Sapper Arthur Charles Cripps enlisted with a railway unit in January 1917 and served in France and Belgium for two years.
Arthur was the only son of Arthur Cripps (Sr.) and Maria Moore of Thornbury, Gloucestershire, England. His father had grown up in Gloucestershire and his mother was from Somerset. They were married in 1889 and Arthur was born in Thornbury on 4 March 1894. He had three older sisters, Alice, Dorothy and Emily, and one younger sister, Ethel. Arthur’s parents were publicans, operating the Plough Inn on St. Mary Street in Thornbury. His father died in 1905 and in 1911, at age 17, Arthur immigrated to Canada. By 1917 when he enlisted he was living in Kenora, Ontario and working as a fireman for the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR). His mother had also immigrated and she was living in Austin, Manitoba.
During the war Canada played a major role in providing skilled workers for the construction and operation of railways in France and Belgium. In 1916 railroads were being expanded and more recruits were needed. Arthur enlisted in Winnipeg on 30 January 1917, signing up with No. 1 Section Skilled Railway Employees. No. 1 Section had been organized in December 1916 and it was recruited east of Winnipeg. There were about 30 other Kenora lads in the unit and on 7 February 1917, just a week after Arthur enlisted, they left Winnipeg on the first leg of their journey overseas. Their train made a brief stop in Kenora on the way through and a large crowd gathered at the station to see them off and wish them well. The recruits were sent to Montreal, where the unit had its headquarters, and early in March they embarked for the UK on the SS Ausonia. In England No. 1 Section became the 12th (Canadian) Light Railway Operating Company, Royal Engineers and three weeks later they were re-designated as No. 58 Broad Gauge Railway Operating Company (Canadians), Royal Engineers. The men were in England for only a month before being sent to France, arriving there on 19 April 1917.
During the Battle of Messines Ridge in June 1917 No. 58 Company operated just behind the combat areas where trains were used to haul troops, ammunition, supplies, ambulance units and refugees. In November 1917 Arthur spent some time at No. 1 Railway Depot and in February 1918 he had 14 days leave in the UK. Beginning in August the fighting moved into a more open phase and railways were essential for maintaining supplies to the front lines. The Armistice ended hostilities on 11 November but it would be months before most of the Canadian troops returned to England. The 1st and 2nd Canadian Divisions occupied parts of Germany while the other two divisions remained in Belgium, and the railway troops were kept busy until the spring. Arthur had a 14-day leave in Paris in December and another leave in January 1919. No. 58 Company returned to England in April, two years after first arriving in France. The unit was disbanded and the men were transferred to the Canadian Railway Training Depot. They returned to Canada the following month, arriving in Halifax on the SS Aquitania on 25 May 1919. Arthur was discharged in Montreal two days later, his intended residence listed as Austin, Manitoba where his mother was living.
After the war Arthur returned to his job with the CPR and relocated to Winnipeg. By 1928 he had changed careers and he was working as a salesman for a dairy company. In the late 1930s he married Ann Walker, the oldest daughter of Alexander and Margaret Walker. Ann had been born on 25 July 1914, ten days before the First World War started. She was working in Winnipeg as a nanny when she met Arthur. After spending a few years in Winnipeg they moved to the Tecumseh area near Stonewall, Manitoba where they took up farming. They raised four children: Arthur Jr., born in Winnipeg in 1939, and daughters Margaret, Shirley and Debbie. They were still operating their farm when Arthur passed away on 27 April 1970, at age 76. Ann survived her husband by 35 years, passing on in Winnipeg in September 2005 at age 91. They are both buried in Stonewall Cemetery.
Arthur was one of over 11,000 CPR employees who enlisted during the First World War. Every year at 11 am on November 11th the CPR stops all of its trains in North America for two minutes of silence, to pay tribute to those who served their country in war.
By Becky Johnson