Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthJanuary 25, 1882
Place of BirthMaybole, Ayrshire
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinWilliam Fisher (father), PO Box 124, Keewatin, Ontario
Trade / CallingShoemaker
Service Details
Regimental Number155019
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion9th Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Railway Troops
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Address at EnlistmentKeewatin, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentNovember 2, 1915
Age at Enlistment33
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of Death19310826
Age at Death49

Fisher, William

Sapper William Fisher was one of three brothers from Keewatin, Ontario who served in the First World War. He spent more than three years overseas and returned to Canada in March 1919.

William was born on 25 January 1882 in Maybole, Ayrshire, Scotland. His parents, William Fisher Sr. and Elizabeth Armour, were married in Maybole in 1879 and they had at least eleven children: John, William, Charles, Mary, James, Janet, Elizabeth, Alexander, David, Isobel and Agnes. William immigrated to Canada in the summer of 1906, at age 24, arriving on 13 June on the SS Mongolian and going to Keewatin. Over the next few years his parents and some of his brothers and sisters joined him there. When the 1911 census was taken the family was living in Pellatt Township on the outskirts of Keewatin. William, his father and his brother James were all working at a local flour mill.

Alexander enlisted in the neighbouring town of Kenora in May 1915 and he was sent overseas that fall. William signed up next, joining the 1st Pioneer Battalion, Canadian Engineers on 2 November 1915 in Winnipeg. Three weeks later he left from Montreal with his unit, embarking on the SS Metagama and landing in England on 30 November. After three more months of training they were sent to France on 9 March 1916. Pioneer battalions worked closely with the engineers and spent a large part of their time in or near the front lines. Their work included mining, wiring, tunnelling, railway and road work, constructing water systems, and building and repairing trenches and dugouts. William’s unit was part of the 1st Canadian Division and the Canadians were at the Battles of Mount Sorrel and the Somme in 1916 and Vimy Ridge in April 1917.

In May 1917 the 1st Pioneers were re-designated as the 9th Battalion, Canadian Railway Troops. William’s new unit was involved in railway construction which included grading, ballasting, surfacing, laying track, track maintenance and loading and unloading material. William had 15 days leave in the UK in February 1918. In the last months of the war the railway troops were kept very busy with repairs, clearing debris from tracks, filling shell holes and reconstructing bridges that the Germans had destroyed. A few days after the Armistice the 9th Battalion moved into Belgium where they continued with maintenance work for another five weeks. The troops entrained for Etaples on 22 December 1918 and left for England on Christmas Day. They proceeded to the Canadian Railway Troop Depot at Witley Camp and most of the men were immediately given leave.

William went to Scotland for his leave and he was married in the parish church in Ayr on 7 January 1919. His wife was 30-year-old Elizabeth Murray, the daughter of James Murray and Mary Stevenson of Ayr. William’s leave ended the day he was married but he didn’t return to Witley Camp for another ten days. For his ‘absence without leave’ he was given 14 days field punishment no. 2 and docked 23 days pay. William headed back to Canada with his unit on 10 February on the SS Royal George, arriving via New York on 20 February. He had two weeks landing leave and he was discharged on demobilization on 20 March in Winnipeg. His brother Alexander also arrived home in February. Their brother James enlisted in 1916 and he was wounded at Vimy Ridge in April 1917. He lost his right leg below the knee and returned to Canada in December 1918.

William, Alexander and James were honoured at a ceremony in Keewatin on 4 August 1919, when badges and medals were awarded to returned veterans and the families of fallen soldiers. For returned veterans the medals were inscribed: For gallant service in the Great War 1914-1918 Keewatin Aug.4/19.

William’s wife had stayed in Scotland and he returned there in November 1919, sailing on the SS Scandinavian and arriving in Liverpool on 6 December. His occupation was listed as shoemaker and his destination Maybole. He passed away in Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland on 26 August 1931, at age 49.

William is commemorated on the Municipality of Keewatin ‘For King and Country’ 1914-1918 Honour Roll.

By Becky Johnson

baj-1919-08-06 Fisher-William-90 baj-Keewatin-plaque-image

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