Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthJuly 10, 1893
Place of BirthRathwell, Manitoba
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinMrs. Christine K. Forbes (mother), Rathwell, Manitoba
Trade / CallingLocomotive engineer and fireman
Service Details
Regimental Number2125005
Service Record Link to Service Record
BattalionCanadian Railway Troops Depot
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Railway Troops
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Address at EnlistmentYMCA, Kenora, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentJanuary 31, 1917
Age at Enlistment23
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathMay 18, 1956
Age at Death62
Buried AtChapel Lawn Memorial Gardens, Winnipeg, Manitoba
PlotLast Supper 180C3

Forbes, Adam Archibald

Acting Sergeant Adam Archibald Forbes enlisted with a railway unit in January 1917 and served overseas for two years. In the last months of the war he trained as a potential Cadet Pilot with the Royal Air Force.

Adam was the son of Thomas Chisholm Forbes and Christina Kincaid of Rathwell, Manitoba. Thomas and Christina were married in Keady, Grey County, Ontario in February 1882 and a month later they moved to Manitoba with Thomas’ father and other family members. They homesteaded in the Rathwell area, south of Portage la Prairie. Thomas and Christina had at least nine children, all born in Manitoba: Jane, George, Robert, Frances Elizabeth, Gordon Cecil, Thomas Jr., Adam Archibald (b. 10 July 1893 in Rathwell), Alice and Charles. Adam’s father farmed at first but later worked for the railway, for a local store and for the post office. He also served as an assessor for the municipality and a Reeve. His family lived in a large brick house in Rathwell.

By the time Adam enlisted he was working for the Canadian Pacific Railway and living in Kenora, Ontario. 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 rail transportation was being expanded and more recruits were needed. Adam enlisted in Winnipeg on 31 January 1917, signing up with No. 1 Section Skilled Railway Employees. A week later he left Winnipeg by train with the other volunteers, on the first leg of their journey overseas, and they had a short stop in Kenora on the way through. The recruits included 32 local men and a large crowd gathered at the Kenora train station to see them off. The men continued on their way to Montreal, where the unit had been mobilized, and early in March they embarked for England 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.

Adam’s unit stayed in England for only a month. He was promoted to Second Corporal on 13 April 1917 and No. 58 Company arrived in France six days later. During two major battles – Messines Ridge in June 1917 and Lys in April 1918 – No. 58 Company operated just behind the combat areas where trains were needed to haul troops, ammunition, supplies, ambulance units and refugees. Adam had two weeks leave in August 1918 and when it ended he was sent to England for the purpose of getting a commission in the Royal Air Force. He was posted to the Canadian Railway Troops Depot but put on command with the RAF Cadet Distribution Depot. In September he was appointed Acting Sergeant and in December, a month after the Armistice, he returned to the Canadian Railway Troops Depot.

Adam spent another three months in the UK, embarking from Glasgow on 30 March 1919 on the SS Saturnia. He arrived in Canada on 10 April and he was discharged in Montreal the following day. His brother Gordon Cecil Forbes had also enlisted and he was killed in action in September 1916 while serving with the 29th Battalion. He is commemorated on the Rathwell War Memorial and on the Vimy Memorial in France.

When the 1921 census was taken Adam was living at home in Rathwell and working for the railway. He was married in Winnipeg on 23 January 1928. His wife, Bertha Lillian Eby, was born in 1905 in Roland, Manitoba, one of ten children of Levy and Ada Eby. Adam and Bertha had two daughters, Jean and Irene. They made their home in Winnipeg, where Adam had a long career with the CNR. Bertha’s younger brother Norris Allen Eby died in the Second World War in 1944, while serving with Lord Strathcona’s Horse, and he’s buried in Italy.

Adam passed away at his home in Winnipeg on 18 May 1956, at age 62. He’s buried at Chapel Lawn Memorial Gardens next to his brother Charles (1896-1962). His wife Bertha survived him by 43 years. She died in 1999, at age 93, and she’s buried at Waverley Memorial Gardens.

By Becky Johnson

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Photos and family information courtesy of: ‘Twixt Hill and Vale: A Story of Rathwell and Surrounding District’ (Rathwell Historical Committee, 1970).

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