Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthFebruary 13, 1879
Place of BirthChelsea, London
Marital StatusMarried
Next of KinMrs Rose Harris, wife, Kenora, Ontario
Trade / CallingLocomotive Engineer
ReligionChurch of England
Service Details
Regimental Number2125008
Service Record Link to Service Record
BattalionNo 58 Broad Gauge Railway Operating Company
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Railway Troops
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Address at EnlistmentKenora, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentJanuary 30, 1917
Age at Enlistment38
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathOctober 20, 1932
Age at Death53
Buried AtLake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario

Harris, Myer

Myer Harris was born on 13 February 1879 in the Chelsea area of London, England. His forename was originally spelled as Mier but was changed along the way to Myer. His father Hyman Harris was from Spitalfields, London, while his mother Sophia Stephany was from Southwark in Surrey. The couple had married in 1875 in London. Children born to the family were Rosetta (1877), Myer, Henry (1881), Leah (1883), Ezekiel (1884), and Jane (abt 1887). Ezekiel would adopt the name Charles. Their father was a resident groundskeeper for Jewish cemeteries, first for the Queens Elms Jews Cemetery in Chelsea, and then for the Jews Cemetery in Edmonton, London. In the 1891 England census he was also listed as the ‘sexton church’.

It is thought that Myer immigrated to Canada in 1897, working first in Toronto as a gardener and then settling in Rat Portage (later renamed Kenora in 1905) in northwestern Ontario to work in the Sultana Gold Mine. In 1900, he secured work with the Canadian Pacific Railway. On 17 January 1906 he married Rose Barrell. Rose, born in Wandsworth, London in 1882, was the daughter of Daniel and Mary Ann (née Parry) Barrell. Her brother Daniel had immigrated to nearby Keewatin in 1897 and her sister Myra Ellen followed, settling in Rat Portage and marrying George Albown Moore in 1902. Rose joined her siblings and entered nursing school in Kenora. At the time of the marriage Myer’s occupation was given as fireman and Rose withdrew from nursing school. Myer’s brother Charles arrived in 1908, but died of the Spanish Flu in 1918. For the 1911 Canada census Myer, Rose and son Reginald (Reg) Derwood, were living on Second Street, Reginald born in February of 1909. A daughter Rosamond Sophia was born in February of 1913.

Myer signed his attestation papers in Winnipeg, Manitoba on 30 January 1917, occupation given as locomotive engineer and next of kin his wife Rose in Kenora. Standing 5 feet 3 inches tall, he had ‘steel grey’ eyes and grey hair. A Kenora newspaper article of the seventh of February spoke of Myer, along with 31 other Kenora men that had signed up for overseas service with the No 1 Skilled Railway Operators, passing through Kenora heading east on the first leg of the journey to the front.

Listed as a Private on the nominal rolls of the No 1 Section, Skilled Railway Employees, Myer embarked from Halifax aboard the Ausonia on 4 March 1917. Once in England he was promoted to Corporal on the 23rd of March at Aldershot. First redesignated as the 12th (Canadian) Light Railway Operating Company, Royal Engineers that March, the unit was changed to the No 58 Broad Gauge Railway Operating Company (Canadians) Royal Engineers on April 7th. The battalion arrived in France on April 19th. ‘This unit was operating lines in the immediate rear of active operations and hauled troops, ammunition, supplies, material, ambulance trains, refugees for the battles of Messines Ridge, June 1917, and the Lys, April 1918.’ (Library and Archives Canada). A description of some of the activities of the 58th Broad Gauge Operation Company was summarized in the Canadian Rail’s November December 1993 edition that marked the 75th anniversary of the end of the war: ‘The Canadian Railway Troops on World War 1’ .

Myer was granted two leaves during his service, the first for two weeks to the UK in late July of 1918, and the second for ten days in France in late February of 1919. In mid April of 1919 he proceeded to England and on the 14th of May he embarked for Canada on the first leg of his journey back to Kenora.

After the war Myer resumed working for the Canadian Pacific Railway as an engineer. The couple gave birth to another child, daughter Mary Elizabeth in 1922. Tragedy struck the Harris family in the form of a locomotive engine boiler explosion on 20 October 1932 near Dryden, Ontario that caused the deaths of three employees. Myer died instantly and Thomas O’Flaherty and John Paterson later succumbed to their injuries in the Dryden hospital. At the time Myer was survived by his wife Rose, son Reginald, daughter Rosamond of Toronto, and daughter Mary at home.

Myer, known to his friends as ‘Mike’, had been a member of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and the Kenora Board of Trade. He had been greatly interested in local mining, and was a lover of Lake of the Woods, exploring its many beauty spots in his launch from the family’s camp on one of its many islands.

On Myer’s death, his wife Rose received a lifetime pass on the CPR. She took in teachers as boarders at their large home for 5 years to supplement her income of $50 a month, before moving to Toronto with daughter Mary. In her later years she would spend the summers in Kenora at her camp on Trout Lake. Rose died in 1974 in Toronto. She is interred in the Lake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora with Myer. At the time she was survived by daughter Rosamond (Mrs JC McKellar) of Toronto, son Reginald of Bradford, Ontario, and daughter Mary (Mrs A Malton) of Sarasota, Florida. Also surviving were twelve grandchildren and twenty great grandchildren.

Myer is commemorated on the St. Alban’s Pro-Cathedral First World War Roll of Honour.

by Judy Stockham and Bob McKellar

Harris-Myer-2 Harris-Myer-3 Harris-Myer-4 Harris-Myer-5 Harris-Myer-6 Harris-Myer-7 Harris-Myer-8

Wedding photograph and photograph of the Harris house contributed by grandson Bob McKellar.


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