Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthSeptember 13, 1877
Place of BirthLondon
Marital StatusMarried
Next of KinRachel Jarrett (wife), 525 Fourth Street North, Kenora, Ontario
Trade / CallingCar Repairer
Service Details
Regimental Number2125294
Service RecordLink to Service Record
Battalion13th Light Railway Operating Company
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Railway Troops
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Address at Enlistment525 Fourth Street North, Kenora, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentMarch 12, 1917
Age at Enlistment39
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathJanuary 16, 1921
Age at Death43
Buried AtLake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario
PlotHistory Haven Block East, 6E-39-1

Jarrett, William Joseph

Corporal William Joseph Jarrett was married and the father of six children when he enlisted in March 1917. He survived the war and returned home in 1919 but less than two years later he was killed in a train accident at work.

William was born in London, England on 13 September 1877, the youngest child and only son of Samuel Thorne Jarrett and Mary Ann Burton. His parents both grew up in London and they were married in Westminster in 1861. His father was a brass finisher and gas fitter and his mother worked as a mantle maker. William had four older sisters: Mary Ann, Clara, Rosetta and Louise. Several other children died as infants. William’s father passed away in Camberwell, London in 1885, when he was eight years old. The family continued to live in Camberwell and at the time of the 1891 census William was employed as a messenger boy. He later said he had seven years experience with the Middlesex Engineers and it would have been in the 1890s. When the 1901 census was taken he was 23, living at home and working as a mechanical engineer, a trade he likely learned during his military service. The following year he immigrated to Canada, embarking from Liverpool on the SS Parisian and arriving in Montreal on 4 September 1902.

William settled in Port Hope, Ontario where he found work as a machinist. Miss Emma Rachel Hulford arrived in Montreal from England on 25 September 1903 and she married William in Port Hope on 30 September. She was a year younger than William and also from London. By 1906 they had moved west to Kenora, Ontario, where William was hired as a car repairer for the Canadian Pacific Railway. Over the next nine years they had five daughters: Edith, Ethel, Edna, Grace and Ruth. Their sixth and youngest child, son William Frederick, was born in the fall of 1916.

The war was in its third year by then and William enlisted the following spring, signing up in Winnipeg on 12 March 1917. He was 39 years old, 5’5″ with dark hair and blue eyes and he was found fit for overseas service. Several new railway battalions were being raised in Canada and William joined No. 2 Section Skilled Railway Employees. He was one of nine men from the Kenora area who enlisted with the unit. When they left town on 16 March a large crowd gathered at the train station to see them on their way and wish them well. A month later the men embarked from Halifax on the SS Grampian and in England their unit was renamed No. 13 Light Railway Operating Company, Royal Engineers. After a few weeks of training the company was sent to France, arriving at Le Havre on 10 June 1917. That fall they were renamed once again, becoming No. 13 Canadian Light Railway Operating Company.

Between June and November 1917 the Allied armies took part in several major battles, including Hill 70 and Passchendaele, and over the winter and spring the Canadians held a long section of the front line near Lens in France. Railways were vital for moving troops, equipment and supplies as well as evacuating the wounded. In May 1918 William was appointed Acting Corporal with pay and two months later he was promoted to Corporal. In July he had 14 days leave in the UK and he rejoined his unit in early August for the final months of the war. The Armistice ended hostilities on 11 November and William returned to England in February 1919. He served with the Canadian Railway Troops Depot until late March when he embarked for Canada, arriving in St. John, New Brunswick on 10 April and getting officially discharged on 13 April in Port Arthur.

William returned to Kenora and resumed his job with the CPR, becoming a railway car inspector. On the morning of 16 January 1921 he was tragically killed in an accident at work. Although there were no witnesses, it appeared that he slipped from the caboose of a slow moving freight train, hit his head on the rail and was struck by the rear wheels. William was 43 years old at the time and his son was just four. His funeral was held on 19 January and he was laid to rest in Lake of the Woods Cemetery in Kenora. His wife Emma never remarried and she survived him by 30 years, passing away in Winnipeg on 19 January 1951. She is buried in Lake of the Woods Cemetery beside her husband.

During the First World War more than 11,000 employees of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company enlisted for service. Every year at 11 am on November 11th the CPR stops all of its trains in North America for two minutes of silence followed by one long whistle blast, to pay tribute to those who served their country in war.

By Becky Johnson

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