Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthAugust 21, 1892
Place of BirthMiddlesborough, Yorkshire
Marital StatusMarried
Next of KinFrieda Mableson, wife, of Kenora
Trade / CallingLocomotive Engineer
Service Details
Regimental Number2125020
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 EnlistmentFebruary 1, 1917
Age at Enlistment24
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathMarch 21, 1961
Age at Death68
Buried AtLake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario

Mableson, Robert Barker

Although his date of birth on his attestation papers was given as 24 August 1893, it is likely that  Robert Barker Mableson was born on 21 August 1892 in Middlesborough, Yorkshire, England,  the date recorded on his gravemarker, as his birth was registered during the last quarter of 1892. His father Luke Mableson was from Butterwick, Lincolnshire while his mother Ada Hannah Barker was from Lund, Yorkshire. Luke and Ada had married in 1881 in the district of Sculcoates in Yorkshire. Known children born to the family were Joseph Thomas, Ethel, Ada, George Goodwin, Robert, Edith Essa, Harriet, and Eva. The 1891 census found the family in Middlesborough where Luke was working as a stevedore. By 1901 the family had relocated to nearby Coatham where Luke was a wharf foreman.

Father Luke was the first to immigrate to Canada, arriving in Montreal in May of 1906 aboard the Kensington, occupation listed as farmer and destination given as Dryden, Ontario. Robert, along with his mother Ada and  siblings Ada, George, Essa, Harriet, and Eva, arrived in Montreal in early October of 1906 aboard the Lake Manitoba, on their way to join Luke in Dryden. The 1911 Canada census found Ada and children George, Essa, Harriet, and Eva in Dryden while Luke was out in Vancouver, British Columbia at his daughter Ethel Hindle’s house and working as a carpenter.

By 1910 Robert was living in Kenora, Ontario and working as a wiper for the Canadian Pacific Railway. The 1911 census found him lodging at Philbon household on 3rd Street. At some point after arriving in 1906 and before moving to Kenora, Robert must have lived in Vancouver as he gave prior military experience with the 6th Field Company Engineers, Vancouver when he signed his attestation papers.

On 17 February 1916, in Kenora, Robert married Frieda Pauline Warttig. The daughter of Berthold Wilhelm and Amalie (née Strueffel) Warttig, Frieda was born in Velten, Germany, a community about 40 kms northeast of Berlin. Her brother Franz had arrived in Canada in 1908, followed by her parents and some of her siblings in 1912. Robert and Frieda gave birth to a son Russell Robert by the year end.

Robert signed his attestation papers in Winnipeg, Manitoba on 1 February 1917, occupation given as locomotive engineer and next of kin his wife Frieda in Kenora. He was tall for the day, measuring in at 6 feet, 2 inches. A Kenora newspaper article of the seventh of February spoke of Robert, 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, Robert embarked from Halifax aboard the Ausonia on 4 March 1917. Once in England he was promoted to 2nd Corporal on the 23rd of March. 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’ .

Robert was granted two leaves during his service, the first for two weeks to the UK in June of 1918, and the second for ten days in France in late January 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.

Once home Robert continued to work for the Canadian Pacific Railway out of Kenora, promoted to engineer in July of 1919. In addition to Russell Robert, Robert and Frieda gave birth to two more sons, Ronald Clarence and Howard James. Robert retired from the CPR on 1 September 1957.

Following a lengthy illness, Robert died on 21 March 1961 in St Joseph’s Hospital in Kenora. He is interred in the Lake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora. At the time he was survived by his wife Frieda, his sons Russell of Red Rock, Ontario and Ronald and James of Kenora, and siblings Ada, George, Essa, Harriet, and Eva. Frieda died in 1983 and is interred beside him. At the time of her death she was survived by nine grandchildren and eleven great grandchildren.

by Judy Stockham

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