Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthDecember 8, 1872
Place of BirthInverness
Marital StatusMarried
Next of KinMrs. Christina McAskill (wife), Kenora, Ontario
Trade / CallingTuber (boilersmith)
Service Details
Regimental Number198904
Service RecordLink to Service Record
Battalion12th Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Railway Troops
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentKenora, Ontario
Address at EnlistmentKenora, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentFebruary 4, 1916
Age at Enlistment43
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathJanuary 18, 1939
Age at Death66
Buried AtLake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario
PlotElmwood Circle, 39E-17-4

McAskill, Kenneth

Private Kenneth McAskill was 43 years old and married when he enlisted in Kenora in February 1916. He spent two and a half years overseas, including 13 months in France with the 12th Battalion, Canadian Railway Troops.

Kenneth grew up on a small island in the Outer Hebrides, an island chain off the northwest coast of Scotland. His father Peter (McAskill/MacAskill) was a farmer, crofter and fisherman. Peter married Ann MacAskill in 1867 in Bernera, Outer Hebrides, Inverness-shire and they had at least four children: Roderick, Kenneth, Mary and Margaret. Kenneth, the second oldest, was born in Bernera on 8 December 1872. He later said he served for nine years with the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders, an infantry unit in the British Army, and it would have been during the 1890s.

By 1904 Kenneth was living in the city of Glasgow, Scotland and working as a police constable. He was married in Glasgow on 16 March 1904 to Christina McRae, the daughter of John and Catherine McRae of Inverness-shire. Christina was 33 years old and working as a domestic servant in Glasgow at the time of their marriage. Five years later Kenneth immigrated to Canada, arriving in July 1909 on the SS Pretorian with his destination listed as Winnipeg. His brother Roderick was travelling with him but he was on his way to BC. By the following spring Kenneth had settled in Kenora and his wife joined him there, arriving in Canada on the SS Pretorian in May 1910. When the 1911 census was taken they were living on School Street and Kenneth was working for the Canadian Pacific Railway.

In August 1915 the war entered its second year and that fall a new unit, the 94th Overseas Battalion, was organized in Port Arthur. It was recruited in towns throughout northwestern Ontario and Kenneth enlisted in Kenora on 4 February 1916. He was 43 years old, although he passed himself off as two years younger, and his trade was listed as tuber (boilersmith). In May the local volunteers were sent to Port Arthur to join the rest of the unit and two weeks later they left for Quebec. The 94th Battalion spent a short time at Valcartier Camp before embarking from Halifax on 28 June on the SS Olympic. In England the recruits were absorbed into reserve battalions to be used as reinforcements for other units.

Kenneth spent the next 16 months in England with the 17th Reserve Battalion, the 30th Reserve Battalion and the Canadian Ordnance Corps. In December he was ill with myalgia and the medical report recorded his age correctly as 44. In November 1917 Kenneth was declared fit for overseas service and he was sent to France to be posted to the 85th Battalion. However he never joined the battalion in the field and instead he was transferred to the Canadian Labour Pool. In late November the 2nd Canadian Labour Battalion was reorganized as the 12th Battalion, Canadian Railway Troops and Kenneth was transferred to the new unit. He served in France with the 12th Battalion for the next 13 months.

Throughout the war railroads were essential for moving troops, equipment and supplies and railway battalions were involved in all aspects of their construction and maintenance. When Kenneth joined the 12th Battalion they were based in the area southwest of Cambrai. Work listed in their war diary included laying steel, ballasting, grading, surfacing, bridge and culvert work, repairing track, clearing ditches, salvaging material, loading and unloading material and supplies, erecting huts, installing wells and carrying out day and night patrols. At times they worked with Chinese, Indian and Italian labour companies as well as prisoners of war. In April 1918 the battalion moved to the coast, south of Etaples, where they spent about four months before returning to the Cambrai area for the final months of the war.

On 20 November, nine days after the Armistice, Kenneth was given two weeks leave in the UK. Work continued as usual until the third week in December when his battalion left for the coast, arriving in Etaples on 24 December. Early in January 1919 they moved to Le Havre and embarked from there for England on 6 January on the SS Kashmir. Kenneth left for Canada on 19 January on the SS Baltic, landing at Halifax a week later and getting 14 days landing leave. He was officially discharged on demobilization on 7 March in Winnipeg.

After the war Kenneth and his wife stayed in Kenora and he had a long career with the Canadian Pacific Railway. He passed away in the Kenora General Hospital on 18 January 1939, at age 66, after an illness of a few months. Christina died in 1942, at age 71, and they are both buried in Lake of the Woods Cemetery.

By Becky Johnson

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