Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthApril 27, 1882
Place of BirthUpper Clyde, Shelburne County, Nova Scotia
Marital StatusMarried
Next of KinMrs Nellie Lizzie McKay, wife, Kenora, Ontario
Trade / CallingLocomotive Engineer
Service Details
Regimental Number2125018
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 Enlistment34
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathFebruary 7, 1951
Age at Death69
Buried AtLake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario

McKay, Archie Kenneth

Archie Kenneth McKay was born on 27 April 1882 in Upper Clyde in the county of Shelburne in Nova Scotia. His father James Lewis McKay was from Upper Clyde, while his mother Elizabeth Barss Smith was from nearby Brookfield. The couple married in Brookfield on 29 September 1875. Children born to the family were Otis Dana (abt 1877), Lena Sophia (abt 1878), Rosie Evangeline (1879), Nettie L (abt 1881), Archie, Freeman Mortimer (abt 1883), and Lewis Victor (abt 1884). Early documents gave Archie’s father’s occupation as lumberman while later ones listed him as farmer. After Archie’s mother’s death in 1886, his father later married Sarah Matilda McDonald. Children added to the family were Bessie Alton (1888), John Anderson (1890), Franklin Collins (1891), Nellie (1894), and Lolia (1895).

At some point after the 1901 Canada census Archie and some of his siblings headed west. By 1906 Archie was living in Kenora in northwestern Ontario where he had begun working for the Canadian Pacific Railway as a wiper. It appears that he later worked as a fireman before being promoted to engineer in 1911. On 30 December 1915, in Kenora, Archie married Angela Ludovica (Nellie Lizzie) Rubka. Born in Poland in 1896, she had immigrated to Canada in 1911. The next year Archie and Nellie gave birth to a son, Lewis James.

With occupation given as locomotive engineer, Archie signed his attestation papers on 30 January 1917 in Winnipeg. He gave his wife Nellie in Kenora as next of kin, and probably to appear younger, his gave his birth year as 1884. A Kenora newspaper article of the seventh of February spoke of Archie, 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, Archie embarked from Halifax aboard the Ausonia on 4 March 1917. Once in England he was promoted to Sergeant on the 23rd. 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’

According to the CGWP site, Archie was cited for an award for his actions on 9 April 1918 where he saved railway cars of ammunition from a burning ammunition dump at great personal risk. In late August of 1918 he was granted a fourteen day leave to Paris. Shortly after his return, on the 16th of September, he was injured while on duty. ‘While going around a curve the apron on footplate of engine between engine and tender caught left foot, and crushed it against the box seat in cab.’ He was invalided to England and admitted to the 4th Canadian General Hospital at Basingstoke in Hampshire on the 22nd of September. He was transferred to the Princess Patricia Canadian Red Cross Hospital at Bexhill in Sussex in mid November. Discharged in late November, Archie was posted to the Canadian Railway Troops Depot at Purfleet in Essex.

Archie arrived back in Canada on 17 January 1919 aboard the Olympic, disembarking at Halifax. He was discharged on demobilization on the 20th of February in Winnipeg.

Archie returned to Kenora and resumed working for the Canadian Pacific Railway, retiring as an engineer in 1947. The couple gave birth to another son, Ray ‘Archie’. Archie was active in sports and in his younger years was an amateur boxer of note. He was a member of the Kenora Branch of the Canadian Legion, Pequonga Lodge AF and AM, the Royal Arch Masons, and the brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers.

Archie died on 7 February 1951 in Kenora. At the time of his death he was survived by his wife and two sons, brothers Frank and Jack in Winnipeg, and sisters Mrs J Davis in Upper Clyde and Mrs J Leach in Long Beach, California. His wife Angela Ludovica (Nellie) died in 1976 in Kenora. She is interred with Archie in the Lake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora.

At least one of Archie’s brothers also served during the war. Lewis Victor McKay signed his attestation papers in Dauphin, Manitoba on 20 January 1917 and went overseas with the 3rd Reinforcing Draft of the 230th Forestry Battalion, embarking from Halifax on the 3rd of March on the Ausonia. Details of his service are unknown. He returned to Canada aboard the Cassandra, disembarking in Saint John, New Brunswick on 6 March 1919.

by Judy Stockham