Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthMarch 31, 1895
Place of BirthKenora, Ontario
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinMrs. Lottie McVeigh (mother). Stradmore Block, Winnipeg
Trade / CallingLocomotive Fireman
ReligionRoman Catholic
Service Details
Regimental Number2125019
Service RecordLink to Service Record
BattalionNo. 1 Section, Skilled Railway Employees
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Railway Troops
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentWinnipeg, Manitoba
Date of EnlistmentJanuary 30, 1917
Age at Enlistment21
Theatre of ServiceCanada
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathMarch 21, 1948
Age at Death52
Buried AtLake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario
PlotRC B - 1-24

McVeigh, William James

Private William James McVeigh enlisted with a railway unit in January 1917 and   served in Canada for three months before being discharged for medical reasons.

William was the oldest son of William Sr. and Charlotte McVeigh of Kenora, Ontario. William Sr. was born in Belfast, Ireland and after immigrating to Canada as a child he settled in Rat Portage (later called Kenora) in 1890. He married Charlotte Maria McGinnis in 1893 and they had six children, all born in Rat Portage: William, Charles, Laura, Daniel, Eleanor and Robert. Their youngest son Robert died of pneumonia in 1906, at age one. William Sr. worked for the CPR until about 1897 then got involved in several local business ventures. Over an 18-year period he owned a liquor store, constructed a commercial building, owned and operated a hotel and manufactured soft drinks.

When the 1911 census was taken William was 16 years old, living at home and working as a blacksmith’s helper. Hockey was a popular sport in Kenora and both William and his brother Charles played for local teams. Tragedy hit the family in July 1915 when their father passed away in Kenora after a short illness. The following spring Charles enlisted with a local battalion and by September 1916 he was in France. During the war Canada played a major role in providing skilled railway workers. In 1916 rail transportation in France and Belgium was being expanded and more recruits were needed. William was working for the CPR by then and he enlisted in Winnipeg on 30 January 1917, signing up with No. 1 Section Skilled Railway Employees. A week later he left Winnipeg by train with the other volunteers, on the first leg of their journey overseas, and they had a short stop in Kenora on the way through. The recruits included 32 local men and a large crowd gathered at the Kenora station to see them off and wish them well. The men continued on to Montreal then to Halifax where they embarked for England on 4 March. William however was held back in Montreal, where the unit had its headquarters. On 12 April a medical exam found he was suffering from osteomyelitis in one of his legs. After a period of treatment he was discharged as medically unfit on 12 May and he arrived home in Kenora six days later.

Not long after that William’s mother moved to Winnipeg and when the 1921 census was taken he was living with her on Edmonton Street and working for the railway. His brother Charles survived the war and went on to play professional hockey. Charles moved to the U.S. in 1924, the same year their mother passed away. In October 1927 William married a Kenora girl, Gertrude May Beaudro. Gertrude was the daughter of John and Lea Beaudro and her uncles   Silas and   Rocque (Roxy) were both veterans of the war. Roxy had played hockey with the Kenora Thistles and he was on the 1907 Thistles team that won the Stanley Cup.

William and his wife made their home in Winnipeg where he had a long career with the Canadian National Railway Company. He was still working for them when he passed away on 21 March 1948, a few days before his 53rd birthday. His funeral was held in Kenora on 24 March and he’s buried in the Catholic section of Lake of the Woods Cemetery, with his parents and infant brother Robert. William was survived by his wife, his brothers Charles and Daniel, and his sisters Laura (Mrs. William Cuthbert) and Eleanor (Mrs. Harry Frankland). His wife Gertrude died in January 1974.

By Becky Johnson

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