Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthOctober 5, 1883
Place of BirthDuntisbourne Abbotts, Gloucestershire
Marital StatusMarried
Next of KinEdith Sarah Middlecote (wife), Kenora, Ontario
Trade / CallingLocomotive Engineer
ReligionChurch of England
Service Details
Regimental Number439084
Service RecordLink to Service Record
Battalion85th Canadian Engineer Crew Company
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Railway Troops
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentKenora, Ontario
Address at EnlistmentKenora, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentJanuary 22, 1915
Age at Enlistment31
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathJanuary 19, 1975
Age at Death91
Buried AtBrookside Cemetery, Winnipeg, Manitoba

Middlecote, Lewis

Sapper Lewis Middlecote was married and the father of two young children when he enlisted in Kenora, Ontario in January 1915. He served overseas for three and a half years, the last sixteen months with a railway unit in France.

Lewis was the son of Thomas and Sarah Jane Middlecote of Cranham, Gloucestershire, England. His parents were married in 1875 and Lewis, the third and youngest child, was born on 5 October 1883 in Duntisbourne Abbotts, Gloucestershire. He had a sister Rose who was three years older than him and a brother Frank who died at age 3. His father Thomas worked as a stone mason and later as a steam engine driver.

Lewis immigrated to Canada in 1907, at age 23, arriving in Montreal on 9 June on the SS Dominion. He was listed as a stone mason going to Winnipeg, Manitoba. After a short stay in Winnipeg he moved to Kenora, Ontario where he worked for the Canadian Pacific Railway. In the spring of 1910 he made a trip home to England where he married Edith Sarah Russell. Their wedding was on 17 May and they left for Canada three days later on the Empress of Britain. Lewis and Edith settled in Kenora and raised three children: a son Leslie Russell, and daughters Sylvia and Phyllis. Lewis worked for the CPR as a fireman and by 1912 he was an engineer.

The war started in August 1914 and Lewis enlisted five months later, when recruits were being raised for a third overseas contingent. He signed up in Kenora on 22 January 1915. In March the volunteers were transferred to the newly-organized 52nd Overseas Battalion, which was based in Port Arthur and recruited in towns throughout northwestern Ontario. The Kenora lads were sent to Port Arthur in June to join the rest of the unit. While they were training the 1st Canadian Division was fighting in France and Belgium. Men were needed to replace casualties in the front line units and battalions in Canada were asked to send reinforcements. Lewis was sent to England with the 2nd Reinforcing Draft, one of 250 men from the 52nd Battalion. They embarked from Montreal on the SS Missanabie on 4 September 1915 and arrived in the UK nine days later.

Lewis was assigned to the 12th Reserve Battalion to continue his training in England. He also served temporarily with other units. Starting in December 1915 he was employed in the battalion orderly room and on 10 May 1916 he was promoted to Lance Corporal. He served as a batman at the Canadian Musketry School for five months, from August 1916 to mid-January 1917. On 22 January he was awarded his good conduct badge for two years of continuous service. That same month he was transferred to the Canadian Railway Troops Depot at Purfleet and in April he was promoted to Acting Sergeant.

In November 1917 a new unit, the 85th Canadian Engineer Crew Company, was organized at Purfleet. The company was known at first as No. 4 Section Skilled Railway Employees and it was made up of about 100 engine crews, approximately 300 men. Lewis reverted to the ranks in order to join the new unit and go to France with them. He landed at Boulogne on 12 December and served with the 85th for the next 16 months. The Armistice ended hostilities in November 1918 and in December Lewis had two weeks leave in the UK. His unit returned to England on 18 April 1919 and he embarked for Canada on 14 May, landing at Halifax ten days later. He was discharged on demobilization on 28 May in Port Arthur and he arrived home in Kenora the next day.

After the war Lewis and Edith lived in Kenora for about five years before moving to Winnipeg. Lewis had a long career with the CPR, retiring on 31 October 1948 after 41 years of service. His wife died in the Winnipeg General Hospital in May 1966, at age 82. Lewis passed away at home on 19 January 1975, at age 91. His son Leslie died a year later and they are all buried at Brookside Cemetery in Winnipeg, along with Leslie’s wife Dorothy.

Lewis is commemorated on a WW1 memorial plaque at St. James the Great Church in Cranham, Gloucestershire, England. In Kenora he is commemorated on the St. Alban’s Pro-Cathedral First World War Roll of Honour.

By Becky Johnson

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