Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthJanuary 29, 1895
Place of BirthBonfield, Ontario
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinMrs. John Shayer (mother), Bonfield, Ontario
Trade / CallingTrainman
ReligionRoman Catholic
Service Details
Regimental Number648806
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion5th Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Railway Troops
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentNorth Bay, Ontario
Address at EnlistmentBonfield, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentFebruary 11, 1916
Age at Enlistment21
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathJanuary 4, 1941
Age at Death45
Buried AtLake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario
Plot37E-34-2, Liberty View

Shayer, Alexander Joseph

Private Alexander Shayer enlisted in North Bay, Ontario in February 1916, at age 21. He served overseas for almost two years, most of that time with the 5th Battalion, Canadian Railway Troops, and returned to Canada in October 1918 due to illness.

Alex was the only child of John Chaillé and Cecile Deschenes of Bonfield, Nipissing District, Ontario. He was born on 29 January 1895 and baptized the following day as Joseph John Alexander Chaillé. His parents were both born in Ontario and his father worked as a lumberman. Around 1913 Alex began working for the Canadian Pacific Railway and by the time he enlisted, at age 21, he had anglicized his surname to Shayer. He signed up in the town of North Bay on 11 February 1916, joining the 159th Battalion. His address was Bonfield and he named his mother Mrs. John Shayer as next of kin but she passed away six months later, in August 1916, while he was still in Canada.

The 159th (1st Algonquins) Battalion was recruited in the districts of Nipissing and Sudbury and based in Haileybury, 100 km north of Bonfield. After training over the summer and fall the men embarked from Halifax on 1 November on the Empress of Britain and arrived in England about ten days later. In January 1917 the recruits were absorbed into the 8th Reserve Battalion to be used as reinforcements for other units. Just a week later Alex was transferred to the 5th Battalion, Canadian Railway Troops and in February he was sent to France. He joined his new unit in the field later that same month and served with them until the following spring. During that time the Canadians were at the battles of Vimy Ridge, Hill 70 and Passchendaele and railways were essential for moving troops, equipment and supplies and for evacuating the wounded.

In February 1918 Alex spent three weeks at No. 18 Casualty Clearing Station recovering from bronchitis. On 7 March he was admitted to No. 83 General Hospital in Boulogne, still suffering from bronchitis. He was discharged to duty on 31 March. On 13 May he was transferred to the 2nd Canadian Infantry Works Battalion but two days later he was admitted to No. 57 Casualty Clearing Station. He was invalided to England in mid-June and diagnosed with diphtheria. He recovered at the County of Middlesex War Hospital for about six weeks followed by nine weeks at No. 15 Canadian General Hospital. On 1 October he was transferred to No. 5 Canadian General Hospital in Kirkdale to await his return to Canada.

Alex arrived in Halifax on 27 October on the hospital ship Araguaya. He had leave from 30 October to 13 November then spent a month in the Guelph and Whitby Military Convalescent hospitals, from 14 November to 12 December. He was discharged from the army on 18 December ‘having been found medically unfit for service.’ His character on discharge was described as very good.

After the war Alex returned to his job with the CPR and when the 1921 census was taken he was living in Chapleau, Ontario. He was the town’s enumerator for the census and he was one of several CPR employees lodging with a local farmer. In 1925 when he made a trip to Detroit to visit a friend he listed his home address as Bonfield. By 1934 he was living in the town of Kenora, in northwestern Ontario, and lodging at the Railway YMCA across from the train station. The large brick building had a restaurant, games room, library and lounge area on the main floor and sleeping quarters for 50 to 60 men on the second and third floors. In the basement were a bowling alley and gym and outside there were lawn bowling greens and tennis courts.

Alex’s father passed away in January 1934, at age 72. His death was registered as John Cheyer and he’s buried in the Roman Catholic Cemetery in Cochrane, Ontario. Alex continued working for the CPR in Kenora until his retirement due to illness. He died in the Fort William Sanatorium on 4 January 1941, at age 45, and his body was returned to Kenora for burial. He was an honorary member of the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen and his funeral, held on 8 January, was organized by the B. of R.T. and the Kenora Legion. He is buried in the veterans section of Lake of the Woods Cemetery.

By Becky Johnson

Shayer-Alexander-89 Shayer-Alexander-90


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