Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthOctober 29, 1894
Place of BirthWinnipeg, Manitoba
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinMrs Roany Sigurdson, mother, 958 Ingersoll Avenue, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Trade / CallingLocomotive Fireman
Service Details
Regimental Number2025026
Service Record Link to Service Record
BattalionNo 58 Broad Gauge Railway Operating Company
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Railway Troops
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Address at Enlistment958 Ingersoll Avenue, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Date of EnlistmentJanuary 30, 1917
Age at Enlistment22
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathOctober 8, 1957
Age at Death63
Buried AtFraser Cemetery, New Westminster, BC

Sigurdson, Oliver Emile (Oley)

Oliver Emile (Oley) Sigurdson was born on 29 October 1894 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. His parents Teibur (Tait) Sigurdson and Gudrun (Rooney) Thorsteindottir were both from Iceland, immigration year given as 1888 in various censuses. The couple first lived in Sayreville, New Jersey in the United States where they gave birth to daughter Johanna that year. By 1891 they were living in Winnipeg, giving birth to children Kristjan Gudmundur (Christian) (1891), Adaletienn (Allan) (1892), Oley, Helgi Fredrik (1896), and Helga Kristianna (1899). Sadly Helgi died during the summer of 1900. At the time of the 1906 census the family was farming in the Interlake area of Manitoba between Lundar and Oak Point but by the 1911 census they were back in the Winnipeg area, living on Noble Avenue listed as in Selkirk (the street now part of Winnipeg) where Tait was working as a labourer at odd jobs. By the 1916 census the family was living on 1st Street in Selkirk where Tait was working as a painter.

At some point Oley moved to Kenora, Ontario where he found work as a locomotive fireman with the Canadian Pacific Railway. On 30 January 1917, in Winnipeg, he signed his attestation papers, enlisting with the Canadian Railway Troops. His next of kin was given as his mother on Ingersoll Avenue, address later changed to a post office box in West Selkirk. Previous military service was given as with the 98th Light Infantry.

A Kenora newspaper article of the seventh of February spoke of Oley, 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, he embarked from Halifax aboard the Ausonia on 4 March 1917.

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′.

In late June of 1917 Oley sustained shrapnel wounds to his face. He was first admitted to the 9th Australian Field Ambulance on the 27th, transferred to a Casualty Clearing Station, and then admitted to the No 7 Canadian General Hospital in Etaples on the 28th. In mid July his was transferred to the No 6 Convalescent Depot in Etaples, discharged to Details Camp on the 17th, and rejoining his unit in late November. Oley was granted two leaves in France, the first in mid July of 1918 and the second one that September. In mid November he was admitted to the No 9 General Hospital in Rouen with PUO, fever of unknown origin. First transferred to the No 73 General Hospital in Trouville on the 17th, he was admitted to the 14th Convalescent Depot in Trouville on the 29th, diagnosis ‘debility’. In early February of 1919 Oley was admitted to the 1st Canadian General Hospital in Trouville with influenza and was invalided sick to England a couple of days later. Admitted to the 2/1st South General Hospital on Dudley Road in Birmingham, Oley was transferred to the Military Convalescent Hospital, Woodcote Park, in Epsom on the 17th, with discharge on the 12th of March. Oley embarked for Canada aboard the Belgic on 16 April and was discharged from service on demobilization on the 27th in Winnipeg, rank of Sapper.

Both of Oley’s brothers served during the war. Christian enlisted in September of 1914 in Yorkton, Saskatchewan and served overseas with the 5th Battalion. He sustained a shrapnel wound to the side/back at Ypres in June of 1916 and returned to Canada in March of 1917. He died in August of 1923 and is interred in the Yorkton City Cemetery. Oley’s brother Allan enlisted with the 44th Battalion in April of 1915 in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba. Transferring to the 5th Battalion for duty overseas, he was reported as killed in action on 26 September 1916. With no known grave, Allan is commemorated on the Vimy Memorial, Pas de Calais, France. He is also commemorated on the Selkirk Manitoba War Memorial.

By the time of the 1921 census Oley was living with his parents, brother Christian, and a nephew near Preeceville in Saskatchewan where his father had rented a farm. At some point he married Mabel Irene Cote. Born on 3 June 1912 in Estevan, Saskatchewan, Mabel was the daughter of Jean Baptiste Cote and Ethel Marvin. By the mid 1940’s Oley and Mabel had relocated to Port Moody in British Columbia where they farmed. Known children born to the family were Edna (1933-2007), Evelyn Helga (1934-1988), John Oliver (1937), James Theodore (1944-1949), Delores Blanche (1945-1985) while a family tree on ancestry also lists other children as Ethel (1934), Helen (1941), Dale (1952), Joel, and Eileen.

Although living in Port Moody, Oley died on 8 October 1957 in the Shaughnessy Hospital in Vancouver. At the time of his death he was survived by his wife Mabel, two sons, six daughters, and eleven grandchildren. He is interred in the Field of Honour in Fraser Cemetery in New Westminster, BC. Mabel later died on 1 August 1987 in Kamloops, BC and is interred in the Hillside Cemetery in Kamloops.

By Judy Stockham

Oliver’s grave marker photograph by Jason Vanderhill,
Oliver’s obituary provided by Mike Melen
Mabel’s grave marker photograph by Terry James,

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