Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthJuly 31, 1900
Place of BirthKenora, Ontario
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinJoseph Edward Bird (father), 1375 12th Ave. West,Vancouver, British Columbia
Trade / CallingBank Clerk
ReligionChurch of England
Service Details
Regimental Number912020
Service Record Link to Service Record
BattalionCadet Wing
ForceAir Force
BranchRoyal Air Force (Canada)
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentVancouver, British Columbia
Address at Enlistment211 Shaughnessy Lodge, Vancouver, British Columbia
Date of EnlistmentAugust 23, 1916
Age at Enlistment16
Theatre of ServiceGreat Britain
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathNovember 4, 1992
Age at Death92
Buried AtWest Coast Crematorium, Burnaby, BC

Bird, Henry James

Cadet Corporal Henry James Bird enlisted with the 196th Battalion and spent four months in England before he was sent back to Canada due to being underage. When he turned 18 he joined Royal Air Force (Canada) and trained as a cadet pilot.

Henry, usually known as Harry, was the oldest son of Joseph Edward Bird and Caroline Mary Irwin of Vancouver, British Columbia. Joseph, a lawyer and barrister, was born and raised in Barrie, Ontario and his wife was from Peterborough. They were married in the town of Rat Portage in northwestern Ontario in 1899. They had two sons, both born in Rat Portage (later renamed Kenora): Harry (31 July 1900) and Edward Irwin (1 November 1901). Around 1902 the family moved to Vancouver and when the 1911 census was taken they were living on Harwood Street, not far from Stanley Park.

In August 1916 the war entered its second year, just a few days after Harry turned 16 years old. He enlisted three weeks later, signing up with the 196th (Western Universities) Battalion in Vancouver on 23 August. The unit was mobilized in Winnipeg and recruited among college and university students in the four western provinces. Harry was working as a bank clerk for the Royal Bank when he enlisted. Two months later he headed to the east coast with his unit, on the first leg of their journey overseas. On 30 October the lads were reviewed on Parliament Hill in Ottawa by Premier Borden and General Sam Hughes. The battalion continued east, embarking from Halifax on 1 November on the SS Southland and arriving in Liverpool ten days later.

At the end of December the 196th was amalgamated with another unit to form the 19th Canadian Reserve Battalion but Harry spent only a month with the reserve unit. On 1 February 1917 he was transferred to the Canadian Discharge Depot at Buxton in order to be sent back to Canada, the reason being he was underage. He embarked from Liverpool on the SS Metagama on 5 March and landed at St. John, New Brunswick eleven days later. Harry had a medical exam on 10 April in Ottawa and he was officially discharged in Vancouver at the end of the month, ‘in consequence of being a minor.’ He was still 16 years old.

Early in 1917 the Royal Flying Corps organized a pilot training program in Canada and recruiting centres opened across the country. On 1 April 1918 the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service were amalgamated to form the Royal Air Force. Harry enlisted with Royal Air Force (Canada) in Vancouver on 22 August 1918, three weeks after his 18th birthday. He trained with them for four months, attaining the rank of Cadet Corporal, and he was discharged on 2 January 1919 due to demobilization.

Harry returned to the banking industry after the war, working as a bonds salesman, investment dealer and stock broker. He married 17-year-old Frances Vivien Brookes, a stenographer, on 21 March 1928 at St. Mark’s Church in Vancouver. Frances was born in Buckinghamshire, England on 1 January 1911, the youngest of five sisters. She came to Canada with her family when she was three months old and they settled in Vancouver. Harry and Frances raised two sons, Richard and John. Harry passed away in Cowichan District Hospital in Duncan, BC on 4 November 1992, at age 92. His wife died in Duncan in 1995, at age 84.

By Becky Johnson

Bird-Henry-James-90 Bird-Henry-James-91 Bird-Henry-James-92

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