Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthApril 30, 1896
Place of BirthTownship of Onslow, Quebec
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinMrs Helena Coghlan, mother, 328 Morse Street, Port Arthur, Ontario
Trade / CallingAviator Cadet, Assistant Accountant
Service Details
Regimental NumberCan 154510
Service RecordSee images below
BattalionRoyal Air Force (Canada)
ForceAir Force
BranchRoyal Air Force
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Address at Enlistment328 Morse Street, Port Arthur, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentJanuary 24, 1918
Age at Enlistment21
Theatre of ServiceCanada
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathSeptember 24, 1969
Age at Death73
Buried AtRiverside Cemetery, Thunder Bay, Ontario

Coghlan, Alfred Birkett

Alfred Birkett Coghlan was born on 30 April 1896 in the township of South Onslow, Pontiac in Quebec. The area had been settled by Irish immigrants escaping the potato famine and both sets of Alfred’s grandparents were among them. His parents William Coghlan and Helena Craig were born and raised in the Onslow area, marrying on 9 January 1890 down and across the river in Ottawa. William and Helena farmed in the Onslow area for a number of years, giving birth to children Blanche (1891-1984), Alfred, and Harvey (1897-1968). At some point after the 1911 census the family moved to Port Arthur, Ontario where sadly William, working as a saw filer, died in 1914.

Although he gave his home address as Port Arthur when he attested with the Royal Flying Corps in Winnipeg on 24 January 1918, Alfred had been working as an assistant accountant with the Canadian National Railway out of Capreol, Ontario, now a suburb of Sudbury. On 1 April 1918 the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Naval Air Service were amalgamated to form the Royal Air Force and he was transferred to the RAF.    Having served in Canada, Alfred was discharged in consequences of being surplus to RAF requirements on 1 January 1919. On 5 March 1920 Alfred, a Canadian Cadet, was granted a honourary commission as 2nd Lieutenant, with effect, from date of demobilization.

On 15 January 1927, in the United Church Hospital Mission in Montreal, Alfred married Kathleen Florence Beamish. The daughter of Thomas Lorne Beamish and Bernice Walker, Kathleen was their first child, born on 20 June 1907 in Weyburn, Saskatchewan. Sadly her mother died that summer and her father later married Lillian McGowan in Winnipeg in 1913. Signing his attestation papers in Victoria, British Columbia, Thomas went overseas with the 48th Battalion and then on to France/Belgium to serve with the 3rd Pioneer Battalion. Thomas was reported as killed in action on 3 June 1916 and is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial. The 1921 census found Kathleen living with her maternal grandmother in Schreiber, Ontario while Alfred was living in Port Arthur at the time of the marriage.

For many years Alfred worked for Crawley and McCracken Contractors, living and working for the company in Port Arthur and in Kenora. The couple gave birth to four children, sons Lorne, Donald, and Robert, and daughter Ethel Joan. Predeceased by his mother Helena in 1944 and his brother Harvey in 1968, both in Port Arthur, Alfred died on 24 September 1969. His wife Kathleen died on 9 December 1975. At the time of her death she was survived by sons Lorne of Warren, Michigan, Donald and Robert of Los Angeles, California, and daughter Joan (Rene) Uvanile of Nanaimo, British Columbia as well as sister-in-law Blanche Bennett of Ottawa. She was also survived by nine grandchildren. Alfred and Kathleen are interred in the Riverside Cemetery in Thunder Bay.

By Judy Stockham

gravemarker photos: courtesy of Lynda Piilo
obituaries: provided by the Thunder Bay Public Library


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