Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthJanuary 20, 1895
Place of BirthRat Portage (Kenora), Ontario
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinThomas A. Cory (father), 361 First Street, Medicine Hat, Alberta
Trade / CallingDruggist
Service Details
Regimental Number696577
Service Record Link to Service Record
ForceAir Force
BranchRoyal Air Force
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Address at Enlistment361 First Street, Medicine Hat, Alberta
Date of EnlistmentApril 24, 1916
Age at Enlistment21
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of Death19731116
Age at Death78
Buried AtCremated (North Shore Crematorium, North Vancouver)

Cory, Wilbur Albert

Flight Second Lieutenant Wilbur Albert Cory enlisted in April 1916 and served with infantry units for two years before transferring to the Royal Air Force. He trained as a marine fleet observer and returned to Canada in the spring of 1919.

Wilbur was the youngest son of Thomas Augustine Cory and Rachel Maude Dunphy of Medicine Hat, Alberta. Thomas emigrated from England as a child and Rachel was born in Ontario. By 1891 they were married and living in the town of Rat Portage (later called Kenora), in northwestern Ontario. Thomas worked as a brakeman and he went on to have a long career with the Canadian Pacific Railway. He and his wife had three children born in Rat Portage: Mabel Maud (1890), Milton (1893) and Wilbur (20 January 1895). When Wilbur was still very young his family moved to Cranbrook, British Columbia and the youngest child, daughter Ila, was born there in 1903. A few years later they moved again, this time to Medicine Hat, Alberta. When the 1911 census was taken they were living on Main Street and Thomas was a railway conductor.

Wilbur turned 21 in January 1916 and he enlisted three months later, signing up in Medicine Hat on 24 April with the 175th (Medicine Hat) Battalion. During the summer the recruits trained at Sarcee Camp near Calgary. They headed overseas in the fall, embarking from Halifax on 4 October on the SS Saxonia and arriving in Liverpool nine days later. Wilbur was admitted to Raven’s Croft Military Hospital in Seaford the day after Christmas, having contracted German measles. He was discharged from the hospital on 5 January 1917 and on 10 January his unit was absorbed by the 21st (Alberta) Reserve Battalion.

Wilbur trained for another eight months in England. On 7 September he was transferred to the 50th Battalion (Calgary Regiment) and sent to France. When he joined his new unit in the field later that month they were in the Lens-Arras sector, where the Canadians would spend the winter and spring holding the front line. Wilbur served temporarily with the 182nd Tunnelling Company, Royal Engineers for most of January 1918, then he was back with his unit for a few months. On 11 May he was sent to England with a view of getting a commission in the Royal Air Force. He attended a school of armament for three months, starting on 5 June. On 13 September he was discharged from the army and accepted into the Royal Air Force as a cadet.

Wilbur was posted to the Royal Air Force base at Eastchurch, on the southeast coast of England, and he served as a Marine (Fleet) Observer. He was promoted to Second Lieutenant in February 1919. By then air force operations were winding down and he was discharged on demobilization on 29 March at Shorncliffe Camp in Kent. He was awarded the Victory Medal and British War Medal.

When the 1921 census was taken Wilbur was living at home in Medicine Hat, listed as 26 years old and a college student. Later that same year he was married to 23-year-old Gladdis Grace Johnson. Gladdis was born in 1898 in Nebraska, the only daughter of James Henry and Anna Marsh Johnson. Her family lived in Olds, Alberta where her father was a hay merchant. During the First World War her oldest brother Francis Kirk Johnson served with the French Army (earning the Croix de Guerre), the American Field Service and the Alberta Regiment.

Wilbur and Gladdis had two sons, Gordon Johnson (1922) and Allan Milton (1927). By the time Allan was born they were living in the town of Brooks, where Wilbur owned and operated a drug store. He was very involved in the community, becoming a member of a local orchestra, playing sports and serving as town councillor. Sadly, Gladdis died in March 1933, at age 35, and she’s buried in Hillside Cemetery in Medicine Hat. Wilbur was married again on 27 February 1935 in Banff. His second wife, Helen Barbara McRae, was from Calgary. She was born in 1895 in North Bay, Ontario, the daughter of Alexander and Catherine McRae.

Wilbur stayed in Brooks for another five years. In late 1940 he and his wife moved to Vancouver, where his widowed father was living. During the Second World War their oldest son Gordon served in the Royal Canadian Air Force. He was killed in an air operation in March 1943 and he’s buried in Uden War Cemetery in the Netherlands. Wilbur retired in 1965 and his wife died two years later. In August 1973 he moved to the town of Hope in the Fraser Valley, where his son Allan lived. Wilbur passed away in Hope on 16 November 1973, at age 78.

By Becky Johnson

Cory-Wilbur-Albert-90 Cory-Wilbur-Albert-91 Cory-Wilbur-Albert-92

Photos courtesy of Ehrhart public tree on ancestry.

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