Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthNovember 3, 1893
Place of BirthKenora, Ontario
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinRobert Spence Sr, father, 654 Mulvey Avenue, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Trade / CallingMachinist
Service Details
Regimental Number2293805/270356
Service Record Link to Service Record
BattalionRoyal Air Force (Canada)
ForceAir Force
BranchRoyal Air Force
Enlisted / ConscriptedConscripted
Address at Enlistment654 Mulvey Avenue, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Date of EnlistmentApril 22, 1918
Age at Enlistment24
Theatre of ServiceCanada
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathApril 6, 1969
Age at Death75
Buried AtKildonan Presbyterian Cemetery, Winnipeg, Manitoba

Spence, Robert

Robert Spence was born on 3 November 1893 in Rat Portage (later renamed Kenora) in northwestern Ontario. His parents Robert Spence and Elizabeth Park Johnston were both from the Orkneys in Scotland, marrying on 21 June 1888 in Burray, South Ronaldshay. At the time Robert, a widower, was working as a fisherman. Later that year the couple gave birth to daughter Jane Johnston (Jean). At the time of the 1891 Scotland the family was living with Elizabeth’s parents and some of her siblings in Waddle, South Ronaldshay and Burray where Robert was listed as a farmer. By 1893 and the birth of Robert the family had immigrated to Canada, settling in Rat Portage where Robert Sr worked as a boilermaker for the railroad. Daughter Ivy was born in 1895. By the 1911 census the family was living in Brandon, Manitoba and then were in Winnipeg by the 1916 census.

Drafted under the Military Service Act of 1917, Robert signed his recruitment papers on 22 April 1918 in Winnipeg. His occupation was given as machinist, his father Robert in Winnipeg as next of kin, and date of birth as 3 November 1892. As a Private with the Squadron Regimental Depot of Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians), Robert was discharged from service in order to re-enlist with the Royal Air Force on 26 July 1918 at Sarcee Camp in Alberta. Attesting with the Royal Air Force on 30 July, Robert joined the force at Toronto on 7 August, rank of 3rd Air Mechanic. He was discharged from service on 8 January 1919 in consequence of being surplus to RAF requirements. At the time of both discharges Robert’s conduct and character were described as very good, sober and attentive to duty.

Robert was living with his parents and sister Jean in Winnipeg for the 1921 census, both Roberts listed as working as machinists for a railway shop. On 20 November 1925, in Winnipeg, Robert married Grace Gold. Born in 1901 in Hamilton, Lanarkshire in Scotland, Grace was the daughter of Daniel Gold and Barbara White. After the death of her father in 1910, her mother and some of her siblings immigrated to Canada. Arriving in Quebec on the Scotian on 10 July 1911, they eventually settled in Winnipeg. Grace’s brother Alexander enlisted with the 43rd Battalion in Winnipeg in January of 1915, transferring to the 16th Battalion once overseas. He was reported as killed in action on 16 May 1916 in the trenches in the vicinity of Zillebeke (Hill 60). Alexander is interred in the Larch Wood (Railway Cutting) Cemetery in Zillebeke in Belgium.

Robert and Grace were to make Winnipeg their home, giving birth to one child, daughter Betty. Robert worked for the Canadian National Railway for forty-three years, for many years as a foreman. He was a member of the Railway Supervisor’s Association and a life member of the Ionic Lodge No 25 AF and AM.

Robert died on 6 April 1969 at the Winnipeg General Hospital. At the time of his death he was survived by his wife Grace, daughter Betty and husband John Bain in Ottawa, five grandchildren, and his sister Jean Titus in Calgary who later died in 1976. He was predeceased by his father Robert (1941), mother Elizabeth (1946), and sister Ivy (Gordon) Sampson (1966), all in the Winnipeg area. Robert’s wife Grace died on 17 August 1983 in the Misericordia Hospital, predeceased by their daughter Betty in November 1982. Robert and Grace are interred in the Kildonan Presbyterian Cemetery in Winnipeg.

By Judy Stockham

Grave marker photograph by Del Barkley,

« Back To Soldier Biographies