Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthSeptember 15, 1896
Place of BirthPort Stanley, Ontario
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinFrances Birbeck, mother, 1816 San Antonia Avenue, Alameda, California, USA
Trade / CallingMisc Aviator Cadet/Bank Teller
Service Details
Regimental NumberCan 152686
ForceRoyal Flying Corps
BranchRoyal Flying Corps
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentToronto, Ontario
Address at Enlistment1816 San Antonia Avenue, Alameda, California, USA
Date of EnlistmentNovember 14, 1917
Age at Enlistment21
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathJuly 13, 1950
Age at Death53
Buried AtMountain View Cemetery, Oakland, California, USA
PlotCLM 69, 7, 4

Birbeck, Thomas Edson

Thomas Edson Birbeck was born on 15 November 1896 in Port Stanley, Ontario. According to William Shurtleff’s Shurtleff and Lawton Families: Genealogy and History and other sources, Thomas’ father Thomas Edson Birbeck was born in 1865 in Leeds, Yorkshire in England. At a young age he ran away from home and went to sea, later returning and attending Oxford to obtain a degree in engineering courtesy of an uncle. Immigrating to Canada, he met his future wife Frances Vivian Welsh. Born in 1869 in Walton Brech, Lancashire in England, as a child she had moved to Rio de Janeiro with her family, her father a banker. After her father’s death the family returned to England and then travelled on to Canada. Thomas and Frances married on 5 July 1888 in Moose Jaw. Children born to the couple in Moose Jaw were Lional James (1889), Robert Edward (1890), Beatrice Joyce (1891) and Francis Vivian (Frank) (1893). Sadly Robert died in 1891 in Moose Jaw. From there the family moved to Regina in Saskatchewan where daughter Dorothy was born in 1895 and then on to Port Stanley, Ontario by the time of Thomas’ birth. In the various places Thomas Sr worked as a Canadian Pacific Railway agent. Moving to northwestern Ontario in time for the birth of son Ivan in 1899 in Rat Portage (later renamed Kenora), the 1901 census placed the family in nearby Ash Rapids, Thomas’ occupation given as contractor. From there it appears that the family moved to Grand Forks, British Columbia where daughter Edith Elizabeth was likely born in 1902. Asked by the Mexican government to assist in the building of the El Pacifico Railroad, the family moved to Mexico City, returning to Canada aboard the Norheim on 27 October 1904. According to Shurtleff, the family lived in Virginia for awhile, then settled in Alameda City, California where Thomas Sr was working for a railroad company by the time of the 1910 US census. At some point Thomas Sr left the family.

Thomas enlisted with the Royal Flying Corps in Toronto, Ontario in Canada on 14 November 1917. Giving his mother Frances in Alameda as next of kin, he had been living at home in Alameda and working as a bank teller. Having been selected for appointment for a temporary commission, Thomas was discharged from the RFC on 28 March 1918, rank of Air Mechanic 3rd Class. Further details of his service are unknown.

Thomas’ brother Frank enlisted in March of 1918 with the US Engineer Corps and served as a Sergeant with A Company, 319th Engineers of the 8th Division at Pontanezen Barracks in Brest, France. He returned to the States in March of 1919. According to the 1930 US census, his brother Ivan also served during the war, details of his service unknown.

At the time of the 1920 US census Thomas was living in Alameda with his mother and some of his siblings and working as a salesman for a bank house. On 6 June 1925 in Belvedere, he married Eleanor Masterson. Born on 16 July 1899 in Alameda, Eleanor was the daughter of John Masterson and Maude Miller. Her parents had married on 7 September 1898 in Alameda.

Thomas and Eleanor were to make Piedmont, California their home, giving birth to two daughters, Ronalie Jean and Beverley Joan. The 1930 US census gave his occupation as a partner in bond investments while the 1940 census as an investments proprietor. When Thomas signed his WW2 Draft Registration card in April of 1942 he was working for the Bayshore Canning Corporation in Alvisa, a community about 60 kilometres south of Piedmont. According to his obituary, over the years Thomas worked as an investment broker and was the vice president and secretary-treasurer of the firm of Capwell, Sullivan, and Furth department store in Oakland. He was a member of the Athenian Nile Club and the University Clubs.

Thomas died suddenly on 13 July 1950 in Fresno, California while away on a trip. At the time of his death he was survived by his wife Eleanor, daughters Beverley and Ronalie (Robert E) James, his mother Frances of Lafayette in California, brothers Lional of Spokane, Washington, Ivan of Piedmont and Francis of Watsonville and sisters Dorothy of Lafayette, and Edith (Thomas) Allen of Santa Barbara, last four in California. He was predeceased by his infant brother and likely his father as well as his sister Beatrice Joyce (Harry) Lawton in 1948 in Seattle, Washington. His mother later died in 1951 in Contra Costa, brother Lional in 1956 in Spokane, sister Dorothy in 1975 in Contra Costa, brother Ivan in 1975 in San Leandro, and sister Edith in 1998 in Santa Maria, the latter three in California. Thomas’ wife died on 18 July 1977 in Oakland. Along with his daughter Beverley and other Birbeck family members, Thomas is interred in Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland.

By Judy Stockham

Grave marker photograph by Kurt,

« Back To Soldier Biographies