Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthDecember 25, 1889
Place of BirthMarkdale, Ontario
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinMrs JA McLaughlin, sister, 130 Fairview Avenue, West Toronto, Ontario
Trade / CallingExcise Officer
Service Details
Regimental NumberVR-5434
Service RecordSee images below
BattalionHMS Niobe
BranchRoyal Naval Canadian Volunteer Reserve
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Date of EnlistmentOctober 20, 1917
Age at Enlistment27
Theatre of ServiceCanada
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathAugust 20, 1954
Age at Death64
Buried AtLake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario

Currie, William Webster

The middle child of the family, William Webster Currie was born on 25 December 1889 in Markdale, Grey South, Ontario. His father Robert Brydon Currie was from Dumfries, Ontario while his mother Margaret Webster had been born in Clatt, Aberdeenshire in Scotland. The couple had married in 1884 in Nichol in the district of Wellington in Ontario. By the 1891 Canada census the family was living in Markdale where Robert was working as an egg merchant. William had two sisters, Allie Wynonna (1886) and Vera Marguerite (1889). By the turn of the century the family had relocated to Brandon, Manitoba where Robert worked as a produce merchant.

Educated in Brandon, William first worked for the Oscar Harwood Real Estate Agent and then was an International Revenue Officer in Brandon and Winnipeg. Giving his occupation as Excise Officer, he joined the Royal Naval Canadian Volunteer Reserve in Halifax on 20 October 1917. Blue-eyed with light brown hair, he gave his sister Mrs JA (Allie) McLaughlin of Toronto as next of kin. William served on the home depot ship HMS Niobe in the Halifax harbour for the duration of the war. Having been engaged in intercepting German ships along the American coast for a year after joining the Royal Navy’s 4th Cruiser Squadron, the Niobe was paid out on 6 September 1915 to become a depot ship in Halifax. The Halifax Explosion of 1917 caused serious damage to her upper works as well as the deaths of several of her crew. William was promoted to Able Seaman by the end of February of 1918 and was discharged on 18 December 1918 due to demobilization.

On 11 October 1922, in Winnipeg, William married Martha Wylie Simpson. Born in the district of Camuslang, Glasgow City in 1901, Martha immigrated to Canada with her parents John and Mary Simpson and some of her siblings in 1907, arriving in Halifax aboard the Sicilian on the 7th of March. The family settled in Winnipeg where John found work as an accountant. By the 1921 Canada census the family had moved to Virden, Manitoba where Martha was working as a clerk in a drygoods store.

After the war William found work with the Swift Canada Company, working as a travelling salesman in Winnipeg, Brandon, and Kenora. The couple gave birth to one child, a daughter Joyce. By 1934 the family had made Kenora their home. Over the years William was very involved in sports, playing hockey in Winnipeg and Brandon. He was with the Winnipeg Varsity hockey team when it won the Allen Cup in 1911-1912. William was a member of the Lake of the Woods Masonic Lodge, AF and AM No 414, the United Commercial Travellers Association and the Northwest Commercial Travellers Association.

William died on 20 August 1954 in the Kenora General Hospital. At the time of his death he was survived by his wife Martha, daughter Joyce (Bob) Onarheim, two grandchildren, all in Kenora, and his sisters Allie McLaughlin of Gravenhurst and Vera Kemp of Melville, Saskatchewan. William is interred in the Lake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora. Martha died in 1966 in Kenora and is interred in the family plot with William.

Following in her father’s footsteps, William’s daughter Joyce served during WW2 with the Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service (WRCNS or ‘Wrens’). A Historic Sites and Monuments’ board of Canada plaque in Halifax describes the Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service: ‘Women’s service in the military during the Second World War challenge the tradition of all-male armed forces. Between 1942 and 1946 close to 7000 volunteers enlisted in the WRCNS and served in 26 non-combatant occupations in Canadian naval bases at home or abroad. By late 1943, nearly 1000 Wrens worked in the Halifax area and lived in HMCS Stadacona, within sight of this spot. The WRCNS made an outstanding contribution to Allied victory, paved the way for future generations of Canadian service women and raised questions about the equality of women in the civilian world.’

Judy Stockham

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