Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthMarch 29, 1886
Place of BirthSt. George's, London
Marital StatusMarried
Next of KinAlice Parfitt
ReligionChurch of England
Service Details
Regimental NumberVR-4539
BranchRoyal Naval Canadian Volunteer Reserve
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Date of EnlistmentMarch 15, 1916
Age at Enlistment30
Theatre of ServiceCanada
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathDecember 27, 1963
Age at Death78
Buried AtLake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario

Parfitt, William Joseph

William Joseph Parfitt was born on 29 March 1886 in St. George’s, London, England. His parents were Fred Parfitt and Elizabeth Woodhouse. Siblings included: Frederick John (b. 1882), Catherine Emma (1884-1972; married Edwin Thomas Barnard), Agnes Elizabeth (1887-1935; married Albert Deverell), Minnie Jessie (1890-1980; married Alfred Balchin), and David George (1891-1916).

In 1901 at age 15, William was working as a telegraph messenger when he joined the Royal Navy. His first ship was sailing ship, the St. Vincent, and he served on it from 03 July 1901 to 26 November 1902 with the rank of Boy 2nd Class. William gradually moved up the ranks – Boy 1st Class then ORD and finally Able Bodied Seaman by 1905. He saw service on the Agincourt, Hannibal, Victory, Jupiter, Excellent, Dryad and the Dreadnaught. He was a gunner on the HMS Dreadnaught which served as flagship for the Royal Navy’s Home Fleet from 1907 to 1911.

On 30 July 1910 William married Winnifred Jessie Rose Quinn at the Registrar’s Office in Portsmouth, England. The following year, daughter Lilly was born. William left the Navy on 17 February 1911 and immigrated to Canada the next month. He made his way to Keewatin, Ontario where his parents had settled and lived with them. He found work at the stave factory of the local flour mill. His wife, Winnifred, was to follow him in October 1911 but daughter, Lilly died just as she was about to board the ship so her travel was delayed until May of 1912. In 1913 son, William Augustus Parfitt was born. Another son, Victor Joseph was born in 1915 but died of spinal meningitis in 1916.

William Joseph Parfitt joined the Canadian Navy on 15 March 1916 in Halifax, transferring to the Royal Naval Canadian Reserve on 1 October 1916. He served on the HMCS Niobe as an Able Bodied Seaman. 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 06 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. From 15 March to 31 December 1916 William was also designated as Seaman Gunner (SG), and from 1 October 1916 until discharge Specialist 1 was added to his A rank. William was awarded a Good Conduct Badge on 1 October 1916. He was discharged on 03 August 1918 as medically unfit. William is commemorated for his service on Keewatin’s St. James Anglican Church Roll of Honour, on the Lake of the Woods Milling Company Roll of Honour, and on the Municipality of Keewatin For King and Country plaque.

William returned to Keewatin, his family and his job at the Lake of the Woods Milling Company. He was employed on the packing floor for 40 years before his retirement. William and Winnifred had two more sons – Robert, who served with the RCAF in Yorkton, Saskatchewan; and Maurice who moved to Prince George, BC. Son William became a Sgt. with the Ontario Provincial Police in Kenora.

Active in fraternal circles, William was a member of the Minnetonka Lodge, I.O.O.F, Keewatin Masonic Lodge, Shriners and the Loyal Orange Lodge. He was also a member of the Legion. He and his wife, Winnifred, were noted for the annual Christmas display that they set up in their home and opened to the public. Donations left by people visiting the display always went to the Children’s Hospital.

William died on 27 December 1963 in the General Hospital in Kenora, Ontario and he is buried in Lake of the Woods Cemetery, also in Kenora. His wife passed away in 1969 and is buried beside him.

William’s brothers, Frederick (with the British Army),   Arthur Robert and David George also served in WW1.

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