Sunday, 13 December 2015

Sunday December 13, 2015 World War One Thunder Bay Centennial Project

The World War One Thunder Bay Centennial Project continues to go from strength to strength with new content being added all the time. This project has engaged a wide range of cultural partners and the community, who continue to send in artifacts and interesting stories about their family members. The Timeline & Local Obituaries section is of particular interest, and you can now follow the progress of local participants via their service records, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, and obituaries which appeared in local newspapers. Here are some examples of how the lives of the men of Port Arthur and Fort William who went to war can be traced using the World War One Thunder Bay Centennial Project.

William Steers was born in Watford, England in 1876 and lived on Francis Street in Fort William. He was married, worked as a cook, and had some previous military experience. When he enlisted on April 1, 1915, William was 34 years old, 5 ft 6 in tall, with a 35 inch chest, dark complexion, brown eyes and light brown hair. He became Private 438555 in the 3rd Battalion of the Canadian Infantry and died on November 17, 1915. It was reported in the Fort William Daily Times Journal on November 24 that he was ‘missing, believed drowned, ex-hospital ship Anglia.’   He is remembered at the Hollybrook Memorial in Southampton, England.

Theodore Studdert was from Kilkee, County Clare, Ireland. He became a Lance Corporal in Thunder Bay’s very own 52nd New Ontario battalion and died on November 2, 1915, age 29. The following notice appeared in the Fort William Daily Times Journal on November 27: ‘Theodore Studdert, the member of the machine gun section of the 52nd battalion who died November 2 from pneumonia, used to board somewhere in this city prior to enlistment. A. Morris, undertaker, of Port Arthur, is anxious to communicate with his former boarding house people, but does not know where to locate them. If this notice meets their eye, they are asked to get in touch with Mr Morris by phone.’   Theodore is remembered at the Thunder Bay (St Andrew’s) Roman Catholic Cemetery.

On occasions, when local men were involved in large scale actions in France or Flanders, the local newspapers would report the loss of several men at once. On October 23, 1915, for example, the Port Arthur News Chronicle reported ‘Thirteen Killed and Nine Missing in Twenty Eighth’. The A Company of the 28th Regiment was in some heavy fighting around October 8 and the casualties included three men from Fort William who were all single, born in England, and enlisted on October 23, 1914.

Private Hubert Smith was born in Croydon, Surrey in 1892 and worked as a brakeman on the Canadian Pacific Railway. Lance Corporal Walter Saxelby was born in Manthorpe, Lincolnshire in 1887 and worked as a clerk. Albert Chapman Johnson was born in Wigginton, Yorkshire in 1885 and worked as a labourer. They were all killed in action on October 8. Johnson and Saxelby are remembered at the Kemmel Chateau Military Cemetery, and Swift’s name appears on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial. Their names are also listed on the Honour Roll of Personnel from Fort William, Ontario, who died in World War One. 

At least 43 men from Port Arthur and Fort William were killed in the war during 1915. The World War One Thunder Bay Centennial Project will continue to track the impact of the war on Thunder Bay, both at home and abroad, up to November 1918 and beyond. If you have any family stories, war diaries, letters, records or other memorabilia which you would like to share, please contact us at

John Pateman

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