The People

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These are the stories of Kenora participants in the First World War.

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  • Chaloner, Arthur Reginald Image
  • Chaloner, Arthur Reginald

  • Arthur Chaloner was born on October 8 1893 in Lauder, a town located on the CP Railroad southwest of Brandon Manitoba. His parents John Henry Chaloner and Mary Gertrude (Heatley) Chaloner were one of the first resident families to arrive there. They landed in Lauder in 1891 with three children: Louise, who was born in Quebec City in 1882: Adelaide, born in Rat Portage (Kenora Ontario) in 1884: and Charles, born in Norman,Ontario in 1887. Daughter Marguerite was born in in Lauder in 1891, son Arthur in 1893 and son Robert in 1895. Another daughter Dorothy was born in Rat Portage (Kenora Ontario) in 1901. John Henry and Mary Gertrude also had three more children who died in early childhood.

    At the age of 7, Arthur lost his mother and as his brother Robert said, life was very difficult for the family. His father worked up north and came home only once or twice a year. While his oldest sister worked at the Court House, Adelaide at almost 17 years, was left to bring up the children. Because most of her time was spent with the baby the boys were given more liberty than was good for little boys. Some of this exploring was good as Art became a jack- of- all- trades, worked at many jobs over the years and retired a successful businessman.

    In the fall of 1917, Art joined the Royal Canadian Navy and  was on a depot ship, the HMS Niobe Dec 6th 1917 in Halifax Harbour during the Halifax explosion. A French munitions ship taking munitions to France, the SS Mont-Blanc, collided with a Belgium Relief Ship, the SS Imo, and a devastating explosion that killed 2000 people on the ships and onshore, and wounded 9,000. Several sailors on Art’s ship were killed but Art, who viewed the explosion from his ship, was thrown across the deck but he escaped uninjured.

    Art’s personal account of this tragedy was described in a letter he sent to his sister, Adelaide, and a portion is re-printed here. It begins after the two ships had collided.

    “About two or three hundred of us ran up on the forward main deck to watch the fire which by this time was raging pretty bad in the forward part of the ship (the Mont-Blanc), which seemed to be loaded with some kind of oil as every minute or so there would be an explosion that seemed like an oil explosion, as there was not very much noise to these explosions, though they would send up a great burst of flame and black smoke to a height of about six or seven hundred feet. We learned later that these were benzol explosions as she was loaded partly with benzol. The main explosion was caused by her main cargo which consisted of 2,000 tons of a very high explosive called “triton”. Much more powerful than glycerine. We watched for about 15 minutes and were laughing and joking about someone who was talking about spontaneous combustion, when there was a most deafening roar and the whole dockyard seemed to lift to the sky amidst a great blaze of fire and smoke, and bits of the ship. It was so great that we were all swept back, or I should say carried, or better still, thrown, for I landed about 25 feet from where I had been standing. When we landed on the deck we were just a mass of wriggling men and the sky was all dark as if a dreadful storm was on. When we could get free of the mass of ourselves we crawled on hands and knees (for we had no time to get up, it all happened so suddenly) to any place of cover we could find, for by this time the pieces of the “Mont Blanc” were falling on the decks like hail, only some larger and thicker. I crawled in behind the bridge close to the forward mast, and held a big board over my head while boards from the wrecked portion of the superstructure and all wooden parts of our own ship (the Niobi) were hitting us on the backs. The whole top of the “Niobi” was wrecked, but none of the funnels or smokestacks fell, or we would have got ours. This lasted about a couple of minutes, and then a great wave came caused by the explosion and rocked the ships, so that she broke her anchor chains which set us adrift. They soon got us tied up again, but there had been a lot of the fellows pretty badly cut and bruised. There were quite a few had been blown overboard and some of them never got out alive”.

    This was as close to the real “action” of the war as he  would get. In September 1917 Art received his Medical Examination and was categorized as B2. He enlisted in May 1918 in Port Arthur however for physical reasons he was not a candidate for service on the Front. In December 1918, Arthur was discharged from the service in Winnipeg.

    Art was married to Margaret Mae Morlan of Chester, Nova Scotia on January 15, 1918. He returned to Kenora and found a job with the Canadian Pacific Railway. He worked with the CPR for fifty years, serving on survey crews, construction crews and train crews. He retired in 1957 as a passenger train conductor.

    There were good and bad years on the railroad and whenever Art found himself laid off, he worked part time for the Kneeland Grain Co in Kenora, Winnipeg and the Lakehead. The owner of the grain company, E.W. Kneeland, also had Arthur work as the operator of his 70 foot motor launch, The Minne-wawa, berthed on Lake of The Woods. Art’s tenure at Kneeland Grain lasted more than 25 years.

    Following his retirement from the Canadian Pacific Railway, Art owned and operated a Tourist Camp and then Chaloner’s Motel until 1966 in Kenora .

    Arthur passed away suddenly December 30th 1971 after months of caring dearly for his wife Mae who passed away December 25th 1971. They are buried in the Lake of the Woods Cemetery.

    By Carolyn Cameron

    Chaloner-Arthur-Reginald-2 Chaloner-Arthur-Reginald-3 Chaloner-Arthur-Reginald-4 Chaloner-Arthur-Reginald-5 Chaloner-Arthur-Reginald-6 Chaloner-Arthur-Reginald-7 Chaloner-Arthur-Reginald-8 Chaloner-Arthur-Reginald-9 Chaloner-Arthur-Reginald-10 Chaloner-Arthur-Reginald-11

    The photo of Arthur and his nieces was taken in 1916 and was provided by Beatrice Stewart.

     

  • Regimental Number:
  • 2384131
  • Service Record:
  • Link to Service Record
  • Survived War:
  • Yes
  • Force:
  • Canadian Expeditionary Force
  • Branch:
  • Canadian Infantry
  • Battalion:
  • 10th Battalion, Canadian Garrison Regiment
  • Place of Birth:
  • Lauder, Manitoba
  • Country:
  • Canada
  • Next of Kin:
  • wife, Mae Chaloner of 120 4th St. N., Kenora, Ontario
  • Address at Enlistment:
  • 120 4th St. N., Kenora, Ontario
  • Date of Birth:
  • October 8, 1893
  • Trade or Calling:
  • Gasoline Engineer
  • Marital Status:
  • Married
  • Place of Enlistment:
  • Port Arthur, Ontario
  • Date of Enlistment:
  • June 15, 1918
  • Age at Enlistment:
  • 24
  • Religion:
  • Roman Catholic
  • Enlisted or Conscripted:
  • Conscripted
  • Saw Service In:
  • Canada
  • Date of Death:
  • December 30, 1971
  • Age at Death:
  • 78
  • Buried at:
  • Lake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario
  • Plot:
  • RCA 6-5
  • Prisoner of War:
  • No
  • Arthur Chaloner was born on October 8 1893 in Lauder, a town located on the CP Railroad southwest of Brandon Manitoba. His parents John Henry Chaloner and Mary Gertrude (Heatley) Chaloner were one of the first resident families to arrive there. They landed in Lauder in 1891 with three children: Louise, who was born in Quebec City in 1882: Adelaide, born in Rat Portage (Kenora Ontario) in 1884: and Charles, born in Norman,Ontario in 1887. Daughter Marguerite was born in in Lauder in 1891, son Arthur in 1893 and son Robert in 1895. Another daughter Dorothy was born in Rat Portage (Kenora Ontario) in 1901. John Henry and Mary Gertrude also had three more children who died in early childhood.

    At the age of 7, Arthur lost his mother and as his brother Robert said, life was very difficult for the family. His father worked up north and came home only once or twice a year. While his oldest sister worked at the Court House, Adelaide at almost 17 years, was left to bring up the children. Because most of her time was spent with the baby the boys were given more liberty than was good for little boys. Some of this exploring was good as Art became a jack- of- all- trades, worked at many jobs over the years and retired a successful businessman.

    In the fall of 1917, Art joined the Royal Canadian Navy and  was on a depot ship, the HMS Niobe Dec 6th 1917 in Halifax Harbour during the Halifax explosion. A French munitions ship taking munitions to France, the SS Mont-Blanc, collided with a Belgium Relief Ship, the SS Imo, and a devastating explosion that killed 2000 people on the ships and onshore, and wounded 9,000. Several sailors on Art’s ship were killed but Art, who viewed the explosion from his ship, was thrown across the deck but he escaped uninjured.

    Art’s personal account of this tragedy was described in a letter he sent to his sister, Adelaide, and a portion is re-printed here. It begins after the two ships had collided.

    “About two or three hundred of us ran up on the forward main deck to watch the fire which by this time was raging pretty bad in the forward part of the ship (the Mont-Blanc), which seemed to be loaded with some kind of oil as every minute or so there would be an explosion that seemed like an oil explosion, as there was not very much noise to these explosions, though they would send up a great burst of flame and black smoke to a height of about six or seven hundred feet. We learned later that these were benzol explosions as she was loaded partly with benzol. The main explosion was caused by her main cargo which consisted of 2,000 tons of a very high explosive called “triton”. Much more powerful than glycerine. We watched for about 15 minutes and were laughing and joking about someone who was talking about spontaneous combustion, when there was a most deafening roar and the whole dockyard seemed to lift to the sky amidst a great blaze of fire and smoke, and bits of the ship. It was so great that we were all swept back, or I should say carried, or better still, thrown, for I landed about 25 feet from where I had been standing. When we landed on the deck we were just a mass of wriggling men and the sky was all dark as if a dreadful storm was on. When we could get free of the mass of ourselves we crawled on hands and knees (for we had no time to get up, it all happened so suddenly) to any place of cover we could find, for by this time the pieces of the “Mont Blanc” were falling on the decks like hail, only some larger and thicker. I crawled in behind the bridge close to the forward mast, and held a big board over my head while boards from the wrecked portion of the superstructure and all wooden parts of our own ship (the Niobi) were hitting us on the backs. The whole top of the “Niobi” was wrecked, but none of the funnels or smokestacks fell, or we would have got ours. This lasted about a couple of minutes, and then a great wave came caused by the explosion and rocked the ships, so that she broke her anchor chains which set us adrift. They soon got us tied up again, but there had been a lot of the fellows pretty badly cut and bruised. There were quite a few had been blown overboard and some of them never got out alive”.

    This was as close to the real “action” of the war as he  would get. In September 1917 Art received his Medical Examination and was categorized as B2. He enlisted in May 1918 in Port Arthur however for physical reasons he was not a candidate for service on the Front. In December 1918, Arthur was discharged from the service in Winnipeg.

    Art was married to Margaret Mae Morlan of Chester, Nova Scotia on January 15, 1918. He returned to Kenora and found a job with the Canadian Pacific Railway. He worked with the CPR for fifty years, serving on survey crews, construction crews and train crews. He retired in 1957 as a passenger train conductor.

    There were good and bad years on the railroad and whenever Art found himself laid off, he worked part time for the Kneeland Grain Co in Kenora, Winnipeg and the Lakehead. The owner of the grain company, E.W. Kneeland, also had Arthur work as the operator of his 70 foot motor launch, The Minne-wawa, berthed on Lake of The Woods. Art’s tenure at Kneeland Grain lasted more than 25 years.

    Following his retirement from the Canadian Pacific Railway, Art owned and operated a Tourist Camp and then Chaloner’s Motel until 1966 in Kenora .

    Arthur passed away suddenly December 30th 1971 after months of caring dearly for his wife Mae who passed away December 25th 1971. They are buried in the Lake of the Woods Cemetery.

    By Carolyn Cameron

    Chaloner-Arthur-Reginald-2 Chaloner-Arthur-Reginald-3 Chaloner-Arthur-Reginald-4 Chaloner-Arthur-Reginald-5 Chaloner-Arthur-Reginald-6 Chaloner-Arthur-Reginald-7 Chaloner-Arthur-Reginald-8 Chaloner-Arthur-Reginald-9 Chaloner-Arthur-Reginald-10 Chaloner-Arthur-Reginald-11

    The photo of Arthur and his nieces was taken in 1916 and was provided by Beatrice Stewart.

     

  • « Return to all stories
  • Chaloner, Arthur Reginald Image
  • Regimental Number:
  • 2384131
  • Force:
  • Canadian Expeditionary Force
  • Battalion:
  • 10th Battalion, Canadian Garrison Regiment
  • Place of Birth:
  • Lauder, Manitoba
  • Next of Kin:
  • wife, Mae Chaloner of 120 4th St. N., Kenora, Ontario
  • Date of Birth:
  • October 8, 1893
  • Survived War:
  • Yes
  • Branch:
  • Canadian Infantry
  • Country:
  • Canada
  • Address at Enlistment:
  • 120 4th St. N., Kenora, Ontario
  • Trade or Calling:
  • Gasoline Engineer
  • Marital Status:
  • Married
  • Place of Enlistment:
  • Port Arthur, Ontario
  • Date of Enlistment:
  • June 15, 1918
  • Age at Enlistment:
  • 24
  • Religion:
  • Roman Catholic
  • Enlisted or Conscripted:
  • Conscripted
  • Saw Service In:
  • Canada
  • Date of Death:
  • December 30, 1971
  • Age at Death:
  • 78
  • Buried at:
  • Lake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario
  • Plot:
  • RCA 6-5
  • Prisoner of War:
  • No
  • Chaloner, Arthur Reginald

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