The People

soldier_photobar

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

Search by name, or filter the search results using the list of options below. To search by alphabetical list, click here.

  • « Return to all stories
  • Derry, Willard John Image
  • Derry, Willard John

  • Sapper Willard John Derry was working for the CPR when he enlisted with a railway unit in February 1917. He served in the UK, France and Belgium for two years.

    Willard was the youngest son of George Derry and his first wife Delia Blanchard. When the 1870 US census was taken George and Delia were living in North Adams, Massachusetts, a small town in the northwest corner of the state. They were staying with Delia’s family and George was working for the railway. Their oldest child George Jr. was a month old at the time. He was followed by a daughter Rose (1871) and sons Arthur (1875) and Joseph (1876). Around 1877 the Derry family moved to the town of Rat Portage (later called Kenora), in northwestern Ontario. Two more sons were born there, another George Jr. in 1883 and Willard John on 15 August 1890. The oldest boy was no longer with the family and he likely died as a young child. According to George’s obituary he was an expert in using nitroglycerin and he was sent to Rat Portage to demonstrate the use of this new explosive in the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR). Once the local section of the railroad was completed the family moved to Vermillion Bay where George operated a store. After a few years they returned to Rat Portage and Willard’s mother died there in February 1900 when he was nine years old. Just two months later his brother George Jr. passed away, at age 16. The following spring when the 1901 census was taken his father was working as a lumberman and they were lodging in Rat Portage with Frank and John Gardner. The railway provided a lot of jobs for local lads and by the time Willard enlisted in 1917 he was working for the CPR as a brakeman.

    During the war Canada played a major role in providing skilled workers for the construction and operation of railways in France and Belgium. In 1916 rail transportation was being expanded and more recruits were needed. Willard enlisted in Winnipeg on 8 February 1917, signing up with No. 1 Section Skilled Railway Employees. Nine days later he left Kenora by train with six other volunteers, on the first leg of their journey overseas. A draft of 32 other railway employees had left a week earlier. They all went to Montreal, where the unit had been mobilized, and early in March they embarked for England on the SS Ausonia. In England No. 1 Section became the 12th (Canadian) Light Railway Operating Company, Royal Engineers and three weeks later they were re-designated as No. 58 Broad Gauge Railway Operating Company (Canadians), Royal Engineers.

    Willard’s unit was in England for only a month before being sent to France, arriving there on 19 April 1917. During two major battles – Messines Ridge in June 1917 and Lys in April 1918 – No. 58 Company operated just behind the combat areas where trains were needed to haul troops, ammunition, supplies, ambulance units and refugees. At the end of July 1918 Willard was given his first leave, 14 days, and he returned in the middle of August for the final period of the war. The fighting moved into a more open phase and roads and railways were essential for maintaining supplies to the front lines. On 11 November the Armistice ended hostilities but it would be months before most of the Canadian troops returned to England. The 1st and 2nd Canadian Divisions occupied parts of Germany while the other two divisions remained in Belgium, and the railway troops were kept busy until the spring. Willard had a 14-day leave in March and three weeks later he returned to England with his unit, two years after they had arrived in France. No. 58 Company was disbanded in April 1919 and Willard returned to Canada the following month, arriving in Halifax on the SS Aquitania on 25 May 1919. He was discharged in Montreal two days later and his intended residence was 616 Second Street in Kenora.

    According to Willard’s obituary he worked for the Town Fire Department, J.W. Stone Boat Company and the CPR. His father passed away in Kenora in 1924, survived by his second wife Catherine MacDonell, two daughters (Mrs. Alfred Mellish of Vancouver and Miss MacDonnell of Kenora), son Arthur of Winnipeg, and sons Willard and Joseph of Kenora. Willard was married in Kenora on 4 May 1925. His wife Emma Rowbottom (née Jarvis) was a widow with three children, Alexander, Edna May and Irene. Her husband Charles Rowbottom had died in 1919 of war-related injuries and her brother Arthur Jarvis was also a veteran of the war.

    Willard continued his career with the CPR, becoming a conductor by 1945 and retiring in 1953. He and his wife lived on Fifth Street North and Ninth Street North. Emma passed away in 1953 and Willard died on 6 June 1957. They are both buried in Lake of the Woods Cemetery in Kenora. Emma’s daughter Irene (Mrs. Jack Breeze) (1915-1957) and Willard’s brother Joseph Derry (1876-1958) are also buried there.

    By Becky Johnson

    Derry-Willard-90 Derry-Willard-91 Derry-Willard-92 Derry-Willard-93 Derry-Willard-94 Derry-Willard-95

  • Regimental Number:
  • 2125132
  • Service Record:
  • Link to Service Record
  • Survived War:
  • Yes
  • Force:
  • Canadian Expeditionary Force
  • Branch:
  • Canadian Railway Troops
  • Battalion:
  • No. 58 Broad Gauge Railway Operating Company
  • Place of Birth:
  • Kenora, Ontario
  • Country:
  • Canada
  • Next of Kin:
  • George Derry (father), Kenora, Ontario
  • Address at Enlistment:
  • Kenora, Ontario
  • Date of Birth:
  • August 15, 1890
  • Trade or Calling:
  • Railroad Brakeman
  • Marital Status:
  • Single
  • Place of Enlistment:
  • Winnipeg, Manitoba
  • Date of Enlistment:
  • February 8, 1917
  • Age at Enlistment:
  • 26
  • Religion:
  • Roman Catholic
  • Enlisted or Conscripted:
  • Enlisted
  • Saw Service In:
  • Europe
  • Date of Death:
  • June 6, 1957
  • Age at Death:
  • 66
  • Buried at:
  • Lake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario
  • Plot:
  • 53E-35-3, Angel Crest Block
  • Prisoner of War:
  • No
  • Honouring all who served, remembering those who died.
  • Sapper Willard John Derry was working for the CPR when he enlisted with a railway unit in February 1917. He served in the UK, France and Belgium for two years.

    Willard was the youngest son of George Derry and his first wife Delia Blanchard. When the 1870 US census was taken George and Delia were living in North Adams, Massachusetts, a small town in the northwest corner of the state. They were staying with Delia’s family and George was working for the railway. Their oldest child George Jr. was a month old at the time. He was followed by a daughter Rose (1871) and sons Arthur (1875) and Joseph (1876). Around 1877 the Derry family moved to the town of Rat Portage (later called Kenora), in northwestern Ontario. Two more sons were born there, another George Jr. in 1883 and Willard John on 15 August 1890. The oldest boy was no longer with the family and he likely died as a young child. According to George’s obituary he was an expert in using nitroglycerin and he was sent to Rat Portage to demonstrate the use of this new explosive in the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR). Once the local section of the railroad was completed the family moved to Vermillion Bay where George operated a store. After a few years they returned to Rat Portage and Willard’s mother died there in February 1900 when he was nine years old. Just two months later his brother George Jr. passed away, at age 16. The following spring when the 1901 census was taken his father was working as a lumberman and they were lodging in Rat Portage with Frank and John Gardner. The railway provided a lot of jobs for local lads and by the time Willard enlisted in 1917 he was working for the CPR as a brakeman.

    During the war Canada played a major role in providing skilled workers for the construction and operation of railways in France and Belgium. In 1916 rail transportation was being expanded and more recruits were needed. Willard enlisted in Winnipeg on 8 February 1917, signing up with No. 1 Section Skilled Railway Employees. Nine days later he left Kenora by train with six other volunteers, on the first leg of their journey overseas. A draft of 32 other railway employees had left a week earlier. They all went to Montreal, where the unit had been mobilized, and early in March they embarked for England on the SS Ausonia. In England No. 1 Section became the 12th (Canadian) Light Railway Operating Company, Royal Engineers and three weeks later they were re-designated as No. 58 Broad Gauge Railway Operating Company (Canadians), Royal Engineers.

    Willard’s unit was in England for only a month before being sent to France, arriving there on 19 April 1917. During two major battles – Messines Ridge in June 1917 and Lys in April 1918 – No. 58 Company operated just behind the combat areas where trains were needed to haul troops, ammunition, supplies, ambulance units and refugees. At the end of July 1918 Willard was given his first leave, 14 days, and he returned in the middle of August for the final period of the war. The fighting moved into a more open phase and roads and railways were essential for maintaining supplies to the front lines. On 11 November the Armistice ended hostilities but it would be months before most of the Canadian troops returned to England. The 1st and 2nd Canadian Divisions occupied parts of Germany while the other two divisions remained in Belgium, and the railway troops were kept busy until the spring. Willard had a 14-day leave in March and three weeks later he returned to England with his unit, two years after they had arrived in France. No. 58 Company was disbanded in April 1919 and Willard returned to Canada the following month, arriving in Halifax on the SS Aquitania on 25 May 1919. He was discharged in Montreal two days later and his intended residence was 616 Second Street in Kenora.

    According to Willard’s obituary he worked for the Town Fire Department, J.W. Stone Boat Company and the CPR. His father passed away in Kenora in 1924, survived by his second wife Catherine MacDonell, two daughters (Mrs. Alfred Mellish of Vancouver and Miss MacDonnell of Kenora), son Arthur of Winnipeg, and sons Willard and Joseph of Kenora. Willard was married in Kenora on 4 May 1925. His wife Emma Rowbottom (née Jarvis) was a widow with three children, Alexander, Edna May and Irene. Her husband Charles Rowbottom had died in 1919 of war-related injuries and her brother Arthur Jarvis was also a veteran of the war.

    Willard continued his career with the CPR, becoming a conductor by 1945 and retiring in 1953. He and his wife lived on Fifth Street North and Ninth Street North. Emma passed away in 1953 and Willard died on 6 June 1957. They are both buried in Lake of the Woods Cemetery in Kenora. Emma’s daughter Irene (Mrs. Jack Breeze) (1915-1957) and Willard’s brother Joseph Derry (1876-1958) are also buried there.

    By Becky Johnson

    Derry-Willard-90 Derry-Willard-91 Derry-Willard-92 Derry-Willard-93 Derry-Willard-94 Derry-Willard-95

  • « Return to all stories
  • Derry, Willard John Image
  • Regimental Number:
  • 2125132
  • Force:
  • Canadian Expeditionary Force
  • Battalion:
  • No. 58 Broad Gauge Railway Operating Company
  • Place of Birth:
  • Kenora, Ontario
  • Next of Kin:
  • George Derry (father), Kenora, Ontario
  • Date of Birth:
  • August 15, 1890
  • Survived War:
  • Yes
  • Branch:
  • Canadian Railway Troops
  • Country:
  • Canada
  • Address at Enlistment:
  • Kenora, Ontario
  • Trade or Calling:
  • Railroad Brakeman
  • Marital Status:
  • Single
  • Place of Enlistment:
  • Winnipeg, Manitoba
  • Date of Enlistment:
  • February 8, 1917
  • Age at Enlistment:
  • 26
  • Religion:
  • Roman Catholic
  • Enlisted or Conscripted:
  • Enlisted
  • Saw Service In:
  • Europe
  • Date of Death:
  • June 6, 1957
  • Age at Death:
  • 66
  • Buried at:
  • Lake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario
  • Plot:
  • 53E-35-3, Angel Crest Block
  • Prisoner of War:
  • No
  • Derry, Willard John

  • Photo Gallery
  • Honouring all who served, remembering those who died.
Back to Top