The People

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

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  • Oliver, Moses Image
  • Oliver, Moses

  • The First World War saw the use of massive amounts of artillery, the first tanks, and chemical warfare such as chlorine and mustard gas. The Germans also developed and used new models of the flammenwerfer, a terrifying anti-personnel weapon that could throw a flame of burning oil more than 15 meters.Lieutenant Moses Oliver served with the 44th Battalion and he was killed by a flammenwerfer in France in May 1917.

    England and Canada
    Moses was born on 29 March 1883 in Polperro, Cornwall, a small fishing village on the southwest coast of England. His parents were Thomas Oliver, a fisherman, and Sarah Snell. They were married in 1869 and they had nine children, five daughters (Jane, Ethel, Ida, Susannah and Eve) and four sons (Thomas, Richard, Moses and Aaron). At the time of the 1901 census Moses was 18 years old, living at home and working as a fisherman like his father. His oldest brother served in the Royal Navy and Moses apparently spent six months in the Navy and five years in the Naval Reserves. In 1906 he immigrated to Canada, arriving in Quebec on 14 September on the Empress of Britain. He was listed as single, age 23, a seaman from Cornwall, England and his destination was Winnipeg, Manitoba. Moses made a trip back to England and returned to Canada in October 1910 on the Empress of Ireland. Before he enlisted he spent some time living in Kenora, Ontario where he was an active member of the Zion Methodist Church, serving on their board. The Kenora newspaper later referred to him as “a former well-known Kenora resident.” Moses studied at Wesley College in Winnipeg and he planned to work in Christian ministry after the war.

    Enlistment and the War
    The war started in August 1914 and Moses enlisted in September 1915 at Camp Hughes in Manitoba. During his time in Kenora he had trained with the local militia unit, the 98th Regiment. At Camp Hughes he joined the 44th (Manitoba) Battalion and less than a month after signing up he was on his way to the east coast. The 44th and 46th Battalions passed through Kenora by train on 18 October and an article in the Kenora Miner and News noted, “There were several former Kenora boys with these battalions and they were warmly greeted by many friends here … Moses Oliver, who formerly resided here as agent for the kitchen cabinet was another on his way to the front.” Both battalions embarked from Halifax on 22 October on the SS Lapland and they arrived in England eight days later.

    Moses trained in England for almost ten months, from late October 1915 until August 1916. During the holiday season he had a period of leave and he was married in a Wesleyan chapel in Cornwall on 28 December 1915. His wife, Mary Holten, was born and raised in the Polperro area like him and her father was a fisherman too. Moses had arrived in England as a Corporal and on 10 August 1916 he was promoted to Sergeant. That same month his unit was sent to France where they became part of the new 4th Canadian Division. In October and November they saw action at the Somme Offensive where the Canadian Corps suffered 24,000 casualties in less than three months.

    In February 1917 Moses was sent to Officers’ Cadet School for two months and he rejoined his battalion on 13 April, just as the Battle of Vimy Ridge was ending. The following day, 14 April, he was given a commission as a Lieutenant. Over the next few months the Canadians were involved in operations in the Avion-Souchez River sector, north of Vimy, and the 44th Battalion went into the trenches there on 6 May. On the night of 9-10 May they captured a portion of the enemy’s front line but they faced severe counter-attacks and a barrage of rifle grenades and gas shells. At 3:00 am on 11 May the Germans attacked using flammenwerfer (flamethrowers), winning back part of the line, but later that day the 44th was able to retake it. They were relieved on 12 May and during their six days in the front line the battalion suffered 260 casualties. Lieutenant Oliver was one of three officers who were killed during the heavy fighting on 11 May. Captain George Farquhar, the battalion’s chaplain, said Moses died instantly as he bravely led his men against the German flammenwerfer.

    Remembrance
    Moses’ final resting place is unknown. He is commemorated on the Vimy Memorial, which bears the names of more than 11,000 Canadians who died in France and have no known grave. He is also commemorated on the 44th Canadian Infantry Vimy Ridge Monument in Winnipeg; on War Memorials in Polperro and Talland Bay in Cornwall, England; on the Cenotaphs in Kenora and Fort Frances, Ontario; on the Kenora Legion War Memorial; and on a marker erected by Gold Hill and Minnetonka Lodges of Kenora and Keewatin. The marker, in Lake of the Woods Cemetery, is in memory of Lodge members who died in the Great War. Later in the war the 44th Battalion was moved from Manitoba to the east coast and Moses is also commemorated in a Book of Remembrance in an Anglican Cathedral in Nova Scotia.

    Moses and his wife Mary had no children. Mary continued to live in Polperro after she was widowed and her husband’s medals, scroll and memorial plaque were sent to her when the war ended. She never remarried and she died at age 62 in April 1945, as another world war was coming to an end.

    By Becky Johnson

    Oliver-Moses-97Oliver-Moses-98Oliver-Moses-99 Oliver-Moses-9 Oliver-Moses-8Oliver-Moses-100

  • Regimental Number:
  • 623008
  • Service Record:
  • Link to Service Record
  • Survived War:
  • No
  • Force:
  • Army
  • Branch:
  • Canadian Infantry
  • Battalion:
  • 44th Battalion
  • Place of Birth:
  • Polperro, Cornwall
  • Country:
  • England
  • Next of Kin:
  • Mrs. Thomas Oliver (mother), Polperro, Cornwall, England
  • Address at Enlistment:
  • Date of Birth:
  • March 29, 1883
  • Trade or Calling:
  • Salesman
  • Marital Status:
  • Single (married in December 1915)
  • Place of Enlistment:
  • Camp Hughes, Manitoba
  • Date of Enlistment:
  • September 22, 1915
  • Age at Enlistment:
  • 32
  • Religion:
  • Wesleyan
  • Enlisted or Conscripted:
  • Enlisted
  • Saw Service In:
  • Europe
  • Date of Death:
  • May 11, 1917
  • Age at Death:
  • 34
  • Buried at:
  • No known grave; commemorated on the Vimy Memorial in France
  • Plot:
  • N/A
  • Prisoner of War:
  • No
  • The First World War saw the use of massive amounts of artillery, the first tanks, and chemical warfare such as chlorine and mustard gas. The Germans also developed and used new models of the flammenwerfer, a terrifying anti-personnel weapon that could throw a flame of burning oil more than 15 meters.Lieutenant Moses Oliver served with the 44th Battalion and he was killed by a flammenwerfer in France in May 1917.

    England and Canada
    Moses was born on 29 March 1883 in Polperro, Cornwall, a small fishing village on the southwest coast of England. His parents were Thomas Oliver, a fisherman, and Sarah Snell. They were married in 1869 and they had nine children, five daughters (Jane, Ethel, Ida, Susannah and Eve) and four sons (Thomas, Richard, Moses and Aaron). At the time of the 1901 census Moses was 18 years old, living at home and working as a fisherman like his father. His oldest brother served in the Royal Navy and Moses apparently spent six months in the Navy and five years in the Naval Reserves. In 1906 he immigrated to Canada, arriving in Quebec on 14 September on the Empress of Britain. He was listed as single, age 23, a seaman from Cornwall, England and his destination was Winnipeg, Manitoba. Moses made a trip back to England and returned to Canada in October 1910 on the Empress of Ireland. Before he enlisted he spent some time living in Kenora, Ontario where he was an active member of the Zion Methodist Church, serving on their board. The Kenora newspaper later referred to him as “a former well-known Kenora resident.” Moses studied at Wesley College in Winnipeg and he planned to work in Christian ministry after the war.

    Enlistment and the War
    The war started in August 1914 and Moses enlisted in September 1915 at Camp Hughes in Manitoba. During his time in Kenora he had trained with the local militia unit, the 98th Regiment. At Camp Hughes he joined the 44th (Manitoba) Battalion and less than a month after signing up he was on his way to the east coast. The 44th and 46th Battalions passed through Kenora by train on 18 October and an article in the Kenora Miner and News noted, “There were several former Kenora boys with these battalions and they were warmly greeted by many friends here … Moses Oliver, who formerly resided here as agent for the kitchen cabinet was another on his way to the front.” Both battalions embarked from Halifax on 22 October on the SS Lapland and they arrived in England eight days later.

    Moses trained in England for almost ten months, from late October 1915 until August 1916. During the holiday season he had a period of leave and he was married in a Wesleyan chapel in Cornwall on 28 December 1915. His wife, Mary Holten, was born and raised in the Polperro area like him and her father was a fisherman too. Moses had arrived in England as a Corporal and on 10 August 1916 he was promoted to Sergeant. That same month his unit was sent to France where they became part of the new 4th Canadian Division. In October and November they saw action at the Somme Offensive where the Canadian Corps suffered 24,000 casualties in less than three months.

    In February 1917 Moses was sent to Officers’ Cadet School for two months and he rejoined his battalion on 13 April, just as the Battle of Vimy Ridge was ending. The following day, 14 April, he was given a commission as a Lieutenant. Over the next few months the Canadians were involved in operations in the Avion-Souchez River sector, north of Vimy, and the 44th Battalion went into the trenches there on 6 May. On the night of 9-10 May they captured a portion of the enemy’s front line but they faced severe counter-attacks and a barrage of rifle grenades and gas shells. At 3:00 am on 11 May the Germans attacked using flammenwerfer (flamethrowers), winning back part of the line, but later that day the 44th was able to retake it. They were relieved on 12 May and during their six days in the front line the battalion suffered 260 casualties. Lieutenant Oliver was one of three officers who were killed during the heavy fighting on 11 May. Captain George Farquhar, the battalion’s chaplain, said Moses died instantly as he bravely led his men against the German flammenwerfer.

    Remembrance
    Moses’ final resting place is unknown. He is commemorated on the Vimy Memorial, which bears the names of more than 11,000 Canadians who died in France and have no known grave. He is also commemorated on the 44th Canadian Infantry Vimy Ridge Monument in Winnipeg; on War Memorials in Polperro and Talland Bay in Cornwall, England; on the Cenotaphs in Kenora and Fort Frances, Ontario; on the Kenora Legion War Memorial; and on a marker erected by Gold Hill and Minnetonka Lodges of Kenora and Keewatin. The marker, in Lake of the Woods Cemetery, is in memory of Lodge members who died in the Great War. Later in the war the 44th Battalion was moved from Manitoba to the east coast and Moses is also commemorated in a Book of Remembrance in an Anglican Cathedral in Nova Scotia.

    Moses and his wife Mary had no children. Mary continued to live in Polperro after she was widowed and her husband’s medals, scroll and memorial plaque were sent to her when the war ended. She never remarried and she died at age 62 in April 1945, as another world war was coming to an end.

    By Becky Johnson

    Oliver-Moses-97Oliver-Moses-98Oliver-Moses-99 Oliver-Moses-9 Oliver-Moses-8Oliver-Moses-100

  • « Return to all stories
  • Oliver, Moses Image
  • Regimental Number:
  • 623008
  • Force:
  • Army
  • Battalion:
  • 44th Battalion
  • Place of Birth:
  • Polperro, Cornwall
  • Next of Kin:
  • Mrs. Thomas Oliver (mother), Polperro, Cornwall, England
  • Date of Birth:
  • March 29, 1883
  • Survived War:
  • No
  • Branch:
  • Canadian Infantry
  • Country:
  • England
  • Address at Enlistment:
  • Trade or Calling:
  • Salesman
  • Marital Status:
  • Single (married in December 1915)
  • Place of Enlistment:
  • Camp Hughes, Manitoba
  • Date of Enlistment:
  • September 22, 1915
  • Age at Enlistment:
  • 32
  • Religion:
  • Wesleyan
  • Enlisted or Conscripted:
  • Enlisted
  • Saw Service In:
  • Europe
  • Date of Death:
  • May 11, 1917
  • Age at Death:
  • 34
  • Buried at:
  • No known grave; commemorated on the Vimy Memorial in France
  • Plot:
  • N/A
  • Prisoner of War:
  • No
  • Oliver, Moses

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