THOMAS EDWIN WEST written by Linda Trim
West Kirby man who emigrated to Canada and enlisted in the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force in order to fight in the Great War.
Winnipeg Rifles Cap Badge
Thomas was born on the 4th of December 1887 in Southport, Lancashire, where the family was living at that time. He was the second of three children of Thomas Walter West (1860-????) and Lucy Elizabeth West nee Stacey (1863-1949). His siblings were Lucie Muriel West, known as Muriel (1886- ????), and Gladys West (1895-1967). Given that his father and grandfather both had Thomas as a first name, he was probably known as Edwin in the family and I will call him that to differentiate him from his father, Thomas Walter West.
Thomas Edwin West’s Baptismal record from St. Paul, Southport, Lancashire Dec 27 1887.
Thomas Walter West was born in Silverstone, Northamptonshire, in 1860, son of Thomas Henry West (1812-1878) and Catherine Whitlock (1821-1901). Thomas Henry had 8 children and Thomas Walter was the 6th child. He probably had a comfortable upbringing as his father was a Timber Merchant who also farmed 156 acres. Silverstone is in close proximity to Whittlewood Forest where there was a brisk timber industry going in the 19th century. At some point Thomas Walter moved north to Lancashire and met and married Lucy Elizabeth Stacey (1863-1949) at St. Mary’s, Walton on the Hill on 3rd September 1885. They lived for a while in Southport, but then came back to Liverpool. In 1891, according to the census, they had two children, Muriel and Thomas Edwin, and Thomas Walter was a wine merchant, with the family living in Bootle, Liverpool. Gladys was born in the Spring of 1895 and by 1901 the family had migrated to Banks Road in West Kirby, where many families were relocating for more pleasant surroundings but with an easy commute to Liverpool. Thomas Walter was still a wine merchant at that time. Edwin attended Calday Grange Grammar School.
Some time early in the twentieth century, something happened to Thomas Walter West that changed the family dynamic. It is not possible at this time to ascertain what happened; possibly the wine business failed, or there were some severe financial problems in the family, but in 1905, Edwin emigrated to Canada to become a farmer. At the 1906 census he states that he emigrated in 1905, and he was living in Virden, Brandon, Manitoba. During the late 19th century the Dominion Lands act was passed. This enabled a person (male or female) to pay a registration fee of $10 to be allocated a 160 acre plot to farm. After 3 years of farming and a requirement of building a dwelling on the land, the 160 acres would belong to the claimant. It may well be that this was what Edwin did. He was only 18 years old when he left England. In 1911 there is no sign of Thomas Walter on any censuses. Lucy Elizabeth describes herself as married and head of household on the 1911 census, and says that she is a professional musician. Lucy Elizabeth lived at 3, South Road in West Kirby with Muriel, who was a governess, and Gladys who was still at school, so they are obviously working to support themselves. By 1914 Lucy Elizabeth had moved to 25, Dunraven Road, West Kirby.
In 1915 there is a record of Edwin returning from England after a visit. By then he had been in Virden for 9 years. What prompted him to return after the start of war is unknown, but he did not try and enlist in the Canadian Expeditionary Force until after his return to Virden.
Passenger list for the Scandinavian, which was headed to St. Johns, Newfoundland, Canada
The Scandinavian arrived on March 29th 1915, Edwin returned home and waited until the 6th December 1916 to join the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Forces in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He was 5’4″ tall, with a chest measurement of 33″ when fully expanded, and had dark brown hair, gray eyes and a medium complexion. His mother is shown as his next of kin. Edwin became Private 1084275 and on the 10th December 1916 he was attached to the 18th Canadian Reserve Battalion.
Poor Edwin contracted measles in February 1917 which undoubtedly would have been very unpleasant at his age. He was subsequently transferred to the 251st Battalion C.E.F and on the 23rd of April 1917 he made a will leaving his estate to his mother. He left Halifax, Nova Scotia, on the SS Matagama on the 4th October 1917 bound for Liverpool, arriving on the 17th October and where on the 28th of the month he was transferred to the 8th Reserve Battalion. By the time of his transfer he was on St. Martin’s Plain, in Kent, which was a training camp, with many soldiers, including Edwin, living in tents at nearby Dibgate Plain.
At the end of 1917, and also in 1918, Edwin sought medical treatment for dyspnoea (difficulty in breathing). Despite having X-rays and examinations by various doctors there was no good diagnosis to be had, but one doctor speculated that he might have TB.
Edwin went to France to fight with the C.E.F, as part of the 8th Reserve Battalion who were also known as the 90th Winnipeg Rifles, and fought at the battle of Cambrai in northern France, which took place from 27 September to 11 October 1918, and which was part of a series of connected battles at the start of the Hundred Days Campaign. Sadly, he was listed as Missing in Action on the 29th September 1918 and confirmed dead the following day. He is remembered on the Vimy Memorial in Vimy, France. This memorial was created to remember over 11,000 Canadian soldiers who died in the Great War and whose remains were never found. Over 91 hectares of land was given by the French to Canada, free, to be Canadian land in perpetuity, and construction of the massive work was started in 1925. On July 26 1936 King Edward VIII unveiled the monument.
Vimy Memorial, Vimy, France
Neither of Edwin’s sisters ever married. In 1960 Muriel returned to England on the Carnarvon Castle which arrived 20 May 1960, from Durban, South Africa. She was going to West Kirby to visit Gladys. Could this possibly have been where their father went after his “disappearance”? Lucy Elizabeth died in 1949 in Birkenhead, and Gladys lived on the Wirral until her death in 1967. Presumable Muriel died in South Africa where she lived.
Deeside Advertiser 11-10-1918
Birth: 4 Dec 1887 Southport, Lancashire, England
Death: 29 September 1918, Cambrai, France
Addresses: 1891 20 Ellerslie Road, West Derby, Lancashire; 1901 Banks Road ,West Kirby; 1906 Virden, Brandon, Manitoba, Canada; 1916 Stratton, Rainy river, Ontario, Canada.
Unit: 18th, 251st and 8th Battalions Canadian Expeditionary Force
Number and Rank: Private 1084275
Commemorated: St. Bridget’s, St Andrew’s, Grange Hill, Calday Grange Grammar School – all at West Kirby, Vimy Memorial, Canadian WW1 Memorial Book page 520
Sources: BR, CG, CWGC, DA, GH, PR, SR, WK, Census 1891, 1901, 1906, 1911