Turner, William: Service no. 53747


Digitized Service Record

Source: Elgin County Genealogical Society web article


“The name “W. Turner” appears on the Aylmer cenotaph, and the closest reference found to match this name from Elgin County is that of William Turner, who was born December 7, 1893 in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England. He was the son of James & Clara Jane Turner.

William’s parents are found on the 1891 England census in Rusthall, Speldhurst Parish, Kent.  His father James was stonemason, born 1851 in Tunbridge Wells. Other children in the family were Henry (born 1878); Florence (born 1879); James (born 1881), Elsie (born 1886; and Leonard (born 1891).

William (“Willie”)  is found on the 1901 England census in Tunbridge Well, Kent with his widowed mother, Clara J., age 50, a laundress, born in Rusthall, Kent.  Other children in the family were James A. (Born 1881); Elsie M. (Born 1886), and Leonard (born 1891).  The census gives their birthplaces, including “Willie”, as Rusthall, Kent.

William emigrated to Canada, although he cannot be found on the 1911 census.  He enlisted for service on November 3, 1914 in St. Thomas.  His occupation is given as “horseman”, and he was not married.  He lists his next of kin as his mother, Mrs. Clara Turner, of 2 Osborne Villa South Street, Crowborough, Sussex, England.

His address is not given on the attestation paper, but it is possible he was living in Aylmer or had lived in Aylmer prior to enlistment.

William died on September 15, 1916 at the age of 24, while serving with the 18th Battalion of Canadian Infantry (Western Ontario Regiment).  Information gathered by the Veterans Affairs of Canada states he is the son of the late James and Clara Jane Turner, of Gladstone Rd., New Town, Rusthall, Tunbridge Wells, England.

His name appears on the Vimy Memorial, France.

An article printed in the St. Thomas Journal when William was wounded appeared in the October 13, 1916 issue:


Left Here With the 18th – Was a Horseman and Had Many Friends Here

In the morning’s casualty lists, which were issued at Ottawa, appeared the name of Pte. William Turner of St. Thomas, among the wounded.  Pte. Turner enlisted here early in 1915, and went to the front with the 18th Battalion. He was then 22 years of age, single and had had no previous experience.  He gave his occupation in civil life as that of a horseman.  His next of kin was his mother, Mrs. Clara Turner, 2 Osborn Villa, Cranborough, Sussex, England. Pte. Turner’s service number is 53747.  He worked in this vicinity for some time before enlisting and had made quite a number of friends since coming to this country.

It cannot be verified that the above William Turner is the “W. Turner” on the Aylmer cenotaph. The records of the Veterans Affairs show the death of William Turner, Service Number 53747, on Sept. 15, 1916.  It is not known why his name did not appear in the casualty list as wounded, until October 13.

Further mystery is added by a report in the St. Thomas Journal, December 6, 1916, reporting the death of a William Turner. The article reads as follows:


Pte. William Turner and Pte. J. E. Goddard Reported Killed – One Wounded

Three more local men are mentioned in the casualty lists, all of them being 91st Battalion men and one soldier has been killed. The names of Pte. William Turner, 189624, B. Co. 91st Battalion, and Pte. John H. Murphy, of Vienna, are mentioned in the list of those killed in action, and Pte. J. E. Goddard, of West Lorne, is listed with the wounded.  The only record available at the local recruiting office concerning Pte. Turner is that he enlisted here Dec. 12, 1915 and was on April 20, 1916 transferred to the 70th Battalion on orders from district headquarters.  No official message has been received in this city concerning Pte. Turner’s death, and it is presumed that his is one of those rare cases where the name gets into the list before the official notification has been given the friends.

It is believed that the report on the casualty list reported the wrong William Turner.  The records of the Veterans Affairs of Canada and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission contain no listing for a William Turner with the service number of 189624.  The attestation papers for a William Turner bearing that service number gives his address as Chatham, and his birthplace as White Roding, Essex, England, on January 8, 1891.  His next of kin was his father, Charles Turner, of Roneford, Essex, England.  He was a farmer and was not married.  He had spent six months in the militia in England.  He enlisted in St. Thomas on December 13, 1915.

Even the Journal seemed unsure of who this man was, and it is believed to be a case of mistaken identity.  The other William Turner first mentioned died on September 15, 1916, and it is possible that his name did not appear on the casualty list until December.

The Journal printed a list of 124 Elgin men dead or missing in its December 21, 1916 issue, and the name of William Turner is not included.”



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