William Kingswood by VDFHS Cemetery Committee

Little was known about William Kingswood in Vernon, the city burial records do not even list him by name, the entry only provides the date of burial – January 4, 1922 and the word ‘frozen’.

Comprehensive research leads us to believe that he was born William Wood on December 19, 1869 in Manchester to John and Mary Wood. The family then moved to Yorkshire where they farmed. In 1894, William immigrated to Canada and by 1895 he was living in New Westminster and working as a labourer.

It appears that William went back to England for a few years and in 1906 came back to Canada with his brother George.

From 1910 to 1913 city directories have him working for the BC Electric Railway (streetcars, buses and trolleybuses). In 1915 William Wood appears as William Kingswood in Vancouver working for the BC Electric Railway.

On January 7, 1916, William enlisted with the 143rd Over Seas Battalion, at the time he was living on Powell Street in Vancouver. On his attestation papers he gave his birthdate as August 21, 1873 in order to join. The cut-off age for joining was 45 and by then he was 46 years old. The description of William on these papers is: 5’ 3 ¾”, ruddy complexion, dark brown hair, brown eyes, mole on right shoulder and chest girth when expanded 36 ½”.

Image - Attestation Papers of William Kingswood

Attestation Papers of William Kingswood

Image - Death Notice of William Kingswood

Death Notice of William Kingswood

The 143rd was set up in Victoria for training. Interesting all the men in this Battalion, including William, who were shorter than 5’4” were automatically transferred to the British Columbia Bantams. He arrived in Victoria on February 15, 1916 and sailed from Halifax on February 17, 1917 aboard the SS Southland. They arrived in England on February 27.

When the 143rd Battalion arrived they initially went to billets at Witley Camp in Godalming, Surrey, and were disbanded within 2 weeks. The 143rd was used to fill four companies A-D. The 135 men who joined the 3rd battalion (Canadian Railway troops) were transferred to Purfleet Camp on March 15th. Purfleet camp, Shorncliffe is located at Risborough Lane in Folkestone very close to the central railway lines.

In the 1921 census William was back in Vancouver working for the BC Electric Railway.

The Vernon News shed a little more light on his death with details provided by the provincial police. It was on December 30th that William and some companions decided to walk to Sicamous from Vernon.

The men had been drinking before they left Vernon which may account for their poor judgment. For near Larkin (between Vernon and Armstrong) William stopped and eventually perished by the roadside. When he was finally found his feet were frozen.