This year marks the 100th anniversary of Niagara-on-the-Lake’s iconic clock tower cenotaph. In recognition of the cenotaph’s century of service through two world wars and beyond, NOTL historian Ron Dale has been researching the stories of the people – all men – whose names are engraved on it. This is one in a series of stories to document and remember the sacrifices these combatants made. This week, part 23, is the final instalment on men named on the Queen Street cenotaph. Next, we commemorate those memorialized on the municipal memorial in Queenston.
Special to The Lake Report
During the Second World War more than 45,000 Canadian service men and women died from enemy action and from accidents on land, sea and air.
Often forgotten and not counted among those casualties are those who died in service from other causes not necessarily related to the war.
Life expectancy in Canada in 1945 was 68 for those surviving infancy. Today it has climbed to 82 for men.
In 1945, most adult males smoked and did not necessarily pay attention to following healthy lifestyles. Treatments for diseases like cancer and tuberculosis were rudimentary by today’s standards.
The last death commemorated on the memorial clock tower cenotaph was a veteran of two world wars but whose death was determined to be “not due to service.”
Edward Winnett Thompson was the son of Toronto hotelier Samuel Henry Thompson and Jessie Lillian Winnett.
He was born in Toronto on Aug. 23, 1891, and his father was born in Niagara-on-the-Lake. After completing his education, he worked at his father’s hotel, the Prince George, as an accountant.
While continuing to work in his father’s hotel, Thompson enlisted in the Non-Permanent Active Militia, in the Canadian Army Service Corps.
By 1918, as a lieutenant in that unit, he volunteered on Jan. 11 for deployment overseas. He was initially assigned to the Army Service Corps Training Depot in Toronto but was soon sent to England, arriving on March 4.
Again, he was assigned to a training depot in England.
Thompson spent the next few months in France assigned to the Canadian Engineers Mobile Transport Company. His posting undoubtedly placed him in war zones that underwent shelling by German artillery, but he was one of the lucky ones who was not wounded in that war.
When the war ended on Nov. 11, 1918, Thompson had to wait with others for a chance to return to Canada. He was able to arrange an early return date thanks to his father’s influence and sailed for Canada on Feb. 15, 1919.
Two months later, he married Dorothy Anderson in Detroit and then returned to Toronto. Soon afterward, his father died.
Between the wars, Thompson stayed on the reserve list while managing his father’s hotel. He was called up for active duty on April 7, 1941.
In June he was posted to Monteith, Ont., a Prisoner of War and Enemy Alien internment camp. After a year and half managing the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps depot at the camp, he was sent to Brantford to manage the Service Corps depot at the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan Service Flight Training School airbase in that community.
His final posting on Aug. 5, 1944, was at Camp Niagara in Niagara-on-the-Lake, again commanding the Service Corps personnel at the camp. On Dec. 5, he was promoted to captain.
While Thompson was commanding Service Corps depots in Ontario, his son and namesake, Lt. Edward Winnett Thompson was overseas with the Canadian Army, serving in England, Italy and Northwest Europe.
Thankfully he survived the war and died in 1999 in Bermuda in his 80th year. His father had a shorter lifespan.
Captain Thompson, on duty at Camp Niagara, collapsed and died on Jan. 23, 1945, of coronary thrombus leading to coronary occlusion. The risk factors for this affliction include smoking, hypertension and obesity.
On Thompson’s attestation papers from 1918 when he volunteered for overseas service his medical record shows that he was 5 foot 8 and weighed 208 pounds. On his medical file from 1942 he was reported to be half an inch taller but now 245 pounds and had high blood pressure.
Niagara-on-the-Lake was entwined in the fortunes of the Thompson family.
Captain Thompson’s father Sam was born in NOTL but moved to Toronto. His mother lived in Toronto but moved to Niagara after Sam died – and their son died there.
Thompson lies buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Toronto and his name is commemorated on the memorial clock tower cenotaph.