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Sunday, April 14, 2024
The Monuments Men: Part 37: ‘Death due to service’: William McLeod and William Archer
Rev. William Archer was the chaplain of a Casualty Clearing Station in France. Archives of Ontario

It’s been a century since Niagara-on-the-Lake’s iconic clock tower cenotaph was erected. Then, in 1926, the Township of Niagara unveiled its own memorial in Queenston. In recognition of those who fought and died in two world wars and beyond, NOTL historian Ron Dale has been researching the stories of the people – all men – whose names are engraved on the two cenotaphs. This is one in a series of stories documenting and remembering the sacrifices of those commemorated on the municipal memorial in Queenston.

Ron Dale
Special to The Lake Report

After the First World War ended on Nov. 11, 1918, men were no longer being killed by bullets, shells and bombs. But that did not mean the end of suffering. 

Thousands of men and some women had been maimed, suffered from diseases picked up in the trenches, or were psychologically damaged by the hell of the long conflict under unimaginable conditions.  

In 1928, the Department of Pensions and National Health was established and took over the care of badly injured and ill veterans.  

Records were kept of the deaths of veterans for the next several decades and were scrutinized to determine whether a death was due to war service.

The last two men commemorated on the Queenston cenotaph were considered to have died “due to service.” They were from different backgrounds and had different experiences during the war.

William Alexander McLeod was born in S.t Davids on April 22, 1892, son of Kenneth McLeod and Emily Hornsby.

William was living in St. Davids when he was conscripted under the Military Service Act in 1918. His younger brother, who had volunteered in 1916, was serving in France at the time. Arthur died of tuberculosis in 1924. 

William McLeod’s war was a short one. He was drafted on Jan. 10, 1918, and was sent to Halifax, sailing for England on Feb. 21. On March 4, on arrival in Liverpool, he was transferred to the 8th Reserve Battalion at Witley.  

After six months of training, he was shipped to France on Aug. 19 as a reinforcement for the 102nd Battalion. He did not get beyond their base camp. 

He reported sick on Aug. 25 and was immediately sent to the Canadian General Hospital in Étaples, where he was diagnosed with pleurisy and valvular disease of the heart.  

McLeod was sent to hospital at Witley Camp in England on Aug. 29 and was shipped back to Canada on Feb. 19, 1919. 

On March 20, a medical board confirmed that he had pulmonary tuberculosis. Private McLeod was discharged from the army on March 26.  

The government continued to provide medical care in Canada until his death on Feb. 14, 1927.

His tuberculosis was determined to be “due to exposure and infection in France.” His name as well as that of his brother Arthur are commemorated on the Queenston cenotaph.

Rev. William Lawrence Archer is also included on the Cenotaph. At the time of his death in 1931 he was the rector of St. John’s Anglican Church in Stamford, which was attended by many Niagara Township residents.  

Archer was born in London, Ont., on Sept. 2, 1883, son of Rev. Robert Archer and Sarah Alice Elizabeth Prince. William was educated at Ridley College in St. Catharines and Trinity College in Toronto. He was ordained in 1907.  

In 1912, he married Caroline Louisa Macgregor in Geneva, Ill. The couple’s first son, Robert, was born in Quebec in 1913 and second son, Edward, was born in Hamilton in 1915.  

On Oct. 9, 1915, Rev. Archer accepted a commission as honourary captain and chaplain of the 81st Battalion.

On Jan. 15, 1916, he sailed for England and then for France, arriving on Feb. 5. Here he served as chaplain to the 3rd Canadian Casualty Clearing Station to provide comfort to the wounded and dying. 

Over the next two and half years he served as the chaplain to a few different regiments.  By September 1918, he had worn himself out and was transferred to England on Sept. 18. 

Archer was able to arrange passage back to Canada on Nov. 2, 1918 and was discharged from the army on Nov. 27.  

Caroline and William had one more child, daughter Isabel Mary, born in Hamilton in 1921.

Rev. Archer again picked up his civilian religious duties and among other appointments was posted to St. John’s in Stamford in 1927.

On Sept. 18, 1931, while he was attending the General Synod in Toronto, he died suddenly of heart failure. 

It was determined that his condition was due to his service in the First World War. When the Queenston cenotaph was erected, former parishioners ensured that his name was included.

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