William Lewis York, MM


Mar 24, 1889

Born at Chicago Illinois, USA


Nov 5, 1914

Attested into the 21st Battalion at Kingston Ontario 

Ø      Number 60106 (temporary number 368)

Ø      Next of kin given as Lucy York (wife) of Box 472 Cobourg Ontario

Ø      Previous occupation given as Baker

Ø      Previous military experience given as 4 years in the USA Marine Corps

Ø      Religion given as Salvation Army

Ø      Assigned to “C” Company

o       This was later reorganized into “B” Company


Feb 6, 1915

Forfeits 4 days pay 

Offence not recorded in file


Feb 9, 1915

Admitted to Kingston Military Hospital with inflamed Tonsils


Feb 13, 1915

Discharged to duty


May 6, 1915

Embarked the RMS Metagama at Montreal Quebec



May 15, 1915

Disembarked at Devonport England and proceeded to the West Sandling Camp, near Hythe Kent


Sep 1, 1915

Appointed to rank of Lance Cpl to replace L/Cpl Weston 60049, who had been promoted


Sep 14, 1915

Embarked the St Seiriol at Folkestone



Sep 15, 1915

Disembarked at Boulogne France and proceeded to St Omer


Dec 26, 1915

Promoted to rank of Cpl to replace Cpl Weston 60049, who had been promoted


Apr 22, 1916

Admitted to No 5 CFA (Canadian Field Ambulance) suffering from Shell Shock and a contusion to his head caused by exploding Shrapnel shells 

Transferred same day to the Divisional Rest Station at No 6 CFA


Apr 24, 1916

Transferred to No 17 CCS (Casualty Clearing Station)


Apr 25, 1916

Transferred to No 13 Stationary Hospital at Boulogne


Apr 30, 1916

Transferred to No 1 Convalescent Depot


May 8, 1916

Discharged from hospital to light duty


May 12, 1916

On Command to No 3 General Base Depot at Boulogne and classified “TB” (Temporary Base)


Jun 7, 1916

Rejoined the 21st Battalion in the field


Jul 11, 1916

Admitted to No 4 CFA suspected of suffering from Ptomaine Poisoning


Jul 18, 1916

Proceeded to No 5 CFA and then to No 15 CCS for eye tests and following the tests, rejoined the 21st Battalion


Jul 21, 1916

Attached to the Woodcutting Party for duty


Aug 17, 1916

Reverted to rank of Pte at his own request


Aug 28, 1916

Ceases to be attached to the Woodcutting Party


Sep 15, 1916

During the heavy fighting at the Sugar Refinery on the Somme, he received a severe shrapnel wound to left hand and admitted to the CFA


Sep 16, 1916

Transferred to No 9 Stationary Hospital at Rouen


Sep 17, 1916

Invalided to England aboard the Hospital Ship Aberdonian


Posted to the CCAC (Canadian Casualty Assembly Centre) while in hospital


Sep 18, 1916

Admitted to No 3 Scottish General Hospital at Glasgow


Oct 11, 1916

Awarded the Military Medal per London Gazette #29780


Medal photo courtesy of owner


Oct 14, 1916

Transferred to Hillingdon House Hospital at Uxbridge


Nov 1, 1916

Transferred to Granville Canadian Special Hospital at Ramsgate


Dec 4, 1916

Discharged from hospital and On Command to CCD (Canadian Convalescent Depot) for duty


Jan 18, 1917

Posted to the 6th Reserve Battalion at Seaford


Feb 3, 1917

Reported to have been AWL (Absent Without Leave) for 3 days, and forfeited 3 days pay


Mar 6, 1917

Arrived at CBD (Canadian Base Depot) in France and TOS (Taken On Strength) the 21st Battalion


Apr 2, 1917

Left CBD and joined the 2nd Entrenching Battalion in the field


Apr 17, 1917

Left the 2nd Entrenching Battalion and joined the 21st Battalion


May 23, 1917

Attached to the 4th CIB (Canadian Infantry Brigade) HQ for duty


Jun 1, 1917

Rejoined the 21st Battalion from 4th CIB


Jul 20, 1917

Attached to the Training Battalion for duty


Aug 16, 1917

Sentenced to 28 days FP (Field Punishment) #2 and forfeits 10 days pay for Absence


Jan 4, 1918

On Command to the CCRC (Canadian Corps Reinforcement Camp)


Jan 18, 1918

Employed as a Bombing Instructor


Feb 4, 1918

Granted 14 days leave


Feb 15, 1918

Rejoined the CCRC from leave


Feb 22, 1918

Posted to the CCRC


Feb 23, 1918

Appointed to rank of Acting Sgt with pay


Mar 5, 1919

TOS the 6th Reserve Battalion at Seaford


Mar 29, 1919

Posted to MD#3 at Kimmel Park pending return to Canada


Apr 12, 1919

Embarked the HMS Adriatic at Liverpool



Apr 20, 1919

Disembarked at Halifax Nova Scotia and proceeded to Kingston Ontario


Apr 24, 1919

Discharged from the CEF at Kingston Ontario 

Ø      War Service badge Class “A” issued, number 246742

Ø      Rank on discharge A/Sgt

Ø      Proposed residence on discharge 38 Raglan Rd, Kingston Ontario


Oct 31, 1919

1914-15 Star sent to him at 38 Raglan Rd, Kingston Ontario 

It would appear that this was returned


Mar 11, 1928

According to the Veterans Affairs card in the file, he died on this date from the effects of Gas Poisoning at Portland Oregon USA

There is no mention of him suffering from a gas attack in his medical records


Jun 6, 1928

1914-15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal sent to his widow, Mrs Ellen York, at 1440 West 56th St, Seattle Washington, USA


Jul 12, 1928

The Memorial Cross was sent to his mother, Mrs Ambrose Joseph, at 3316 North Racine Ave, Chicago Illinois, USA 

No Cross was sent to his widow as they married after his discharge


Apr 15, 1929

The Plaque (Death Penny) and Scroll were sent to his widow, Mrs Ellen York, at 1440 West 56th St, Seattle Washington, USA


I could find nothing of what happened to his first wife, Lucy.  It is possible that she died, or they divorced.  It is also possible he simply abandoned his family in Canada and started a new life in the USA


The following research was completed by David Bluestein


Sjt. York came home to Canada on April 12, 1919. He was home and with his family again, but things were likely very different.

Clearly his war continued. It was not the kind that involved bullets and bombs, but that of sleepless nights, guilt, anxiety, and despair. Bill York was fighting a war of the mind. Like so many countless thousands. He came home to his family mentally damaged by the trauma of his experiences.

It seems that the war was determined to take York's life. He managed to outwit its bombs and bullets, but it got him at the end. He didn’t die in the trenches of the Somme or Passchendaele, but he was as much a casualty of the 1914 -18 war as anyone of his friends who died there.

This damage must have greatly impacted his family life, evidenced by the following small newspaper article that appeared in the Perth Courier.


It appears Bill York deeply troubled picked up and left his family without any word or warning. They were appealing for help from both authorities and their neighbours. ‘It is thought that he suffered a relapse of shell shock.’ Did his family ever find him? I’m afraid we will never know.

The next recorded evidence of Bill York is the short but deeply saddening article that appeared in the Portland Oregon newspaper in January 1928 recording his death by suicide.

This story continues in a dingy rooming house in downtown Portland Oregon in the United States. It’s a cold Saturday evening in March, the sounds and smells of the city throw up a backdrop to this very average scene. The odd car and bundled-up pedestrians go about their business in the street below. Above them, and Inside a cramped unassuming room a once dignified and proud war hero is about to die.

A street scene Portland Oregon USA


The local newspaper carried the following short article the next day -

‘Fireman of squad wagon No. 1 laboured 20 minutes over the unconscious form of William L. York, Seattle Wash., who attempted suicide by gas in a room at 193 ½ Second street, and the fireman succeeded in reviving the man, who was taken to St. Vincent’s hospital. York had registered at the Japanese lodging house on March 7, several days after another man had committed suicide there. A note had been written by York to his wife indicating ill health was responsible for his act.’

He died later the same day. On Monday the following article appeared -

‘William L. York of Seattle, Wash., who attempted to end his life by gas in a lodging house at 193 ½ Second street Saturday, dies at St. Vincent’s hospital last night. A note left to his widow who resides in Seattle, indicated that he was in ill health.’

Why did he do this? This writer cannot pretend to understand the complexity or depth of pain this poor soul must have endured, but it must have been profound to choose to leave your wife and children.

The official cause of death was recorded at ‘Carbon Monoxide Poisoning.’ It was further determined that these actions were as a direct result of the war, and a Memorial Plaque and Cross were issued.

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