William Skillen Stokes signature

William Skillen Stokes signed up in Toronto on this day in 1917. He was born in Deseronto on October 26th (or possibly 27th), 1897, the son of James Stokes and Cora (née Loucks). James was in charge of the wharf in Deseronto in the 1890s (he features in the 1892 Deseronto poem written by A. D. Macintyre). By 1901 the family had moved to Toronto and were living with Cora’s parents, James and Clarissa Loucks. In 1911 the only family member with a job was William. He was working as a stenographer in a brewery and was supporting four adults and two siblings (Clarence, 9, and Clarissa, 1). In 1913 three of the four adults died: William’s grandmother, Clarissa, died in February; his father, James, died in April in the Hospital for the Insane in Toronto, and his grandfather, James Loucks, died in June.

William joined the 70th Battery of the Canadian Field Artillery with the regimental number 341188. He had previously served in the Canadian Army Service Corps as a private for five months. He was five feet six and a half inches tall, with a fair complexion, blue eyes and brown hair. His service record shows that he arrived in England on the SS Lapland on February 24th, 1918. He went to France on May 15th and served there with the Canadian Corps Reinforcement Camp and the 13th Brigade of the Canadian Field Artillery. In December 1918 he was admitted to hospital, suffering from appendicitis. He was sent to England to recover.

Stokes’s brother Clarence enlisted on April 3rd, 1919 (aged 17 but claiming to be 19) and his mother, Cora, died of pneumonia eight days later at home in Shaw Street. William’s sister, Clarissa, was adopted by Samuel and Mary Davis and was living with them in Follis Avenue, Toronto, at the time of the 1921 census.

Stokes left Liverpool on the SS Celtic on May 7th, 1919 and was demobilized in Toronto on May 17th. His brother, Clarence, also survived the war and married Kathleen Florence Ellery in Toronto on March 4th, 1922. William was one of the witnesses to his brother’s wedding and he married Melissa Maud Burger on July 14th, 1922.