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Robert Arthur Ferguson (1892-1953)

Sunderland man enlisted in CEF injured in training in England, spent rest of service in Pay Corps

Robert Arthur Ferguson was born on 9th August 1892 and was baptised four weeks later in Monkwearmouth. His parents were shipbuilder Robert and Essex born Elizabeth Ellen. His father was killed in an accident at the shipyard where he worked in 1899. Young Robert went on to become an apprentice marine engineer but in 1908 left England for Canada. He made his way west to Newdale, Manitoba where he found work on a farm and joined the local militia group, the 100th Winnipeg Grenadiers Regiment.

At the end of January 1916 Robert, naming his mother in Monkwearmouth as his next of kin, enlisted as a Private in the Canadian Expeditionary Force CEF) and joined the 100th (Winnipeg Grenadiers) Battalion. The following September they sailed to Liverpool on the SS Olympic to be posted to Shorncliffe Camp, Kent. A short time after arriving in England, he injured his right knee during bayonet practice, something that affected all his future military service.

Having forfeited three days’ pay for gambling, Robert then spent two weeks in hospital with influenza. He then found himself transferred in quick succession to the 11th Reserve Battalion and then the 107th Battalion at Witley, Surrey. Before a Medical Board on arrival he was classified as C3, fit for non combatant service only, due to chronic synovitis in his right knee. He was posted to the Manitoba Regimental Depot and then attached to the 4th Detachment Pay Corps at Liphook, Hampshire.

It was while he was posted there that he met and married Eveline Wearn on 12th November 1917 in St Mark’s Church, Portsmouth.

Robert was posted to various camps along the south coast until on 4th September 1919 he, his wife and three month old daughter Joan, returned to Canada on board the SS Cedric. They sailed from Liverpool to Halifax, where he was demobilised on 19th of that month.

The family took up the Government’s offer of free land for returning soldiers and tried their hand at farming. However, they decided that it was not for them and in May 1923 Robert crossed the border into USA and found work in Detroit; his family followed shortly afterwards.

By 1930 they owned their own house in Detroit and Robert was working on the presses at the local newspaper. He joined the Works’ Softball Team and games always finished with a case of bootleg beer, which lead to an alcohol problem for Robert. Eveline divorced him in 1945 and four years later he married Irene Zbradewski in Indiana, a marriage that lasted only four years.

On 20th January 1953 Robert died in a house fire which was attributed to “smoking whilst in an alcoholic state”. It is not known where he is buried.

Civil Parish: Sunderland

Birth date: 09-Aug-1892

Death date: 20-Jan-1953

Armed force/civilian: Army

Residence: 32 Whitburn Street, Monkwearmouth (1901 census)
Belle Rose Apartments, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada (service record)
201 Furby Street, Winnipeg, Manitoba (1921 Canadian census)
12236 Grandmont, Detroit, Michigan, USA (1930 US census)
12075 Sorrento Street, Detroit, Michigan, USA (US WW2 draft papers, 1942)

Religion: Church of England

Employment: Employment: Apprentice Engineer, Farmer (enlistment papers), Machinist (1921 Canadian census),
Pressman, Detroit News (1930 US census)

Family: Parents: Robert Arthur Ferguson, Ellen Elizabeth Ferguson (nee Eade)
Siblings: Frederick Ferguson, Norman Ferguson, Matilda Ferguson
Wife: 1) Eveline Alice Maud Ferguson (nee Wearn), divorced, 2) Irene Ferguson (nee Zdradrewski)
Children: Joan Ferguson, Robert Ferguson

Military service:

Pre-War Service: 100th Winnipeg Regiment (militia)
100th (Winnipeg Grenaiders) Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF)
11th Reserve Battalion, CEF
107th Battalion, CEF
4th Detachment Canadian Pay Corps

Medal(s): British War Medal

Gender: Male

Contributed by Jean Longstaff, Durham | Jim Busby, Canada

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