Private Alfred Davidson enlisted in May 1915 and served overseas with the 52nd Battalion. He was wounded twice, at the Somme in 1916 and the Battle of Hill 70 in 1917, but he survived the war and returned home with a war bride.
Alfred was born on 23 July 1890 in Maybole, Ayrshire, Scotland. His parents were Robert Davidson and Helen (Ellen) Closs. Ellen grew up in Maybole but Robert was from Wigtonshire. They were married in 1873 and they had at least ten children: James, Mary, William (died at age 3), John, Robert, William, Samuel, Alfred, Sarah and Mark. James and Mary were born in Liverpool, England but the eight youngest children were all born in Maybole. Albert's father died in September 1899, when he was nine years old. At the time of the 1901 census Ellen was living in Maybole with six children still at home. Her husband had been a shoe parer and several of the older boys also worked in the boot and shoe industry.
Alfred immigrated to Canada in the spring of 1912, at age 22, arriving on 18 April on the SS Tunisian with his destination listed as Keewatin, Ontario. His brother William had immigrated a few years earlier and settled in Keewatin, where he found work at a flour mill. The war started in August 1914 and Alfred enlisted the following spring. He was working as a teamster at the time and he signed up in the neighbouring town of Kenora on 21 May 1915, joining the 52nd (New Ontario) Battalion. The unit was based in Port Arthur and recruited in towns throughout northwestern Ontario. On 17 June the Kenora volunteers were sent to Port Arthur to join the rest of the battalion. They trained there over the summer and fall and left for the east coast in early November, embarking from St. John, New Brunswick on 23 November on the SS California. The men trained in England for 2-1/2 months before being sent to France on 20 February 1916, as part of the new 3rd Canadian Division.
The first engagement for the 52nd Battalion was the Battle of Mount Sorrel in June. In August the Canadian Corps began moving south for the Somme Offensive, which had started on 1 July. The 52nd Battalion boarded trains on 7 September and a week later they were in the Somme area. On 16 September they took part in an attack near the village of Courcelette. During the advance the men faced heavy machine gun and rifle fire and they suffered over 200 casualties while crossing open ground to reach their objective. Alfred was one of the casualties, with bullet wounds to his right thigh. He was admitted to a hospital in Étaples then evacuated to England several days later. He spent almost five months recovering at the 3rd Northern General Hospital in Sheffield, Yorkshire. He was transferred to a convalescent centre on 14 January 1917 and in May he was back in France with the 52nd Battalion.
Late that summer the Canadians took part in the Battle of Hill 70 (15-25 August). On 22 August the 52nd moved into the front line and on 24 August they were hit by a heavy artillery barrage. Alfred was wounded again that day, this time suffering a compound fracture of his left arm. He had an operation at a casualty clearing station before being evacuated to England in early September. He spent two months at London General Hospital in Lambeth followed by a few weeks at the Convalescent Hospital in Uxbridge. At the end of November he was transferred to No. 5 General Hospital in Liverpool. In early January 1918 he was married in Sheffield, Yorkshire to Miss Winifred Barrow. Winifred was five years younger than him and she'd grown up in Sheffield, the second of nine children of Arthur and Fannie Barrow.
A month after getting married Alfred was invalided to Canada. He embarked from Liverpool on the HS Araguaya on 4 February and arrived in Halifax on 16 February. His treatment continued at the Manitoba Military Convalescent Hospital in Winnipeg. Winifred had travelled separately and she arrived in Canada on the SS Ongar on 18 March. Alfred had another operation on his left arm and he was released from the hospital on 5 May and discharged from service on 12 May. In August he was honoured at a ceremony in Keewatin, when badges and medals were awarded to local returned veterans and the families of fallen soldiers.
After the war Alfred and Winifred made their home in Winnipeg and they raised two children, daughters Jean and Winifred. Alfred had a long career as a coach painter for the CNR, working for them for 35 years and retiring in 1955. He was a member of the Canadian Legion and the CNR Veterans' Association. He passed away in Victoria Hospital in Winnipeg on 1 August 1957, at age 67. Winifred died in 1971 and they are both buried at Thomson in the Park (Garry Memorial Cemetery) in Winnipeg.
Alfred is commemorated on the Municipality of Keewatin For King and Country 1914-1918 Roll of Honour.
By Kenora Great War Project