Private Alfred Ernest King was called up for service in December 1917, at age 21. He was sent to Siberia a year later and he returned to Canada in May 1919. He served again in the Second World War.
Alfred was the oldest son of Henry Charles King and Elizabeth Mary Haberfield of Kenora, Ontario. Henry and Elizabeth were both born in Somerset, England. They were married in 1886 and their three oldest children were born in the city of Exeter in Devonshire: Edna (1887), Florence (1889) and Beatrice (1891). In 1893 the family immigrated to Canada, sailing from Liverpool on 20 April on the SS Sardinian and arriving in Quebec on 1 May. Their destination was Balgonie, NWT (now in Saskatchewan). By the time Alfred was born, on 3 August 1896, his parents had settled in Rat Portage (later renamed Kenora). They had two more sons, Albert in 1900 and Sidney in 1906. Henry worked as a labourer and mill hand and by 1911 he was a health inspector for the town of Kenora.
Conscription started in Canada in 1917, as the war entered its fourth year, and single men age 20 to 34 were required to register by November. Alfred failed to register and he was called up in December as a defaulter. He was 21 years old, just 5'2" tall and 112 lb., with his occupation listed as farmer. He had his medical exam on 11 December in Winnipeg and the following day he was assigned to the 1st Depot Battalion, Manitoba Regiment.
On 19 January 1918 Alfred was admitted to St. Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg with an ear infection. The infection spread to his mastoid and he was a patient at St. Boniface for six months. At the end of June he was transferred to the Manitoba Military Hospital in Tuxedo Park, where he had a mastoidectomy. He recovered for a further six weeks but he was permanently deaf in one ear. He was discharged to his unit on 12 August and a month later he was transferred to the reinforcing draft for the Siberian contingent.
Plans were in place to assemble an international force at Vladivostok in Siberia. The goals included supporting and helping train the anti-Bolshevik forces, and protecting large stockpiles of Russian weapons and supplies to keep them from falling into the hands of the Bolsheviks. The Canadian Expeditionary Force (Siberia) was made up of two infantry battalions, the 259th and 260th, as well as artillery, cavalry, machine gun and support units, for a total of just over 4,000 men. Alfred was sent to Victoria, British Columbia and on 13 October he was transferred to "B" Company of the 260th Battalion. At the end of the October he became ill with influenza and he spent twelve days in the hospital at Willows Camp. He was discharged from the hospital on 11 November, the day the Armistice was signed.
The 260th Battalion sailed from Vancouver on 26 December 1918 on the SS Protesilaus. Also on board was another lad from Kenora, Everett Dusang, who was with the 259th Battalion. The ship arrived in Vladivostok on 15 January. The Canadians were not involved in any combat operations in Siberia but there were casualties from accidents, illness and disease, including a few men buried at sea. In March 1919 it was decided to disband the CEFS and send the troops home over the next few months. Alfred embarked for Canada on 21 April on the SS Monteagle and arrived in Vancouver on 5 May. He was discharged on demobilization a week later.
When the 1921 census was taken Alfred was living at home in Kenora with his parents and two brothers. After that he spent several years in the U.S. before returning to Kenora around 1928. His mother died in October 1928 and she's buried in Lake of the Woods Cemetery. Alfred was employed by the Department of Lands and Forests in the Kenora area for almost thirty years, working as a forest ranger and at their local fish hatchery. He enlisted again during the Second World War, signing up in Kenora on 21 April 1941 with the Canadian Forestry Corps (reg. no. H-62741). He served with them for just over a year. In the summer of 1942 he spent three months at the army's Vocational Training School and in September he was attached to the Veterans' Guard of Canada. He served as a guard in numerous places in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia. He was dischaged on 20 August 1945 in Winnipeg.
Alfred returned to his job with the Department of Lands and Forests, retiring in 1960. He passed away in St. Joseph's Hospital on 3 August 1965, his 69th birthday. He was survived by all five of his siblings. His funeral was held on 6 August and he's buried in Lake of the Woods Cemetery along with his parents and his brothers and sisters: Edna (Mrs. Marshall Gordon)(1887-1977), Florence (Mrs. John Lunny)(1889-1978), Beatrice (Mrs. Sidney Reeve)(1891-1979), Albert Edward John (1900-1973) and Sidney Walter (1906-1971).
By Kenora Great War Project