Born in Keewatin, Ontario, Robert James Taylor was the son of Robert Taylor and Ada Eastwood. Robert Sr. and his wife Ada had six children between 1893 and 1900 but sadly only two of them survived infancy, Robert James (1894) and his sister Ada Rose known as Rosie (1897). Their mother Ada died on 29 June 1900, a month before Robert's 6th birthday. She was just 25 years old and her youngest child had died a week earlier, shortly after birth.
At the time of the 1911 census son Robert age 16 was living in Keewatin with his father, his sister Rosie and a new step-mother, Bertha (née Davis or Davies). Both Robert and his father were working as car checkers for the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR).
When war broke out Robert had already served one year in the Canadian Militia. He enlisted on December 29, 1914 in Kenora, a sister town to Keewatin. According to an article in the local newspaper, with the heading Many Young Men Rush to Enlist, in just a few hours more men offered their services than were allotted. From this call 15 were chosen from Kenora and 8 young men from Keewatin, including Robert. The balance were chosen from the neighbouring communities of Fort Frances, Rainy River and Emo to make up the 40 plus one officer. About another 20 young men from this area had gone into Winnipeg, thinking their chances were better at being accepted there. It was expected that many more young men would sign up, enough to fill a 3rd and 4th contingent.
Robert was transferred to the 52nd (New Ontario) Battalion when it was organized in March 1915. The battalion was headquartered in Port Arthur and he was sent there in June along with the rest of the Kenora volunteers. While they were training the 1st Canadian Division was fighting in France and Belgium. Recruits were needed to replace casualties in the front line units and battalions in Canada were asked to send reinforcements. Robert was sent to England with the 2nd Reinforcing Draft in September 1915, one of 250 men from the 52nd Battalion. After four more months of training in England Robert was drafted to the 27th (City of Winnipeg) Battalion and sent to France. He arrived there on January 20, 1916 and two weeks later he joined his new unit in Belgium.
That spring the Canadian Divisions were in the Ypres Salient, holding the front lines between Hooge and St. Eloi. The 27th Battalion was involved in the fighting at St. Eloi in April, suffering heavy casualties, and two months later they were at the Battle of Mount Sorrel (June 2-13, 1916). The battle began on the morning of June 2 with a German bombardment of the Canadian lines followed by the explosion of underground mines. It ended two weeks later with little change to the front lines but at a cost of more than 8,000 Canadian casualties.
Following the battle the 27th Battalion remained in the Ypres area, doing rotations in the trenches and carrying our patrols and raids. On July 30 they took over a section of the line in the St. Eloi sector and they were there for five days. During that time Robert was killed in action on August 2, just a few days after his 22nd birthday. He was one of 58 casualties in his unit in the month of August 1916: 48 wounded, 8 killed and 2 missing.
Robert James Taylor is buried in Ridge Wood Military Cemetery near Ypres in Belgium. He is commemorated on the Keewatin Cenotaph, the St. James Anglican Church plaque in Keewatin, the Lake of the Woods Milling Company plaque and on page 171 of the First World War Book of Remembrance at the Peace Tower in Ottawa.
Around 1920 Robert's father and his wife Bertha moved to New Westminster, British Columbia. Robert Sr. died there in January 1957 at age 91. Robert's only sister Ada Rose (Mrs. Matthew Walker) died in New Westminster in January 1992, a widow, age 94.
By Kenora Great War Project