We need your help: Was the home boy Francis Henry Staniford (1896-1964) in the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery during WWI?

We need your help: Was the home boy Francis Henry Staniford (1896-1964) in the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery during WWI?

By Jean-Marie Dubois (Université de Sherbrooke) and Nicole Fontaine (Société d’histoire de Weedon)

Since 2019, the Eastern Townships Genealogy Society has published a series of biographies of soldiers from the Eastern Townships “Visages estriens – Hommage à nos militaires”. We would like to complete the biography of Francis Henry Staniford and need your help.

Francis was a home boy and, in a document provided by the Gibbs Home in March 1917, during the First World War, Francis enlisted in the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery. In the Sherbrooke Daily Record of February 26, 1917, it was mentioned that he had been injured, but no information was given about whether it was during maneuvers at home or overseas. We found no military sources and no military records at Library and Archives Canada. We are appealing to your readers to find any other source of information to prove his commitment and to know if he was part of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. Here’s what we know about him.

Francis Frank Henry Staniford was born in Beech Hill, Berkshire, England on February 20, 1896. He was the third of eight children of Emily Annie Wooders (1873-1905) and Henry Staniford (1868-1940) an agricultural day laborer. His parents were married in the district of Bradfield, Berkshire around October 1891. The family lived in Beech Hill until around 1897, then in Bisley in Surrey. After his wife died in childbirth, Henry took care of his children until he could no longer support the task and had to consider placing several of his sons. So Francis was placed in St. Aldhelms Home Boys, Frome, Somerset, and, at age 15 he became one of the home children brought to Canada by the Church of England Waifs & Strays. He sailed from Liverpool aboard the Allan Line steamer, Virginian, on April 28, 1911 and arrived in Quebec on May 6. He was lodged at Gibb’s Home for Boys on Lawford Street in Sherbrooke (closed in 1950). In the June 1911 census, he was recorded as a gardener and horse-keeper for Dr. Issac Crack of the village of Compton. Francis later became a plumber.

After the war, Francis married Mary Louisa Angie Brewer (1897-1990) in St. George’s Anglican Church, Lennoxville on May 22, 1919. Louisa had immigrated to the country from England in 1910 with her parents, Emma Stevens (1871-1948) and Henry William Harry Brewer (1868-1934), locomotive engineer for the Grand Trunk Railway (now Canadian National) at Lennoxville. Louisa and Francis had one daughter, Mary Dorothy (1920-2013), who married Donald Campbell Atto (1918-1972), a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force, at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Sherbrooke, March 15, 1941. They settled in Ontario and had four children: Peter, Jeff, Ann and Susan Sue.

In the 1921 census, Francis was a plumber and in 1925 he was an employee of the Quebec Central Railway. In 1940 he was an employee of Canadian Pacific Railway until his retirement around 1961. He died in Sherbrooke on November 15, 1964. He is buried with his wife and daughter in St. Peter’s Cemetery.

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