Muckle, William Robert (No. 177739)

Muckle, William Robert (William)


No. 177739, 87th Battalion, Canadian Infantry (Quebec Regiment)

Canadian Grenadier Guards

Killed in action on Saturday 21 October 1916 (aged 19)

No known grave


Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Vimy Memorial, France

Canadian Virtual War Memorial (CVWM)

Canadian First World War Book of Remembrance

Pembroke War Memorial, Ontario, Canada


During the First World War Private William Robert Muckle (No. 177739) served with the 87th Battalion Canadian Infantry and was killed in action on 21 October 1916 during an attack north of Courcelette in France.  In his Canadian service papers, it is recorded that he was born on 1 May 1897 in Donaghadee.

William Robert Muckle was working as a fireman when he enlisted on 19 November 1915 at Pembroke, Ontario and he cited as his next-of-kin his brother, James McWhaw (sometimes McWha, sometimes McWhan) of Booton House, Comber (sometimes Cumber), Ireland.  In another document in his service papers (dated 1916) his brother’s address is recorded as c/o D. W. Wallace Esq., Ashfield Farm, Craigavad, Co Down, Ireland.  Records show that David W. Wallace and his widowed mother, Eleanor Wallace, farmed the land and they employed several farm servants.

It is also recorded in Private Muckle’s service papers that, when he enlisted on 19 November 1915 (aged 18), he was 5 feet 7¼ inches tall with brown eyes, dark brown hair, and a dark complexion.  In February 1916 he was admitted to St John’s Military Hospital in Canada suffering from mumps and was hospitalised for three weeks.

Private William Robert Muckle (No. 177739) sailed with his Unit on 23 April 1916 from Halifax, Nova Scotia aboard the SS Empress of Britain and arrived in England on 4 May 1916.  He made his will on 20 June 1916 and, in the event of his death, he left ‘the whole of his property’ to his brother, James McWha.

Private William Robert Muckle (No. 177739) left England for France on 10 August 1916 from Bramshott Military Camp in Hampshire and was killed in action some two months later, on 21 October 1916.  Private Muckle has no known grave and is commemorated on the Vimy Memorial in France; on the Canadian Virtual War Memorial (CVWM); in the Canadian First World War Book of Remembrance (Page 139) and on the Pembroke War Memorial in Ontario, Canada.

Civil Birth Registration records show that William Robert Muckle was born on 1 May 1897, not in Donaghadee, but in Newtownards Workhouse and he was a son of Margaret (Maggie) Strain (sometimes Strean) from the townland of Ballyhay, Donaghadee.  On his birth certificate his name was registered as William Robert Strain and no father’s name was recorded.  Maggie Strain already had another son, James Alexander Strain, who was born on 22 November 1894 in Ballyhay; no father’s name was recorded on his birth certificate either.  James Alexander Strain was three and William Robert Strain was one when their mother, Maggie, died of pulmonary tuberculosis on 27 August 1898 (aged 26) in Ballyhay.  It was noted on her death certificate that she had been suffering from the disease for some six months and that her mother, Eliza, was with her when she died.

In 1901 James and William were living in Ballyhay with their widowed maternal grandmother, Eliza Strain.  On the 1901 census return their names were recorded as James A. Waugh (aged 6) and William Muckle (aged 4).

Eliza Strain’s maiden name was Heyburn and she had been married to Robert Strain.  Robert Strain and Eliza Heyburn were married on 28 October 1870 in Bangor Abbey – then the only Church of Ireland Church in Bangor and known as Bangor Parish Church of Ireland Church.  Robert Strain, a widower from Ballyfotherly, was a son of William Strain, a labourer.  Eliza Heyburn, a spinster from Groomsport, was a daughter of Samuel Heyburn, a seaman.  They had at least four children:

Margaret (Maggie, born 14 October 1871 in Ballyfotherly)

Elizabeth (born 23 April 1873 in Ballyfotherly)

Henry (born 5 September 1874 in Ballyfotherly)

Unnamed male child (born 17 January 1876 in Ballyfotherly)

Robert Strain died of chronic pneumonia on 21 September 1880 (aged 60) in Ballyfotherly and Eliza was with him when he died.  Robert had been ill for two years.

James A. Waugh was eleven and William Robert Muckle was eight when their grandmother, Eliza Strain, died of cancer in Newtownards Workhouse on 9 March 1906 (aged 68).  She had been ill for 18 months.

Records show that William Robert Muckle was sent to Canada from Newtownards Workhouse in 1910 (aged 13) aboard the SS Tunisian.  Over a period of 21 years, this ship carried more than 2,000 British Home Children to Canada.  In all, some 120,000 children who were institutionalised in homes across the United Kingdom were sent to Canada between 1869 and 1939.  They ranged in age from four to fifteen and many of the children sent were illegitimate and/or had been orphaned.  The agent in Canada who handled William Robert Muckle’s transfer from Ireland to Canada was named as Alfred de Brissac Owen and he operated Distribution Homes in Toronto, Winnipeg and elsewhere.