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Notes on Boyd Riley from his Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force Service Record and Other Sources


  • Boyd first makes his appearance in the records found to date in the 1901 Census where he is listed as an 8 year old ( b Dec 11, 1892) present in the family home as of March 31, although we are aware from other information that he may have been living with his mother at Emerson Long’s home up the road.


  • Boyd was likely the son that took his father to Paulina Maling’s home in early-1909 for nursing care. That suggestion comes from the copy of a letter from Paulina to the Commissioner of Pensions in TWR’s Civil War pension file.


  • Boyd’s US draft registration was dated June 5, 1917. Although the registration was formalized in Hartford, CT, the registrant appeared to be assigned to Precinct #1, Wakefield, MA; Boyd‘s address was given as 193 North Ave. Wakefield (his sister Jennie’s home). He indicated he worked as a conductor at the Connecticut Co. in Hartford, CT. He noted he was an alien and listed his birthplace as Montreal, PQ. He described himself as short, of slender build with blue eyes and dark brown hair.


    • The rationale as to why Boyd returned to Montreal and volunteered for the Canadian Expeditionary Force rather than be drafted into the US Military is not available but it would not be unreasonable to assume that it probably had to do with his Canadian heritage. 


    • He signed on in Montreal on Oct 12, 1917 and was assigned to the 1st Depot Battalion of the 1st Quebec Regiment.


    • On 20/03/19 his recorded age was given as 25, DoB as Dec. 11/1892, weight as 115 lb, dark? blue eyes, brown hair, dark complexion, no distinguishing scars, etc.; categorized as myopic, or nearsighted. He was demobilized on Oct 23, 1919 at 125 lb. and with a head scar. His religion was Baptist.


    • He was noted to have had an upper plate on recruitment. He had dental work carried out in England, and the notation that had or needed 3 fillings on discharge suggests he had lower teeth while in service.


    • His military record gave his address as 193 Wakefield [sic] Ave, Wakefield, MA (should have been North Ave.) and occupation as Railway Conductor.


    • He was listed as unmarried and without children.


    • Noted he had had previous military experience in the form of 2 weeks in the militia unit The 69th Regiment, also known as “The Annapolis Regiment”


    • He embarked Halifax for England on the SS Missinaibi on February 3, 1918; he arrived Liverpool on February 16, 1918 at which time he was assigned the 20th Canadian Reserve Battalion at Bramshot, England.













                                                                                   Boyd Riley in Military Uniform c 1918


    • Boyd was admitted to hospital in Oxford July 10, 1918 where he stayed until July 30, 1918 - 21 days - for head and foot injuries. The report says he got out of bed about midnight and fell through open window estimated about 40 feet high. Admitted to hospital with head cut in two places, one with bone exposed, cut left big toe and swelling on top of right foot. Left eye black on admittance, and right eye black by July 12. July 12th X-rays showed broken middle toe and fracture of left frontal and malan bones in scull. No cerebral symptoms, pupils responded, no hemorrhaging from ears. By July 26 swelling of face and bruising was gone, the right foot much less swelled and the left foot healed. He transferred to Epsom on July 30 where he stayed until August 28 when he was shipped back to his unit.


    • The falling from a window story leaves a bit to be desired, given that his wounds were on opposite ends - on his feet and his head. Damaging the head in a fall makes sense, or the arms, or the neck, or the legs…but the feet?? The more likely story is that he got in a fight and some locals, or some other soldiers, stomped on his feet until he was down and then ‘put the boots’ to his head.


    • Boyd was transferred to 13th Battalion on September 26, 1918 and shipped to France on September 27, 1918; he joined his unit on October 12, 1918.


    • On December 5th, 1918 Boyd was sentenced to 7 days detention (?) for falling out of the line of march without permission on November 11, 1918 [last day of the war!! Wow!!!!].


    • On March 16, 1919 he and his unit returned to England.


    • He next spent the period April 10 to May 16 (34 days) in hospital in Witley, Surrey for gonorrhea; discharged as "cured".


    • Boyd was court marshaled at Ripon, England on July 30, 1919 and sentenced to 6 month detention for, while on sentry duty, not taking action on June 18, 1919 when military personnel on the base mutinied and released prisoners from the guard house. Boyd was arrested June 17(?), 1919 and confined August 6, 1919 to Wand detention barracks, Witley. On October 10, 1919 the rest of sentence was "remitted" and he was shipped to Canada to be discharged for misconduct.


    • The transfer of pay cheques to his mother Mary Jane terminated November 1, 1919.


    • Boyd was discharged effective October 23, 1919. His discharge papers show "misconduct" crossed out and demobilization given as the reason for discharge


  • Post discharge address was given as 193 North Ave. Wakefield, MA, his sister Jennie Floyd’s residence.


  • Boyd was shown in the 1920 US census as a 27 year old living with the Floyds at 193 North Ave., Wakefield. In that record his immigration date is clearly given as 1910, the year after his father’s passing. He apparently did not go back after the war to his railway job in CT as he was working as a “woodworker” in a rattan factory in Wakefield in January of 1920.


  • Boyd married 22 year old Jessie Irene Rogers, in Wakefield, MA on May 28, 1921. Jessie was listed as a ‘Nurse Girl’ in the marriage record, and had been living in Somerville. She is listed as a ‘knitter’ in the 1917 Wakefield directory where she is living with her father on North Avenue. Interestingly the Rogers, railway man Ernest Clinton Rogers and wife Isobel (Henry), were neighbors of the Floyds, at least in 1920, and Boyd likely knew Jessie as she was moving through her teenage years. Boyd gave his address as Montreal.


  • The following photo is of Boyd and Jessie Irene in Revere, MA; it is undated.



Boyd Riley and His Wife Jessie Irene Rogers, Revere, MA c1921


  • To date the couple has not surfaced again. In the 1930 census there is a J. Irene Rogers of the correct age, occupied as a domestic servant for a 71 year old Almon Hill residing at 46 Peterborough Road in Hancock, New Hampshire. It is assumed to be the same lady. Searches for a divorce record and a child have been carried out but none have yet been found.  


  • There is one record of a B. Riley arriving Boston from Yarmouth, NS on April 15, 1933 aboard the ferry “Evangeline”; it may well be our Boyd although there is an earlier (decades) record of a B. Riley, female, making the same trip.


  • A copy of one letter Boyd wrote the US Pension Bureau on March 5 of 1936, concerned that somehow his mother was getting pension by claiming him as a dependent, was present in Mary Jane's civil war pension file. The letter reeked of a positive US patriotic tenor. That letter is herein extracted as follows:

                                    Bear River East

    Annapolis Co. NS.

    March 5-1936

    To the Department of Pensions.


    I would like to make a statement in reg to my mother Mary J Riley widow of Timothy W Riley alis John Henessey. U.S. Navy  act of April 19-1908  was received Aug 30. 1909

    # 28308 Claim.

    it has just come to my attention that said pension is being paid by uncle sam on the grounds for my support as i was supposed to be a burden of care  not until now have i learned facts about the claim  i have always earnt my own living since 13 years of age  she has a false claim and banking money for some Canadian to sport on the strength of uncle sam Generosity  my Father never left   she picked up and left him  I to make the best of it  i am only holding my Fathers rights and Uncle Sams for i  think it my duty to inform as to what is right   its not the only time the Canadian has taken advantage of Pensions given by Uncle Sam  one other was still taken 6 months after the death of the Pensioner and his widow  kindly look into this claim by revoking said claim  would be doing uncle Sam Justice

    yours Respectfully

    Boyd Riley

    Bear River East

    Annapolis Co.  N.S.

    age 43

    (The envelope had Canadian postage and was postmarked Clementsvale, NS, Mar 7/36)


  • Until 2012 formal records of Boyd post-1936 were not available. Family oral history indicated that Boyd disappeared in MA (supposedly from his sister's home in Wakefield) for some 20 years apparently due to his suffering from amnesia. Eventually his sister Jennie was called by authorities to come to a "home" not too far from Wakefield to retrieve him. The wording of his mother's 1939 obituary would suggest that Boyd was 'lost' at time of her death in 1939. Additionally, and according to Jennie Fahie in 2005, he apparently had a bank account in a Bear River bank which went to Ottawa as a lost account, but sister Jennie managed to get it reinstated. Boyd apparently tried a period of reconciliation with his sister Jennie in Wakefield but it did not work out and he supposedly returned to the "home" where he had lived for some 20 years. 


  • The release of the 1940 census in 2012 began to throw some light on the detail of Boyd's life during the early 1940s. The census return for Tewksbury, Middlesex, MA (sheet 22A) provides for a Boyd Riley, 46 (b c1894), b Canada, alien, as an inmate of the Tewksbury State Hospital and Infirmary as of April 8, 1940. The name Boyd Riley is rare in New England in the first half of the 20th century, and given the sketchy information in the census return the likelihood is strong that this is our Boyd Riley. The only additional piece of information in the census file is that Boyd was in the United States in 1935. but the credibility of that information is stretched as we know Boyd wrote a letter to the US Pension Board in 1936 with a postmark of Clementsvale, NS, and because most of the other of the several hundred inmates were also credited with being resident in the US in 1935.


  • That Boyd found his way to the Tewksbury institution is not unreasonable. We know that he suffered a serious skull fracture in 1918 which could have promoted a later amnesia, or a kindred mental illness. Tewksbury and Wakefield are only some 20 road kilometers apart and the hospital would be the likely destination for anyone in the area with an unstable mental condition who could not afford a private facility. However, by 1940 the hospital was aware of Boyd's name and his Canadian roots, so he had either arrived with identification on his person or at least some active memory. [Might his sister have had him committed for cause and elected not to tell the family?] Patient lists/information for the Tewksbury institution, although apparently still extant in paper file format, is currently only available on-line up to about 1911. The exceptions to this circumstance are the patient/inmate lists in the 1920, 1930, 1940 census. Details of Boyd's later years await improved access to the Tewksbury hospital records and perhaps the 1950 US census.   


RAR - 20.05.05

Updated - 09/02/13; 01/09/16