Page 70zz5 Great Canadian Heritage Discoveries
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More important Canadian antique memorabilia the Museum has preserved.
Copyright Goldi Productions Ltd. 1996-1999-2005

The Hunt Begins - You check the attestation papers for the Canadians who served in the Boer War.

Only one McKee served in the Boer War in a Canadian unit: one William A McKee.

Good match. Could be our man...

But the attestation paper shows McKee came from Charlottetown, PEI, over 1300 kms away from where his portrait has turned up...

How can a family pic migrate like that? Not a good match...

Also, William is listed as a Sergeant, and though, in the picture, he appears to hold what could be a non-Com's drill cane, he has no sergeant stripes on his tunic. Baah-humbug, not a good match... again...

Further research uncovers the name of a William A McKee on the World War I memorial at the Badjeros, Ontario, cemetery.

Better match. He's not far from Toronto. A lot closer to where our portrait turned up, than Prince Edward Island.

So forget the Wm. A McKee from PEI. And track down the new soldier from Badjeros.

Research on World War 1 vets uncovers several William A McKees.

And wonder of wonders, one is called William Alexander McKee, who came from Charlottetown, PEI, and who has the same birthday as our man: June, 1881. He also served in South Africa...

And both have a mole on their stomachs...

So our PEI William A McKee is the same William Alexander McKee who later signed up for World War I.

So it's probably he, whose name is on the Badjeros, Ontario war memorial...

Looking good.

We note on our William's WWI attestation paper that, on the eve of World War I, he signed up as Captain in the Artillery.

Another nice match for the portrait.

Our William is posed, then, not as a sergeant with a drill cane, but as a captain, with a swagger stick, and his rank are pips on his shoulder tabs, not stripes on his sleeve.

The ribbon bar that our William wears, on his left breast, helps date it. Thousands of Canadians got their first campaign medals for service in the Boer War. Photos show them displaying either the Queen's or the King's South Africa medals (QSA or KSA) on their studio photos.

On their fighting duds they wore ribbon bars. The ribbon bar shown on William's tunic, though not decipherable, shows that the photo is post 1902.

In fact it was common for soldiers to have to wait years before they would get their medals for a war that was over in May, 1902.

Our William would not get his medals till 1905.

For some reason, though he did not sign up till January 1902, a full year after Queen Victoria had died, he was still eligible for the QSA, not the KSA.

Probably since Edward would not be crowned king until after the war was over, the dead queen still ruled, and issued medals...







Medal Roll - William was entitled to a single medal, the QSA with three bars for Cape Colony, Transvaal, and South Africa 1902. But it would have been a single ribbon bar, as shown on his tunic.

The picture then is definitely post Boer War and dates from somewhere between 1905 and 1914.

When he progressed from being a sergeant in the 10th Canadian Field Hospital Unit of the Canadian Army Medical Corps, to become a captain of artillery in the 6th Battery of the II Brigade of the Canadian Army.

In civilian life William had progressed too. Like the 600,000 Canadians who served in World War I, William was a civilian volunteer, taking time off civvy street, to fight for Queen and Country.

William had gone to the Boer War as a musician.

When he signed up in 1914, he lists himself as an accountant with the Inter Colonial Railway.










Postscript: Our William is not the McKee who is named on the Badjeros, Ontario, war memorial.

On his WWI attestation paper William Alexander McKee notes his next of kin live in St. John, New Brunswick.

He also lists his employer as the Inter Colonial Railway, so he probably also lived in St. John. He hadn't moved to Toronto.

Further research finds that the William A McKee listed on the Badjeros, Ontario war memorial is William Archibald McKee, of nearby Grand Valley, Ontario.

He was a former school teacher, born in 1897, who was killed as an artillery gunner in World War I.

The mystery continues: how did a New Brunswick's vet picture end up in Toronto?

Ultimately someone probably moved out of the chronically depressed Maritime region to economically vibrant Ontario, and brought the family heirloom with them.










































Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

How many times have you come across an unsigned picture of a veteran? Lamentably most vet portraits lack a name.

The Toronto family from whose estate this picture came said it was William McKee...

Not much to go on. No time; no place; no unit. Just a soldier with a drill cane...

But you want some corroboration to see how a portrait that turns up in Toronto, Ontario, could match someone with that name...

It's obviously Boer War era - the charcoal, which was a popular medium in the 1880s and 90s, his uniform, the facial hair.

Charcoal, Oval Framed Portrait, William McKee - c 1905
Orig. charcoal - Size - 33 x 48 cm
Found - Toronto, ON

The Mysterious William McKee c 1905