Private Daniel Roberts

This is one of a series of posts about local men named on the Keighley Union Workhouse roll of honour.
Daniel Roberts was recorded in Keighley Union Workhouse in the 1891 and 1901 census.

Private Daniel Joseph Roberts, 15th Battalion Canadian Infantry. Service number 27536.

Daniel was born on January 9, 1890 in Keighley and his parents were John and Elizabeth Roberts. The family must have been struggling shortly after he was born because he was an inmate in the Keighley Union Workhouse in 1891 with his mother Elizabeth aged 28. No sign of John at this time, who may have been away.
Daniel's brother Herbert was born in 1893, registered at Keighley in the second quarter of the year.

Seven years later in Keighley there is a death recorded of an Elizabeth Roberts aged 35 in the second quarter of 1900. She may have been the boys' mother but her age at death is a couple of years off her age calculated from the 1891 census.

Daniel was still at the Workhouse in 1901 at the age of 11, along with his brother Herbert Roberts, aged 8. Both were recorded as paupers. We could not find an Elizabeth Roberts in the 1901 census for the Keighley area.

Three years later on August 25, 1904, Daniel aged 14 and Herbert aged 11 were on board the SS Bavarian headed for Quebec in Canada. They appear to be unaccompanied.

War service
On September 7th 1914 Daniel had an Army medical. He attested on September 18, 1914 and enlisted a few days later on September 22 at the Canadian Forces Base at Valcartier with the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force. He was 24 years and eight months old and working as a Farm labourer on a poultry farm, although his trade is later registered as 'Teamster.' He was 5 feet 5 inches tall with a dark complexion, blue eyes and dark brown hair. He was descibed as having 6 vaccination scars on his left arm and a tattoo of a cross on his right arm.

He sailed for the UK on S.S. Megantic on October 3, 1914. On May 22, 1915 he sustained a slight gunshot wound to his right forearm, treated at no. 8, stationary hospital at Rouen and after a month to convalesce he was discharged to duty on July 11.

In March of 1916 Daniel was carrying out the duties of groom to his commanding officer's horse and was riding when he suffered a problem with his left knee when it locked and he could not extend his leg. On March 11th he was admitted to the Royal Victoria Hospital at Folkestone and was sent for an operation on the 16th to remove a detached semi-lunar cartilage which was found to be broken 'almost into two pieces.'
He went to Monk's Horton hospital on the 3rd April and a week later, to convalesce at the Granville Canadian Special Hospital at Ramsgate.
Daniel was discharged from hospital on August 31.
He was declared unfit for service and he returned to Canada on SS Missanabie on September 23, 1916.

[Note: SS Missanabiee was sunk on the 9th September 1918 when on route from Liverpool for New York. She was torpedoed by German submarine UB-87 when 52 miles off Ireland with the reported loss of 45 lives lost.]

Daniel was officially discharged from the Canadian Infantry on December 8, 1916, being 'No longer physically fit for war service.' He was 26 years, eight months old and this meant that for him the war was over. Beginning on December 9th, he received a small pension amounting to $96 for one full year. The cause of his disability was declared to be 'relaxed ligaments of left knee joint - due to service' and he suffered from lameness, pain and loss of control, especially when descending steps or a hill. Apparently he had a history of a knee strain at Bailleul, although no date is recorded.

Later life
His home address was 725, Gladstone Avenue, Toronto, Ontario.
Daniel's next of kin was his brother Herbert Roberts of 57, Beaconsfield Avenue, Toronto and this has been struck out and replaced with 9, Armstrong Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, presumably after a house move. Herbert was also recorded as serving with the 15th Battery, Canadian Field Artillery.

A Supposition
Unusally for us, we'll make a supposition here, purely to encourage discussion:
Daniel's Canadian service records mention the family link to the name Kavanagh. Although unconfirmed, we have found a marriage record for a John Roberts and Elizabeth Kavanagh and an outward passenger list for a John Roberts to Canada although there's no proof that he is the father. We suspect that John could have emigrated to Canada after Elizabeth's death in 1900 and then made arrangements for his sons to join him for a better life out there. It seems quite a stretch to expect a 14 year old and an 11 year old to emigrate unsupported, so this remains a bit of a mystery.

Unconfirmed information
We have also seen accounts of the following:
Daniel married Isabella Laurie Alexander on 25th March 1917 and they had two daughters, Margaret born in 1918 and Isabelle born in 1922. (According to his Army service records, Daniel was sending $20 of his wage per month home to Isabella Alexander at 9, Armstrong Avenue inToronto. Later,Daniel, Isabella and Margaret also appear in the Canadian 1921 census)
Daniel's wife Isabella died on 2nd November 1934.
Daniel then married Elsie Crane on 26th September 1936. (His third marriage)
Daniel died on December 11, 1968 at Toronto. He would have been 78 years old. His wife Elsie Roberts contacted the Canadian Department of Veteran's Affairs to inform them of Daniel's death in 1968.

Source information:

England and Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index, 1837-1915
1891 England Census
1901 England Census
UK, Outward Passenger Lists, 1890-1960
Ontario, Canada, Marriages, 1801-1928
Canadian Army WWI Service Records, 1914-1920
Keighley Union Workhouse roll of honour held at Cliffe Castle Museum, Keighley.
SS Missanabie wreck information

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