William was born in Blackham on the 22 October 1879. His family moved shortly after
to Groombridge where William went to school.
He became a carpenter and married Emily Ellen Hobbs in 1901 and their son Frederick
James was born in 1904. Sometime later they emigrated to Virden, a small farming
community in Manitoba, Canada where their daughter Constance was born in 1911.
William enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force on 31 March 1916. He arrived in
England 12 November and, after a brief visit to see his parents, joined the 78th
Battalion in France on 27 January 1917 where he took part in many attacks including
He first reported sick on 27 October 1917 complaining of dizziness and headaches. The
initial diagnosis was neurathenia, an obsolete term which we'd nowadays call stress and
At the end of the war, he again managed to visit his parents before heading back to
Canada. But his health had continued to deteriorate and he was taken ill on the boat.
After tests for 'flu, and even syphilis, a heart specialist, in March 1919, discovered
William was suffering from Aortitis, inflammation of the Aorta, potentially lethal in an
era before antibiotics.
He was discharged as medically unfit and arrived home on the 23 April. He died on the 29 June.
An obituary in the Sevenoaks Chronicle included: ‘He was accorded a military funeral on 2 July. The casket was draped with
the Union Jack.
‘About fifty of the veterans, many in uniform, attended and also brethren of the Canadian Order of Foresters of which body the
deceased was a member.
‘The service took place in St Mary’s Church, Virden and was read by Rural Dean Findler, who also officiated at the grave. The
COF service was then read.
‘Many beautiful floral emblems bore silent testimony of respect for the departed and sympathy for the bereaved, including
Virden RSA, Virden Branch of GWVA and Court Virden COF.
‘Deceased was 29 years of age and was borne to his last resting place by three veteran comrades and three fellow members of
After William's death Emily and the children returned to England and settled in Barnet, Herts. Emily died in 1972 aged 94.
William James Comper
Retured after emigrating to Canada to serve his country
Thanks to Frank Wiltshire for this research
Virden War Memorial
where William is