Private 871303 16th Battalion, Canadian Infantry (Manitoba Regiment)
Date of Death: 4/11/1917
William Pettitt was born on 29 March 1890 in Birmingham, England. He was the son of Edward and Harriet M. Pettitt. He also had several siblings including Eliza, Laura, Samuel, Leah, and Lilly. According to the 1911 Census of Canada, William was living in New Brunswick and working as a labourer before moving to Transcona prior to February 1916. He was employed as a steelworker and living at 10 Ralph Avenue in Transcona at the time of enlistment. His mother, who was listed as his next-of-kin, was living in Toronto.
William enlisted on 26 February 1916 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. His name appeared in The Transcona Times in early 1916 following his enlistment. He joined the 183rd Battalion (Manitoba Beavers) on enlistment and was later transferred to the 108th Battalion and the 14th Reserve Battalion before joining the 16th Battalion, Canadian Infantry (Manitoba Regiment). He served in France and Belgium. Pte. William Pettitt was killed in action near the trenches west of Passchendaele on 4 November 1917 at the age of 27. His grave registration states that he died of wounds.
He most likely took part in the Second Battle of Passchendaele, the last of the Battles of Ypres in late 1917.
Burial and Commemorations
Pte. Pettitt is buried in the Passchendaele New British Cemetery, Belgium (III. A. 9.). The personal inscription on his headstone reads: "SLEEP ON NOW AND TAKE THY REST". His mother was a recipient of a Memorial Cross.
At this time, William Pettitt is not commemorated on the Transcona Cenotaph. There are a few explanations as to why this may be. Firstly, by late 1917 The Transcona Times was absorbed into a larger newspaper publication that included news from the surrounding Springfield district. As well, there are no surviving newspapers published after early 1918 in Transcona. Since William's death occurred in late 1917, and because of imperfect historical records, the news of his passing may have been omitted in error.
Secondly, the Transcona Cenotaph was not completed until 1931. At the time of its construction, there were only 66 names of the current 80 known killed in action from the First World War (now, 81). This was most likely the result of incomplete records as mentioned above. His remaining family members were also not residing in Transcona during the planning and construction of the cenotaph. The cenotaph was rededicated in 2011 with the names of missing soldiers added for both World Wars. However, there are currently 3 names missing from the Second World War plaques, and there may be more unidentified.
Lastly, with increased access to digital record holdings, more information is available from this time period. William Pettitt was identified through an ongoing research project to expand our military history at the Transcona Museum in August 2021. As a result, William Pettitt will be added to our Books of Honour and his story will be shared with the Transcona Legion, as well as the Transcona community so that he will be remembered.
Lest We Forget.
"Our Honor Roll." Transcona Times (Transcona, MB), 31 March 1916.
"Roll of Honor." Transcona Times (Transcona, MB), 7 April 1916.
Transcona Museum Archives.