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Robert & Mary Burrows had Seven Sons Serving in WWII

On a crisp winter day in January, I spent a very enjoyable afternoon with Helen (Burrows) Horrigan. I had just read an archived article in the December 2, 1943 issue of the Herald Tribune where Robert Burrows (Helen’s father) stated he had six sons and one step-son in the military. Not only was it very interesting to hear about the military tradition of this family, but the entire “family story” in itself was a fascinating one. 

Robert, a veteran of the Boer War and a widower with four sons; Tom, Alex, Bill and Hector and Mary Pollock (nee Sneddon), a widow with five children; Jim, John, Catherine, Alex and Mae, married and subsequently had four children; George, David, Leslie and Helen. The Burrows family, originally from Shettleston, Glasgow, Scotland had read advertisements about the opportunity for landownership and farming in Canada and decided that the move would be a worth-while endeavor for their large family. 

On March 24, 1927, the largest family to immigrate to Canada sailed on the Canadian Pacific Liner “S.S. Melita” under the “3000 Families Scheme”. This program operated from 1925 – 1928 and was governed under the terms of the Empire Settlement Act whereby the Canadian government made land available to British immigrant farmers, while the British government advanced settlers funds for stock and equipment. Rt – their adventure even made headlines in a Toronto, ON newspaper. 

The 12 children ranged in age from 6 weeks to 16 years. Mary’s son, James Pollock, who was 22, stayed behind in Shettleston. The ship docked at Halifax after which the family boarded a train for the trip to Grande Prairie where they were met by Jim Storm who was a representative of the Immigration Department. The family purchased the E ½ 12-72-4-W6, in the Glen Leslie area, through 

the Soldier Settlement Board. The NE ¼ was the original homestead of Mr. Leroux that was cancelled. The S/E ¼ was the original homestead of Mr. Jacques Altmann who received the patent on the property in 1918. It was a busy time for the family as they settled into their farming lifestyle; however, the older children soon reached adulthood and moved out on their own. 

Mary had one son, James Pollock, from her first marriage; Robert had four sons from his first marriage, Thomas, Alexander, William and Hector, and two sons from their marriage, George and David; all in the armed forces during WWII. Thankfully, they all returned home. 

Corporal James Pollock – Regimental # M55649 
Date of Birth – September 23, 1905
Date of Death – August 1991 

Jim decided to join the family at Glen Leslie and arrived in 1928. He worked for various farmers and also worked in the coal mines in Drumheller, Carbon Valley and the Spring Creek Coal Mine south of Grande Prairie. He enlisted with the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps in Calgary on July 24, 1940. In 1940, he was transferred to Victoria, BC where he was an ambulance driver with the R.C.A. Medical Corp. Later he was transferred to the R.C.E. as a fire truck driver. Jim was discharged in 1947 and settled in Victoria with his wife, Evelyn (nee Isberg) and five children where he was employed as a forklift operator. Jim passed away in Victoria. 

Sergeant Thomas Burrows – Regimental # M25812 
Date of Birth: April 25, 1911 
Date of Death: 1977

Thomas worked on the family farm and for local farmers until he ventured out on his own and filed for a homestead on SW 21-73-3-W6 in the Fitzsimmons area. The application was later cancelled. On September 9, 1939, Thomas enlisted with the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps in Edmonton. After basic training, he sailed for England on January 25, 1940. In 1941, Thomas was diagnosed with lip cancer; received treatment in England before he was transferred back to Edmonton where he was stationed at the Prince of Wales Armories. From there, he was transferred to the Suffield Experimental Station. Thomas was discharged in Calgary on October 1, 1945. Thomas married Vera Rees of Edmonton and had 10 children. They moved back to Crystal Creek area where they farmed for a period of time but decided to return to Edmonton where Thomas found employment with the Provincial Government until his retirement in 1975. Once retired, they moved to Ladysmith, BC where they resided until Thomas passed away. 

Cook William Paris Burrows – Regimental # V4874 
Date of Birth: May 24, 1913 
Date of Death: 1980

Bill worked for various farmers in the Glen Leslie area and also found employment at Phil Lessoway’s Barber Shop in Grande Prairie. He enlisted with the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve in 1942 at the H.M.C.S Nosuch, a land-based naval establishment in Edmonton where he trained until he was transferred to the H.M.C.S Naden at Esquimalt, BC. Bill spent six months on Kinahan Island (located 20 miles from Prince Rupert). He was subsequently transferred to the Halifax Naval Base and lastly to the St. Johns Naval Base in Newfoundland. Bill was discharged on demobilization and settled in Calgary with his wife, 

Marie, and their three sons, Ron, Randy and Brian. He is buried in Calgary. 

Hector M. Burrows – Regimental # M17561 
Date of Birth: April 1, 1914 
Date of Death: December 1, 1994 

Hector worked on the family farm and for various famers in the Glen Leslie area. He enlisted in Grande Prairie with the Royal Canadian Amoured Corps, Calgary Tank Regiment (C Squadron) in 1940. He trained at Camp Borden, ON before being sent to England in 1941. Hector served in Africa, Sicily and Italy. He was discharged on demobilization and settled in Faust, AB; later moved to High Prairie and resided there until his death. Hector had married Mary Graham from the Fitzsimmons area and they had three children, Geraldine, Donald and Faye. They later divorced. 

S/Sergeant Alexander B. Burrows – Regimental # M16403 
Date of Birth: September 15, 1917 
Date of Death: July 23, 1998 

Alex finished his education at the Somme School. He worked on the family farm and also for local farmers and at one point he homesteaded with his brother Tom in the Fitzsimmons area. He enlisted with the Canadian Expeditionary Force, 49th Edmonton Regiment on September 14, 1939 following which he sailed for England a month later. In 1940, Alex was transferred to Dunfermline, Scotland to embark for Norway as the Germans had invaded from the south. He returned to the south coast of England prior to the evacuation of Allied troops from Dunkirk, France to England as German forces had closed in on the Allies. Alex was then sent to Scotland for eight months to attend a commando course under the leadership of Lord Lovat after which he returned to England and rejoined the 49th Edmonton Regiment and prepared for the raid on Spitzbergen, an island located north of Norway. The German Atlantic Fleet had been using the island as a refueling base; therefore, all the coal mines and oil wells were destroyed. The Russian inhabitants were sent back to Russia and then all the Norwegians were loaded and taken to Scotland. There was not a living thing left on the island. Alex married Winnie Butcher in England in July 1942. In July 1943, Alex was transferred to the Middle East to invade Sicily with the 1st Canadian Division. Once Sicily was secured, the Division headed to the mainland in August 1943. The Division fought up the Adriatic Coast and engaged in the Battle of Ortona where Alex was wounded and evacuated to the Canadian No. 13 General Hospital in North Africa. In 1944, he returned to England and was posted to a camp in Aldershot where all the Canadians were held prior to being repatriated to Canada. Alex was discharged on demobilization in Calgary and returned to civil life. Alex and his wife, Winnie, settled in Montreal where they raised their four children, Margaret, Janet, James and Ian; later moved to Ottawa where Alex passed away. Alex and Winnie each wanted to be buried in their hometowns; therefore, Alex was buried in the Glen Leslie Cemetery and Winnie in England. 

Gunner George S. Burrows – Regimental # M66193 
Korea Regimental # SM800351 
Date of Birth: September 9, 1923 
Date of Death: February 17, 1992 

George attended the Somme School from 1930 to 1939. He worked on the family farm and for various farmers until he enlisted on September 9, 1941 in Edmonton with the Royal Canadian Artillery, 23rd Field Regiment, and 4th Division. He received his basic training at Camrose, AB; Brandon, MB and Sussex, NB. In July 1943, George sailed for England where he trained until July 1944 when he embarked for France. He was wounded in Belgium in September 1944 and spent a considerable amount of time in the hospital before being released to join his regiment in Holland just two weeks before the war was over. George sailed from England in December 1945, docked in New York; then traveled by train to Calgary and arrived on New Year’s Day. George was discharged on demobilization on February 6, 1946. He subsequently enlisted for service with the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery, 2nd Field Division, in the Korean War in August 1950. George returned to Canada in 1952 after which he joined the Peace Time Army from 1956 to 1959 where he was stationed at Camp Petawawa, ON. George married Alice Paul in 1946 but they later divorced. He never remarried and settled in Victoria, BC for a period of time and then moved to Calgary in 1979 where he resided until his death. 

Lance Corporal David Sneddon Burrows – Regimental # M104378 
Date of Birth: September 16, 1924 
Date of Death: February 6, 2014 

David attended the Somme School from 1931 to 1939 at which time he worked on the family farm until he enlisted with the Royal Canadian Engineers on October 14, 1942 in Grande Prairie. He trained in Edmonton at the Prince of Wales Armories until December 1942 when he was transferred to Chilliwack, BC and remained there until September 1943 when he was transferred to Hamilton, ON, returned to Chilliwack, BC and lastly transferred to Truro, NS. David sailed for England where he trained for the Normandy Invasion. He sailed for France on June 6, 1944 and landed at Juno Beach and subsequently was involved in the Battle of Caen in August of 1944. From there, George was transferred to Holland and then back to England for the repatriation process and was discharged in 1945. While in England, he married a lady by the name of Iris and they settled in Grande Prairie after the war where David found employment driving a horse-drawn milk wagon and later worked at Imperial Motors. They had three children, Pete, John and Judy. In 1956, the family returned to England. David and Iris divorced and David returned to Grande Prairie were he resided until he passed away. He was buried in the Glen Leslie Cemetery. 

Above picture, taken in France, was out of a newspaper and given to Helen Horrigan by her brother, David.

John Pollock (1910-1997) – worked for various famers, married Dorothy Lott, had three children, purchased his own farm, worked on oil rigs, later employed by the Provincial Government as a painter, retired in 1976, buried in Grande Prairie Cemetery. 

Catherine Pollock (1911-1976) – worked for local families, married Pete Donohue, had seven children, buried in Grande Prairie Cemetery. 

Alexander Pollock (1917-1939) attended Somme School, was employed by Buffalo Lakes Logging Company, buried in Glen Leslie Cemetery. 

Mae Pollock (1920-1941) – attended the Somme School, married Albert Voz, buried at Glen Leslie Cemetery. 

Leslie Burrows (1925-2010) – attended Somme School 1932 to 1940, married Wilma Scott, had two children, remained on the farm until 1951, moved to Grande Prairie, buried in the Glen Leslie Cemetery. 

Helen Burrows (1927) – attended Somme School and the Bezanson High School, married Jim Horrigan (1923- 2016 – buried at Glen Leslie Cemetery), had five children, lives in Grande Prairie. 

It was a very sad time for the family when Mary Burrows passed away in 1939 at the age of 53. The funeral was held at the Glen Leslie Church. Robert passed away in 1973 at the age of 83; both were buried in the Glen Leslie Cemetery. The Burrows family members were true pioneers who persevered in spite of all the hardships encountered and built a successful and rewarding life steeped in military history. 

Written by Wanda Zenner 
February 2019 


Information and pictures provided by Helen (Burrows) Horrigan who gathered the military information from her siblings. 

Smoky to Grande Prairie History Book 

South Peace Regional Archives 


**No military records to review therefore the writer express no opinion on the content of the military section** 

Robert Burrows’ first wife – Katherine Paris; Mary Burrows’ first husband – John Pollock. 

Immigration Passenger List states port of entry was Quebec. 

Unable to locate Hector Burrows army rank. 


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