Charles Henry Whitham

Charles was born 0n 7 November 1886 in Stratton St. Michael, Norfolk to Fanny and James Whitham. His father was a butcher in the village.

Charles was baptised in St. Michael and St Peter Church in Stratton St. Michael on 27 February 1887. At that time the family lived in Star Lane, Long Stratton.

He had two siblings;

Frederick James born in 1889

Winifred Isabel born 16 March 1898

Records show that they lived in Long Stratton for several years. They lived on the hill of the main street and James worked as a butcher. In 1901 Charles although only aged 14 years was working as a carpenter.

In 1907 he joined a trade union for carpenters and joiners in London.

He emigrated to Canada arriving there in June 1907 on SS Virginian and worked as a carpenter.  His whereabouts in the following years is not known. In the 1911 Canadian Census there is a Chas. Whitham working in Vancouver but it is not known if this is the same person.

On 29 December 1914 he enlisted in the 9th Overseas Canadian Mounted Rifle Regiment.  He was 28 years and one month old. He was 5 feet 8 inches tall with a 37 inch chest. He had a fair complexion with blue eyes and fair hair. He had a mole on the back of his neck. He gave his religion as Church of England. His service number was 114067.

When he enlisted he stated that he had served for four years with the Royal Army Medical Corps and had been a corporal. It has not been possible to find any more information about this or when it was.

He later served with the Canadian Army Medical Corps.  When he enlisted he gave his next of kin as James Whitham of Saxlingham Nethergate .  This was changed later to Lilian Craggs Whitham, his wife.

On 5 October 1915 he married Lilian Craggs Kirby born 5 March 1896. She came from Sunderland and she was a dress maker. In July 1914 she travelled with her mother and some of her siblings on SS Lake Manitoba to Canada. Her father had already emigrated there and they were joining him. He had been a seaman. They lived in Lloydminster, Saskatchewan. Lilian’s family found life in Saskatchewan very hard but they could not afford to return to England. When she married Charles she was 19 years of age and he was 29 years old.

Charles remained in training in Canada until 23 November 1915 when the Regiment sailed on the SS California to Liverpool.

In 1916 Charles was based in England at the Canadian military camp at Bramshott. There was a large Canadian hospital there, later known as No 9 Canadian Stationary Hospital.

On 21 January 1916 Charles was admitted to hospital with bronchitis as a result of influenza. He was in hospital for seven days.

On 29 May 1916 Lilian Whitham arrived in Liverpool. She had sailed from Montreal on the SS Missanabie. She travelled to Saxlingham Nethergate to stay with her parents-in-law. She said that her permanent address had been in Canada but did not know where she would live in the future. She was aged 20 years old. It is assumed that she had never previously met her parents-in-law, James and Fanny Whitham. Her passage had been paid for by her husband.

Charles was granted leave from 31 May 1916 till 6 June 1916 presumably to see his wife after she had just arrived.

 Lilian stayed with her parents in law for the duration of the war. Her allowances from the army were paid into the Post Office in Saxlingham Nethergate.  Charles also gave his parent’s address as his, as he is on the Saxlingham Absent Voters lists for 1918 and 1919.

On 20 June 1916 Charles was admitted to the Military Hospital, Bramshott. He had colitis and was discharged on 27 June 1916.

He was readmitted to the hospital on 18 July 1916 with appendicitis and remained there until 2 September 1916.

He was again in the same hospital from 8 till 11 August 1916. He had been given an inoculation against typhoid to which he had a reaction of some kind.

On 25 September 1917 Lilian and Charles’ daughter Constance was born in Saxlingham Nethergate.

He was given leave between 26 and 30 September presumably so that he could visit his wife and see his daughter.

Lilian and Constance in Saxlingham Nethergate

Charles was attached at times to both 11th Field Ambulance and the 14th Field Ambulance. It is not known whether he served in France with them. He worked for most of the war at the hospitals in Bramshott, Hastings and Witley. There were large Canadian camps at Bramshott and Witley. He was promoted from corporal to sergeant.

Witley Camp

At the end of the war it took many months for the Canadian troops to be repatriated to Canada. There were riots and unrest at the camps as the men wanted to return home.

In May 1919 Charles travelled back to Quebec from Liverpool on the SS Scandinavian. He was a sergeant in the Canadian Army Medical Corps. The ship was a troop ship, taking the soldiers and their wives and children back to Canada. Lilian and Constance travelled with him.

Lilian went into premature labour during the journey and on 13 May 1919 James Whitham was born on the troopship in the middle of the Atlantic. The ship arrived in Quebec on 18 May 1919. They were going to live in Saskatoon but Lilian and James had to stay in a nursing home for two weeks in Quebec. Charles and Constance stayed in a local boarding house.

On 1 December 1920 Lilian returned to Saxlingham Nethergate with Constance and James. They arrived in Liverpool on SS Minnedosa. They stayed for six months arriving back in Quebec on 23 July 1921. They travelled back on the SS Melita. She gave her last address in England as Saxlingham Nethergate where they had been staying with James Whitham , the children’s grandfather. She said that she was returning to Canada where she lived and that her passage had been paid by her husband. She said they had lived in Rycroft, Alberta but she was now going to Battleford , Saskatchewan to be with her husband.

In the 1921 Canadian Census it is recorded Charles was working away from home. He was a carpenter working on a railway bridge at Kitchener, Edmonton. He was a boarder along with other railway workers. His annual income had been 500 dollars.

Perhaps Lilian went to visit England because Charles was working away a lot of the time.

On 16 November 1923 Charles went via the Port of Winnipeg to America. He gave his nationality as Canadian. His address was 10512  9th Street Edmonton, Alberta. He said he was a builder and he was going to stay with William Findsay of 213 Wisconsin Street, Illinois for three months. It was his intention to return to Canada. At that time Charles and Lilian lived at 10512, 93rd Street, Edmonton

He returned to Canada and in 1935 he lived at 11121 125th Street, Edmonton West. He continued to live at this address for the rest of his life.

He became a successful building contractor and his firm C H Whitham Construction Ltd built many of the important buildings of Edmonton. These included the Paramount theatre, the Royal Trust building, the Scott Fruit building, the salt plant at Lindberg and many schools and churches.

Salt Company at Lindberg built by C. H. Whitham, opened 1949

Paramount Theatre

In 2021 when work was being done on the old Adelphi Hotel in Lacombe, Alberta, the builders discovered an old I-beam which had C. H. Whitham written on it. The company had been involved in an earlier renovation of the hotel. It is not known when this was.

Charles Whitham’s name written on a beam in old Adelphi Hotel, Lacombe, Alberta

Adelphi Hotel in 1960s, having been renamed Lacombe Hotel

Advertisement in Edmonton Journal, 1931

Edmonton Journal from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada on October 7, 1953 · 5

His son James joined the Royal Canadian Airforce in 1940. He married Margaret Craig on

22 February 1941.  He was killed in action over France on 28 August 1942. He is buried in Amiens, France.

James Whitham

 In September 1947 a lake was named after him. Whitham Lake is a fishing lake at Beaverlodge, Alberta. It was the policy of Alberta to name geographic features after war heroes and dozens of service personnel have been remembered in this way. This was discontinued in 1950s as it was found that the names were often meaningless to local people.  

His daughter Constance married Clarence John Thompson Eastwood in 1940 and they had four children, John, James, Lesley and Susan.. He was known as Jack.

Jack Eastwood, husband of Constance, also a pilot in 2nd World War

Lilian and Constance in Edmonton

Charles was an active member of the Anglican Church and belonged to several different Masonic Lodges.

 He was a member of the Kiwanis Club, an organisation whose aim is to help children and communities have better lives. It also provides opportunities for fellowship and contact with like- minded people and the development of organisational skills. Its modern day motto is ‘ Serving the children of the World’

He was described by his family as being scrupulously honest but also authoritative and stern. He was very annoyed when his wife had her long hair cut into a bob without asking him. He was a generous man and helped those in need and those suffering hard times.

Charles died 22 December 1954 aged 67 years. He is buried in Edmonton Cemetery. His obituary was in both the Edmonton Journal on 23rd December 1954 and the Lethbridge Herald on December 27th 1954. He was a prominent citizen of Edmonton.

After his death his wife Lilian continued to run the company.

Lilian Whitham

As her daughter Constance suffered from mental problems brought on by the birth of her children, Lilian for many years was involved in bringing up her grandchildren. She was greatly loved and admired by them. She was an excellent cook and dressmaker She died in 1978 whilst on holiday in Regina  when she was hit by a vehicle driven by a drunken driver.

Charles’s  brother, Frederick, also served in the First World war but suffered from ill health. He died in Saxlingham Nethergate in 1932 leaving a wife and two children, George and Joyce.

Winifred never married. She worked in the 1930s as a butcher in the village. She died in 1968 having lived all her life in Saxlingham Nethergate.


England & Wales, Birth, marriage, death index 1837-2005

UK Census Collection

Norfolk Electoral Rolls-Southern Division Saxlingham Nethergate and Thorpe,  (Absent Voters Lists 1918-1920)

Norfolk, Church of England Diocesan Baptismal Records, St Michael and St. Peter, Stratton St. Michael.

Canada, Census records, 1911 and 1921

U.S Records of Aliens Pre-examined in Canada, 1904-1954 -Personnel records of 1st World War

Canada WW1, CEF Attestation Papers and Personnel Files. 1914-1918

Alberta Geographical Names Progam- Ron Kelland, Historic Places Research Officer

Alyssa Currie-

Alberta, Canada, Death Index 1870-1966

 Web, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada Index to Cemeteries, 1890-1987

Canada, Find a Grave Index 1600s -current

Canadian Passenger Lists, 1865-1935

UK and Ireland, Outward Passenger Lists 1890- 1960 and Incoming Passenger Lists 1878- 1960 – Obituary Edmonton Journal, 23rd December 1954; and

The Lethbridge Herald, Alberta, 27th December 1954

Photograph of Witley Camp, – Wikipedia.

Nominal Rolls of Canada -Bac-lac-ca via militaryandfamilyhistoryblog

Many thanks to Lesley Eastwood, granddaughter of Charles Whitham, for photographs and family information.

Family trees of Kirby and Whitham families,

Thanks to Matthew Babcock for photograph and information about Adelphi Hotel, Lacombe, Alberta

The information about James Eastwood, below, is courtesy of Ron Kelland, Historic Places Research Officer, Alberta

James Whitham was born in 1919 and was the son of Charles and Lilian Whitham. After taking two-year course at the Institute of Art and Technology (now SAIT) in Calgary, he enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force at Edmonton on October 25, 1940. He married Margaret Craig of Edmonton in 1941. He was attached to 401 Squadron, RCAF,  a fighter squadron that few which flew Hawker Hurricane aircraft until 1941 and then transitioned to the Spitfire. On August 28, 1942 he was killed in action over France. During his tour of duty, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. He is interred at the St. Pierre Cemetery in Amiens, France.

The Facebook page for the Canadian Virtual Military Museum has a photograph of pilots from 401 Squadron resting against an aircraft.

James Whitham is one of the pilots. The photograph is dated August 19, 1942. The photograph was taken during Operation Jubilee, which saw 401 Squadron provide air support for the landing at Dieppe. It appears that Whitham’s Distinguished Flying Cross, which was awarded posthumously in September 1942, was for his actions during this operation. The citation reads “This officer has completed a large number of sorties over enemy occupied territory. He is an excellent flight commander whose fine fighting qualities have been well illustrated when leading his section in attacks on the enemy’s targets. Besides his good work in the air, Flight Lieutenant Whitham is a tireless worker on the ground and has proved a source of inspiration to all.”

 There are also photographs and information about of FL Whitham at

If anyone has any photographs or information about Charles Whitham, please contact me. Email