Kenora Great War Project

 

Personal Details
Date of BirthFebruary 15, 1885
Place of BirthMontreal, Quebec
CountryCanada
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinCharles Laliberté (father), 427 Dufresne Street, Montreal, Quebec
Trade / CallingFurnuture Polisher
ReligionRoman Catholic
Service Details
Regimental Number439238
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion52nd Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentKenora, Ontario
Age at Enlistment30
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathApril 1, 1946
Age at Death61
Buried AtLake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario
Plot56E-26-1

Laliberte, Eugene Collins

Private Eugene Collins Laliberté enlisted in May 1915 and served for more than four years in Canada, England, France and Belgium. He was wounded at the Battle of Mount Sorrel but he survived the war and returned home in September 1919.

Eugene, also known as Louis, was born on 15 February 1885 in Montreal, Quebec. He was the oldest son of Charles Colin dit Laliberté, a furniture polisher and artisan, and his wife Alexina Arteau. Charles and Alexina were married in Montreal in 1882 and they had at least ten children, three sons and seven daughters. The youngest one was born in 1901 and Alexina passed away in the fall on 1902. Eugene was 17 years old when his mother died and not long after that he moved to northwestern Ontario where he found work in the town of Dryden. He was living there when the 1911 census was taken, employed as a bartender and listed as one of 25 lodgers in a large rooming house. From there he moved to Kenora where he worked at the Hilliard House Hotel and played for a local baseball team.

The war started in August 1914 and Eugene enlisted the following spring, signing up on 21 May 1915 with the 52nd (New Ontario) Battalion. He was 30 years old, 5’6″ with fair hair and blue eyes, and next of kin was his father Charles in Montreal. The 52nd Battalion was based in Port Arthur and the Kenora lads were sent there in June to train with the rest of the unit. In early November they headed to the east coast and the men embarked for England on 23 November, leaving from St. John, New Brunswick on the SS California. They spent three months training in the UK before being sent to France in February 1916. Eugene wasn’t with them, however, as he was transferred to the 11th Reserve Battalion and kept in England for medical reasons (vdg). Between February and May he spent about six weeks in two different hospitals.

By May 1916 Eugene was well enough for front line service and he was sent to France to rejoin the 52nd Battalion. That spring his unit was in the Ypres Salient, where the Canadians were holding the front line between St. Eloi and Hooge. The Battle of Mount Sorrel started on the morning of 2 June with an intense artillery bombardment by the Germans. After the barrage German infantry advanced and captured Mount Sorrel and nearby areas. A counter-attack was planned for 3 June and additional units were brought in, including all four companies of the 52nd Battalion. The counter-attack failed and the 52nd was pulled from the line to spend a few days in reserve, and it was during that time that Eugene joined them. The battalion returned to the front line on 7 June and German artillery continued to bombard the area. Eugene was one of the casualties on 8 June, suffering a shell or gunshot wound to his left shoulder and hip. He was admitted to No. 4 General Hospital in Camiers then evacuated to England.

Eugene spent the next few weeks in three different hospitals. He was sent to a convalescent center in July and in August he was well enough to be transferred to the 32nd Reserve Battalion. By mid-September he was back in France and he rejoined the 52nd Battalion during the Battle of the Somme. Their part in the offensive had just ended and the unit moved north to a quieter sector between Lens and Arras, across from Vimy. The men had regular rotations in the front trenches, took part in raids, carried on with training and supplied work parties as needed. In January 1917 the weather turned cold with a lot of rain and occasional snow flurries. Early in February Eugene developed trench foot and he also became ill, suffering from myalgia. He was sent to a Casualty Clearing Station then to No. 7 General Hospital in Г‰taples. By the third week in February he was back in England where he would spend the rest of the war.

Between February and May 1917 Eugene was in King George Hospital, Holborn Military Hospital, the Canadian Convalescent Centre in Bromley and the Red Cross Special Hospital in Buxton. He was discharged from the Red Cross Hospital on 4 May but two weeks later he was admitted to Warlingham Military Hospital, where he was a patient for several months. Once he had recovered he spent his remaining time serving with the Manitoba Regiment Depot and the 18th Reserve Battalion. Eugene returned to Canada on 14 September 1919 on the Minnekahda, arriving in Halifax and getting discharged on 18 September in Winnipeg.

Eugene returned to Kenora after the war and found work there as a taxi driver. He was married in Kenora on 23 February 1925, at age 40. His wife, 21-year-old Elizabeth McMinn, was the daughter of Samuel and Susan McMinn of Winnipeg. Elizabeth was born in 1903 in Glasgow, Scotland and she immigrated to Canada with her family in 1910. Her brother Samuel McMinn Jr. served with the 16th Battalion and he was killed in 1916 at the Battle of Mount Sorrel.

Eugene and his wife lived in Red Lake for several years then returned to Kenora where he was hired as the manager of the Kenora Commercial and Social Club. They raised three children, Eugene Jr., Marjorie and Eleanor. Eugene passed away at work on 1 April 1946, at age 61, and he’s buried in Lake of the Woods Cemetery. His wife died in May 1957 and she’s interred beside him. Eugene was in an unmarked grave but a veteran grave marker was provided by the Last Post Fund in October 2018.

By Becky Johnson

52nd-1915-06-16 52nd-1915-06-19 52nd-1915-12-08 Laliberte-Eugene-90 Laliberte-Eugene-91 Laliberte-Eugene-92


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