Kenora Great War Project

 

Personal Details
Date of BirthMay 13, 1894
Place of BirthKenora, Ontario
CountryCanada
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinArthur W. Morton (father), 530 - 14th Ave. East, Calgary, Alberta
Trade / CallingBank Clerk
ReligionWesleyan
Service Details
Regimental Number427577
Service RecordLink to Service Record
Battalion16th Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentMoose Jaw, Saskatchewan
Address at EnlistmentMoose Jaw, Saskatchewan
Date of Enlistment14/09/1915
Age at Enlistment21
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarNo
Death Details
Date of Death01/09/1918
Age at Death24
Buried AtDominion Cemetery: Hendecourt-les-Cagnicourt, Pas-de-Calais, France
PlotI. B. 8.

Morton, Louis Milton

Corporal Louis Milton Morton enlisted in September 1915 and arrived in France the following summer. He survived two years of war before being killed in September 1918, during the Hundred Days Offensive.

Louis was the son of Arthur Wellesley Morton and his first wife Mary Abigail La Chapelle. Arthur and Mary grew up in the North York region of Ontario, between Toronto and Lake Simcoe. Arthur was from North Gwillimbury Township and Mary came from a farming family in Georgina Township. Their first child, Arthur Kingsley, was born in Georgina Township in June 1891. A short time later they moved to the small town of Rat Portage (later called Kenora) in northwestern Ontario. Three more sons were born there: Louis Milton on 13 May 1894, Clarence Wellesley on 7 November 1895 and Herbert Laurence on 21 November 1896. Arthur had been a teacher but in Rat Portage he found work with the Canadian Pacific Railway. He worked for the company for about forty years.

Louis’ mother suffered from consumption and not long after Lawrence was born she returned to Georgina Township. She passed away there in May 1897, when Louis was three years old. Little Clarence died four weeks later, at age 18 months. At the time of the 1901 census the two oldest boys were staying with their grandparents, Timothy and Sarah Morton, in Simcoe County, and Laurence was with the La Chapelles in Georgina. Arthur had remarried by then and he was living in Calgary with his second wife, Martha Knight. Over the next 15 years he had seven more children with Martha: sons Graham, Paul, Wellesley and Blake, and daughters Muriel, Helen and Marjory. By 1906 Louis and Arthur had joined their father in Calgary. Their grandfather Timothy Morton was also staying with the family.

When he was still in his teens Louis was hired as a bank clerk for the Bank of Hamilton. He was also very involved in sports and he was a star player on Calgary baseball teams (the Athletics and the Cubs) as well as the local hockey team. When the 1911 census was taken he was living in the small village of Carmangay, between Calgary and Lethbridge. The village had been founded just a few years earlier and Louis, age 17, was employed as a bank clerk and boarding with the bank manager Mr. Barnes. He also spent some time working in Winnipeg and when he enlisted he was with the Bank of Hamilton in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.

Louis signed up in Moose Jaw on 14 September 1915, joining the 46th (South Saskatchewan) Battalion. His brother Laurence Morton had enlisted in Calgary ten days earlier. Just a few weeks later Louis was on his way to the east coast with his unit. On 18 October their train had a short stopover in Kenora, where he was born. The battalion embarked from Halifax on 23 October on the SS Lapland and arrived at Devonport, England around the end of the month. After training in the UK over the winter Louis was transferred to the 16th Battalion (Canadian Scottish) in June 1916 and sent to France. He joined his new unit near the end of the month in a draft of 150 reinforcements.

In late August the 16th Battalion moved south to take part in the Somme Offensive. In less than three months there the Canadian Corps suffered 24,000 casualties. The 16th left the Somme in October and moved to the Lens-Arras front, across from Vimy. Over the winter they received reinforcements to bring the unit back up to strength. Early in 1917 they began training for the next major operation, the Battle of Vimy Ridge (9-14 April 1917). The assault on the ridge was a remarkable success for the Canadian Corps, the first time all four divisions were used together in one operation. Louis was  promoted to Lance Corporal in April and at the end of June he had ten days leave in Paris. In July and August he spent about six weeks in the hospital due to illness (vdg), rejoining his unit in September. That fall the Canadians were in the Ypres Salient in Belgium for the Battle of Passchendaele (26 October-10 November 1917). Following the operation the 16th Battalion moved back to the Lens area in France and in January 1918 Louis was promoted to Corporal.

The final months of the war, known now as the Hundred Days Offensive, began in August 1918 with the Battle of Amiens. The 16th Battalion moved to the Amiens area along with the rest of the Canadian Corps and they took up their positions for the assault on the night of 7-8 August. The attack began at 5 am in a heavy fog, which helped to conceal the men in Louis’ unit and keep their casualties light. Over the next two weeks the battalion was in the front lines several times, facing heavy shelling from the Germans, and on 23 August they were relieved for a two-day rest in billets. From there the men were moved to the Arras area, to a sector of the front line near Neuville-Vitasse, and their next major operation would be the attack on the Drocourt-Quéant Line (2-3 September 1918).

On the night of 1 September the battalion assembled for the assault, which would start at 5 am the next morning. While they were getting into position they were hit with gas and high explosive shells and Louis was severely wounded. He died of his injuries a short time later. From the War Diary of the 16th Battalion, 1 September 1918: ‘The Boche was pretty busy with Gas and H.E. about 10.00 p.m. The M.O. [medical officer] was severely wounded and Sgt. Smith and Cpl. Morton killed.

From the Circumstances of Death record for Louis: ‘Killed in Action. During an attack North East of Hendecourt-lez-Cagnicourt, he was with a comrade going for a stretcher when an enemy shell burst beside them severely wounding Corporal Morton. He was immediately attended to but died shortly afterwards.’

Louis was awarded the Military Medal posthumously in September 1918. He is buried in Dominion Cemetery near the village of Hendecourt-les-Cagnicourt, 16 km southeast of Arras. The cemetery was made by the Canadians in September 1918, after the attack on the Drocourt-Queant Line. Louis is commemorated on the Bank of Hamilton War Memorial Plaque and on page 474 of Canada’s First World War Book of Remembrance, displayed in the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. He is also commemorated on the Saskatchewan First World War Memorial in Regina and on the Saskatchewan Virtual War Memorial.

His brother Laurence served for over three years with the Canadian Engineers. He survived the war and returned to Canada in April 1919. Their father lived in Calgary until his retirement around 1937 when he moved to British Columbia. He passed away in Vancouver in September 1947 survived by his wife, their three daughters and his six remaining sons.

In 1917 when the Canadian troops were at Vimy Ridge they occupied extensive underground caves. The Souterrain Impressions Project by the Canadigm Group is working to photograph and record the carvings and drawings done by the soldiers on the walls of the caves. One of the carvings in a cave under Neuville St. Vaast reads ‘LOU. MORTON.’ Information about the project is on the Canadigm website (there is a list of soldiers’ names, including Louis Morton). A photo of Louis’ carving can be seen here.

By Becky Johnson

Morton-Louis-90 Morton-Louis-91 Morton-Louis-92 Morton-Louis-93

Photo of Louis is from the Calgary Daily Herald, 10 October 1918, page 12.


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