Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthJune 19, 1896
Place of BirthKenora, Ontario
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinLachlan Lamont McPhail (father), Kenora, Ontario
Trade / CallingBank Clerk
Service Details
Regimental Number529623
Service RecordLink to Service Record
BattalionNo. 10 Canadian Field Ambulance
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Army Medical Corps
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentKenora, Ontario
Address at EnlistmentKenora, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentAugust 30, 1915
Age at Enlistment19
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathJanuary 31, 1954
Age at Death57
Buried AtChapel Lawn Memorial Gardens, Winnipeg

McPhail, Laughlin Lionel

Private Laughlin Lionel McPhail enlisted in August 1915 and served in France and Belgium with a field ambulance. He was invalided to Canada in June 1917 and discharged as medically unfit the following spring.

Lionel was the youngest son of Lachlan Lamont McPhail (MacPhail) and Mary McIntyre of Kenora, Ontario. Lachlan and Mary were both born in southern Ontario and they were married in Toronto in July 1882. Lachlan was living in Winnipeg at the time and their first child, Malcolm, was born in 1883 in Emerson, Manitoba. A short time later they moved to Rat Portage (now called Kenora) in northwestern Ontario. Seven children were born there: John Alexander, Katie, Isabella, Madeline May, Lachlan Lamont (died as an infant), Laughlin Lionel (born 19 June 1896) and Elizabeth Victoria. Lachlan worked for the Canadian Pacific Railway as a builder and inspector of bridges and buildings. When he left the CPR he went into business as a carpenter and contractor and by 1911 he was employed as a warden at the local jail. In 1911 and 1912 he also spent some time in Scotland working as an immigration agent.

The war started in August 1914 and Lionel and his brother Malcolm both enlisted the following year. Malcolm signed up in May 1915 and went overseas in November. Lionel enlisted on 30 August 1915, joining the Field Ambulance Depot in Military District 10 (Manitoba). He was 19 years old and working as a clerk at the Royal Bank in Kenora at the time. No. 10 Canadian Field Ambulance was organized in Winnipeg in January 1916 and Lionel was transferred to the new unit. They headed to the east coast at the end of February, embarking from St. John on the SS Scandinavianon on 2 March and arriving in England ten days later. After just a month there Lionel’s unit was sent to France, where they served with the 3rd Canadian Division.

Field ambulances operated advanced and main dressing stations, which were located just behind the front lines. They provided short term medical care, collecting casualties, treating them and evacuating them to the clearing stations and hospitals as needed. They also operated rest stations and provided stretcher bearers for moving the wounded. The 3rd Canadian Division had arrived in France in February 1916 and their first major operation was the Battle of Mount Sorrel. It started on 2 June with a massive bombardment by the Germans, followed by the explosion of several underground mines. Lionel was in a communication trench near Maple Copse on 2 June, carrying a wounded man, when a shell exploded nearby. Two days later he was sent to No. 8 Field Ambulance as a patient, suffering from shell shock. After some time at the divisional rest station he rejoined his unit on 13 June. Late in August the Canadians moved south to take part in the Somme Offensive and their first major assault was near Courcelette on 15 September. At the end of the month Lionel became ill with a contagious skin infection. He was sent to No. 1 General Hospital in Г‰tretat then to No. 39 General Hospital in Le Havre. His condition didn’t improve and by mid-December he was back in England.

Lionel spent two months in the hospital in Liverpool. In February 1917 he was transferred to a convalescent centre, still suffering from shell shock as well as an abscess on his leg. The abscess was caused by a .22 bullet lodged in his thigh, the result of a hunting accident before the war. Lionel was invalided back to Canada in June, embarking from Liverpool on the hospital ship Araguaya and landing at Halifax on 22 June. He was admitted to the Manitoba Military Convalescent Hospital in Winnipeg for further treatment. In December he had a tonsillectomy and by February 1918 he was well enough to be released. He was discharged from the army on 2 March, due to being medically unfit for further service. His brother Malcolm served overseas for almost four years and returned to Canada in August 1919.

When the 1921 census was taken Lionel was living with his parents, sisters and brother Malcolm on Mayfair Street in Winnipeg. By this time most of his family was spelling their surname as MacPhail. Lionel worked for about nine years as clearing house superintendent with the Canadian Credit Men’s Trust Association. In the mid or late 1930s he married a widow, Mary Isabel Thomas (née Adshead). Isabel was born in 1907 in Winnipeg, the daughter of Charles and Rosie Adshead. Her first husband had died in Winnipeg in 1932, at age 27. Lionel and Isabel raised three children: George, Neil and Janet. Starting in 1941 Lionel was senior inspector for the Unemployment Insurance Commission of Canada and in 1946 he and his wife moved to Ottawa. He passed away there on 31 January 1954, at age 57. There were funeral services for him in both Ottawa and Winnipeg and he’s buried in Chapel Lawn Memorial Gardens in Winnipeg. Isabel lived in Ottawa for two more years before returning to Winnipeg. She died in 1983 and she’s also buried at Chapel Lawn.

By Becky Johnson

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Veteran death card courtesy of Library and Archives Canada

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