|Date of Birth||June 9, 1893|
|Place of Birth||Akron, Ohio|
|Next of Kin||William Cromwell (father), Keewatin, Ontario|
|Trade / Calling||Cooper|
|Religion||Church of England|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Date of Enlistment||May 20, 1915|
|Age at Enlistment||21|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||19570626|
|Age at Death||64|
|Buried At||Lake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario|
|Plot||Liberty View Block, 39E-36-4|
Private Louis Leo Cromwell enlisted in May 1915 and served overseas for three years. He suffered from gas poisoning and illness but he survived the war and returned to Canada in December 1918.
Louis was the son of William Wellington Cromwell and Annie Ellena Hopf of Keewatin, Ontario. William was a cooper like his father and he married his first wife, Elizabeth Simpson, in Kilbride, Ontario in 1883. Their son Allan Henry was born in 1885 and Elizabeth died of pneumonia that same year. Two years later, in May 1887, William married Annie Hopf in Perth County, Ontario. Their oldest son Frank was born in 1889 in the village of New Hamburg, Waterloo County. When he was still a baby the family moved to Akron, Ohio and Louis was born there on 9 June 1893. The youngest child, daughter Ogaretta (Greeta), was born in 1898. The Cromwells lived in Ohio for about twenty years, returning to Canada in 1910 and settling in the town of Keewatin in northwestern Ontario.
When the 1911 census was taken Louis was 18, living with his parents on Wharf Street in Keewatin and working in a cooper shop. The war started in August 1914 and he began training with the local militia, the 98th Regiment, that same month. He enlisted the following spring, signing up in the neighbouring town of Kenora on 20 May 1915. He joined the 52nd (New Ontario) Battalion, which had been organized in March and was being recruited in towns in northwestern Ontario. Three weeks later the Kenora volunteers were sent to Port Arthur to join the rest of the unit. They trained there over the summer and fall and in November they left for the east coast, embarking from St. John, New Brunswick for England on the SS California. The men trained at Witley and Bramshott Camps for 2-1/2 months before being sent to France on 20 February 1916, as part of the new 3rd Canadian Division. They were moved to Belgium by train the next day. Early in March the 52nd went into the trenches for orientation and they suffered their first combat fatality on the night of 11-12 March.
Later that month the Canadian Corps took up positions in the south part of the Ypres Salient and the 52nd was moved into the area on 1 April. The Battle of Mount Sorrel started on 2 June with an intense bombardment of the Canadian lines followed by the explosion of underground mines. After the barrage German infantry advanced and captured Mount Sorrel and nearby areas. The 52nd was involved in the heavy fighting several times over the next ten days. Most of the lost ground was recaptured and the battle ended on 13 June with little change to the front lines but at a cost of 8,000 Canadian casualties.
The Somme Offensive started later that summer and the first major battle for the Canadian Corps was at Flers-Courcelette (15-22 September). The 52nd Battalion boarded trains on 7 September and a week later they were in the Somme area. On 16 September they took part in the attack near the village of Courcelette. During the advance the men faced heavy machine gun and rifle fire and they suffered over 200 casualties while crossing open ground to reach the objective. The battalion was involved in further operations in October before being relieved and moved north to a quieter sector opposite Vimy.
In 1917 the Canadians were took part in three major operations: Vimy Ridge (April), Hill 70 (August) and Passchendaele (October-November). In July Louis had ten days leave in Paris and by November he’d been serving in France and Belgium for 20 months, much of that time as a front line soldier. Following the assault on Passchendaele he became ill with trench fever and he spent two weeks recovering in a field ambulance. When he rejoined his unit they were based near Lens where the Canadians were holding a long stretch of the front line. On 28 December the 52nd Battalion went into the trenches for their regular rotation and two days later they were hit by a barrage of gas shells. Twelve men were wounded, including Louis. He became severely ill with gas poisoning and he was admitted to a hospital in Etaples, on the coast of France. From there he was evacuated to England where he spent three months recovering in hospitals and convalescent centres.
By March 1918 Louis was well enough to join a reserve battalion and in August he was transferred to the Canadian Engineers Regimental Depot in Seaford. While he was training the Armistice was signed and a month later he was sent home to Canada. He arrived in Halifax on the SS Carmania on 30 December. He had two weeks leave followed by another three months of service at No. 10 District Depot in Winnipeg. He was discharged on 25 April 1919, almost four years after he enlisted. Louis returned to Keewatin and he was honoured at a ceremony there in August, when medals and badges were awarded to veterans and the families of fallen soldiers. His medal was inscribed: ‘Presented to L. Cromwell for gallant service in the Great War 1914-1918, Keewatin Aug.4, 1919.’ Also honoured were his brother Frank Cromwell, who had served overseas for two years, and his sister Greeta’s husband, veteran Harry Cecil Warder.
On 12 November 1919 Louis married Sybil Violet Hanson at St. Alban’s Church in Kenora. Sybil was born and raised in Kenora and her father Dr. Thomas Hanson had been the town’s first doctor, arriving in Rat Portage, as it was known then, in 1879. Louis and Sybil raised three children, sons Keith Louis and Jack Maxwell and daughter Helen. Louis worked as a cooper for the Lake of the Woods Milling Company and he joined the Kenora branch of the Canadian Legion. During the Second World War his son Jack served overseas with the Canadian Army Service Corps.
Louis passed away at home on 26 June 1957, at age 64. His wife had predeceased him in 1954 and he was survived by his two sons, both of Kenora, and his daughter Helen (Mrs. G.E. Beck) of Toronto. Louis and Sybil are buried in Lake of the Woods Cemetery in Kenora. Also buried there are Louis’ father, his son Jack (1925-2010), his brother Frank and other family members. His mother and his sister Greeta Warder are buried in Elmwood Cemetery in Winnipeg.
Louis is commemorated on the Municipality of Keewatin For King and Country 1914-1918 Roll of Honour, the Lake of the Woods Milling Company plaque and the Honour Roll for St. James Church in Keewatin.
By Becky Johnson
Leo’s cross and flat grave marker were replaced by the upright marker in 2015.