|Date of Birth||November 24, 1899|
|Place of Birth||Kenora, Ontario|
|Next of Kin||Louis Gauthier (father), Otterburne, Manitoba|
|Trade / Calling||Farmer|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Place of Enlistment||Winnipeg, Manitoba|
|Address at Enlistment||Otterburne, Manitoba|
|Date of Enlistment||May 1, 1916|
|Age at Enlistment||16|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||January 28, 1918|
|Age at Death||18|
|Buried At||Brookwood Military Cemetery, Surrey, England|
|Plot||IX. B. 16|
Private Louis Romeo Gauthier enlisted at age 16 and served in France and Belgium with the 52nd Battalion. He was seriously wounded at the Battle of Passchendaele and he died three months later, at age 18.
Louis was the oldest son of Louis Leonide Gauthier and Josephine Albertine Harrison of Otterburne, Manitoba. According to census records Louis Leonide and Josephine were both born in Manitoba. They were married in 1897 in the town of Rat Portage, Ontario. Louis Romeo was born in Rat Portage (later renamed Kenora) on 24 November 1899. He had at least three brothers (Mark, Leo Alphonse and Joseph John) and one sister. The family moved a lot when he was growing up, living in Rat Portage, the district of Thunder Bay, Winnipeg, Selkirk, Stony Mountain and Otterburne.
Louis enlisted in Winnipeg on 1 May 1916. He was living at home in Otterburne at the time and farming with his father and brothers. He passed himself off as 18 years old but he was only 16. He signed up with the 190th Battalion (Winnipeg Rifles), which was headquartered in Winnipeg and recruited in the surrounding district. Shortly after enlisting he became ill with pneumonia and he was laid up for nine days. The men trained at Camp Hughes during the summer but Louis was out of action from mid-July until mid-September, suffering from appendicitis. The battalion spent the winter back in the city and Louis was sick again in March 1917, having contracted the mumps. He spent almost four weeks at St. Boniface Hospital. That spring the battalion headed to the east coast and embarked from Halifax on the SS Justicia on 3 May 1917, arriving at Liverpool eleven days later. In England the recruits were transferred to the 18th Reserve Battalion to be used as reinforcements for other units.
On 23 September 1917 Louis was drafted to the 52nd Battalion and sent to France. He joined the battalion in the field at the end of September. On 12 October he was attached to the 9th Canadian Machine Gun Company but he was still officially with the 52nd. A few days later his unit began moving to the Ypres Salient for the Battle of Passchendaele. They arrived at Ypres on 22 October and the first phase of the Canadian operation started four days later. Louis was wounded on the opening day, 26 October, suffering a severe shell wound to his face and a fractured jaw. He was taken to a field ambulance and from there to No. 83 General Hospital in Boulogne. At the end of October he was evacuated to England and admitted to the 1st London General Hospital in Camberwell. Louis never recovered from his wounds. He passed away in the 1st London General on 28 January 1918, at age 18, the cause of death recorded as bronchiectasis. He is buried in Brookwood Military Cemetery.
Louis’ parents were still living in Otterburne at the time of the 1921 census but they later moved back to Kenora. After Louis Leonide passed away Josephine married Philip Fugere. She died in St. Joseph’s Hospital in Kenora in November 1957 and she’s buried in Lake of the Woods Cemetery, along with other family members.
Louis is commemorated on the War Memorial in St-Pierre-Jolys, Manitoba and on page 413 of Canada’s First World War Book of Remembrance, on display in the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.
By Becky Johnson
Grave marker photo from the Canadian Virtual War Memorial courtesy of Mike Symmonds, Commonwealth Roll of Honour Project.