|Date of Birth||June 3, 1896|
|Place of Birth||Kenora, Ontario|
|Next of Kin||father Joseph Hicks, mother Mary Jane Ashmore|
|Trade / Calling||Labourer|
|Religion||Church of England|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Address at Enlistment||Kenora, Ontario|
|Date of Enlistment||May 25, 1915|
|Age at Enlistment||19|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||September 16, 1916|
|Age at Death||20|
|Buried At||No known grave/Vimy Memorial|
Born June 3, 1896, Leonard was the son of Joseph and Mary Jane (Ashmore) Hicks. Although he gave his place of birth as Kenora on his attestation papers, it is likely that he was born at the Mikado Mine on Shoal Lake, Lake of the Woods. His parents were born in England, and immigrated in 1882. In 1891, the family was in Beaver (Mills), Algoma, Ontario, where Joseph worked in a mine. By the 1901 census, the family was in the Rat Portage area (later named Kenora) where his father worked in the Mikado Gold Mine where he was still employed in 1911. Leonard’s siblings were all girls: Sarah (1884- married Albert Edward Openshaw, and lived and died in Kenora), Jetta (1887-married George Irwin Nesbitt in 1907), Ada (1890-1980, married to Ambrose Winder, lived in St. Boniface, Winnipeg, Manitoba, with children Leonard born 1916 and Henrietta Beryl born 1918?) and youngest sister Henrietta (1893, married John Robert Bullivant, in Winnipeg 1922). John Bullivant also enlisted in WWI in Kenora in 1915.
Leonard enlisted May 25, 1915 in Kenora. He was assigned to the 52nd Battalion of the CEF. On March 20, 1915, Military District #10 based in Winnipeg issued orders for the mobilization of a battalion in the Thunder Bay District. The battalion was numbered the 52nd with headquarters at Port Arthur. Recruiting took place during the spring and summer of 1915 across northwest Ontario with the majority of the ranks being filled from Port Arthur, Fort William, Kenora, Fort Frances, and Dryden. A number of officers and troops had previous militia experience with the 96th Lake Superior Regiment. Recruits were billeted in Fort William and Port Arthur through private arrangements.
On June 7, 1915 Leonard and the other recruits were moved to Gresley Park, Port Arthur to undergo basic training. During this time, the troops lived in tents. On November 4, 1915 the Battalion moved by train to St. John, New Brunswick arriving on November 8, 1915. Prior to arriving in St. John, the Battalion stopped in Ottawa on November 6, 1915 and was inspected by the Governor-General of Canada, the Duke of Connaught. On November 22, 1915 the Battalion sailed from St. John for Plymouth, England onboard the S.S. California.
The Battalion arrived at Plymouth, England on December 3, 1915. From Plymouth the Battalion moved directly to Witley Camp for 6 weeks of training under British instructors. On December 8th, the Daily Miner and News reported that Hicks and the 52nd arrived in London, England on board the ship the ‘California.’
From Witley Camp the Battalion moved into Bramshott for 2 more weeks of training. On February 20, 1916 the Battalion sailed from Southampton, England to Le Havre, France and spent the night in tents at No. 1 Rest Camp during a snow storm. The next day the Battalion moved by train to Belgium. On February 23, 1916 the 52nd Battalion joined the 9th Brigade in Belgium under the command of Major-General M. S. Mercer, 3rd Canadian Division. Other battalions in the Brigade included the 43rd, 58th and 60th Battalions.
Leonard died in France on September 16, 1916. From the CEF burial register for Leonard: ‘Previously reported Wounded and Missing, now for official purposes presumed to have Died.’ Information is available that he was wounded by an enemy rifle bullet at the Sunken Road near Courcelette and started to make his way back to a dressing station, but never reached it, and no trace of him has ever been found.
Before he died, Leonard had written a note to his mother asking her to thank the local ladies for the package he had received from them. The items (including soap) were greatly appreciated.
From the War Diary for the 52nd Battalion. 16 September 1916: ‘South of Fabeck Graben between the Sunken Road and Centreway Trench the Battalion came under intense bombardment of artillery, machine gun and rifle fire, suffering heavy casualties in officers and other ranks ‘On checking up the officers and other ranks, it was found we had lost 4 officers killed, 7 officers wounded and 244 other ranks killed and wounded crossing the open country to our present position.’ This battle was part of the Battle of the Somme.
Leonard is commemorated on page 102 of the First World War Book of Remembrance and in Kenora on the Kenora Cenotaph, on the Kenora Legion War Memorial, on the family gravemarker in Lake of the Woods Cemetery, and in St. Alban’s Anglican Cathedral on the church World War I plaque.
by Penny Beal