|Date of Birth||October 1880|
|Place of Birth||Ballinhassig, County Cork|
|Next of Kin||Mrs L O'Flaherty, mother, West 107th Street, New York, USA|
|Trade / Calling||Locomotive Engineer, Canadian Pacific Railway|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Address at Enlistment||Kenora, Ontario|
|Date of Enlistment||October 22, 1914|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||April 24, 1917|
|Age at Death||36|
|Buried At||La Targette British Cemetery, Neuville-St Vaast, Pas de Calais, France|
|Plot||I. D. 16.|
Laurence O’Flaherty was born during the month of October 1880 in Ballinhassig, Cork, Ireland, exact date unknown. His parents were Laurence and Elizabeth (née Costellos) O’Flaherty. Known siblings were Michael Augustine, Margaret Mary (Peggy), Mary Elizabeth (Polly), John Patrick, Eliza Lydia, Theresa Mary (Tessie), Madeline, Emily Costello, and Annie Violet, Laurence being the third youngest. With the exception of his father who died in 1909 in Ireland, all of the family members immigrated to North America, most to New York, starting as early as 1900. Laurence embarked for Canada aboard the Empress of Britain, arriving in Quebec 27 August 1908, destination Kenora. He found employment with the Canadian Pacific Railway, first as a fireman and then as an engineer.
Laurence O’Flaherty, known to his friends and family as Larry, enlisted on 22 October 1914 in Kenora, next of kin given as his mother who was living in New York. A blue-eyed blond, he was 24 years of age. Enlisting on the same day with the same battalion was another Irish lad from Tyrone, William John Walker, fellow locomotive engineer with the CPR.
With the 27th Battalion, Larry left Kenora for training in Winnipeg on 1 November 1914 according to an article in the Kenora Miner and News dated 4 November. The 27th (City of Winnipeg) Battalion was the first independent battalion to be raised in Manitoba in the First World War, raised as part of a response to the demand for reinforcements early in 1915 as Canada struggled overseas. Another article in the paper dated 15 May 1915 told of the battalion passing through Kenora from Winnipeg on May 12th, heading east on the first leg of the journey overseas. On 17 May the 27th Battalion left Quebec aboard the Carpathia, and after a few months in England, on 18 September disembarked in Boulogne, France.
The first major offensive of the 27th was the battle of St Eloi, 5 kilometres from Ypres. Begun on 27 March 1916 by the British, the Canadians joined in on 4 April with the 27th Battalion taking over the front line, fully exposed to artillery fire. Casualties were high. One of the most notable battles of Somme the 27th Battalion participated in was the Battle of Courcelette, begun on the morning of 15 September 1916. This battle marked the first time in history that tanks were used in warfare although all 6 tanks were knocked out that day. Lasting until 22nd of September, the Canadian Corps lost about 7200 soldiers.
Private Laurence O’Flaherty was granted a ten day leave on 30 December 1916 and then a few short months later, on 24 April 1917, he was reported as having died of wounds (shrapnel wounds multiple, body and right leg) at the No. 4 Canadian Field Ambulance. His death register card says that he is buried at the Aux Rietaz Military Cemetery, south west of Neuville St. Vaast, 3 3/4 miles north of Arras, France but the Commonwealth War Graves Commission has the cemetery listed as renamed, that being the La Targette British Cemetery. (In Frank Iriam’s memoirs he describes an airplane crash he witnessed and the pilot’s death. The pilot was John Norquay McAllister from Manitoba. He died in June 1917 and he was buried in a small cemetery near where Frank was based “at the crossroads of Nouevelle St. Vaast.” Frank visited his grave and he said there was a propeller on it and right next to McAllister’s grave was the grave of Larry O’Flaherty of Kenora. He said Larry was “on traffic duty at the cross roads” when he was wounded. McAllister and Larry are both buried in La Targette British Cemetery at Neuville St-Vaast now but it’s in the same location. The CWGC site says it was formerly known as Aux-Reitz Military Cemetery and it was first used at the end of April 1917. -Becky Johnson)
Larry’s mother was living in New York at the time of his death but unfortunately she had moved and was unable to be located to receive Larry’s medals and decorations, plaque and scroll, and memorial cross. He had a cousin, Edward O’Flaherty, son of Laurence Senior’s brother Thomas, living in Kenora. Another cousin, Thomas O’Flaherty, also the son of Thomas, served during the Great War and returned to Kenora where he married Maria Francis Walsh. A third cousin, John Joseph O’Flaherty served during the war with 1st Battalion, Royal Dublin Fusiliers, later moving to Kenora after the war. Thomas and Joe are interred in the Lake of the Woods Cemetery.
Laurence’s friend William John Walker also lost his life while serving with the 27th Battalion in August of 1917, 4 months after Larry.
Private Laurence O’Flaherty is commemorated on page 303 of the First World War Book of Remembrance in Ottawa, on the CPR Roll of Honour, on the Kenora Cenotaph, on the Kenora Legion War Memorial, and on the Notre Dame du Portage Roman Catholic Church Memorial in Kenora.
by Judy Stockham
Grave marker photograph by Shirley Tort, findagrave.com.