Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthFebruary 9, 1887
Place of BirthLondon
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinMrs. Maude Lee (sister), Chasefield, Fishponds, Bristol, England
Trade / CallingFireman (CPR)
ReligionChurch of England
Service Details
Regimental Number439136
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion52nd Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentKenora, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentMay 12, 1915
Age at Enlistment28
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarNo
Death Details
Date of DeathJune 13, 1916
Age at Death29
Buried AtNo known grave; commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres

Sampson, Louis Frederick

Private Louis Frederick Sampson arrived in France with the 52nd Battalion in February 1916. Less that four months later he was missing and presumed killed at the Battle of Mount Sorrel.

Louis was born on 12 October 1887 in London, England, the son of Louis Sampson Sr. and his wife Eliza. At the time of the 1891 census when he was 3 years old he was living in St. Mary le Strand, London with his mother, his grandmother and an aunt. His mother was working as a tailoress and she’d gone back to using her maiden name, Eliza Belbin. By 1901 Louis was a pupil at Walsham-le-Willows Boys’ Industrial School in Suffolk, which was run by the Church of England’s Waifs and Strays Society. The school was licensed for 40 boys aged about 10 to 16 and most of them were from London like Louis. The Waifs and Strays Society sent children to Canada and in the summer of 1901 Louis went to Canada as a Home Child with 18 other boys. They arrived in Quebec on 29 June on the SS Parisian. They were sent to Gibb’s Home in Sherbrooke, Quebec and most of them would have been placed on nearby farms. In 1907 and 1908 Louis served with the 53rd Regiment, a militia unit based in Sherbrooke, and around 1909 he moved west to Kenora, Ontario. When the 1911 census was taken he was lodging at a boarding house on Third Street South and working as a wiper for the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR).

The war started in August 1914 and Louis enlisted in Kenora on 12 May 1915, joining the 52nd (New Ontario) Battalion. He was single, 27 years old and employed as a fireman for the CPR. The 52nd Battalion was based in Port Arthur and recruited throughout northwestern Ontario and in June 1915 the Kenora volunteers were sent to Port Arthur to join the rest of the unit. The battalion trained there for several months. Early in November they left for St John, New Brunswick and they embarked for England on 23 November on the SS California. They trained at Witley Camp in Surrey then at Camp Bramshott in Hampshire, and on 20 February 1916 the battalion was sent to France. The men spent the first night in tents in a snowstorm before being moved to Belgium by train the next day.

In the first week of March they went into the trenches for training and the battalion suffered its 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, between St. Eloi and Hooge, and the 52nd Battalion moved into the area on 1 April. The battalion did several rotations in the front trenches, including a long one from 23 May to 1 June when their positions were heavily shelled. From the War Diary of the 52nd Battalion, 31 May 1916, ‘Men becoming in critical condition owing to prolonged period under constant and heavy shell fire and relief very much needed. 8 day tour under these conditions very much too trying.’

The exhausted men were relieved on 1 June and went into reserve trenches then on to the town of Poperinghe the next day, but their rest was a very short one. The Battle of Mount Sorrel started on the morning of 2 June with an intense bombardment of the Canadian lines followed by the explosion of underground mines. Trenches and equipment were destroyed and some companies were almost wiped out. After the barrage German infantry advanced and captured Mount Sorrel and nearby areas. A counter-attack was planned for 3 June and additional units were brought in, including all four companies of the 52nd Battalion. The men left Ypres around midnight and even before they arrived at their positions in Sanctuary Wood, just after dawn on 3 June, they faced severe rifle and machine gun fire and an intense artillery barrage. The counter-attack failed and the 52nd was relieved on 5 June for two days of rest. They had suffered about 200 casualties in three days.

On 7 June the battalion was back in the front line, in the area between Maple Copse and the western edge of Sanctuary Wood. The next six days were spent in the trenches with only one day of rest, and the men endured cold weather, rain, a shortage of food and water and constant shelling by the Germans. They were finally relieved at 11:30 pm on 13 June, the last day of the battle, but Louis was missing in action that day. His service records state that he was reported missing, believed killed, and for official purposes he was presumed to have died on or since 13 June in the attack at Sanctuary Wood.

Louis’ burial place is unknown. He is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres, Belgium, which bears the names of more than 54,000 men who died in the Ypres Salient and have no known grave. He is also commemorated on the the Cenotaph in Kenora, on the Kenora Legion War Memorial and on the Roll of Honour for the Canadian Pacific Railway Company. Every year at 11 am on November 11th the CPR stops all of its trains in North America for two minutes of silence, to pay tribute to those who served their country.

More than four hundred boys from Gibbs’ Home served in the First World War. They are commemorated on a plaque at the former Gibbs’ Home building in Sherbrooke, Quebec.

By Becky Johnson

Photo at the top is the plaque at the former Gibbs’ Home building in Sherbrooke, Quebec

52nd-1915-06-16 52nd-1915-06-19 52nd-1915-12-08 Sampson-Louis-90 Sampson-Louis-91 Kenora-Cenotaph-plaque-image

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