|Date of Birth||November 8, 1885|
|Place of Birth||Faraday Township, Hastings County, Ontario|
|Next of Kin||Mrs. Emily G. Sexsmith (mother), Devlin P.O., Ontario|
|Trade / Calling||Farmer|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Place of Enlistment||Fort Frances, Ontario|
|Address at Enlistment||Devlin P.O., Ontario|
|Date of Enlistment||April 25, 1916|
|Age at Enlistment||30|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||October 29, 1917|
|Age at Death||31|
|Buried At||No known grave; commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres, Belgium|
Private Mark Sexsmith and his brother Richard Sexsmith enlisted in 1916 and they both served in France and Belgium with the 52nd Battalion. They died three days apart in October 1917 at the Battle of Passchendaele.
Mark was the son of Joseph Sexsmith and Emily Georgina Orr of Faraday Township, Hastings County, Ontario. Joseph and Emily were married in Faraday in 1884 and Mark was born there on 8 November 1885. Joseph was a farmer and he and his wife were both born in Ontario. Mark was followed by another son, Richard Franklin, in 1888 and four daughters: Charlotte Olive (1891), Emily (1894), Matilda (1897) and Phyllis (1899), all born in Hastings County. By 1901 they were living in Rat Portage (later called Kenora), in northwestern Ontario, where Joseph was employed as a mill labourer. Not long after that the family moved to the community of LaVallee in Devlin Township, just west of Fort Frances, and Joseph returned to farming. Sadly, he passed away on 7 September 1905, at age 46.
When the 1911 census was taken Emily and the six children were still farming in Devlin Township. Charlotte married John Matheson in 1911 in the nearby village of Emo and Matilda married Roy Albert Penry in Fort Frances in 1913. The war started in August 1914 and the two boys both enlisted in Fort Frances in 1916, Richard on 28 January and Mark on 25 April. They both gave their address as Devlin and occupation as farmer. Charlotte’s husband John Matheson also enlisted in April and all three of them joined the 141st (‘Bull Moose’) Battalion, which was being recruited in the Rainy River district. Both Richard and Mark had farm furloughs for most of the month of May. The 141st was based in Port Arthur and in August the recruits were sent there to train with the rest of the unit. Mark attended bombing school in December.
The battalion continued training in Port Arthur over the winter and on 20 April 1917 they left for the east coast, on the first leg of their journey overseas. The men embarked from Halifax on the SS Olympic near the end of the month and arrived in Liverpool on 7 May. Mark and Richard were both transferred to the 18th Reserve Battalion and they spent the next five months in England. On 14 September they were transferred to the snipers draft for the 52nd Battalion and sent to France. When they joined their new unit later that month the battalion was in the Arras area training for what would be the Battle of Passchendaele.
They troops began to move to Belgium a few weeks later and arrived in Ypres on 22 October. The Canadian operation at Passchendaele was carried out in several phases starting on 26 October. The 52nd Battalion took part in the first phase and Richard was killed in action on the opening day of the assault. Mark was initially reported as missing in action on 29 October and later declared killed in action on that day. Their final resting places are unknown.
Their brother-in-law John Matheson was wounded in the last months of the war but he survived and returned home in March 1919. Their sister Matilda had moved to Illinois and her husband Roy Penry served in England in 1918-19 with the U.S. Army’s Transportation Corps.
Mark and Richard are commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres, Belgium and on the Devlin Cenotaph in Devlin, Ontario.
By Becky Johnson
Photo above is the Cenotaph in Devlin.