|Date of Birth||March 25, 1888|
|Place of Birth||Hastings County, Ontario|
|Next of Kin||Mrs. Emily Sexsmith (mother), LaVallee, 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||LaVallee, Ontario|
|Date of Enlistment||January 28, 1916|
|Age at Enlistment||27|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||October 26, 1917|
|Age at Death||29|
|Buried At||No known grave; commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres, Belgium|
Private Richard Franklin Sexsmith and his brother Mark Sexsmith arrived in France in September 1917. They were both killed in action a month later at the Battle of Passchendaele, while serving with the 52nd Battalion.
Richard was son of Joseph Sexsmith and Emily Georgina Orr of Faraday Township, Hastings County, Ontario. Joseph and Emily were both born in Ontario and they married in Faraday in 1884. Joseph was a farmer and their oldest son, Mark, was born in Faraday on 8 November 1885. He was followed by Richard Franklin on 25 March 1888 then 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. All three of them joined the 141st (‘Bull Moose’) Battalion, which was being recruited in the Rainy River district. Richard and Mark were given farm furloughs for most May. The 141st was based in Port Arthur and in early August the recruits were sent there to train with the rest of the unit. Richard had another farm furlough from 21 August to 21 September.
The battalion continued training in Port Arthur over the winter. In March 1917 Richard attended a wire entanglement course and that same month he spent a week in the hospital with influenza. On 20 April the troops left for the east coast, on the first leg of their journey overseas. They embarked from Halifax near the end of the month on the SS Olympic and arrived in Liverpool on 7 May. Mark and Richard were 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 the upcoming assault on Passchendaele.
They troops began to move to Belgium a few weeks later, arriving in Ypres on 22 October. The Canadian operation at Passchendaele was carried out in several stages starting on 26 October. The 52nd Battalion took part in the initial phase and Richard was killed in action the first day, 26 October. Mark was 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.