|Date of Birth||May 4, 1895|
|Place of Birth||Muskoka, Ontario|
|Next of Kin||Father: Charles Smith, Keewatin, Ontario|
|Trade / Calling||Labourer|
|Religion||Church of England|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Address at Enlistment||Keewatin, Ontario|
|Date of Enlistment||December 18, 1914|
|Age at Enlistment||19|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||June 28, 1969|
|Age at Death||74|
Leonard Edward Smith was one of three of seven sons of Charles Alexander Smith of Keewatin, to enlist during the Great War. Leonard and his older brother John Wesley Smith served with the Canadian Expeditionary Force, while Charles Henry Smith served with the U.S. Army
Born May 4, 1895 in the Muskoka District of central Ontario to Charles Smith’s second wife, Orvina Spear Etler, Leonard Smith spent his early years there where Charles was a farmer. The Smith family was a large one including John Wesley born in 1888 to Charles’ first wife Margaret Canning. Charles Smith remarried in 1890 and Orvina’s children included Charles Henry (1891), Hannah (1892), Leonard (1895), Wellington (1900), Edward (1903), Gladys (1905), Frank (1906), Florence (1908), Mathew (1909) and Andrew. Charles moved his growing family to Keewatin in the late-1890s and took a job at the local flour mill, where the family was living when the war began.
Leonard, working as a labourer at the time, was among those to enlist during a recruiting drive for the 94th Battalion, the second of three infantry battalions to be raised in the region. He attested for overseas duty on Dec. 18, 1914 in Kenora as part of the town’s 3rd contingent being raised for the war effort. After early training in Kenora he was transferred to the 52nd Battalion, the region’s initial infantry battalion created from militia troops from pre-war reserve regiments based in Kenora, Fort Frances and Fort William/Port Arthur (now Thunder Bay). Leonard sailed overseas with the second re-enforcing draft for the 52nd Battalion in September 1915, however when he was sent to France in early February of 1916 he was assigned to the 4th (Central Ontario) Battalion.
He would spend the next three years in France, serving on the frontlines with the 4th Battalion and taking part in the war’s major battles including Vimy Ridge and Passchendaele. He was a stretcher bearer going from the trenches to the front lines to carry back the wounded and dead with no relief for months on end. He was once reported missing in action (Aug 26-31, 1917). During his time at the front he suffered several bouts of illness, was wounded and gassed. His medical file details hospitalization for influenza while training in England in the fall of 1915, a gun shot wound to his left arm during the Battle of Passchendaele (Nov 6-9, 1917), a bout with mumps in the spring of 1918 which kept him in hospital from April 29 to May 22, and a week’s stay in hospital from Sept, 2-9, 1918 for treatment for the effects of a gas attack and fatigue. This was followed by a two-week leave to England in October. Leonard Smith returned to Canada aboard the Olympic on April 16, 1919 and was demobilized in Toronto on April 23, 1919.
Returning to Keewatin, he took a job with the railway as a section hand. Along with his brother, John Wesley Smith, he was among the war veterans presented with town medals and badges at a post-war ceremony in August of 1919.
After life in trenches half full of water, lice and sickness Leonard returned home a different man. He left home a young boy of 19 years and returned home a man emotionally unwell as a result of the stress of his work in WW1. Leonard was depressed that after returning home the jobs they had been promised were taken by others, some of German descent.
He explored the Lake of the Woods by canoe, mapping out various routes. He later moved to Vancouver, B.C., but made many trips back to Keewatin to visit with family. Once he paddled all the way to Minaki from Keewatin with his sister Hannah to visit family living there at the time. His great niece, Sharon Smith, remembers how one summer he built, at his own expense, a dock for them to swim off instead of jumping off the rocks and a place for her Dad, Gerald Smith – Leonard’s nephew, to tie up his canoe. He was a very kind and caring man who loved to help his family.
Leonard Smith passed away June 28, 1969 in Essondale, British Columbia. He was cremated at North Shore Crematorium. Leonard is commemorated for his WW1 service on the St James Anglican Church Roll of Honour, the Lake of the Woods Milling Company Roll of Honour, the Municipality of Keewatin for King and Country plaque, and on the Town of Keewatin Roll of Honour.
by Bob Stewart
photograph of Leonard courtesy of the family