Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthFebruary 15, 1899
Place of BirthLac Seul, Ontario
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinMrs. Ellen Young (mother), Kenora, Ontario
Trade / CallingTeamster
ReligionChurch of England
Service Details
Regimental Number198660
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion42nd Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentKenora, Ontario
Address at EnlistmentKenora, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentJanuary 3, 1916
Age at Enlistment16
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarNo
Death Details
Date of DeathFebruary 13, 1917
Age at Death17
Buried AtAubigny Communal Cemetery Extension, Pas de Calais, France
PlotI. G. 14.

Young, Lawrence

Throughout most of the war regulations required soldiers to be at least 19 years old before they served in front line units but thousands of young Canadians enlisted underage and many of them were killed in action or died of wounds. Private Lawrence Young enlisted just before he turned 17 and he died a year later, two days before his 18th birthday.

Lawrence was the youngest son of John and Ellen Young of Lac Seul, Ontario. He was born in Lac Seul on 15 February 1899 and he had at least five sisters (Mary, Elizabeth, Catherine, Flossie and Malina) and five brothers (Thomas, Robert, Sinclair, James and John Jr.). Another brother died as an infant in 1897. His mother Ellen (née Thompson or Thomas) was born and raised in Lac Seul but his father had immigrated to Canada from Scotland and found work in northern Ontario as a fisherman and trapper. The youngest child was born in 1901 and John Sr. died in March 1904. Ellen may have moved to the Kenora area after that and she was married again in Kenora in December 1907. Her second husband, Charles Flett, was a lighthouse keeper who was originally from Manitoba but he’d been in the Lake of the Woods area for about thirty years.

At the time of the 1911 census Ellen and Charles were living at 815 First Street South in Kenora. Ellen’s youngest daughter was with them and living next door, at 817 First Street South, were her sons James, age 20, and Lawrence, age 11. James was working as a teamster and the household included their uncle Sinclair Young, who was born in Scotland, and a lodger Nichol Finlayson, age 17. Two of Lawrence’s sisters were married to Finlaysons and that fall, in September 1911, James married Nichol’s sister Bella Finlayson in Winnipeg. The war started in 1914 and between January and August of 1916 Lawrence, Nichol and James all enlisted in the army. James and Nichol both survived the war, and Nichol spent time as a German prisoner of war.

Lawrence was the first of the three lads to sign up, enlisting with the 94th Battalion in Kenora on 3 January 1916, six weeks before his 17th birthday. Like many young men eager to serve he gave a false date of birth on his attestation, passing himself off as a year older than he was. His medical exam tells us he was 5’7″ and 138 lb, above average for his age, and he was found fit for overseas service. The 94th Battalion was a based in Port Arthur and recruited throughout northwestern Ontario. On 25 May 1916 the Kenora volunteers were sent to Port Arthur to join the rest of the battalion. They left for Quebec on 9 June and spent a short time at the military camp in Valcartier, northwest of Quebec City, before embarking from Halifax on 28 June 1916 on the SS Olympic. They arrived in England on 6 July and a week later Lawrence was transferred to the 17th Reserve Battalion at East Sandling in Kent.

With thousands of recruits crowded together in the military camps infectious diseases spread easily and two weeks after arriving at East Sandling Lawrence contracted the mumps. He spent three weeks recovering in Moore Barracks Hospital in Shorncilffe. Following his discharge on 9 August he had two more months of training and on 13 October he was transferred to the 42nd Battalion (Royal Highlanders) and sent to Fracne. He joined his new unit in a small draft of reinforcements in early November, just as the Battle of the Somme was ending. By then the 42nd Battalion’s part in the offensive was over and they’d been moved to a quieter section of the front line north of the city of Arras.

The Somme has been called the graveyard of armies and in less than three months there the Canadian Corps suffered 24,000 casualties. Over the winter of 1916-17 the battalions received reinforcements to bring them back up to strength. Time was spent training, repairing trenches, building dugouts, providing working parties and carrying out raids on the German lines. The weather was cold and wet, with almost constant rain and occasional flurries of snow. From the war diary of the 42nd Battalion, 1917, ‘February 8th to 12th. In the trenches. Work was carried on enlarging and improving deep dugouts, repairing trenches, etc. Due to the extreme cold weather and frozen condition of the ground little work could be done rivetting. Speciel parties were engaged nightly in wiring the P Line and entrances to the Tunnel. On the afternnon of the 12th 1 O.R. was killed and 4 O.R. wounded by a direct hit on trench P.75. The same night 1 O.R. was killed and 2 O.R. wounded while wiring along P 78 by an enemy dart.

Lawrence was one of the casualties on 12 February, suffering a serious wound to his abdomen. In a letter to Mrs. Finlayson the battalion’s chaplain said Lawrence was wiring a trench with Nichol’s brother George Finlayson when an artillery shell exploded nearby. Lawrence was evacuated to a casualty clearing station and he died the following day, 13 February. From the CEF Commonwealth War Graves register for Lawrence: Died of Wounds (Previously reported Dangerously wounded) No. 42 Casualty Clearing Station, Gun Shot Wound Abdomen.

Lawrence is buried in Aubigny Communal Cemetery Extension in the village of Aubigny-en-Artois, about 15 km northwest of Arras. The cemetery has over 2,700 First World War Commonwealth burials, many of them from No. 42 Casualty Clearing Station. Lawrence is commemorated on the Kenora Cenotaph, the Kenora Legion War Memorial and the St. Alban’s Pro-Cathedral Memorial plaque.

In 1920 when his medals, scroll and memorial cross were sent to his mother she was living on Second Street in Kenora. Her husband Charles Flett died in Kenora in 1927. His son Hector Flett had also served in the war, spending more than four years overseas with the 52nd Battalion.

Many of Lawrence’s family members are buried in Lake of the Woods Cemetery in Kenora including his brothers Thomas (1879-1954) and James (1889-1982), his sisters Mary Finlayson (1874-1947), Elizabeth Finlayson (1886-1975) and Catherine Warner (1888-1979) and his uncle Sinclair Young.

By Becky Johnson

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