|Date of Birth||February 15, 1894|
|Place of Birth||Kenora, Ontario|
|Next of Kin||Peter Eugene Lalonde (father), Kenora, Ontario|
|Trade / Calling||Clerk/Butcher|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Battalion||1st Regiment Canadian Mounted Rifles|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Branch||Canadian Mounted Rifles|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Place of Enlistment||Brandon, Manitoba|
|Address at Enlistment||Kenora, Ontario|
|Date of Enlistment||April 10, 1916|
|Age at Enlistment||22|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||November 18, 1918|
|Age at Death||24|
|Buried At||Kirkdale Cemetery, Liverpool, UK|
|Plot||II. R.C. 171.|
Private Leo James Lalonde enlisted in April 1916 and served with the Canadians Corps for over two years. For much of that time he was a front line soldier but he suffered from health problems and he spent several months in hospitals in England and France. He died of illness in November 1918, a week after the Armistice.
Leo was the only son of Peter Eugene Lalonde and Margaret (Maggie) Rigney of Kenora, Ontario. Peter, also known as Ludger, was from Argenteuil County in Quebec and Maggie was probably born in Kingston, Ontario. They were married in 1893 in Rat Portage and Leo was born there on 15 February 1894. They had one other child, daughter Henrietta or Etta, who was two years younger than Leo. In 1901 Peter was working as a cook in Rat Portage (later renamed Kenora), but by the time of the 1911 census he was a hotel keeper.
The war started in August 1914 and Leo enlisted on 10 April 1916, joining the 79th Battalion in Brandon, Manitoba. He was 22 years old at the time and working as a clerk at Gibson’s meat market in downtown Kenora. The 79th Battalion was based in Brandon and recruited mainly in Manitoba but a number of men from Kenora and Keewatin went there to sign up. The battalion left Brandon on 19 April aboard two large trains and early the next morning they stopped in Kenora to pick up the local volunteers. A large crowd gathered at the train station to see the lads off and wish them well. Just four days later they were on their way to England, embarking from Halifax on 24 April on the SS Lapland. Leo was transferred from the 79th Battalion to the 1st Canadian Mounted Rifles on 6 June and the following day he was sent to France. The 1st CMR had started the war as a mounted unit but in January 1916 they were converted to infantry and together with three other CMR units they formed the 8th Brigade of the 3rd Canadian Division. In the first week of June the 1st CMR took part in the Battle of Mount Sorrel where they suffered 80% casualties. Leo arrived on 9 June in a draft of 200 reinforcements, all from the 79th Battalion.
Over the summer the 1st CMR battalion was brought back up to strength and in late August and early September the Canadians were moved to the Somme area in France. On 15 September the 1st CMR were in the front line for an attack near the village of Pozières, northeast of Albert, and they suffered heavy casualties. They took part in several more operations over the next two weeks and Leo described his battle experiences in letters home to his parents. On 9 October he was admitted to a field ambulance with influenza and when he rejoined his unit on 19 October they had just been relieved and were behind the front lines. The Somme Offensive ended on 18 November and in less than three months there the Canadian Corps suffered 24,000 casualties.
Early in 1917 the Canadians began training for their next big operation, the Battle of Vimy Ridge (9-14 April 1917). Following the capture of the ridge the 1st CMR stayed in the area and in July 1917 Leo had ten days leave in Paris. That fall he was ill again, spending seven weeks in hospital, and he rejoined his unit on 10 November, the last day of the Battle of Passchendaele. After the battle the 1st CMR remained in the Ypres area in reserve and all available men were used in working parties to carry ammunition and supplies to the forward areas. On 13 November one of the parties was caught in heavy shell fire, resulting in five men being killed and 18 wounded. Leo suffered a wound to his face that day and he was evacuated to a hospital in Etaples, France. Following his discharge in January 1918 he spent six months at the Canadian Corps Reinforcement Camp before rejoining the 1st CMR in mid-August.
The final period of the war, known now as the Hundred Days Offensive, started on 8 August with the Battle of Amiens. The Canadian units were heavily involved in actions up until the Armistice but Leo was suffering from ill health that fall, possibly after being exposed to poison gas. He lost weight and he had a severe cough and chest pains, and at the end of September he was invalided to England for treatment. He spent a week at the Military Hospital in Liverpool before being transferred to the 5th Canadian General Hospital in Kirkdale. Leo’s parents received news that he was seriously ill but they thought he was recovering when they got a card from him late in October saying he was doing well. Early in November however he took a turn for the worse. Suffering from an abscessed lung, pneumonia and septicemia he died during the night of 17-18 November. A week earlier, on 11 November 1918, the Armistice had been signed.
Leo was buried on 22 November in Kirkdale Cemetery in Liverpool, England. There were over 100 Canadians buried there during the First World War, most of them from the Canadian General Hospital. Leo is commemorated on the Cenotaph in Kenora, the Kenora Legion War Memorial and the Notre Dame du Portage Roman Catholic Church WW1 memorial plaque. He is also honoured on page 444 of Canada’s First World War Book of Remembrance, displayed in the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.
After the war Leo’s father moved to Winnipeg where he operated a small grocery store and he passed away in 1938. He was predeceased by his wife and he’s buried in St. Mary’s Cemetery in Winnipeg. Leo’s sister moved to the U.S. around 1915. She married Harold Baker and they lived in Binghamton, New York.
By Becky Johnson