Laurence Edgar Abbott, Private

21st Battalion (Eastern Ontario Regiment)

Canadian Expeditionary Force

Personal Information:  Laurence (Lawrence) Edgar Abbott was born on November 15, 1896 in London, England to Emily and Austin Abbott.  Shortly after his birth the family moved to Moulinette, Ontario near the city of Cornwall where he worked as a paper-maker.[i]  The city of Cornwall has had a long tradition of being a city that made paper.  At the time of his enlistment in Cornwall, Ontario on January 27, 1916 he stood five feet, five inches tall with blue eyes and fair hair and complexion.  He was a member of the Church of England and had two faint tattoo marks on the back of both forearms.  He was single and nineteen years old.  (Photograph of Laurence Abbott courtesy of Veterans Affairs Canada)[ii]

The two witnesses that confirmed the identity of Laurence Abbott were two buglers that were members of the 154th Battalion that recruited from the area.[iii]  However, there is no evidence that Abbott was a member of this militia unit before he enlisted.

Military Movements:  Laurence E. Abbott enlisted on January 27, 1916 with the 154th Battalion.  He would train with the 154th Battalion until he sailed from Halifax on October 31, 1916 aboard the S.S. Mauretania.[iv]  He was transferred to the 156th Battalion and trained at Witley training camp on January 25, 1917 and finally to the 21st Battalion on May 13, 1917 when he was shipped across the English Channel to the battlefields of France.  He would remain with the 21st Battalion until his death on August 15, 1917.[v]

Medical Records:  On March 7, 1917 Private Laurence Abbott was placed in isolation at Aldershott hospital for tonsillitis.  Abbott would spend two weeks in the infirmary being discharged on March 21, 1917.[vi]  This is the only time that Private Abbott was hospitalized during his time in the military.

Final Days:  On the days before Abbott was killed on August 15, the 21st Battalion proceeded to the forward area in preparation for the attack on Hill 70.  According to the war diary of the 21st Battalion on the 10th of August at 4:30am the men conducted a raiding party on the German position with 113 men.  The raid meant that the men had to travel approximately 500 yards to the German front line.  The morale was excellent and “the men were anxious to get into touch with the enemy.”[vii]  Three lines of barb wire were between the Canadians and Germans but the intense artillery barrage by Canadian guns had cut two of the three lines but the third line of wire was thick – 25 feet in depth and 3 feet high – and in place, slowing the progress of the raiding party.  The raiding party had been given a raid time of 26 minutes and they were now in danger of not reaching their objective on time.  A red flare signal was sent up with one-minute left indicating that the men had made it to the German trench.  However, no prisoners were taken but the trench raid provided valuable information on the condition of the trenches and the German regiment that they would face in a few days.[viii]  The men returned to their jumping off point suffering only 8 casualties and prepared for the attack to come on the 15th of August.

Again, at 4:25am on August 15th “our barrage of hundreds of guns, howitzers, and machine guns opened on the German position for miles on the now famous battle front North-west of Lens.”[ix]  The assaulting waves of men of the 21st battalion attacked their section of the front line and the German’s sent up several S.O.S. flare signals but the cut wires from the previous raids and accurate artillery fire meant that the men were into the German trench and the enemy disposed of in rapid fashion and the first objective was taken.  Without resting, the men advanced to the second and then the third German trench line – Chicory and Commotion trenches respectively.[x]  The Germans that were retreating into the city of Lens were being harassed by artillery and Royal Air Force planes.

Immediately, the German troops regrouped and counter-attacked but they suffered horrendous casualties as Canadian artillery and Lewis machine guns cut them down.[xi]  However, the 21st battalion suffered as well and when they were relieved by the 19th Battalion over 230 men were casualties of this engagement with Private Laurence E. Abbott one of those killed in action at the Battle of Hill 70.

Lest We Forget:  According to his will, Private Abbott left his possessions to his mother Mrs. Emily Abbott.  She would also receive his medals including the British War Medal and Victory Medal.  His father, Austin Abbott, received Private Abbott’s plaque and scroll.  Laurence Abbott’s body was never recovered from the battlefield.[xii]  As a result, he is commemorated on the Vimy Memorial.


[i] Military Service File of Laurence Edgar Abbott, Library and Archives Canada, RG 150, Volume 08-14

[ii] Veterans Affairs Canada, Canadian Virtual War Memorial.  Image of Laurence Edgar Abbott accessed at:

[iii] Military Service File of Laurence Edgar Abbott

[iv] Grace’s Guide to British Industrial History,  Image of S.S. Mauretania accessed at:

[v] Military Service File of Laurence Edgar Abbott

[vi] Military Service File of Laurence Edgar Abbott

[vii] War Diary of 21st Battalion, Library and Archives Canada.  Information accessed at:

[viii] War Diary of 21st Battalion.  Information accessed at:

[ix] Ibid

[x] War Diary of the 21st Battalion.  Information accessed at:

[xi] Canadian Fallen Heroes.  Information accessed at:

[xii] Military Service File of Laurence Edgar Abbott