Private Frank George Laramie

This is part of a series of essays about the First World War casualties commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in Rhode Island.

Private Frank George Laramie
Private Frank George Laramie

Frank George Laramie (baptised Francois) was born on 15 June 1894. at Windsor Mills, Quebec, one of the six children of Mitchell and Mary Laramie.[1] With the exception of Mary Laramie, the family were French-speaking Québécois and emigrated to the United States in 1903. In the early part of the 20thC, all of the men in the family worked as farm labourers near Smithfield, north of Providence, although Frank had also worked in a local mill.

Laramie enlisted on 8 March 1916 at Sherbrooke, Quebec and joined the 117th (Eastern Townships) Battalion (748755, Private). In May the Battalion moved to Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and at the end of the month to Valcartier, where the Battalion’s early training was conducted. Laramie sailed for England with the Battalion on the RMS Empress of Britain, arriving on 24 August 1916. The Battalion was based at Folkestone,  where its training continued, but by November it was being broken up to provide reinforcement drafts. Private Larmie was posted first to 148th Battalion and was then sent as part of a draft of 130 men to the 24th Battalion (Victoria Rifles) in 5th Infantry Brigade, 2nd Canadian Division.[2] He arrived in France on 7 December and joined ‘A’ Company, near Angres, south of Loos, 11 days later. Soon after their arrival, the Battalion moved out of the line into reserve and began a training programme that started the process of assimilating the new men. The first months of 1917 were generally uneventful but in March the Battalion began to prepare for the forthcoming attack on Vimy Ridge.

On the first day of the attack, 9 April 1917, Private Laramie was wounded in the left calf by a machine gun bullet, . He was evacuated through the medical chain to No. 32 Stationary Hospital at Wimereux, where he arrived on 21 April, and then to England, where he was admitted to the Italian Hospital in Queen’s Square, London. Treatment took some time but he was finally discharged after a period of convalescence on 25 September. He rejoined his Battalion on 17 November, which was out of the line at Villers au Bois, south-west of Lens, having moved there from Belgium where it had just taken part in the bloody Second Battle of Passchendaele. The next months comprised the routine of life in and out of the front line. At the end of March 1918 he was admitted to hospital again, with an injured foot, but was soon discharged to duty and returned to his Battalion.

The X-ray showing Private Laramie's broken jaw, August 1918
The X-ray showing Private Laramie’s broken jaw, August 1918

The great Allied offensive that ended the war began with the Battle of Amiens on 8 August 1918. That day, after a long move in secrecy, the 24th Battalion moved forward an hour after the attack began to consolidate the first of the captured enemy positions. It was in this operation that Private Laramie was wounded in the face by a blow from a shrapnel ball, which fractured his jaw. The Battalion’s initial estimate of casualties was eight killed, 107 wounded and three missing; ‘A’ Company had suffered only 21 men wounded. Laramie was one of 10 men injured by shellfire after the consolidation of the position. He was again evacuated to England and arrived at the Duchess of Connaught Canadian Red Cross Hospital at Cliveden in Berkshire on 17 August. His wound would preclude him taking any further part in the war and Private Laramie was finally discharged from hospital on 26 November, when he joined the 2nd Canadian Casualty Depot in Bramshott.

He returned to Canada onboard the SS Scotian on 14 January 1919 and was demobilised on 7 February. On his return to the United States that month he went to work at Stillwater wool mill in Smithfield as a bobbin setter. There he met his wife, Catherine, who worked in the mill as a spinner.[3]

Frank Laramie died of chronic interstitial nephritis on 5 April 1920. He was buried in Saint Ann Roman Catholic Cemetery, Cranston. The grave (No. 976) is in Section 1, which is on the eastern edge of the cemetery alongside Church Street and beside the maintenance building (somewhat confusingly, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission records his grave as being in ‘Section I’—there are lettered sections in this cemetery but no ‘Section I’).

The grave of Private Frank Laramie
The grave of Private Frank Laramie

Private Laramie is commemorated on page 550 of the Canadian First World War Book of Remembrance; that page is displayed on 23 November.

For his service in France he was awarded the British War Medal 1914-20 and the Victory Medal, which, with his memorial plaque and scroll, were sent to his widow.

117th Battalion for the photograph of Frank Laramie.

1. (Back) Mitchell (Michel) Laramie (6 August 1870-25 November 1940) married Mary Anne Cunningham (27 November 1871-17 January 1961): Joseph (1 October 1896-July 1978); John (1897-1940); Mary Anne (25 August 1901-12 April 1986); Albert (25 August 1901-10 March 1950); and Ruth Rose (later Simmons) (24 June 1903-17 January 1981).
2. (Back) For a detailed history of the Battalion see: Featherstonehaugh, R C. (1930). 24th Battalion C.E.F. Victoria Rifles of Canada 1914-1919. Uckfield: Naval & Military Press (2014 Reprint).
3. (Back) Catherine Laramie was born in Rhode Island about 1899. After Laramie’s death she remarried.

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