Private Laughlin Black

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

The grave of Private Laughlin Black

Laughlin Black was born on 20 September 1876 at Darlington, a hamlet near Hunter River, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, the son of Albert and Annie Black.[1] His parents were both immigrants to the United States—his father from Scotland and his mother from Prince Edward Island; his parents had married in Maine some years before. After his birth, they moved to Sommerville, Massachusetts. Laughlin Black either remained with his mother’s family or returned to Prince Edward Island sometime in his youth, before rejoining his family in Sommerville in 1889. Like his father he became a house painter.

In Sommerville Black married Annie Sullivan, an Irish girl, on 15 September 1896; the couple had three sons and four daughters; three other children died in infancy.[2] On 26 November 1900, he became a citizen of the United States. Other details of his life immediately prior to the war are difficult to determine.

Black enlisted on 24 January 1918, aged 41, at Montreal and joined the 1st Depot Battalion, 1st Quebec Regiment, where he was allocated the number 3081680. He sailed for England on 18 February aboard the SS Saxonia, arriving on 4 March. With the majority of this draft he joined the 23rd Reserve Battalion to complete his training before sailing for France on 20 June. There, as part of a draft of over 200 reinforcements, he joined the 14th Battalion (Royal Montreal Regiment) in 3rd Brigade, 1st Canadian Division on 26 June, with his first day in the frontline trenches soon following.[3]

Lieutenant Colonel Dick Worrall DSO*, MC*

The Battalion conducted the routine of life in the trenches until it moved in secrecy with the rest of the Canadian Corps in preparation for the Battle of Amiens, the beginning of the Advance to Victory. The attack was launched on 8 August and over the next two days the men fought a most successful series of actions. Unfortunately, not without cost—on 8 & 9 August the Battalion lost over 300 all ranks killed wounded and missing. The next major action was at the Drocourt-Quéant Line on 2 September; this short but hard-fought action over two days against the Crow’s Nest and Hendecourt Chateau Woods cost another 324 casualties. The Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Dick Worrall MC[4] wrote:

‘…since going into the area the Battalion has suffered 324 casualties. This includes practically the whole of my Intelligence Section, Scout Officer, and Signalling Officer. During the past month’s operation, I have lost 37 officers 8 of whom were Company Commanders, 3 Scout Officers, Signalling Officer, 4 Company Sergeant Majors, and practically the whole of my Senior N.C.Os.’[5]

At the end of the month the Royal Montreal Regiment took part in the actions along the Canal du Nord and the capture of Bourlon Wood, suffering a little over 200 more casualties and by the end of the latter action, the last major effort of the war for the Battalion, it had been reduced to only nine officers, a few NCOs and a cadre of soldiers. Private Black came through these actions apparently unscathed; what role he played is not known.

Following the Armistice, 14th Battalion was part of the occupation forces in the Rhineland and was stationed at Untereschbach until 6 January 1919, when it moved to Huy in Belgium, and where it remained until 6 March. It then began the journey home. The Battalion sailed for England on 14 March, where it established itself at Bramshott Camp. After a couple of days, the majority of the officers and men proceeded on a week’s leave. The following month Private Black sailed for Canada with the rest of the Battalion onboard the SS Carmania.

Laughlin Black was demobilised on 20 April and returned home to Sommerville, Massachusetts, where he returned to work as a painter. Black fell ill in early 1921 and was admitted to US Marine Hospital No. 2 at Chelsea. He died there of nephritis on 25 March 1921 and was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, Everett. His grave is in the north-west part of the cemetery near the cemetery boundary in Fairlawn Section, Grave 558. His parents are also buried in the cemetery.

The Canadian Book of Remembrance showing the entry for Private Laughlin Black

Private Laughlin Black is commemorated on page 555 of the Canadian Book of Remembrance; that page is displayed on 25, 26, and 27 November. For his service he was awarded the British War Medal 1914-20 and the Victory Medal. These and his memorial plaque and scroll were sent to his wife. Initially, his death was not considered attributable to his service but that decision was soon changed; it is not known if a Memorial Cross was issued subsequently.

1. (Back) Albert T. Black, a Scot from Dundee, (May 1849-18 December 1904) married Annie L. McLeod, a Canadian of Scottish descent from Darlington, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, (October 1851-10 June 1906) on 4 December 1872 in Portland, Maine, soon after they both arrived in the United States.
2. (Back) Annie Agnes Sullivan (c1874-NK) was born in County Cork, Ireland; she emigrated to the United States around 1890; Frank Herbert (1 September 1897-1946); John J. (27 July 1898-27 July 1898); Edmund Laughlin (22 December 1899-3 August 1900); Laughlin Daniel (3 July 1901-9 February 1970). Mary Ellen (later McMahon) (17 January 1903-27 April 2000); Albert William (10 August 1904-); Christine Ann (later Thebarge) (1907-21 February 2003); Mildred M. (later Berthiaume) (1908-27 December 1903); Violet Agnes (3 February 1909-died); and Florence M. (later Girouard) (12 February 1910-10 May 1982).
3. (Back) For a history of the 14th Canadian Battalion (Royal Montreal Regiment) on the western front see: Fetherstonhaugh, R C. (1927). The Royal Montreal Regiment, 14th Battalion, C.E.F., 1914-1925. Montreal: The Royal Montreal Regiment.
4. (Back) Later Lieutenant Colonel Dick Worrall DSO*, MC*. Worrall died of influenza on 15 February 1920, aged 29, while nursing his sick wife. He is buried in Mount Royal Cemetery, Montreal.
5. (Back) Library and Archives Canada. (1 May 1917-30 April 1919). War diary, 14th Canadian Infantry Battalion. RG9.

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