Each year at Remembrance Day ceremonies in Coldwater and across the country, people gather to pay their respects to those who gave their lives in the defence of our country. Most of us are familiar with Remembrance statements like "Lest we forget", and "We will remember them", but who exactly are we remembering? Does anyone truly remember someone who fell on the battlefield a century ago? What do we actually remember of those last names and initials that are listed on cenotaphs and in pamphlets? As this year marks the one hundredth anniversary of the death of Coldwater's first fatal casualty of the Great War, the Coldwater Legion is trying to put a face on these names. We will begin by remembering Gunner Arnot Leatherdale.
Arnot Thomas Dale Leatherdale was born on June 12, 1897, the son of Luke and Amelia Leatherdale of Eplett Street in Coldwater. He enlisted with the Canadian Expeditionary Force in Kingston, Ontario, on November 1, 1915. On his Attestation Form he is described as 18 years old, single, five feet tall, with blue eyes and brown hair. He entered "clerk" as his occupation at time of enlistment, and claimed previous military service with the 35th [Infantry Battalion] Barrie and "C" Battery of the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery. He declared his religion as Church of England.
Gunner Arnot Leatherdale (Regimental number 348289) crossed the Atlantic on the S.S. Metagama and landed in England on 9 January 1916. He reported for training at the Shorncliffe Camp near Folkestone. Having enlisted as a gunner, he transferred to the Artillery Reserve Battalion and by July 11, he found himself on the front lines in France with the 3rd Brigade, Canadian Field Artillery.
His work as a gunner would have included taking part in moving, loading, firing, and cleaning the heavy guns, often while under enemy bombardment. Artillery duels were part of daily routine during the First World War, both sides trying desperately to break the stalemate of trench warfare.
Gunner Arnot Leatherdale was killed in action on October 2, 1916, in the area of the Somme, in France, during one of the operations that would become known collectively as the Battle of The Somme. The entry in his unit's War Diary indicates for that day that some batteries had endured bombardment and suffered several casualties. That is the extent of the details about the fate of Gunner Leatherdale.
On October 2, 2016, flags were flown half-staff at the Coldwater Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion to mark the one hundredth anniversary of Gunner Arnot Leatherdale's sacrifice.
We will remember him.