I am a very big fan of family. My family to be specific. I have often tried to find a way to feature my family in my writing. Originally, I wanted to write about Latour's Corner Store, which was situated at 900 First Street East. It was owned and operated by my Grandmother Rolande Latour (née Séguin). But sadly lack of stories and archival records hampered my attempt to write an article.
As a researcher, the hunt is just as thrilling as the find for me. I am a firm believer that if something is impossible to find, I am going to find it anyway. Because of this mindset, Wednesday April 3 2013 was a very rewarding day for me.
I have been researching my family’s history for six years now. I have known since the beginning of my journey that I had two great uncles (one on my mothers side, one of my fathers side) who served in World War II. I have not yet found confirmation that my mother’s uncle served in World War II, but I did manage to find vague details about my father’s uncle, Private Ambrose Latour. During one of my many trips to Library and Archives Canada, I was about to fill in the gaps.
Since many of the records at the Archives are not on site, they need to be ordered. Despite the archivist telling me, "It says that A. Latour's file is very thin, it probably isn't worth looking at." I ordered it anyway. On the third of April, I made my way back to the Archives to check out the file. Despite what I was told, my great uncle's file was decent sized compared to many I had seen before. The contents of this file sent me through waves of different emotions. Holding the original letters written by my great grandmother to the government, and reading first hand accounts of my great uncle's journey through the war, had me in tears. As a student of history, war is always a sensitive subject. But for the first time, World War II became personal. Because of my great uncle’s experiences, I felt the emotional horrors of the Second World War on a personal level. I felt the impact it had on my family.
Private Ambrose Latour was born on December 18, 1922, to proud parents Alexander and Marceline Latour of Mattawa, Ontario. He grew to be a young man of five foot eight in height and weighed 131 pounds. He had brown hair and hazel eyes. On December 4th 1941, my great uncle left his job as a truck driver to enlist in the war. He was 19 years old. He became C-21739 of the Perth Regiment, R.C.I.C.
In the file I found a letter from my great-grandmother dated February 10th 1943, voicing her concerns. She opens the letter with a plea, "Chairman of Dependents, Ottawa; Could you advise me if I could keep my boy from going to the fighting front till he is 21 years of age?" She asked if they could keep him in England until he is “old enough to fight”. She states that she will pay to keep him there, in order to ensure his safety. Despite her pleas, my great uncle was sent to Italy to fight.
It was as though my great-grandmother knew her son’s destiny, because at 21 years old on Monday January 17th 1944, my great uncle died in battle. In the folder were two written accounts by soldiers in the same regiment as my great uncle who had witnessed his death. Private Glandon. C., wrote ”…on 17 Jan 44 at 1130 hours saw Private Latour A. get hit from the waist up with a burst of machine gun fire. At 1830 hours 17 Jan Private Latour had never moved, I'm positive he was dead." With this account and the other, I was able to figure out with a bit of research, exactly what was happening when my great uncle gave his life.
Private Ambrose Latour, Private C. Glandon, Private H. White and their platoon were moving forward towards a machine gun post. In order to avoid being hit, the men hid behind edges of haystacks. As the gunfire came to a brief halt, my great uncle decided to take a peak at the enemy’s whereabouts. As he peered over the edge of the hay stack, he was hit with a burst of machine gun fire from the waist up. As his body became pierced with machine gun bullets, he was flung through the air, letting out one long last scream. Private H. White yelled out to him and stated in his written account that my great uncle never responded. An article titled, "A Short History of The Perth Regiment 1939 -1945", taken from The Perthonian, Issue No. 3, August 1945, listed details of this day. "On the 17th of January 1944, The Perth Regiment saw its first action at the Battle of The Arielli River." This is the battle in which Ambrose Latour was killed.
For many months my great-grandmother waited for information about her son. He was missing in action, and that was all the Government could tell her. After many letters, she finally received a reply. Her son had been killed in action. It took her more than two years to get my great uncle’s last pay, along with money from the government as compensation for losing a child. They received a total of $161.40. Ambrose's siblings (my grandfather, Archie Latour being one of them) received $17.93 as compensation for the loss of their brother. After this run-around to receive money, my great-grandmother also asked for a map of the location her son was buried. The government sent her one. My great uncle, Private Ambrose Latour was buried at the Moro River Canadian War Cemetery, in the locality of San Donato in the Commune of Ortona, Province of Chieti. It is sited on high ground near the sea just east of the main Adriatic coast road. There are 1,615 graves in the cemetery of which over 50 are unidentified and 1,375 are Canadian.
I would like to dedicate this article to my grandmother Rolande Latour (née Séguin), my grandfather Archie (Archilles) Latour and their daughter, my beautiful Aunt Joan who left us on July 20th 2012. I love and miss you all.