On The War Memorial Trail…..The WW2 Soldier Who Was Accidentally Shot

November 26, 2019. Sometimes a tragic accident takes the life of a young soldier, even from the relative safety of being based in Canada during wartime.  This is what happened to Leonard Stephen AVERY, born March 20, 1924 in Bedeque, son of John Avery and Mary Ellen Arsenault.  Avery’s father died in 1926, leaving his mother a widow with two young sons – Leonard Stephen and his older brother John Austin.  In 1930 his mother remarried, to Horace Melvin Gaudet, and had 8 children with her second husband.

On January 12, 1943, Avery enlisted at the #6 District Depot, General List in Charlottetown, and was transferred to the 1st Garrison Battalion of the Canadian Army, and stationed in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. He was on guard duty at the Chippewa Power Canal in Welland County on the evening of August 23, 1943 when for some unexplained reason he was accidentally shot through the head while examining a rifle, causing a massive destruction of his brain and multiple skull fractures.


Gravestone of Leonard Stephen Avery, in St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Cemetery, Seven Mile Bay, PEI.  (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

The Charlottetown Guardian of August 31, 1943 reported that “Mrs.  Horace Gaudet of Bedeque received a telegram yesterday afternoon advising that her son, Pte Leonard Avery of the First Garrison Regiment, had been accidentally shot and killed.

The Summerside Journal of September 2, 1943 recorded that: P.E.I. Soldier Killed in Ont. Pte. Leonard Avery, 18, of Bedeque, P.E.Island, stationed at Camp Niagara with the 1st Garrison Regiment under command of Lt. Col. Carmichael, was killed shortly after seven o’clock on Sunday night when a rifle he and his fellow soldiers were examining was said to have accidentally discharged, Headquarters of Military District No. 2 said.

The article also noted that his brother John Austin Avery and his stepfather Horace Gaudet were serving with the Canadian Forestry Corps in Scotland. On September 3, 1943 he was buried in St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Cemetery in Seven Mile Bay.

Although Avery came from a large family, no photo of him has yet been found.  In addition to his brother John Austin, his Gaudet half-siblings were: Walter, Frederick, Edwin, Albert, Ivan, Lillian, and Ruby.  One child, Mary Blanche, died in childhood.  If you have a photo or stories to share about Leonard Stephen Avery, please contact Pieter at dariadv@yahoo.ca or comment on the blog.

© Daria Valkenburg