16TH MARCH 1918 AGE 22


Kenneth Ian Somerville was a student at Toronto University when the war broke out. He enlisted in the 33rd Canadian Infantry Battalion in October 1915 and went overseas in April 1916. In June 1916 he joined the 60th Battalion at the front and served with it at Ypres, the Somme and Vimy Ridge. He transferred to the 5th Mounted Rifles in May 1917 and served in the battles of Lens, Hill 70 and Passchendaele.
On 15 March 1918 the battalion conducted a raid on the German trenches. Somerville, another officer and four soldiers were killed in the action. Somerville was in fact originally badly wounded in the face. This blinded him. His was being taken back to the front line when he was caught in an enemy barrage and wounded a second time, this time in the left thigh. He was taken to a Casualty Clearing Station but failed to survive an operation the following day.
All this is documented on the Veterans Affairs Canada site on which there is also a letter his father, Charles Ross Somerville, wrote to a niece:

"My poor Kenneth was killed in France on the 16th March. I should have sent you word sooner but have been all broken up it is such a shock. After about 2 years in the fighting line I had hoped that he would have come through - but it was not God's purpose for my dear boy."

Charles Somerville chose his son's inscription: "He died for human liberty". Where did he get this idea from? On 8 January 1918 President Woodrow Wilson addressed both Houses of Congress. He outlined his Fourteen Points, setting out what could be the terms on which to base peace. Wilson spelt out how behind everything he proposed was the principle of justice, people's "right to live on equal terms of liberty and safety with one another, whether they be strong or weak". He pledged the people of the United States to maintain this principle, "the moral climax of this, the culminating and final war for human liberty".